It used to be that on a typical Wednesday night, downtown St. Pete didn't have a lot going on. Many bars close early, and crowds generally gravitate toward a small handful of the same places.
After visiting the Lure last Wednesday, I realized that this is only true of the group of bars that I tend to frequent. Judging by the fact that there were no seats available at its long horseshoe bar and very few in the dining area (even though it was just an hour to closing time), I deduced that there was, in fact, a lot going on downtown — I just wasn't hip to it.
The Lure is a tough place to describe. It's a restaurant, bar and lounge, with two entrances along Central Avenue and various seating areas spread between the front sidewalk, a pool room and two dining areas divided by a row of birchwood.
The interior is drenched in color, from painted wood slats and brightly colored artwork to painted brick murals on the side walls. There's a light fixture shaped from antlers and a wall decorated with tree trunk cross-sections. Over red-felt pool tables hang old-fashioned Tiffany-style lamps.
In other words, the decor is all over the place, and not necessarily in a bad way. If anything, the interior design is a visual extension of the menu, which ranges from sushi to flatbreads to tacos. On the drink front, even more variety: tiki drinks, mules, sangrias, local beer, high-end Champagne, martinis and cocktails in pitchers are just some of the options.
The tiki drinks seemed to be a focal point of the menu, with the promise that they'll "knock you on your butt." I tried the Overcast Painkiller, which uses the Oak and Palm spiced rum from Old St. Pete Distillery in place of Pusser's, along with Créole Shrubb, pineapple juice, Coco Lopez, OJ, nutmeg and vanilla. The addition of Créole Shrubb and vanilla made for a nice twist on the classic, and indeed, it was noticeably strong and delicious. Bonus points for the heavy and ornate tiki glass — the bar stocks a variety of these kitschy drinking vessels.
On the lighter side of the spectrum was the Passion of Buddha, which uses rum from Sarasota's Siesta Key, combined with passionfruit nectar, simple syrup and ginger beer. Personally, I would leave out the simple, as the thick passionfruit nectar and ginger beer add more than enough sweetness to the already-sweet rum. It's a unique and tasty flavor combination, nonetheless, and the drink looks great served in a wide-mouthed coupe glass.
There's a lot of creativity in the Lure's drink menu. While you'll find the typical Moscow Mule, you'll also find a spin on it called the Maine Mule, with caramel and apple cider. And then there's the pop bottles section, which deals with drinks modeled after various childhood soft drinks. For example, the Fantasy Sunrise: a tequila sunrise that uses Fanta orange soda in place of orange juice.
I also found out why the place was packed to the gills on a Wednesday: All bottles of wine are half-off that night. Who can argue with a deal like that?
Before the Lure, the space was home to a rowdy karaoke bar and before that a dive-y Irish pub. Both businesses had regulars, but neither used the large, double-unit space to its full potential.
The Lure opened up the interior and made the whole space much more welcoming.
Of course, the Lure has been open more than a year at this point, so I'm pretty late to the game. It just wasn't that big of a blip on my radar. That goes to show that, if you only stick with what you know, you're liable to miss out.
[email protected]; @WordsWithJG