Inevitably, after you toss back a few, you'll need to eat something.
There's no getting past that trigger in your brain that says, "If you don't feed me now, I'm leaving that $50 worth of alcohol in the bushes."
Depending on what time that trigger goes off, your options can be limited.
But quite a few bars around Tampa Bay make it worthwhile to stay and eat while you imbibe with delicious specialty menus and heavy, filling fare.
While searching for something filling, I heard about the burgers at The Mermaid Tavern in Seminole Heights. The Kefta is awesome; it oozes juiciness without feeling greasy. Appetizers are also a win with fish tacos stuffed with Basa and mango salsa. Prices are reasonable, and the Mermaid specializes in craft beer and wine, so pair your meal with Mermaid's sangria for a great blend of flavors.
Mexican food and alcohol are like dolphins and air — to the ignorant, unrelated, but they need each other. SoHo's The Green Lemon has fiesta bowls that warm the spirit as you slurp down margaritas and pump fists to the in-house DJ. Rice or quinoa, topped with veggies, beans, meat and other specialty toppings, makes for something easy to eat when you're a couple of sheets to the wind, and it's enormously filling. If you're stopping in for the first time, tell the waitress and score a free dessert (mine was a Bananas Foster with Churros, mmmmmm.)
Super high up on style is the menu at The Living Room in Dunedin. International fare blended into a single seamless menu with gut-buster portions makes it a great choice for the price. I got to eat like a kid again and order the Black and Blue Nachos, (blue corn tortilla chips, covered in, well, everything and chicken). No forks allowed.
You don't expect an Irish pub to be running a $10 lobster special three nights week, but the James Joyce Irish Pub in Ybor City dares to be different on a lot of fronts. The one that matters the most is the menu. The Mighty Irishman, a triple-meat, well-seasoned masterpiece, is enough food for two people. Add in the fresh-made chips and you've got a good base for whatever sort of whiskey you've been hankering for all week.
Steak and seafood are the name of the game at Rumba Island Bar and Grill in Clearwater. But for a filling, quick and easy way to top off your rum runner, consider the Island Shrimp and Rice bowls with toppings that include grilled grouper, barbecued salmon, grilled mahi mahi, tempura lobster tail, softshell crabs and jerk chicken. Dig in, make a mess and keep drinking.
Tampa Bay area bar menus are still evolving, so I'll continue to eat my way through them all. I haven't found perfection yet, but the search has left me with some new favorites.
— What's your favorite pub grub in Tampa Bay, either at a bar or a restaurant with great drinks? Tell us about it at [email protected], or tweet us at @tbtnewspaper with the hashtag #tampbaydrinks.