Make us your home page
Instagram

Searching South Tampa for my own personal Cheers

Here it was, Sunday night again.

In less than 24 hours, I'd be back in my rolling desk chair, banging away at a keyboard and watching the clock. It was my last chance to eat, drink and be merry before another week of work began.

Back when I lived in Temple Terrace, I knew where I'd be.

The gang would find time to head to the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club, sit out by the poolside bar, knock back inexpensive drinks and watch the Tampa Bay Rays (or Sunday Night Football, depending on the season).

No frills. No specialty menu designed by a chef from a Parisian culinary school. No superstar guest DJ, or anything remotely hip. It was homey — a step above drinking on your couch.

Eight months ago, we moved to South Tampa. The south-of-Kennedy set had plenty of bars to choose from, so many that the task felt overwhelming. I began spending Sunday nights with Netflix just to avoid the inevitable hassle of trying to find my new place in the universe.

Being born in the 1980s, of course, I want my bar to be a Cheers experience. I don't have to know every bartender's name but I'd like to feel relaxed and have easy conversation with whomever is taking my drink order. I also know that 28 and married feels too old to be dropping it like it's hot in public.

Once these basic criteria were established, the recommendations started rolling in.

First stop: Molly Malone's Irish Pub on Davis Islands.

Relaxed setting? Check. Friendly Staff? Double check. The newly opened bar didn't have loud music pumping when I went in to take a seat at the bar. Everyone spoke, even the other customers welcomed me. Definitely the closest thing to Cheers I'd been in in my whole life.

But I'm only a novice beer drinker. I've been drinking cocktails since before I was supposed to be, but beer only for the past couple of years. Malone's doesn't have a liquor license and can't offer my standard, Jack Daniels and ginger ale. So, I left the friendly atmosphere feeling warm but not tipsy.

A friend told me about the food and specialty cocktails at The Wine Exchange in Hyde Park, so it became the next stop.

The inside was packed and bustling on a Thursday night. Outside on the patio, our conversation competed with those at the other close-together tables. The rise of laughter from each corner felt like competition of merriment. Everything was enjoyable, the food, the drink, the company, the service but it just didn't feel like me. Converse Chuck Taylors, jeans and white T-shirt me.

Bar Louie at international Plaza was much closer to my unrefined self. When I'd played coed flag football on Monday nights years ago, we'd go for the wings and drink specials. Even now, nothing has changed at Bar Louie. The leather booths, wooden stools and TVs still feel like the great American sports bar. It was like being with my brothers, letting it all hang out.

Still, I had been there, done that. I needed a new place to be my place.

While walking to get a burger after work one day, the sign at Taps Restaurant, Bar and Lounge caught my attention. I passed by here daily, but I'd never bothered to go in.

Inside, the air conditioning rescued me from the light sheen of sweat that had built while strolling up N Ashley Drive. The prices are what you'd expect for downtown Tampa, not high but not a dive either. The martinis and appetizers hit the spot. Still, it was unsettling to see the shadow of my workplace looming in background. Potentially sitting across the bar from a supervisor? Maybe next year.

There were some almosts after that. Nothing came as close as Taps, but every place felt like one I'd love to pop into from time to time.

Maybe I didn't need one bar. Maybe I could just be happy spreading my love of alcohol and casual conversation around.

On a whim, I went and sat at the bar of Irish 31 before watching a movie. The waitress told me about the specialty cocktail menu, made recommendations based on what I usually drink and talked a little bit about me for a minute.

Friendly staff? Check.

As I waited for my Twisted Carmel Apple Martini, the dozens of conversations around me rose several decibels. Some were interesting; most were just working people letting off steam and celebrating the end of the day. I was roped into one or two and met some genuinely nice folks.

Relaxed setting? Double check.

Then, as I sipped with my eyes locked on an Ultimate Fighting Championship event, the acoustic guitar started in, covering everything from Jessie J's Price Tag to Foster the People's Pumped up Kicks. We were clapping and singing along and watching TV and drinking and eating and smiling and smiling and smiling.

Finding your bar is 10 percent what the bar offers and 90 percent the people inside. In Irish 31, the mid-20s to late-30s set gets together to commiserate, celebrate and communicate.

I dig it. I know I'll be going back.

Look for me some Sunday at the left corner of the bar.

Bar Louie

2223 N West Shore Blvd. B202, Tampa; (813) 874-1919, barlouie­america.com.

Irish 31

1611 W Swann Ave, Tampa; (813) 250-0031, irish31.com.

Molly Malone's Irish Pub

304 E Davis Blvd. Suite E, Tampa; (813) 304-2777, facebook.com/mollymalonesdavis­islands.

Taps Restaurant, Bar and Lounge

777 N Ashley Drive, Tampa, (813) 463-1968; tapswineandbeer.com.

The Wine Exchange

1609 W Snow Ave., Tampa, (813) 254-9463, wineexchangetampa.com.

Scan this page with your Layar app for a video about why Robbyn chose Irish 31 as her new home bar. Need help? See Page 26.

Searching South Tampa for my own personal Cheers 08/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 12:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.

    Travel

    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  2. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game

    Attractions

    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  3. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground

    Blogs

    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23

    Events

    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22

    Events

    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/pvidela@bradenton.com 12/20/07