Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar Review: Cisco's House of Brews worth remembering

Funny story: I was at Cisco's House of Brews in Lutz, sipping a Superfuzz blood-orange pale ale from Elysian (a $3.50 beer of the month special) and researching this story when I looked across the bar and noticed a wall plaque featuring a newspaper story. It was too far to see clearly, but I could just make out the little picture of my face on it.

My memory's not so great, but this was bizarre. I'd never been to this place. Even if it had undergone an extreme remodel and name change, I'd never even been to a bar in this part of Lutz. That's it: I finally lost the last marble.

Upon closer inspection, the story was a Barfly column I wrote several years ago about McAnderson's House of Brews in Oldsmar. Some light detective work revealed that this was the original McAnderson's location, and the second location in Oldsmar closed a couple of years ago. The business was sold and became Cisco's House of Brews, complete with a full remodel, new kitchen, new menu and so on.

House of Brews is an eminently pleasant local bar and restaurant, known for its above-average bar food.

I stopped by after dinner, but I did order a side of red-pepper hummus, which was served on a bed of shredded lettuce. That last detail was a nice touch, acting as a cooling foil to the surprisingly spicy hummus. I didn't recognize it by taste, which meant that it was probably house-made.

While I frequently search for good drinking in places that are primarily in the business of food, House of Brews tells you right in the name what you're signing up for; the full menu is a bonus. This is a friendly, low-key beer bar, with a nice outdoor patio and ample booth and bar seating throughout the modest-sized interior.

There's a row of TVs showing sports, edging House of Brews partially into sports bar territory — but the low-key lighting, granite bar, smart use of a monochromatic red color scheme, modern wooden vertical blinds and respectable volume level put it firmly back in legitimate beer-bar territory.

Despite the name, Cisco's House of Brews also keeps a tidy wine list. There are just over a dozen available, primarily of the California variety, and they're all available by the glass or bottle (reasonably priced, to boot).

And there's a full liquor selection.

A short list of house cocktails is weighted a bit toward the fruity/refreshing side but also includes some old-school cuts, like a Bushmills Black Bush-based whiskey smash, and some unique spins, like the Spicy Paloma (Cuervo, Ancho Reyes, agave, grapefruit sour, lime, soda and jalapeño). Another intriguing number is the Run Forest Run, which features Old Forester bourbon, blood-orange sour, and Barritt's ginger beer.

Of course, we're also looking at 30 taps of beer and quite a few bottles, with a regularly rotating selection. Of note is the beer-of-the-month selection, which goes for a cool $3.50, all day, every day. When I visited, it was a twofer: the aforementioned Superfuzz, as well as Space Dust, also from Elysian. In other words, the monthly special doesn't just consist of stale beers that the bar is trying to hold a fire sale on.

My biggest takeaway from Cisco's House of Brews was the great service. I only infrequently mention service in this column because too often, quality of service comes down to whatever bartender you get on any given day.

I got a different impression at House of Brews, and it's one that I've seen echoed repeatedly in online reviews.

Lutz is a small market, so a good beer selection is reason enough to visit. Toss in a fair wine selection, solid cocktails, a menu that has clearly had some thought put into it, and what apparently is consistently excellent service, and you've got a winner.

Toss this one up on the wall next to the old one — I promise to remember it this time.

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