Thursday, June 21, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Craft Parlor succeeds with drink, vape, sushi concept

There's a newish bar in Clearwater that I decided to check out recently. It's a craft beer bar, vape lounge, sushi joint and game bar, and it's decked out in Prohibition-era murals and art deco decor. It's a veritable checklist of stuff the kids are into these days.

Boy, was I skeptical. It's as if it were run through a random concept generator, or picked via thrown darts. And of course, there's the vape lounge stigma, as well as the oft-overused "craft" in the name: The Craft Parlor.

Sometimes it pays to drop one's preconceptions and go into a situation with an open mind, though, and this is one of those cases. The Craft Parlor has taken a suspiciously multifaceted concept and executed it so well that it's honestly hard to find faults.

The location is inconspicuous, built into a small standalone space on U.S. 19 south of Countryside Boulevard. It looks a bit like an oversized trailer, and it's surrounded by a dirt lot.

Inside, the place is very attractive: brick floors, metal ceiling tiles, two granite-topped bars, a stone facade behind the tap wall and a small stage in the back with black and white theater curtains painted onto the recessed wall behind it. The black and white murals extend along the back, featuring crisply illustrated scenes from the '30s and '40s: show girls getting dolled up backstage, a jazz band in full swing, a shady backroom poker game and Humphrey Bogart mixing it up.

The island bar in the center is the vape bar, which was somewhat surprising in its unobtrusiveness. When I heard that the Craft Parlor was both a vape bar and a sushi joint, I imagined a nightmarish scenario involving thick, banana-maple-bubblegum clouds engulfing ornately plated sushi rolls. Not so — the bar area was very contained, allowing vapers to vape in peace, while the side bar (and adjacent dining area) remained undisturbed.

The vape bar is surrounded by a small but excellent selection of free games. There are some dart boards, table tennis and an Elite Supercade. That last one is an arcade game emulator featuring 621 arcade and console classics, including some quirky Japanese-only games, like Champion Wrestler from Taito.

At the other bar, there's a large aquarium that I could do without (what a depressing existence), followed by a row of some 40-odd tap handles and a lineup of Ty Ku sakes, with a few flat screens overhead. The beer selection covers a few bases, featuring plenty of local options, domestic craft brews, imports and even mass-appeal macros.

There are 15 wines, all by the glass and bottle, as well as four of the aforementioned Ty Ku varieties, available by the carafe or bottle. Oh, and the prices? Excellent: beers are all under $6, and even the top wines are under $40 a bottle.

When I visited, the vibe was very chill. There were people eating sushi, a table tennis match in progress, radio rock playing in the background and plentiful vaping at the center bar, yet everything was relaxed and pleasant. As incongruous as the setup might seem, it's remarkably streamlined and honestly works.

Although I try to keep an open mind, I can't deny that I went into the Craft Parlor expecting a conceptual mess. Instead, I found a very professional, smartly executed operation with a fine attention to detail.

Many bars struggle to execute a single concept as well as the Craft Parlor has with a handful of them. If you're in the area, give the Craft Parlor a shot — I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.

[email protected]; @­WordsWithJG

Comments
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? Itís the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18
Hereís the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

Hereís the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

It started with jugs of olive oil and cans of tuna, lots of it, which my husband hauled in one day and plunked on the counter. "Thatís my lunch!"That was about three months ago, and every day since there has been a new entity in our house to consider...
Published: 06/20/18
Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

More than 50,000 people are estimated to attend Pride weekend in St. Petersburg, which runs Friday to Sunday. (June is LGBTQ Pride Month.) Whether you plan to march in the parade or host your own smaller gathering, weíve selected five rainbow-themed ...
Published: 06/20/18
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Hereís how he does it.

My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Hereís how he does it.

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If youíre like, "Huh?" you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
A perfect pick for dessert

A perfect pick for dessert

Americaís Test KitchenIt might seem impossible to improve on a perfect peach, but we decided to try. We wanted a simple, warm dessert that amplified the peachesí flavor. To achieve tender, flavorful peaches with a lightly sweet glaze, we began by tos...
Published: 06/19/18
Everything you need to know about marinating meat

Everything you need to know about marinating meat

For a lot of home cooks, marinating meat is almost as automatic as cooking the meat itself. Douse the meat in some kind of flavored liquid, pop it in the refrigerator overnight and cook it the next day.Seems straightforward enough, but there are reas...
Published: 06/19/18
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. Thereís Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Published: 06/18/18
Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

When we started seeing ads for Nestle Toll House cookies already baked and prepackaged, I knew it was time for our tasters to get involved. They are cookie lovers, and one even has his own cookiemaking business. We found the Nestle brand and had hope...
Published: 06/18/18
No hangovers? Thatís COCO Cocktailsí claim

No hangovers? Thatís COCO Cocktailsí claim

I wrote recently of the emerging trend of alcoholic seltzers. While most followed a similar formula, one product ó COCO Cocktails ó took a different approach, using carbonated coconut water spiked with alcohol produced from fermented Florida orange p...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/20/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but letís start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18