Saturday, August 18, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Ready for kombucha with your beer, amid a salt cave? Head to Brandon

I’m always on the hunt for bars with unique or unusual concepts. Cocktail bars are great, but they tend to run together. Ditto beer bars, sports bars and the rest. Sometimes, I just need a good gimmick — a surprising quirk that makes a place too curious to pass up.

I’ve found one that fits the bill: a small beer and wine bar attached to a health food store that specializes in kombucha, has its own movie theater and features a 350-square-foot salt cave that circulates salty air for therapeutic purposes.

Where to start?

Windmill Taphouse opened in Brandon about two years ago, in a space attached to Chuck’s Natural Fields Market. At night, a metal barrier separates Chuck’s and Windmill, lending it that rarely experienced after-hours health food store vibe. It’s currently only open two nights a week, and short hours, at that. Live music is the main draw: there’s a well-attended open mic night Thursdays and various local singer-songwriters appear Saturdays.

It’s cozy inside — a cross between a low-key beer bar and a neighborhood coffee shop. The peach walls, cafe seating and folks strumming guitars on a small stage in the corner belong to the latter, while the industrial-style hanging metal lamps, metal bar top and corrugated siding wrapped beneath it are straight out of the former’s playbook.

Beneath the siding are rows of large, translucent bricks, backlit and glowing green. It turns out these are bricks of Ukrainian salt, the primary feature of the adjacent salt cave.

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the whole salt cave concept, but it’s a new one for me. The idea is to book the room in advance ($25 for a 45-minute session for two) and kick back in a lounger, surrounded by 24 tons of salt bricks — plus the occasional Himalayan pink salt chunks and other various minerals scattered about — and a machine that grinds up salt and circulates it through the air.

It’s purported to have therapeutic respiratory effects. I’m skeptical when it comes to natural remedies like these, so I did a bit of digging and found that the jury is largely out. At $12.50 a person, it seems worth a shot, even if it just ends up being relaxing. Either way, make sure to check it out if you visit; I don’t think you’ll find another bar with a salt cave around here anytime soon, and it’s a cool sight to see.

Speaking of natural remedies, how about kombucha? This fermented tea comes with a lot of dubious health claims, but I look at it as a reasonable alternative to soft drinks, with a potential upside by way of antioxidants and probiotic bacteria. Windmill Taphouse keeps an impressive six varieties on tap, from Tampa Kombucha and Kombucha 221 B.C. from Sarasota.

Kombucha and beer are an interesting combo, and even more so when combined. Enter Unity Vibration from Ypsilanti, Mich.: maker of beer-kombucha hybrids, which you’ll find in stock at Windmill. These odd brews — try ginger, raspberry or, my favorite, bourbon peach — combine the tart/sweet of fruit-flavored kombucha with the funk of wild ales fermented in open oak casks. After trying some regular kombucha on tap, this seems like an appropriate next step.

Of course, this is also a beer bar, and to that end you’ll find another half dozen taps dedicated to a rotating selection of Florida beers, with plenty more in the cooler. There are many local brews, as well as a large selection of Orlando Brewing Company beers (the most I’ve seen outside of the brewery itself) and a few from Orange Blossom Brewing and Miami Brewing Company, as well.

Finally, there’s the movie theater. A 12-foot screen is reserved for the occasional movie screening or major sporting event — check Windmill’s Facebook page for these — but it’s worth noting that you can rent the whole building out for $300 a night. I’m not sure what to do with that information, but I’m filing it away in my brain just in case.

A beer and wine bar attached to a health food store that’s open a maximum of 12 hours a week is definitely an odd proposition, but if you’re in the Brandon area during that window, it’s worth a visit. Try some kombucha, enjoy a local beer or two, hear some live music and be sure to check out the salt cave. It’s a modest setup overall, but there’s nothing else around quite like Windmill Taphouse.

Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.

Comments
Tampa gets its own Bodega in Seminole Heights

Tampa gets its own Bodega in Seminole Heights

St. Petersburg eatery Bodega has built a reputation for its Latin street food and now the fast-casual concept has expanded to a second location in Seminole Heights.Its name Bodega, which means grocery in Spanish, represents the owners, George and Deb...
Published: 08/16/18
Local Craft Beer of the Week: The Falcon Brett IPA, Flying Boat Brewing Co.

Local Craft Beer of the Week: The Falcon Brett IPA, Flying Boat Brewing Co.

Just in time for its first anniversary on Saturday, St. Pete’s Flying Boat Brewing Co. has tapped a beer that pushes the envelope by combining two trends — New England-style IPA and Brett IPA — into one unique brew: The Falcon IPA.By now, you probabl...
Published: 08/16/18
Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

BOLTS: BREW FESTI was going to list all the craft brewers whose wares will be on offer at 7 p.m. Friday at this year’s Bolts Brew Fest, a Tampa Bay Lightning benefit for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. But with 50 local breweries alone, and another ...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18
Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

BELLEAIR BLUFFSTim Brown was dead right. It was time for tough love, right at the beginning of class: Most of us entertain, most of us can get our act together with some hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer and an entree with appropriate side dishes. But whe...
Published: 08/15/18
It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

"Fool" might be an odd name for dessert, but it has been served for centuries, and no one is quite sure why it is called that. Making it, though, is a pretty smart thing to do considering how easy it is and the reward of doing so: a delightfully crea...
Published: 08/15/18
Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

TAMPA — How to attract the cool kids? This is the mantra for so many restaurants these days: That huge generation of millennials eats differently, thinks differently and spends differently than their parents. So how do you reel them in and make them ...
Published: 08/14/18
Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

It was a pilgrimage I had long wanted to make, but the timing was never right: Saturday mornings at Born and Bread Bakehouse in Lakeland. I had tried Born and Bread’s bread once before, slathered in some house-made ricotta cheese that sent me on a ri...
Published: 08/14/18
Restaurant review: Oak & Stone brings a lot to an already thriving downtown St. Petersburg dining and beer scene

Restaurant review: Oak & Stone brings a lot to an already thriving downtown St. Petersburg dining and beer scene

ST. PETERSBURG You stand up. You show your ID and get a wristband. A server walks you to the wall and through the options: more than 50 taps, grouped by style, mostly local (Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Green Bench, 3 Daughters, etc.) and regional cra...
Published: 08/13/18
Taste test: Texas toast

Taste test: Texas toast

Texas may have invented extra thick and buttery toast, but plenty of us enjoy the slathered slices with our own barbecues or Italian night dinners. Our judges like the addition of cheese to the toast, browned in the oven with a few herbs dotting the ...
Published: 08/13/18
To drink fine bourbon on a budget, hunt ‘unicorns’

To drink fine bourbon on a budget, hunt ‘unicorns’

For more than year, I have chased unicorns.I’ve searched the Tampa Bay area. I’ve hunted in Baltimore, Denver, Detroit, Cleveland andLas Vegas. I’ve walked through dozens of doors, but I often strike out.I’m not chasing mythical creatures. My unicorn...
Published: 08/09/18