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Tequilas brings south-of-the-border flavor to Ybor City

Bartender Kristy Bonanno pours a drink at Tequilas in Ybor City.

Luis Santana/tbt*

Bartender Kristy Bonanno pours a drink at Tequilas in Ybor City.

During a stroll down Seventh Avenue a few months ago, I noticed a new tequila bar called, appropriately enough, Tequilas, so I took a quick peek inside. It seemed way too large of a space for the concept, spanning two separate rooms, each big enough to contain a fairly large bar.

The interior was striking, though, with lofty ceilings and a back-wall façade of cutouts painted in bright colors that were designed to make the place look like the courtyard of an old Mexican village. Despite the cool, unique aesthetic, there were only a handful of people inside. As much as I hate to admit it, I wasn't entirely surprised when Tequilas closed its doors a few months later.

The closure was short-lived, however. Restaurateur Jason Fernandez, known for other Ybor City destinations such as the Green Iguana, Bernini, and Carne Chophouse, took the place over, keeping the name and original concept.

At Tequilas' recent grand re-opening — a Wednesday night party featuring drink specials, music, and funny little balloon hats — the place was much more packed, and I was happy to see that the cool elements of the interior were left intact. Weathered brick walls, the colorful village façade, a long, tiled bar, and spacious dining areas in both rooms.

Tequilas is divided into two rooms — the main, indoor area and an equal-sized outdoor courtyard, which is adjacent to the main room and features its own fully stocked bar. The outdoor area is flanked on both sides by the high brick walls that also make up the walls of the interior, which itself has very high ceilings. String lights hang above, giving the space a festive vibe.

In the indoor room, there are flat-screen TVs behind the bar, a stage in the back, and raised booth seating on the sides. It's pretty laid back, as you would hope a tequila bar to be. Outside is even more casual, with a rustic, canopied bar, café tables made of unfinished wood planks and a small stage where live bands perform several nights a week.

I asked for a menu and found a selection of 15 speciality cocktails on the back, 11 of which were tequila-based. In addition, more than half of the spirit selection was made up of different tequilas, more than 75 bottles in all. The new neon lights above the entrance indicate that this is a "tequila bar," and that couldn't possibly be more accurate.

One of Fernandez's original plans was to continue offering a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, a unique quirk that I would have been happy to see cross over. Unfortunately, when I perused the menu, I found only a single vegetarian option, and no vegan options. It's a shame, because this is something that Ybor could really use, and it would set Tequilas apart from any other generic Mexican spot.

But I came here for the bar, and the it did not disappoint. The staff was excellent — friendly, attentive, and very helpful. The drinks, such as the Cadillac cocktail — a mixture of Herradura Reposado, Agavero Orange, margarita mix, and lime — were quite tasty, and there's more than enough variety to keep just about anyone happy. And if you came for tequila? Then you absolutely came to the right place, no question about it.

The new Tequilas is still, well, new, so I'm interested to see how it develops as the kinks get worked out. With a repertoire encompassing some of the hottest spots in Ybor City, I'm confident that the folks behind Tequilas will make this place a winner.

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1613 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City; (813) 241-9555,

The vibe: A spacious Mexican bar and restaurant featuring live music and a vast tequila selection.

Food: Appetizers, soups, and sides, $2-$7.95; entrées, $5.95-$14.95; desserts, $2.95-$4.95.

Booze: Beer, wine, and liquor. Beer, $2.50-$6; wine, $5-$6; liquor, $4.50-$14, with the exception of Gran Patrón Burdeos, which is $80. Happy hour is daily from open until 7 p.m., featuring $1-off drafts, $3 wells and $2 "sangrita," which is not the traditional tequila chaser, but rather a frozen Margarita/sangria hybrid.

Specialty: Eleven of the 15 house cocktails are tequila-based, and there are more than 75 various tequilas available behind the bar, ranging from house favorites Herradura and El Jimador all the way to super-premiums like Gran Patrón Burdeos. If you're not picky, Tequilas also offers $5 house margaritas all day. A small wine list is available, and there are many Mexican beers on hand, including selections from the Day of the Dead series from Cerveceria Mexicana, such as Pay the Ferryman Porter (excellent name). Don't quote me on this, but I think the bar also is trying to move old stock of Duvel, so if you ask nicely, you may find it to be quite a surprising bargain.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, noon to 3 a.m. Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Tequilas brings south-of-the-border flavor to Ybor City 11/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 10:06pm]
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