For this year's tbt* Ultimate Bar Guide, we tallied up more than 100 reasons we love going to bars in Tampa Bay. Sometimes, of course, you go to bars when you're not feeling your best. Here are 12 local watering holes that'll cheer you up when you're feeling down, depressed or like you just want to get away from it all.
We have a hangover: O'Maddy's Bar and Grill
Hear us out: Sometimes to recover after a night of devilish drinking, you require the hair of the dog that bit you — and a big, hearty breakfast (or lunch) to go along with it. Plenty of bars that cause hangovers at night also serve remedies in the morning. (What a business model!) Take O'Maddy's Bar and Grille in Gulfport, which serves "Dr. Randy Shuck's Hangover Burger" for $10.95. An 8-ounce patty topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onions, it's named for Dr. Randy A. Shuck, a professor of medicine at St. Petersburg General Hospital and friend of O'Maddy's owners. Shuck is also Bay News 9's resident medical-heath expert, and after doing a story on hangover cures, he suggested O'Maddy's add a hangover burger to its menu. The result is an 8-ounce patty topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onions — "hamburger for the fats and the protein, bacon for the vitamins in it, eggs for the cysteine and then the carbs," Shuck said. Sure, but does it really do the trick? Shuck believes so. "I'm blessed not getting hangovers," he said. "My wife is not blessed, and she says it works well." 5405 Shore Blvd. S, Gulfport; (727) 323-8643, omaddys.com.
We need an eye-opener: Clear Sky Draught Haus
It's just after dawn and you need a drink. Hey, who are we to judge — we recently dedicated an entire issue of tbt* to morning drinking. Unfortunately, most bars in town don't open until 10 a.m. at the absolute earliest. At Clear Sky Draught Haus, though, you can order from a wide range of craft beers, fine wines and craft cocktails as early as 7 a.m. every day except Sunday. Something about those pesky Pinellas County laws prohibiting alcohol sales before 11 a.m. on Sundays, or whatever. Whether you're just off work and headed to bed shortly after, or you're just getting your day started, Clear Sky has your early-morning imbibing covered. 680 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 286-6266, clearskydraughthaus.com.
We like a smoke with our drink: John Rolfe Lounge
The bright red, facade helps the John Rolfe Lounge stand out from the other businesses on its quiet side street in downtown Tampa. Inside, you can order tabouleh, hummus and a beer, and select from several different cigar and hookah varieties to prepare for a relaxing evening. As of Aug. 1, you'll need to take your smoke to the bar's outdoor tables, but the location — seconds from Interstate 275 — lends itself to some prime people-watching. The Lebanese tapas joint named for Pocahontas' husband attracts smoke aficionados from surrounding bars looking for something better than a pack of Marlboro lights. It opened in October 2013 and isn't suited to large parties; think a couple friends lounging after work. 214 E Cass St., Tampa. (813) 200-6067, johnrolfelounge.com.
We have sorrows that need to be drowned: The Hub
When times are tough, there's no better place to soak up your sorrow than the Hub, Tampa's historic, beloved corner of crusty camaraderie. Remarkably well-stocked for a dive, the adjacent package store has a lot to do with that), the Hub serves drinks that pack a wallop, which one might require in times of emotional distress. And then there's its famed jukebox, which boasts albums by Hank, Waylon and Patsy, but also Lucero, Uncle Tupelo and early Black Keys. And if all else fails, there's a Simpsons pinball machine in the back. You might feel forsaken when you walk in, but probably not when you leave. If so, though, don't worry — the Hub's not going anywhere. 719 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 229-1553, thehubbartampa.com.
We're all shopped out: Bazille
International Plaza has no shortage of fun bars, but only one is located in an actual store. Bazille, tucked cozily inside Nordstrom, is a cool oasis for shoppers lucky enough to score a table. We say grab a seat at the bar, which offers a nice selection of wines, craft beers and cocktails as chic as the clothes that surround them. The Grapefruit Brown Derby (Bulleit rye, muddled grapefruit and honey rosemary syrup) and Smoke & Heat (mezcal, jalapeno syrup, grand marnier, orange juice and smoked sea salt) are but two of their many stylish offerings. Inside Nordstrom, 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa. (813) 875-4400.
Our flight was delayed: First Flight
Tampa International Airport is a pretty well-oiled machine, with delayed flights the exception, rather than the rule. That's too bad, in a way, because TIA's main terminal is home to First Flight, an excellent wine bar and bistro run by the staff of one of Tampa's most acclaimed restaurants, Mise en Place. You can order flights, naturally, of wine (2.5 ounces apiece), cheese and charcuterie, or you opt for one of the cheeky but expertly crafted air travel-themed cocktails. Try the "Leg Room" (Crown Royal, cherry liqueur, dry vermouth and orange bitters) and you'll be ready for takeoff in no time. Tampa International Airport, 4100 George J. Bean Parkway, Tampa. (813) 870-8700, tampaairport.com.
We pine for the old country: O'Toole's Irish Pub and Restaurant
Irish pubs have a powerful pull, even for those who've never set foot on the Emerald Isle. O'Toole's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Brandon is one of many bars kept afloat by the romance of sipping Guinness in an intimate pub lined with brass, dark wood and soccer scarves. It's a place that feels dark even in the daylight, yet the conversation is friendly both inside and out on its airy patio. This being 'Merica and all, O'Toole's also has karaoke, Ms. Pac-Man and a bountiful selection of flavored vodkas. But check out their Irish whiskies or Irish coffee-style sippers and pub fare, including a thick and piping-hot Irish Potato and Cheese Soup, and when the weather turns chilly, you might just feel like you're back in Dublin. Even if you've never been. 1215 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon; (813)684-2600, otoolesirishbar.com.
We can't bear to face rush-hour traffic: Linksters Tap Room
I used to work in Brandon, and let me tell you, State Road 60 after lunch can be a beast and a half. There were days when you'd stay late just to avoid the soul-crushing horror of rush-hour traffic. Sometimes it's best to wait it out in a clean, friendly dive like Linksters Tap Room, a no-frills sports bar with a serviceably stocked bar with a few decent craft-beer options (Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat is a hot bottle). The game's always on, and there's pool and Golden Tee if it's not — plus Linksters has a popular text-based BOGO deal (get details on their website). And of course, it sits right off State Road 60. Finally, a traffic diversion we can get behind. 1911 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon; (813) 654-3333, linksterstaproom.com. — Jay Cridlin
We need a break from Seventh Avenue: First Chance Last Chance
Ybor City's rarely a letdown — if you're looking for a wild night out, you can find it there pretty easily. But escaping the chaos of Seventh Avenue can be a bit tougher. Fortunately, there's First Chance Last Chance, less than a block off the main strip at 16th Street. No matter what you're into, FCLC probably has something you'll like, whether it's a $2 can of PBR or a range of specialty cocktails, including the decidedly unpretentious Clink, a bourbon cocktail topped off with Stella (hey, it's almost a reverse Boilermaker). Like any good cocktail bar, FCLC is dark, low-key, and generally populated by interesting people. The quality booze selection and fresh ingredient-based cocktails are just a plus. 1707 N 16th St., Ybor City. (813) 248-5555, firstchancelastchance.com.
We need a break from SoHo: The Dubliner
The nexus of Howard and Azeele is party central in Tampa's SoHo district. There's MacDinton's, of course, but also Cheap, Drynk, World of Beer, Soho Tavern, Soho Saloon and the Yard of Ale. Whenever you feel like things might be getting a little too crazy, that's when you duck into the Dubliner, with its relaxing, inviting patio and dark, lived-in nooks and crannies. Oh, sure, the Dubliner can get rowdy, but most of the time, there's at least a chance you'll be able to hear yourself think while noshing on a Guinness-marinated burger. SoHo may be where Tampa drinkers go to get turnt, but the Dubliner is where they can come back down. 2307 W Azeele St., Tampa; (813) 258-2257, thedublineririshpub.com.
We need to get out of town: Motorworks Brewing and JDub's
Sometimes you just need to hit the road, see some fresh faces, try out some new places, and drink unfamiliar local beers. You don't even have to go far to immerse yourself in a whole different beer scene, where the craft-brew revolution that we've been enjoying here for the past few years is just taking off. Start out in Sarasota at JDub's, where the excellent Up-Top IPA is always on draft. Just 12 miles up the road is Bradenton's Motorworks Brewing, a new automotive-themed brewery that features an expansive courtyard built around a massive oak tree. Grab some free popcorn, a house Kölsch or Scotch Ale (both really good), and work on your short game on the courtyard putting green. JDub's is at 1215 Mango Ave., Sarasota; (941) 955-2739, jdubsbrewing.com. Motorworks is at 1014 Ninth St. W, Bradenton; (941)567-6218, motorworksbrewing.com.