Make us your home page

Bar review: Surfside Taphouse in Clearwater Beach stands out

Of the bay area beaches, Clearwater Beach is undoubtedly the most popular, and the intersection of Causeway Boulevard and Mandalay Avenue — that hellish roundabout — is the epicenter of its popularity.

Since the Clearwater Memorial Causeway is the only road to the beach from the mainland, the amount of traffic that businesses in the immediate area enjoy is nearly unimaginable. You could probably pull in six figures operating a lemonade stand on the corner.

One of the bars that clearly benefits from the tremendous Mandalay Avenue traffic is Surfside Taphouse. If you've ever been to Clearwater Beach, you've driven by Surfside, and I'd be willing to bet that it was pretty packed. I can't remember passing the place without a full patio.

I've been curious for a while: is this place a legitimate beer bar — taphouse is regularly thrown around pretty lightly — or is it another typical beach bum watering hole, buoyed by a can't-lose location?

From the street, Surfside occupies a fairly small unit in a strip of beachfront shops. There's a small patio out front for sidewalk drinking and people-watching, and an island bar that serves the patio as well as the much-larger interior area.

Inside, it's nice and open, with wood floors, an array of high-tops around the bar area, and a long dining area in the back. There are TVs positioned all around, giving every seat in the house a good vantage point for sporting events.

I wondered what the deal was with the cages on their ceiling fans. It's a unique look, but I'm not sure if it's an aesthetic that one would choose without real utility. After observing a few of the patrons, I came to the conclusion that the cages are probably there to prevent drunks from standing on tables and throwing their arms into the fans overhead. Maybe that's a bit fanciful, but it's a Clearwater Beach bar, and let's face it — Clearwater Beach bar tourists seem to have a penchant for getting sloppy.

Add in nightly live music and you've got a recipe for a decidedly not-chill night at the beach. I visited on a Wednesday evening and it may as well have been midnight on a Saturday. During the day, I imagine the scene is quite a bit more sedate, but if you come at night, expect a party.

As far as the taphouse designation goes, Surfside is correctly billed. There are just shy of 50 beers on draft, which is pretty remarkable. Some will surely complain that a sizable chunk of these drafts — perhaps 20 percent — are macro beers and typical imports, but considering the location, Surfside has done a lot to appease the average beachgoer while still providing ample options for beer-hip locals.

One curious aspect of the beer selection is that it doesn't appear to rotate much. The printed menus are somewhat permanent, with only a few spots left open for seasonals and variable selections. This makes sense: since much of the clientele are tourists, a static tap list allows Surfside to stock a large number of representative local brews (nearly half of the beers on draft) along with big-selling crowd-pleasers. Surfside Taphouse may not be the top beer bar in Clearwater, but it's certainly the best on the beach.

Surfside also keeps a thorough cocktail list, including drinks served in actual pineapples. There aren't many surprises on the list, but you will find some darn tasty margaritas, mojitos and frozen tropical drinks. The pours are generous, too — a nice touch for a bar that could probably get away with the standard sugary, watered-down cocktails that beach bars tend to specialize in.

Tourists will pay a premium for drinks that are a short walk from the beach, but Surfside wants the locals to come back, too — in fact, you didn't hear it from me, but word is that the bar offers a discount for locals.

Beer drinkers arriving at Clearwater Beach won't need to dig very deep to find a solid selection of brews — just take a right at the roundabout and you're there.; @WordsWithJG

Surfside Taphouse

395 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach; (727) 201-3530;

The vibe: Part beach bar, part sports bar, with an extensive drink selection, including nearly 50 beers on draft.

Food: Soups and appetizers, $4.99 to $13.99; salads and entrees, $9.99 to $23.99; desserts, $6.99.

Booze: Beer, $6 to $9; wine, $6 to $12 by the glass and $28 to $150 by the bottle; liquor, $6 to $15. Happy hour is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, featuring $15 buckets and $2.50 drafts of select beers.

Specialty: As the name implies, Surfside Taphouse has lots of beer — just shy of 50 taps, and more in bottles. There's a decent wine list, as well as a cocktail menu that focuses on tropical drinks and margaritas. Try the citrusy Jalisco Oro margarita, which combines Sauza Gold, Patrón Citronage, orange juice and cinnamon; or the Florida Iced Tea, which in no way resembles any sort of iced tea, instead twisting the Long Island original with a beach-appropriate grapefruit juice base.

Hours: Open 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily

Bar review: Surfside Taphouse in Clearwater Beach stands out 08/10/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 10, 2016 4:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 5 things you didn't know about 'Wall Street' on its 30th anniversary


    It’s hard to think of the 1987 movie Wall Street and not picture Michael Douglas as a megalomaniac tycoon spouting “Greed is good” until shareholders fall in line. 

  2. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Luis Flores, executive chef at Ciccio Restaurant Group, prepares an Impossible Burger at Epicurean Hotel's Food Theatre. Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that will launch on Sept. 27, 2017 in all the Ciccio Restaurant Group locations, except for Fresh Kitchen. "This burger caters to the carnivorous, not just the vegetarians" said Jeff Gigante, co-founder at Ciccio Restaurant Group. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  3. Plan your weekend: Sept. 22-24: Buffyfest, Arcade Fire, Howl-O-Scream, Wanderlust 108 and 'Rent'


    Plan your weekend

    Pop show

    Florida Björkestra's Buffyfest: Pop culture meets pop music when the Florida Björkestra, a 20-piece alternative-classical ensemble that tributes ground-breaking pop artists, on Saturday will play with eight vocalists for "Once More with …

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  4. Poorly assembled 'Lego Ninjago Movie' waters down Lego movie franchise


    Well, that didn't take long.

    After only three movies, the Lego franchise is already a shadow of its original self, less irreverent and go-for-broke bricky. The watering down of an ingenious formula comes with The Lego Ninjago Movie, the sort we expected all along from plastic construction toys.

    A scene from "The Lego Ninjago Movie." (Warner Bros.)
  5. 'Rick and Morty' Rickmobile is coming to Tampa next week


    We now have details on when and where Rick and Morty's belching Rickmobile will be when the rolling promo for the cult hit Adult Swim show swings through Tampa on Sept. 27.

    Ricky and Morty fans will head to the Lowry Parcade and Tavern in Tampa on Sept. 27 where a pop-up merch store that will operate out of a Rick Sanchez-shaped truck.