Friday, January 19, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Eats! American Grill turns focus to drinks in Riverview

Eats! American Grill has a concept so simple, it's hard to believe that more places don't do it: Offer a menu of classic American fare produced in an authentic regional manner. This means, for example, that the Philly Cheesesteak is served on an Amaroso roll from Philly and topped with Cheez Whiz. Authenticity as creativity — it's a sort of minimalism that often works quite well.

For Eats!, this has brought street cred in the form of an appearance on the Food Network, as well as a strong customer base at its original South Tampa location. Recently, Eats! expanded, opening a second location at Riverview's Winthrop Town Centre, an upscale shopping plaza catering to the constantly growing population in east Hillsborough County.

Now, the restaurants I get excited about aren't the ones that would interest a lot of readers, which probably explains why I write about drinks. But Eats! has more to share than regional American food, in the form of a well-stocked bar.

The Riverview Eats! features a spacious outdoor patio and a roomy interior, part dining room and part U-shaped bar. It used to be a Green Iguana, if that gives you an idea of how it's laid out. There are 20 or so TVs scattered around the place, making it a kind of fancy sports bar. It's also a neighborhood hotspot for happy hour and early dinners.

Speaking of sports, Eats! has a cool feature that allows guests to pick their audio source individually (there's a speaker at the table), so fans are not at the mercy of the group. Want to watch the lone TV showing bowling while the World Series is on? This is probably the only place you'll pull that off.

Eats! has its bases covered in the drinks department. The wine list has recently been expanded to include around 20 options, and the 30-beer tap list has a little something for everyone. Of course, it's a sports bar of sorts, so there are plenty of bottled and canned beers, including PBR tallboys served in coozies that resemble little brown paper bags.

In addition to the tap list — which, by the way, features lots of seasonal releases and local brews from Two Henrys, Cigar City, 3 Daughters, Florida Avenue and Big Storm — Eats! also serves up Angry Orchard cider-based cocktails, like the comically simple but effective Jack's Apple: Angry Orchard mixed with Jack Daniels.

While the cider cocktails stick to a simple formula, the specialty cocktails are another story, with many involving a range of fresh, seasonal ingredients. A short summer cocktail menu is provided at the bar, but for additional choices, check the daily specials or the Eats! Facebook page, where otherwise unlisted specialty cocktails are often advertised. This is how I came to try the High West Arnold Palmer, a blend of High West 7000 peach vodka, mint, lemon, fresh peaches (not canned), lemonade and freshly brewed tea.

Another favorite is the Naked Black Flower, which contains Naked Turtle rum, elderflower liqueur, mint, lime and blackberries, garnished with a giant flower. And how about the Pacific Wildnerness, containing Distillery No. 209 gin from San Francisco, along with fresh raspberries, lavender, ruby red grapefruit, rosemary, simple syrup and a splash of lemonade?

My biggest gripe is that no definitive list containing these cocktails exists yet, so your bartender might have to take a request for one up the ladder, as mine did. It was worth the wait — a delicious, heat-banishing summer drink.

With the amount of work that obviously went into creating such elaborate cocktails, I would expect that a complete menu is forthcoming. The Riverview location is still pretty new, and its off-the-bat popularity with the locals has no doubt kept the staff well occupied. It'll be worth future visits to check this out, I'm sure, but in the meantime, you know where to get the scoop.

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