I thought Clearwater's 2 Palms Bar & Bistro looked familiar when I drove by a few months ago, but the name didn't ring a bell, so I put it on my to-visit list. When I finally made it back last week, I realized why it looked so familiar: I've been there before.
It turns out that 2 Palms is the new version of Jack's Joint, a Gulf-to-Bay bar and grill that was known for hosting comedy shows on Saturdays. I visited a couple of years ago.
Wedged between two motel complexes lies 2 Palms' patio courtyard, framed by two palm trees (hence the name) and large birds of paradise. There's a thatched tiki umbrella that doubles as shelter for occasional live music. Of course, the weather is not especially tropical at the moment, so there are gas heaters positioned around the winding patio bar, keeping the bar area crowded and the rest of the patio conspicuously open.
With no open seats at the bar, I headed inside to check out the lounge. There's a second bar here, with a TV and a couple of pool tables. The interior is sunny and colorful, if a bit slipshod in the decoration department. A loose table behind the bar serves as a makeshift shelf for premium spirits, while a strangely placed high top separates the pool table area from a short row of booths along the side wall. It feels a little slapped together, but it's clean and functional, and the vibe is friendly.
Past the lounge is the restaurant-slash-club, where live music, karaoke and comedy shows are featured weekly. This is the real draw for 2 Palms. It's an entirely reasonable watering hole for area residents, but the shows — especially the comedy — make it desirable beyond the neighborhood. There aren't many places to catch live blues, standup and improv.
Drink-wise, there are a handful of good beers, including locals like Tampa Bay Brewing's Reef Donkey pale ale and 3 Daughters' Beach Blonde and Bimini Twist IPA. There's also a $3 beer special for kegs on their way out. When I visited, it was Shock Top's Twisted Pretzel Wheat.
2 Palms has a brief cocktail menu with standards such as a classic Margarita, a Jameson-and-ginger, and fruit-flavored vodkatinis, as well as some house creations like the Redneck Margarita (Jim Beam in place of tequila) and the 2 Palms Punch (a tropical punch mixing flavors of dragonfruit, berry, lemon, coconut, orange, and cranberry). The cocktails are simple but tasty, and the prices are reasonable, most $7-$8.
At its core, 2 Palms is a locals bar. Most of the patrons on non-show nights are regulars who live in the surrounding neighborhood, as well as vacationers from up North who spend part of the year in the nearby RV park. As such, the service is very warm, making regulars and visitors alike feel at home. Whatever 2 Palms lacks in fanciness it certainly makes up for in friendliness.
Two bars and a comedy-slash-karaoke-slash-live music club, serving a fair selection of beer, wine and liquor, as well as a full restaurant menu (including late-night options). It's pretty ambitious, sure. And although it's not the flashiest place in town, it does a very decent job in all of those categories, and that's not too shabby.