It's mid July, and here I am writing about Clear Sky Draught House. I hope the irony is not lost.
You might recognize the name from Clearwater's popular Clear Sky Beachside Café. This is an offshoot of the same brand, located on the busy corner of 580 and Main Street, where downtown Dunedin meets the main drag.
The idea behind Clear Sky Draught House is the gastropub trend that's been hot for the past couple of years. The tagline is "chef-driven pub grub," where guests can chow down on elevated bar fare while enjoying a tidy list of signature cocktails, fine wines or a range of craft beers.
I stopped by on a conspicuously non-rainy afternoon and decided against the large, front patio because of the extra-tropical heat. The front patio was nice and shaded, with potted plants and wicker furniture. It would be a great place to relax and watch the traffic coming in and out of the downtown area, but this was not the day for such a venture.
The interior of Clear Sky was much smaller than I had expected. It's a single room, with booths and carved-wood high tops lining the perimeter, and a short bar on the end. It was very modern and clean, with lots of wood, brick, and copper accents, including a large copper light fixture above the center of the dining area. I took a high top against the street-facing wall, which includes large windows, allowing in plenty of natural light.
For a weekday afternoon, the place was busy. I'm not sure if this is the norm, or if a lot of people were there to watch the Brazil-Germany World Cup match on one of the many flatscreens positioned on each wall. By halftime, everyone in the restaurant was indeed watching the match, which gave Clear Sky an interesting vibe, as if it were a sports bar stuck in the middle of a sit-down restaurant, with elderly couples in booths eating lunch and stopping every five minutes or so whenever Germany scored a goal.
With the level of creativity put into the food menu, it's no surprise that the drink selection is also quite lively. Aside from nearly 30 wines in stock, there's a selection of 11 house cocktails, which all have a little extra twist on more common cocktail fare. For example, the classic margarita is mixed up two ways here: as the Repo Man, which uses reposado tequila instead of blanco and combines it with lemon rather than lime, plus strawberry and ginger syrups; and the Spicy Margarita, which introduces jalapeño, cilantro and cucumber into the usual tequila-and-lime base.
No "draught house" would be complete without some good beers, so Clear Sky keeps 28 of them on tap, including many locals, such as 7venth Sun (talk about fresh — that beer is brewed only a few blocks away!), Barley Mow and Big Storm. Some of them, in true gastropub fashion, simply list "market price" for the cost of the rotating local selections.
The drink are really good, but what's even better is the happy hour, when draft beers, house wines, and all liquor are half-off. That means you can order a seriously premium cocktail for a mere $4. That's unheard of.
And, in keeping with the theme of this issue, Clear Sky opens at 7 a.m. I checked, and they definitely will serve you drinks at 7 a.m. if you're up for it.
Unfortunately, puritanical lawmakers insist on not allowing alcohol sales before 10 a.m. on Sundays, so you'll have to pregame it if you want to some early morning drinking before Sunday brunch at Clear Sky.