Make us your home page

Good food, small-batch brews make Treasure Island's R Bar a local favorite

I write about bars every week, so it goes without saying that I visit a lot of them. I order elaborate cocktails in high-end clubs and lounges, drink cheap beer while shooting pool and darts at crusty neighborhood dives, and pretty much everything in between.

While I generally find at least something to like at any given watering hole — they serve booze, don't they? — I don't often find a place as instantly agreeable and comfortable as R Bar, a no-frills bar and grill located a short walk from the beach in Treasure Island.

This is odd, because R Bar doesn't really seem like my kind of place. I'm not big on beach bars, you're never going to see me ordering a plate of crab legs, and I tend to spend most of my time in bars after 11 p.m., which is when R Bar closes for the night. But when I visited on a lazy, Sunday afternoon, R Bar was about as ideal a place as I could imagine.

To be sure, this is not a late-night place. Half the menu is dedicated to breakfast, and the kitchen opens at 8 a.m. six days a week. Many of the regulars come for the food specials. But the bar is a major fixture there, both figuratively and literally. The bar itself — a long, L-shaped one that wraps around half of the interior — is hand-painted with kitschy, tropical scenes involving parrots, palm trees and probably a hammock somewhere.

Behind the bar, a full liquor selection, a hot pot of coffee — this place really seems like a cross between a roadside diner and a friendly neighborhood dive — and, surprisingly, a banner advertising the availability of house beers. These beers, brewed in a small, 10-gallon setup in the kitchen, are the creation of Eric Richardson, a cook at R Bar who now moonlights as its brewmaster once a week.

It's cool enough that this place serves its own beer, but the fact that the beer's actually good doesn't hurt a bit. There are only three house brews on at any given time, but since they come in 10-gallon batches (around 80 pints), the stock rotates frequently. However, while the kegs change regularly, the styles generally don't — Richardson always keeps an IPA on the first tap and a porter on the second. The third tap is the wild card, pouring whatever Richardson was in the mood to make that week.

That doesn't mean that you won't find variety — the IPA recipe might be a single-hopped Amarillo version one week and centered on Zythos hops the next, while a Bourbon barrel-aged, vanilla-infused version of the porter subbed in for the base version just a few weeks ago.

Fresh beer brewed on site is hard to beat, but it's not the only option, either. There are plenty of cheap, easy-drinking beers at the bar (like $2 cans of PBR), along with Cigar City's Jai Alai IPA and Maduro brown ale. And it's still a beach bar to some degree, as evidenced by the blender sitting on the bar — feel free to order a piña colada or frozen daiquiri if you need to cool down after a day out in the balmy summer heat.

There's music four nights a week from Mike Calzone, a one-man act featuring covers and original tunes every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. House beers and a house musician — why not?

Whether it was the friendly service, good vibe, or quality house beers — let's be honest, that last one is the clincher — R Bar is not only the kind of place I'd enjoy a drink in while killing some time; it's the kind of place I'd gladly go back to even if I weren't writing about it.


R Bar

245 108th Ave., Treasure Island; (727) 367-3400,

The vibe: A laid-back beach bar with a small selection of quality, house-brewed beers.

Food: Appetizers, soups, and salads, $2.25-$7.95; sandwiches and entrées, $3.50-$24.95; dessert, $3.99-$4.50.

Booze: Beer, $2-$5; wine, $4; liquor, $3.50-$6. Happy hour is until 5 p.m. daily, featuring $1 off cocktails and 50 cents off beers if you sit at the bar.

Specialty: R Bar is located a short walk from the beach, so the bartenders are quite comfortable making Rum Runners, Bahama Mamas, and frozen daiquiris. However, savvy tourists and locals alike ask for the house beers — a rotating selection of small-batch beers brewed on site by cook/brewmaster Eric Richardson. The three house taps change regularly, but there's always a porter and American IPA, the two most-requested beers at R Bar. The third tap is currently occupied by Richardson's sessionable Angler's Ale, but with each batch consisting of a mere 10 gallons, there's no telling when a new beer will take its place.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Good food, small-batch brews make Treasure Island's R Bar a local favorite 08/29/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 2:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Battle of the Sexes' is a fine time capsule comedy, and not really about the tennis


    In 1973, tennis champion Billie Jean King joined a two-ring circus with hustler Bobby Riggs, billed as a Battle of the Sexes amid the women's liberation movement. Fifty million Americans watched the pop spectacle on TV.

    Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the film "Battle of the Sexes." [Fox Searchlight Pictures.]
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 26


    University Lecture Series: Jackie Cruz: In part of USF's Hispanic Heritage Month activities, actress Jackie Cruz (Orange is the New Black) presents "Cruzing Through Adversity" in which she offers lessons on resilience, determination and turning life's challenges into opportunities and a better outlook. 8 …

    Jackie Cruz in a scene from Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" Season 2. Photo credit: Jessica Miglio for Netflix.
  3. Restaurant review: Mortar & Pestle in Seminole Heights should focus on mom-and-pop pharmacy vibe

    Food & Dining

    By Laura Reiley

    Times Food Critic


    Sometimes, the more time you have with a project, the more complicated it gets. I started hearing about Mortar & Pestle in Seminole Heights about 18 months ago. It was the vision of Ujwal Patel, a pharmacist;

    Mortar & Pestle opened in Seminole Heights in Tampa in August. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  4. Snap Judgment's Glynn Washington on growing up in a 'cult' and how to tell a good story


    Glynn Washington spent much of his last visit to Tampa preparing his soul for the impending apocalypse. He was assured it was coming any day.

    Glynn Washington, the creator and host of NPR's "Snap Judgment," will bring his live show to the Tampa Theatre on Sept. 29. 
Photo courtesy Snap Judgment
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Sept. 25-Oct. 1


    MegaCon Tampa: The multi-genre convention brings a lineup of celebrity guests and comic book creators to the Tampa Convention Center Friday-Sunday, including icon Stan Lee, William Shatner, above, Kevin Smith and Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things. Shop hundreds of vendors selling …

    Courtesy Adultswim