Friday, August 17, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Whistle Stop Grill and Bar in Safety Harbor

Of all the bars and restaurants along Safety Harbor's picturesque Main Street, the Whistle Stop Grill & Bar — so named because of its proximity to the train tracks — has long stood as the town's go-to option.

Opened as an ice cream shop in the 1960s, Whistle Stop transitioned into its current incarnation more than 20 years ago. Although Safety Harbor has its fair share of cocktail spots, beer bars and even a brewery during that period, the daily full house at the Whistle Stop tells you all you need to know about where the locals go.

The tagline at the Whistle Stop is "Old Florida, New Vibe," but of course, "new" is subject to change over time, especially when we're talking a couple of decades. As such, it's reasonable to expect a few artifacts of the recent past — a martini-heavy cocktail menu, for example — mixed in with the laid-back, distinctly Old Florida flavor.

Although Safety Harbor is on the water, it's not a beach town. The vibe at Whistle Stop, however, is absolutely beachy. I wouldn't have been surprised to find a patch of sand somewhere in the sprawling, open-air patio, but the closest thing to it is a small mulched area in the corner, which is where I sat and had a look at the drink list.

There are 18 beers on draft, most of which are local. While I perused the selection, I noticed that there was a beer dinner in progress, pairing a four-course meal with five selections from Largo's Barley Mow Brewing. That explained the multiple Barley Mow options on the menu, but there was no shortage of additional options from the bay area and beyond, from South Florida's Funky Buddha to Crooked Thumb, which is just a short stroll down the street.

The remainder of the drink menu consists of a varied wine selection, as well as a fairly extensive cocktail list. About half are of the martini-style variety, including the ubiquitous Cosmo (as well as a Crystal Cosmo version made with white cranberry) and a variety of fruit-forward, primarily vodka-based options.

I tried the White Orchid, which blends Stoli blueberry vodka with Bauchant orange liqueur, mixed in with white cranberry and peach juices. This is the kind of concoction that doesn't tend to factor in heavily in modern cocktail menus, but sometimes a sweet, unapologetically fruity vodkatini isn't such a bad thing to sip during a cool breeze on a Safety Harbor afternoon.

Ditto the Pink Flamingo, which certainly has some Old Florida in the name. This one combines Stoli vanilla vodka with lime and grapefruit juice, complete with a sugared rim. While the sugared rim may be a bit much, the flavor combo was fantastic.

There are some more in-season cocktails, so to speak — stuff that you'd expect to find at your average modern cocktail bar. For example, there are a few cocktails made with certified-organic spirits, including a margarita, a Southside and a cucumber cooler, garnished with mint from the Whistle Stop's garden. There are also a few mule drinks available, including a scotch-based one made with the smartly selected Monkey Shoulder blend.

There's live music on the weekends, a weekly open mic night and even a monthly book club.

Safety Harbor has a lot of great drinking options, and I'm always glad to take the occasional trip to try something new. Of course, you also need an appreciation for the classics, and from its long tenure and neighborhood-favorite status, Whistle Stop Grill & Bar easily qualifies.

[email protected]; follow @WordsWithJG

     
 
Comments
Tampa gets its own Bodega in Seminole Heights

Tampa gets its own Bodega in Seminole Heights

St. Petersburg eatery Bodega has built a reputation for its Latin street food and now the fast-casual concept has expanded to a second location in Seminole Heights.Its name Bodega, which means grocery in Spanish, represents the owners, George and Deb...
Published: 08/16/18
Local Craft Beer of the Week: The Falcon Brett IPA, Flying Boat Brewing Co.

Local Craft Beer of the Week: The Falcon Brett IPA, Flying Boat Brewing Co.

Just in time for its first anniversary on Saturday, St. Pete’s Flying Boat Brewing Co. has tapped a beer that pushes the envelope by combining two trends — New England-style IPA and Brett IPA — into one unique brew: The Falcon IPA.By now, you probabl...
Published: 08/16/18
Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

BOLTS: BREW FESTI was going to list all the craft brewers whose wares will be on offer at 7 p.m. Friday at this year’s Bolts Brew Fest, a Tampa Bay Lightning benefit for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. But with 50 local breweries alone, and another ...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18
Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

Expert advice on baking classic French tarts: recipes, tips and tools

BELLEAIR BLUFFSTim Brown was dead right. It was time for tough love, right at the beginning of class: Most of us entertain, most of us can get our act together with some hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer and an entree with appropriate side dishes. But whe...
Published: 08/15/18
It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

It won’t take long to fall in love with this fool

"Fool" might be an odd name for dessert, but it has been served for centuries, and no one is quite sure why it is called that. Making it, though, is a pretty smart thing to do considering how easy it is and the reward of doing so: a delightfully crea...
Published: 08/15/18
Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

Amalie Arena tries to lure millenials to its Firestick Grill

TAMPA — How to attract the cool kids? This is the mantra for so many restaurants these days: That huge generation of millennials eats differently, thinks differently and spends differently than their parents. So how do you reel them in and make them ...
Published: 08/14/18
Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

Put old bread to good use in a Peach and Mozzarella Panzanella Salad

It was a pilgrimage I had long wanted to make, but the timing was never right: Saturday mornings at Born and Bread Bakehouse in Lakeland. I had tried Born and Bread’s bread once before, slathered in some house-made ricotta cheese that sent me on a ri...
Published: 08/14/18
Restaurant review: Oak & Stone brings a lot to an already thriving downtown St. Petersburg dining and beer scene

Restaurant review: Oak & Stone brings a lot to an already thriving downtown St. Petersburg dining and beer scene

ST. PETERSBURG You stand up. You show your ID and get a wristband. A server walks you to the wall and through the options: more than 50 taps, grouped by style, mostly local (Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Green Bench, 3 Daughters, etc.) and regional cra...
Published: 08/13/18
Taste test: Texas toast

Taste test: Texas toast

Texas may have invented extra thick and buttery toast, but plenty of us enjoy the slathered slices with our own barbecues or Italian night dinners. Our judges like the addition of cheese to the toast, browned in the oven with a few herbs dotting the ...
Published: 08/13/18
To drink fine bourbon on a budget, hunt ‘unicorns’

To drink fine bourbon on a budget, hunt ‘unicorns’

For more than year, I have chased unicorns.I’ve searched the Tampa Bay area. I’ve hunted in Baltimore, Denver, Detroit, Cleveland andLas Vegas. I’ve walked through dozens of doors, but I often strike out.I’m not chasing mythical creatures. My unicorn...
Published: 08/09/18