Thursday, December 14, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Cheap drinks do fine at the Joint in St. Petersburg

The Tyrone area of St. Petersburg is a little light on drinking spots, so the locals must have been happy when a long-running neighborhood spot — formerly Donk's Sports Tavern and Double J's Sports Bar — reopened earlier this year as the Joint.

Sometimes, a good renovation is all a place needs. The Joint, which opened in February, represents a nice makeover for the old dives that preceded it, bringing in fresh-cut cedar paneling for the walls, a slew of flat-screens around the interior and a granite-topped bar. Starting next month, they're adding a kitchen that will serve food until 2 a.m.

These kind of bars don't need anything special to work. The sign out front reads "cocktails" right under the name. But these aren't craft cocktails, any more than the brews in the ice well are craft beers. The selection is sparse, like the unfinished wall paneling: simple, and to the point.

Like it predecessors, the Joint is still very much a sports bar. Orioles and Ravens fans will find themselves at home there, based on various memorabilia scattered about, and it's also a great place to catch Rays games. With the bare wood and sports bar vibe, it almost seems like a tiny Hooters, sans the orange shorts and pantyhose, and with much cheaper drinks.

If you order a cocktail at the Joint, it's probably going to be something pretty basic. A whiskey with Coke or ginger ale; a vodka soda; a highball. This is where the Joint makes its case: Drinks come with a very liberal pour, and they're remarkably cheap, with few labels cracking the $4 mark. On weekday happy hours and all day Wednesday, nearly everything is $2.32. Why $2.32? Ask the bartender (it involves racehorses).

I noticed the bar didn't serve draft beer, which is a routine I know all too well. That's the point where I ask what they have in bottles, sit through a list of every domestic macro on the market, and ultimately settle for something like Icehouse, mostly as a reminder that they still make the stuff.

However, this list was punctuated with Cigar City Jai Alai IPA, which came to me in a cold, unopened can. I feared the worst as I checked the canning date on the bottom, only to find that this stuff was two weeks off the line. Not bad!

Strangely, the cocktails came out in styrofoam cups, which appear to be a temporary measure while the kitchen is being sorted out. Even though the bar's been open for several months, there are still renovations taking place, like finishing the small dining area adjacent to the bar that will come in very handy once the kitchen is operational.

In addition to the two interior rooms, there's also a small outdoor patio, bordered by planters holding tall areca palms. Even though it's right off the main stretch, the patio feels somewhat secluded, tucked away at the back of the parking lot, surrounded by plants.

The Joint is far from the neighborhood dive I was expecting. The raw wood look works well with the low-key lighting, making it a reasonable place to grab a meal and watch the game, as well as hang out for some late-night drinks. For such a relatively small space, the new owners have done a lot with it.

The remodel has been a hit with the locals, too. Some of the reviews I read expressed gratitude that the new owners had cleaned up what was otherwise a fading local watering hole. Hopefully, the Joint will find some solid footing in the Tyrone neighborhood and bring some of these folks back.

There's nothing special going on at the Joint, and that seems about right. A good, honest neighborhood bar doesn't need a lot to make it work — a nicely upgraded interior and value-centric drink offerings are enough.

Time will tell, but I think the Joint has long-running local establishment written all over it.

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

     
 
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