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Bar review: Backdraughts for beer and pizza, Replay for pinball games

I came across a nice little pizza place in downtown Tarpon Springs, and it serves a decent selection of local beer. Tarpon Springs in general has become a good destination for beer: There are a handful of beer bars, as well as Silverking Brewing and the new Saint Somewhere taproom, all within walking distance of each other. The problem is that it's all so far from where I live, making a beer-related trek to town logistically difficult.

I visited the pizzeria — Backdraughts — because it was next door to the Replay Amusement Museum, a working museum-slash-arcade filled with an absolutely wonderful selection of classic pinball and arcade consoles, all featuring unlimited free play with the purchase of a day pass (or monthly, or yearly pass, if you're hard core).

It was my first visit to Replay, and I've already been busy figuring out how to justify the repeat two-hour round trips that I'll be taking there. To keep those classic consoles in tip-top shape, food and drink are not permitted inside. If I make a drive out there and fork over that day pass money, I'm going to spend a few hours burning pixilated sprites into my retinas, and that's going to require food and booze.

So we have a burgeoning beer town that's too far for me to Uber/Lyft to and from, and a tremendous arcade that offers unlimited game play for a pittance but doesn't allow food or drink. The solution couldn't be clearer.

Backdraughts doesn't play second fiddle to its retro-gaming neighbor — it boasts packed dining rooms during dinner time, while Replay is a much more low-key proposition. Backdraughts also is a fine establishment for drinking, regardless of other nearby watering holes. But it's the synergy of all of these variables that works so well.

My return strategy: head to Tarpon Springs in the early afternoon and get a day pass at Replay. Beat the Simpsons side-scroller, and maybe put some time in on the under-recognized Pac-Man knockoff, Pengo. Maybe figure out how to actually play pinball.

Then, I'll hit up one of the breweries for a quick refreshment. I'll be hungry at this point, so you know what that means: Backdraughts. Pizza enthusiasts will often extol the virtues of authentic, wood-fired pizza. I hardly have a refined palate in this regard, but I sure like the look of some burning logs in the back of the restaurant.

It will still be light out at this point, so I'll grab a seat by the floor-to-ceiling windows and enjoy some sunshine and people-watching to go with that just-slightly-charred crust (toppings of choice: basil, spinach, mushrooms, black olives and truffle oil; no cheese). Or, maybe I'll post up on one of the sidewalk cafe tables.

It'll be busy, but the staff at Backdraughts are pros. I visited on a weekday during dinner, and it was just shy of standing-room only. That didn't stop my bartender from introducing himself with a name and a handshake — a small but impressive gesture, given that the restaurant was busy enough to keep most crews in the weeds.

I'll need a beer to wash the pizza down with, naturally, so I'll pick from one of the 16 taps, or the small bottle list. Half of the draft selections are local, which puts Backdraughts pretty high up on the pizzeria-craft beer scale. It makes sense: Can you think of a better food for soaking up some beer than pizza?

Now, beer and pizza in my system, I'll return to Replay to hone my Street Fighter II (Turbo) and Mortal Kombat skills. I could never get Sub-Zero's fatality down pat on the original game, and now's my chance to right that quarter-century-old wrong.

For the rest of you who aren't in the market for an elaborate game plan and just want to enjoy some wood-fired pizza and quality local brews, Backdraughts is your place. There are TVs, ample beer and wine, and they even sell cigars behind the bar, if you're so inclined.

It's a simple concept, with a quality staff and menu, and there's an arcade next door — all in a part of town that I really enjoy visiting. That's a combo I can really get behind.

— jg@saintbeat.com | @WordsWithJG

Backdraughts

101 E Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs; (727) 940-2323; backdraughts.com

The vibe: Wood-fired pizza and local brews in a happening stretch of downtown Tarpon.

Food: Small plates and salads, $6 to $8.95; pizzas, $9 to $18; dessert, $5.95.

Booze: Beer and wine. Beer, $3.50 to $7.95; wine, $6 to $12 by the glass and $24 to $39 by the bottle.

Specialty: Of 16 beers on tap, half are brewed locally, with standbys such as Cigar City, Tampa Bay Brewing, Coppertail, Big Storm and Yuengling, as well as relative newcomers (and North Pinellas locals) deBine and Silverking all featured in the rotation. There's a roughly equal number of wines available, almost exclusively from either Italy or California. Which goes better with pizza: wine or beer? There's only one way to find out.

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday;

1 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Bar review: Backdraughts for beer and pizza, Replay for pinball games 10/13/16 [Last modified: Thursday, October 13, 2016 12:48pm]
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