Beer, pizza and sports have long been cornerstones of modern American leisure. And though I'm not sure why, many of the early adopters of the microbrew — as it was known back then — culture happened to be pizza joints. Just as the beer culture has evolved, however, so has the modern pizzeria: bigger, better and with more options than you might expect.
Mike's Tap and Tavern is the latest addition to the Mike's pizza chain, which includes Mike's Pizza & Deli Station in Clearwater and its beer-centric sister location, Mike's Pizza and Pub in Largo. Mike's Pizza and Pub takes the beer and pizza concept and pushes it one step further, with a slew of flat-screen TVs, modern furnishings and a tap list that its microbrew-sipping predecessors could only have dreamt of.
Located on a popular St. Pete stretch between Sip Social Lounge and The One Night Stand, Mike's takes the concept even further, with flat screens stretching across the entire wall, 40 beers on tap, a selection of wines and a full liquor bar, a plush lounge area in the back and late night hours on the weekends, with crowds to match.
Although the space that Mike's occupies doesn't seem very big from the outside, it's actually very roomy. On the left side is a long bar in front of a brick wall adorned with bottle shelves and 40 beer taps, all backlit by color-shifting glowing lights. On the other side, in a corner near the entrance, is a small, elevated DJ booth. Booth seating lines this wall, while wide wooden tables with shelves in the middle, intended to hold large pizzas for group consumption, sit in the middle.
In the back, there's an ultra-modern lounge area that looks like it was swiped from the neighbors next door at Sip, with whom, interestingly, Mike's shares restrooms (have you ever run into a bathroom attendant at a pizzeria?). This arrangement is unique in that it gives guests an opportunity to bounce back and forth from Sip to Mike's depending on the mood.
However, most of the crowd at Mike's is there for the sports. Despite the modern furnishings and other slick interior accents, Mike's Tap and Tavern is clearly a classic pizza, beer and sports kind of place; it's just bigger, better and more modern than the archetype it descends from.
Along the brick tap-and-bottle wall is a row of TVs that stretches the entire length, with four different channels on display at any given time. On the back wall, another half-dozen flat screens are positioned above the booths. In all, there are 20 TVs going at once, so no matter where you sit, you'll be able to catch whatever game it is that you want to catch.
Although I'm not a big sports guy, this is most certainly a place that I could see myself going to to enjoy some pizza and beer with friends. Why? Because the beer selection is awesome. I have good memories of visiting bay-area pizzerias and washing down dinner with some craft beers, but Mike's really ups the ante, with 40 beers on draft, more than a few of which are of local origin. Not sure what to get? Flights are available for $7.50, featuring small pours of four different beers.
At the new St. Pete location, there's also a full liquor bar. I'm told that a new cocktail menu is to be released this month, featuring cocktails using beer as a base, mixed with various spirits and liqueurs. That should prove to be an interesting pizza pairing, and I'm looking forward to checking it out.
In the early days, pizza plus sports invariably equaled American light adjunct lagers. Ten years ago, forward-thinking pizzerias introduced their customers to Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams and other up-and-coming microbreweries. Today, pizzerias like Mike's Tap and Tavern go all the way, offering a wide selection of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails, along with cool, loungy interiors and enough TVs to make every seat in the house a premium vantage point. That's progress, if you ask me.