Make us your home page
Instagram

Bar review: The Shipwreck in Clearwater Beach

Spring break!

Depending on how you read that phrase in your mind, you may or may not want to head out to Clearwater Beach right now. I wanted to wrap up my three-week coverage of TripAdvisor's best beach in America with a bar that might appeal to a range of those voices, from bar-hopping spring breakers to those looking to get away from the tourist epicenter without being removed from the action entirely.

I picked the Shipwreck, a well-regarded Mandalay Avenue dive that has been a local favorite for decades. The Shipwreck can get a little rowdy during spring break, but it's definitely more laid-back than the beachfront party zones a few blocks down the road — and it's wonderfully free of tourist pricing that comes with that territory.

The Shipwreck is loosely themed, with a sort of pirate/tropical vibe. It's smoky and dark, with low ceilings, almost as if it's built into the hull of an old ship. In a word, it's eclectic.

The decor consists of mannequins decked out in pirate gear, a booth-mounted fish tank, neon lights, tiki thatch and ornate ceiling tiles. Above the bar, hand-crafted light boxes glow brightly, each with a different, bold color.

There's a game room with pool, darts and foosball, as well as a small dance floor in the sunken area adjacent to the bar. A DJ performs every night, spinning an impressively diverse range of music — there's reggae, indie dance, Top 40 hip-hop and dubstep.

It may have been partly due to the spring break effect, but the weeknight scene on the night of my visit was pretty happening, with a group of girls from Kentucky getting the most out of their Clearwater Beach vacation, downing shots and Hula Hooping on the dance floor. If this was the scene on a Tuesday, I can only imagine what it would look like on a Saturday.

Still, the Shipwreck works even if you're not in party mode. I wasn't, so I only intended to pop in for a quick drink. An hour passed before I even thought to look at the time. Part of this was due to the fact that there was a lot of activity in the bar (great people-watching) and the other part was the above-average service.

Jeff, the head bartender at the Shipwreck, ran a remarkably efficient one-man show — improvising cocktails, making beer recommendations and shooting the breeze with regulars, all while managing a steady stream of customers at the bar. It turns out he's also the inventor of the house drink, the Pink P*ssy. If you go, make sure to order one — it's pretty good, and they're okay with you calling it the Pink Drink instead.

Drink-wise, the Shipwreck is your typical modern beach dive, with a decent spirit selection and a few solid craft beer options. If you're in a beer mood, look out for the lone Cigar City tap hidden at the end of the bar. Otherwise, see what you can come up with in the liquor department. There's a small cluster of bottles on special — there are bargains here, so don't overlook them.

The Shipwreck is an odd duck, but it's a nice diversion from the usual Clearwater Beach fare. A mason jar of beer is half the price of what it will cost you a few blocks away, and you won't have to wade through heavy crowds. Hit the beach in the afternoon and walk to the Shipwreck after — it's funky, unpolished and very lively.

— jg@saintbeat.com; @WordsWithJG

THE Shipwreck

647 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach; (727) 446-3581; facebook.com/TheShipwreckCB

The vibe: A colorful, upbeat beach dive popular with locals and tourists venturing off the beaten path.

Booze: Beer, wine, and liquor. Beer, $3.25 to $5; wine, $5.50; liquor, $5 to $8.75. Happy hour is daily from 1 to 7 p.m., featuring $1 off beers, wine and well liquors.

Specialty: Home of the Pink P*ssy, or Pink Drink, if you prefer. No matter, you'll know it when you see it — it's a pink lemonade-flavored shot that's irresponsibly smooth, which probably explains why it has been the bar's house shot for the better part of four years. If you don't want to be caught shooting a tumbler of bright pink liquid, check out the cluster of bottles on special. They're each discounted $1 per drink, and there's some great stuff in there, like Jameson cask strength and Hornitos Black Barrel. My picks: Redemption Rye, a whiskey with a 95 percent rye grist bill; and Kappa, a Chilean pisco distilled from muscat grapes.

Hours: Open 1 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

Bar review: The Shipwreck in Clearwater Beach 03/24/16 [Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2016 10:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

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

    Events

    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

    Events

    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

    Stage

    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]