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Salty's Key West vibe right at home in Gulfport

Salty’s, in Gulfport, is in the space that formerly was On the Rocks. It blends a Key West vibe with modern beach-bar touches.
Luis Santana/tbt*

Salty’s, in Gulfport, is in the space that formerly was On the Rocks. It blends a Key West vibe with modern beach-bar touches. Luis Santana/tbt*

Light rain, overcast skies and lots of wind — sounds like a perfect day to visit a beach bar, right? Actually, it just might be. I stopped by one of Gulfort's latest, Salty's, on just such a day, and it seemed so quintessentially Florida.

Choppy water crashing against the rocks along the shore and a light sea breeze passing through an open, airy bar is right up my alley. I know that most people prefer their beach bars warm and sunny, however, and if that's what you're looking for, then I think you might find it — rain or shine — at Salty's.

Salty's took over and completely redesigned the spot formerly occupied by On the Rocks. From the front, it appears to live up to its name: There is an old, worn-out dinghy and a large sign that looks weathered by saltwater, despite it being installed in February.

Inside, there is a long, curvy bar along one side, an entire half boat coming through the wall on the other (really), a lounge area divided with dock posts, and a small arcade with darts, video golf, skeeball (!) and a pool table.

The color scheme is bold and bright, with each wall painted a different shade of blue, green and orange, and the ceiling is covered in corrugated roof panels, which gives the impression of a shanty in the islands. From the indoor Adirondack chairs to the bench seating near the bar, nearly everything is made from natural wood.

The rustic look continues outside, where an extra-large wooden patio deck overlooks Shore Boulevard and the Gulfport Fishing Pier. On the end closest to the water, the Adirondack chairs are set up facing the shore, allowing guests to kick back and just watch the tiny waves roll onto the sand.

This part of the patio has classic, tiki-style umbrellas, while a larger area in the center is covered, which also happens to come in handy on drizzly days. Next to the covered deck is a tiny stage, where one-man acts perform (larger groups perform inside in the lounge area). In the back of the patio is a small lawn with a corn-hole setup.

The entire design hits the Key West vibe perfectly; it's a place where you can while away the hours with a tropical cocktail or a cold beer. Maybe you'll watch football or baseball on the large flat screen behind the bar, or play the classic ring-and-hook tabletop pub game (which our friendly bartender dropped by for us to play without us even asking), or simply sit outside and enjoy a bit of real Florida — rainy or otherwise.

There are plenty of options, from a decent craft-beer selection, including options from Cigar City, Cold Storage, Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, Goose Island and Sweetwater, to a variety of spirits and cocktails, many influenced by the flavors of the tropics — salted rims, fruit juices and garnishes and so on.

I'm admittedly not usually one for beach bars, but Salty's has managed to hit all the right notes. Even though it's bright and new, it feels like a classic Gulfport bar; if the quality level stays where it is, Salty's will probably stick around long enough to be one.

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Salty's Gulfport Bar

5413 Shore Blvd., Gulfport; (727) 592-4983,

The vibe: A bright and colorful beach bar on the Gulfport waterfront.

Booze: Beer, $2-$6; wine, $4-$6; liquor, $3.75-$7. Happy hour is daily until 8 p.m., featuring $2 Bud Light and Miller Lite pints, $3 wells, and $3.50 Smirnoff and Smirnoff flavored vodkas.

Specialty: According to the full-sized surfboard cutout near the bar, Salty's serves eight specialty house cocktails, all of which have some degree of topical fruitiness to them. Although I generally prefer gin in a Salty Dog, the Twisted Salty Dog — a mix of Ketel One Citroen and grapfruit juice, served with a salted rim — looks like a winner. The Salty's Godfather Margarita is given the Florida treatment with a splash of orange juice, while the King of the Shore takes a Crown Royal base and lightens it with pineapple juice and club soda. I ordered off-menu and just asked my bartender from something "good and tropical." She quickly whipped up a rum punch garnished with a thick orange wedge that was both very flavorful and extremely strong. Can't beat that.

Hours: 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Salty's Key West vibe right at home in Gulfport 10/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 4:38pm]
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