Make us your home page

Bar review: Jungle Prada Tavern honors history, but with a timely twist

It's hard to talk about St. Petersburg's Jungle Prada neighborhood without looking at its past. The connection to early Spanish expeditions, Prohibition-era gangsters, jazz music and the bay area's indigenous Tocobaga tribe makes Jungle Prada fertile ground for legends, rumors and speculation about the last 500 years or so of local Florida history.

One building that has remained popular in the modern era is located adjacent to the 16th century landing site of Pánfilo de Narváez's expedition, which saw a clash between Narváez's Spanish explorers and the local Tocobagas. (The landing site is also the home of several Tocobaga burial grounds.) About 90 years ago, this building was home to a club called the Gangplank, where jazz legends Count Basie and Duke Ellington once performed. Rumor has it that Al Capone, who owned property down the road, was part owner of the club. At the time, the Tyrone Square Mall land was an airport, giving Capone and his gangster friends easy access to the Jungle Prada neighborhood.

There may or may not be underground tunnels once used by Capone and company to smuggle booze during Prohibition in this area, and when the building was occupied by Saffron's more recently, the owner displayed an unopened safe purported to be from Capone's era.

Also, Babe Ruth supposedly got married there once.

In other words, Jungle Prada Tavern, the latest occupant of this storied location, has a lot of history to live up to. And respect is paid to the past in a few ways. The original Spanish-style architecture of the interior is intact, with rooms separated by broad, stuccoed arches. The original terrazzo flooring — refurbished by the previous owners, who ran the Black Palm restaurant — runs alongside curved laminate flooring. The side patio is a perfect place to relax in pleasant fall weather, and it has a view of the historic Narváez landing site.

But, more importantly, Jungle Prada Tavern serves a more immediate purpose as a much-needed watering hole for folks who live in the neighborhood. Thirsty locals have scarcely few options in this regard, and Jungle Prada Tavern delivers more than the bare minimum required of the average local's joint. The history is there, along with more current touches: a pool table, darts, lots of flat screens around the copper-topped, U-shaped bar, and live music of the non-jazz variety.

For beer, there are 32 taps and a nice selection of bottles. The tap list includes a great mix of local brews, domestic craft beers and quality imports like Unibroue (Quebec), Einstok (Iceland), Tucher (Germany) and Steigl (Austria). There are a roughly equal number of wines available, spanning a similarly-diverse geographical range, with most available by the glass as well as bottle (although a few premium wines from Napa are bottle-only, with prices in the triple digits).

Personally, I'd go for the cocktail list. There are four rocks drinks and four served up — technically seven total, since the Jungle Sunset appears on both lists — and the flavors are generally on the fruity/easy-drinking end of the spectrum. (When I visited, there was also a Hurricane on special.) These cocktails are simple, but they're tasty, attractively-presented and absolutely perfect for sipping on the patio.

The Narváez Landing, which references the historical site across the street, is a fruit-forward affair made with Zaya rum (it's delicious), while the Mellow Buffalo classes up a typical whiskey-ginger with apple cider, served straight up. Here's another Capone connection: the Chicago South Side, a Prohibition-era gin drink made with house-grown fresh mint. Who knows? Maybe Capone was smuggling gin through his alleged underground tunnels to drink these things at the Gangplank.

Jungle Prada Tavern might not leave a legacy of Gangplank magnitude, but that's okay. Jungle Prada residents are more likely to care about having a fun, friendly place to eat, drink and congregate in their part of town than they are about wild stories from the past. Of course, the history of the building makes for good conversation while you're there, and that's pretty cool, too.; @WordsWithJG.

Jungle Prada Tavern

1700 Park St. N, St. Petersburg 33710. (727) 914-7776

The vibe: A roomy locals bar in the space of a legendary early St. Petersburg nightclub.

Food: Appetizers, salads, and sandwiches, $6.95-$12.95; entrées, $8.95-$17.95.

Booze: Beer, wine, and liquor. Beer, $3-$6; wine, $6-$9 by the glass and $25-$130 by the bottle; liquor, $4-$11, although Johnnie Walker Blue Label is $45 for a 2-oz. pour.

Specialty: There are 32 beers on draft, featuring a nice mix of domestic craft brews and interesting imports. However, you shouldn't skip the house cocktail list, which features a range of Florida-friendly cocktails, perfect for sipping on the outdoor patio. Try the Narváez Landing, which nods to the next door landing site's history. It's made with Zaya rum and a variety of fruity mixers: OJ, fresh-squeezed lime, pineapple, orgeat syrup, and grenadine. Yes, it's fruity and yes, it's good.

Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m.-midnight, and sometimes later on the weekends.

Bar review: Jungle Prada Tavern honors history, but with a timely twist 10/14/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2015 7:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 24


    Zac Brown Band: The country, folk and Southern rockers embark on the "Welcome Home" tour in support of the album. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $27.50-$77.50. (813) 740-2446.

    Handout photo of the Zac Brown Band, performing at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on 9/24/17. Credit: Shore Fire Media
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 23


    Smithsonian Museum Day Live: Museums across the nation partner with the Smithsonian to offer free admission for one day. Among them are Florida Holocaust Museum, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.Cracker Country in Tampa, Ringling Museum of Art. Note: Dalí Museum is free for Pinellas County …

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  3. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others


    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  4. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]