Thursday, June 21, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: District Tavern a hip spot in Tampa's Channel District

The phrase "neighborhood bar" tends to evoke scenes from a smoky dive populated by beer-swigging old-timers, or a Cheers-style pub, the central social hub for both the staff and clientele.

District Tavern is unquestionably a neighborhood bar, but it's far removed from the images most often associated with the genre. Located at the base of SkyHouse Channelside, a new 23-story high-rise in Tampa's Channel District, District Tavern is far sleeker and more modern than the classic neighborhood bar. It caters to a different kind of local regular — the young, urban professional — and the look and feel of the place is tailored to suit: hip, modern, maybe just a little upscale.

The Channel District has been in a rapid state of growth, largely thanks to the ongoing redevelopment plans of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. Despite the hustle and bustle of the nearby port, arena and shopping plaza, SkyHouse's and thus, District Tavern's part of the area is quiet, almost sleepy. It reminds me of some of the residential areas near South Beach in Miami: cool, casual and laid-back.

Inside, District Tavern is open and breezy, with large picture windows overlooking the local dog park. The interior is relatively low-lit, creating an interesting contrast with the sunlight openly pouring in during daytime hours. Above the bar, a black wave made of wood slats flows across the ceiling.

I visited District Tavern because I heard it was a popular brunch spot. In addition to the special brunch menu, there's also a brunch-specific cocktail list, as well as a DIY mimosa bar, featuring mixers and fresh fruit. Certainly not a bad way to spend a weekend afternoon.

On Sundays — Stereo Sundays, more specifically — resident DJs Alen P and ZacHunter set up right in the middle of the dining area, further reinforcing the Miami vibe. It's just the right kind of setup for brunch: chill, low-key house music played quiet enough for people on the other side of the bar to have a conversation, but loud enough to keep heads bobbing throughout.

District Tavern bills itself as a gastropub, and the menu agrees, offering a range of creative dishes and shared plates that are several cuts above basic pub grub. The drink menu is similarly well thought-out, with rotating beer and wine selections, a wide range of premium spirits, and seasonal cocktail lists that include a variety of fresh juices, house-infused bitters and syrups and creative garnishes, such as Thai chili-soaked celery in the DT Bloody and candied pineapple in the Old St. Pete Daiquiri.

For beer, you'll find 16 taps, which are overwhelmingly local, including less-common seasonal selections, like Tampa Bay Brewing Company's Kumquat Blonde, and another from the brewery that my server could only identify as "Blueberry." I suspect it's actually Hint of Blue, an excellent seasonal pale wheat that — as the name suggests — features just a hint of blueberry.

Many of the cocktails on the list are made with Woodford Reserve bourbon that's been house-aged for 45 days in a small oak barrel. During brunch, this appears in the AM Fashion, which is an old-fashioned made with orange bitters instead of Angostura and aged maple syrup instead of a sugar cube.

Wine drinkers will find a rotating selection available by the glass and bottle, but it's probably not a bad idea to swing by on Tuesday nights, when bottles are half-off. If you come for weekend brunch eyeballing the mimosas, you have three options (which are not mutually exclusive): bottomless mimosas from 11 a.m. to noon for $10; DIY Korbel Organic mimosas for $7 a glass, featuring a variety of juices and fresh fruits; and a flight of bubbly-enhancing liqueur and spirit accoutrements such as Disaronno, Chambord, Bols elderflower, and Boodles mulberry gin for an additional $10.

Under the District Tavern logo on the brick wall of the dining room reads the phrase "drink, eat, gather." While District Tavern's approach is a bit more detailed than the simple instructions provided, the phrase is a reasonable description of what District Tavern is all about. It's the gathering place for residents of a growing community, where the options for eating and drinking keep getting better.

[email protected]; @WordsWithJG

Comments
Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Bar review: St. Pete’s Garage is a dive with Pride

Last year’s St. Pete Pride went smoothly, despite some behind-the-scenes drama involving the decision to relocate the parade to the downtown waterfront, rather than the Grand Central District, where it had traditionally been held. After all, the Gran...
Published: 06/21/18
Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

Local craft beer of the week: Beach Slap Piña Colada Wheat Ale from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

"Hooray, it’s summer!" exclaimed no Floridians. But if it’s summer proper and not just the usual year-round weather, you might as well embrace the heat and humidity with a trip to the beach, accompanied by some suitably refreshing beers. While you’r...
Published: 06/21/18
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? It’s 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
Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

Here’s 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. "That’s 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, we’ve selected five rainbow-themed ...
Published: 06/20/18
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

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

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If you’re 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

America’s 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 peaches’ 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. There’s 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