Saturday, February 24, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Cool cocktails done right at Marlow's Tavern in Tampa

Boy, is my timing off lately. I heard that Marlow's Tavern — an Atlanta-based chain restaurant with a Carrollwood location — made some unique cocktails, but I visited only to learn that the cocktail menu is seasonal and will change to a new one next week.

That's okay, after trying selections from the soon-to-be-replaced fall/winter menu, it's a safe bet that the new stuff is worth a try, too.

Marlow's Tavern is a large-ish chain, with 17 locations in Georgia and five in Florida. It's a casual neighborhood spot that covers all the bases but doesn't stand out in any particular way: low-key lighting, brick walls, a few TVs inconspicuously scattered throughout and a cutaway at the back of the bar, looking out onto the back patio, which regularly features live music.

The service is extremely friendly. Our bartender introduced herself with a handshake and left a little name card on the bar so we could easily get her attention if we needed anything. I got the impression that this place has a lot of Carrollwood regulars, and I can see why.

Casual-concept chain restaurants typically follow the something-for-everyone model, so it's no surprise that the menu is highly varied. Marlow's throws in a little extra flair in this department, serving dishes that are familiar but clearly spruced up from the common versions.

For example, a guest at the bar ordered the hummus plate, which is usually a humble affair involving hummus, pita and maybe some carrot and celery sticks. This one came with sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top, with dipping vehicles ranging from the usual ingredients, as well as radishes and pickled okra. Pickled okra? You've got my attention.

Ditto for the drink list. There's a large beer selection — nearly 50. The eight draft selections are typical, but there are three rotating craft/local selections among them, supported by another 40 or so in cans and bottles. Some are brews that I don't see often around town, like Miami Brewing's excellent Big Rod coconut blonde ale.

Then there's the wine list, which divides a solid 30-odd wines into flavor categories such as "rich, creamy and voluptuous" and includes vintages for most options. All but one (Veuve Clicquot) is available by the glass, as well. Good prices, too.

On to that cocktail list. This is a really nice list of drinks, on par with what you'd find at a not-so-casual cocktail spot. The drinks themselves are generally familiar, but with ambitious twists to make them legitimate Marlow's originals.

For example, the Nice Pear… Manhattan starts with a High West Double Rye base, subbing Cardamaro (an Italian amaro flavored with cardoon, blessed thistle and other ingredients that I have never heard of) for vermouth before finishing with some St. George Spiced Pear liqueur and Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters.

Then there's a Blood Orange Margarita, as well as a New Fashioned featuring Giffard banana liqueur, of all things, alongside its Belle Meade bourbon base. It's creative stuff, and the results are confirmed delicious.

Many of the cocktails are house creations, like the Three Hour Tour (cue the theme song), featuring Clément Select Barrel rhum agricole, Cooper's Craft bourbon, Velvet Falernum and fresh lime. The addition of bourbon is a unique spin for a tiki drink, but this one drinks as strong, tropical and exotically spiced as the best of them. Bonus points are awarded for the ceramic tiki mug, of which I'll never tire.

The upcoming spring/summer drink list include the Pom Collins, a blackberry mojito and an Old Forester-based Southern Charmer.

On cocktails alone, I think Marlow's is well worth a visit. These are real craft cocktails, and that's not just because the word "craft" is used on the menu. The fact that the food and beer/wine menus are also above-average is a bonus. If you're in the market for familiar-yet-unique, then you'll want to give Marlow's a shot.

[email protected]; follow @WordsWithJG

Comments
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FEST On Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Mayonnaise does not have to be pedestrian. Mayonnaise, like life, is what you make of it. The link below is devoted to America’s love-hate relationship with the white stuff in the jar. Yours truly provides a defense for using it as a cooking a...
Published: 02/21/18
In defense of mayonnaise

In defense of mayonnaise

It weighed heavy, spread across my soul like a creamy white burial shroud. I would never admit it, not in a million years. My husband wondered, what was on the chicken? He ate it willingly, then enthusiastically. "I can never tell you." I sat quie...
Published: 02/21/18
Hide the cauliflower in this Mushroom and Cauliflower Frittata recipe

Hide the cauliflower in this Mushroom and Cauliflower Frittata recipe

Do I like cauliflower as much as the next guy? Well, no. Itís one of the cruciferous vegetables whose cooked aroma sends me running for the exit. But the oh-so-trendy riced variety, stirred into this frittata mix, works for me.Hereís why: Used raw, i...
Published: 02/20/18
Drink of the week: the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Loire Valley

Drink of the week: the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Loire Valley

With the weather turning toward spring, so do our appetites ó from hearty comfort food to lighter, fresher flavors.That goes for wine as well, and one lively choice is the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from the Joel Delaunay winery in the Loire Val...
Published: 02/20/18
Taste test: canned peeled tomatoes

Taste test: canned peeled tomatoes

On a recent cold night, my son asked for a bowl of tomato soup. I was preparing to run to the grocery store for a can or carton of soup to heat up when I realized I had 17 cans of whole tomatoes on the counter, ready for my tasting panel to sample. I...
Published: 02/20/18
Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

TAMPAIt wasnít that long ago that Platt Street was a bit of a conundrum for restaurateurs: Not exactly downtown, without the dense auto traffic of Kennedy, and far enough off the South Howard main drag that it didnít entirely qualify as part of SoHo....
Published: 02/19/18
Bar review: Four Green Fields at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Bar review: Four Green Fields at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

At most Irish pubs, guests will encounter some combination of shamrock and leprechaun imagery, Guinness signs and possibly Dropkick Murphys playing on the jukebox. Thatís about what I expected a bit more than a decade ago when I first visited Tampaís...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Local-ish craft beer of the week: Two Tickets, Gravity Brewlab/Evil Twin Brewing

Local-ish craft beer of the week: Two Tickets, Gravity Brewlab/Evil Twin Brewing

Call it local-ish. Miamiís Gravity Brewlabs is four hours south of the bay area by car, but it could be closer on any given day, seeing as how it has operated for years as a "gypsy" brewery, partnering with local brick-and-mortars to produce its line...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/22/18
The Reading Roomís Lauren Macellaro and Columbiaís Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Roomís Lauren Macellaro and Columbiaís Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

Itís almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentineís Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this yearís James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18