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. Five recipe ideas for cooking with sparkling wine

    Cooking

    With high school and college graduation season upon us, you might find yourself stocking up on sparkling wine (if you don't normally). Though the obvious choice is to drink it all, you may find yourself with leftovers after all the parties are over. These five recipe ideas will use up that grad-friendly bubbly so …

    Sparkling Wine Risotto takes risotto up a notch.
  2. Portobello Mushrooms With Tuscan Kale and Sweet Potato work as main course or appetizer

    Cooking

    I've made no secret of my mushroom love. As I've written, I like to divide them into two categories: the interesting varieties (oysters, shiitakes, morels, puffballs and the like) that I find at the farmers market or forage; and the less-interesting ones (buttons, creminis) I buy at the supermarket. The former I …

    Portobello Mushrooms With Tuscan Kale and Sweet Potato will work as a main course or an appetizer.
  3. Will Brad Culpepper win it all on Wednesday's 'Survivor' finale?

    The Feed

    Heading into Wednesday's finale of Survivor: Game Changers, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Brad Culpepper said his fans need to know there are still plays to make before the end zone.

    "The Tables Have Turned" - Brad Culpepper, Tai Trang and Hali Ford on the fourth episode of SURVIVOR: Game Changers on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS Entertainment
  4. Spaceballs 2 could really happen, Mel Brooks says

    Blogs

    When Mel Brooks talks about a sequel to Spaceballs, ‘80s fans are tempted to politely smile and nod our heads. It’s a joke, we figure, because how can you possibly recapture the magic of the 1987 Star Wars spoof, especially since John Candy has passed away. 

  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 23

    Events

    Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons: The original Jersey boy himself has produced hits like Sherry, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll, December '63 and Grease during his long-lasting career both solo and with the Four Seasons. 7:30 p.m., Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, …

    Saint PAUL, MN - JULY 25: Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons perform at the 2010 Starkey Hearing Foundation 10th Annual "So the World May Hear" Gala at Saint Paul RiverCentre on July 25, 2010 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.   (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images for Starkey Hearing Foundation) *** Local Caption *** Frankie Valli