(ran TP edition)
It's been more than 10 years since I first walked the streets of Ybor, searching for fun and spectacle. Seventh Avenue wasn't much to look at back in 1985 when I started as a part-time USF student and full-time culture vulture, but I sure wished it was.
For lack of ready-made excitement, my friends and I made our own Ybor fun. We tested the "No Browsing" policy of the Santeria botanica shop until the proprietress threw us out. We played hopscotch on the sidewalk, and bought clothes at Bon Ton and Uptown Threads for nights out at El Goya and the Impulse, the only nightclubs in Ybor back then.
But night after night, we sat on the concrete planters, overdressed and sweating in our vintage get-ups. We'd look down the deserted street of mostly boarded-up buildings and wonder: Why doesn't somebody do something with this place?
Well, somebody certainly has. More than 30 clubs now line the streets of the Latin Quarter, and thousands throng onto the carless main drag every Friday and Saturday night. It's not the same Ybor it was, and some would say it's a change for the worse, what with the chain bars, the parking problems, and the occasional drunken melee on the sidewalk.
But in the interest of solid entertainment journalism and trying to put a few drinks on expense account, I recently took another walk through the Latin Quarter. I peeked in every club and watering hole I passed for this Ybor Guide, and am solely responsible for any smart remarks contained within.
Blue Chair Music, 1625 E Seventh Ave., 247-1300. It's a record store most of the time, but occasional live shows turn the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 16th Street into the vortex of Orthodox Cool. Not for you if you're over 25 and don't know who Liam Gallagher is. Call for show times.
Carmine's, 1802 E Seventh Ave., 248-3834. The old standby of Seventh Avenue for Spanish and Cuban food is open late with a full menu. Line your stomach with a Cuban sandwich and garbanzo soup before filling it with beer. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Castillo's Cafe, 1823 E Seventh Ave., 248-1306. A Spanish-Cuban cafeteria that books live acts on the weekend. Like going to a junior high dance, only the people leaning against the back wall are clutching bottles of beer instead of sweaty paper cups of Check Cola. Mon.-Wed. 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 7:30 a.m.-3 a.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Castle, 2004 N 16th St., 247-7547. A gothic-inspired space with iron candelabra, bare-brick walls and a moat running through the stone-topped bar. Usually, the youngish, fashionable Castle crowd is too cool to dance, but languid twisting sometimes breaks out during "The Deep Lounge Experience" on Wednesday nights. Wed.-Sat. 9 p.m.-3 a.m.
Cherokee Club, 1320 E Ninth Ave., 247-9966. The most beautiful club in Ybor caters to women of all persuasions (but sympathetic men can get in, too). A historic, high-ceilinged space with throbbing '80s club music and lots of vests on the dance floor. The elegant atmosphere includes a balcony overlooking a fountain in a courtyard below. Fri.-Sat. 9 p.m.-3 a.m.
Cherry's, 1512 E Seventh Ave., 247-4541. A late-night Ybor diner that happens to have a bar. Jukebox music. Mon. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Tues. 11:30-midnight, Wed.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-4 a.m., Sun. 4 p.m.-4 a.m.
Club 1509, 1509 Eighth Ave., 247-6606. First it was Killian's, then Blue. Still the same space with a big, wooden dance floor and several bars, but the new theme is "upscale dance club." No shorts or ballcaps for guys, who must also wear collared shirts. Girls wear whatever they feel like to dance to techno, acid house, and old wave. Mon. 10 p.m.-3 a.m., Thurs. 10 p.m.-3 a.m., Fri. 5 p.m.-3 a.m., Sat. 9 p.m.-3 a.m.
Club Irie, 2015 E Seventh Ave., 242-4743. The little reggae bar that could. A family operation run by husband-and-wife team Sonia and Laz, it's friendly even if it is too loud. Live music every night except Sunday, when a deejay spins Latin sounds. Tues.-Sun. 7 p.m.-3 a.m.
The Columbia Restaurant, 2117 E Seventh Ave., 248-4961. In Ybor since 1905, the Columbia is a palace of Spanish tile and old-world ambience. The red lounge with the doll hutches is a prodigy of cool-weird decor and a great place to whisper into someone's ear. Flamenco show in the main dining room nightly, and a cigar bar in the old cafe on the restaurant's east side. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., flamenco at 7:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., flamenco at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. (must be seated for dinner to watch the show).
Elmer's Sports Cafe, 2003 E Seventh Ave., 248-5855. A sports bar with pool tables in the back and a liquor store on the side. Mon.-Sun. 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m.
Empire, 1902 E Seventh Ave., 247-2582. It still feels like the old Masquerade, even with the addition of glass block, black lights, neon paint and every other club decor cliche you can think of. A young crowd packs the place to the gills on weekends for "industrial alternative" music. Pool tables in the back room. Wed.-Sat. 9 p.m.-3 a.m.
Frankie's Patio, 1920 E Seventh Ave., 248-3337. It feels a little South Beach for Ybor: concrete patio with palm trees, Miami Vice pastels, glass block and neon. But then again that would explain all the guys wearing just T-shirts under their sport jackets. Frankie's occasionally books happening musical acts onto its outdoor stage and serves modern American cuisine. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m.
Fat Tuesday, 1722 E Seventh Ave., 248-9755. Did somebody say daiquiries? Why yes, they did _ 17 kinds in all. That seems to be the entire point of this brightly painted and echo-y-y space, which features live music on weekends. Tues.-Thurs. 3 p.m.-2 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 3 p.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 1 p.m.-8 p.m.
Gaspar's Bar and Grill, 1710 E Eighth Ave., 248-1515. "Pirates" and "Wenches" say the restroom doors, and the crow's nest over the patio bar holds the remains of a guy who just couldn't take the swashbuckling decorating scheme. Live acts play Top 40 and alternative covers on the weekend. Arrrrrgh. Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m.
Goodfella's, 1613 E Seventh Ave., 242-4600. Another Ybor sports bar, this one with an outdoor patio and live music on the side. Mon.-Tues. 3 p.m.-7 p.m., Wed.-Sun. 3 p.m.-3 a.m.
The Green Iguana, 1708 E Seventh Ave., 248-9555. Young and not-so-young professionals flock to the Iguana for loud live music, drinks and food. Bare brick walls, a tin-roofed bar, and a big, plastic iguana make the atmosphere a little New Orleans, a little Key West, a little Bennigan's. The small space is always very crowded on the weekends, so watch out for all those guys packing cell-phones on their belts. Mon. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Tues. 11 a.m.-midnight, Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 1 p.m.- 9 p.m.
Harpo's, 1805 E Seventh Ave., 248-4814. Two stages, one inside the tightly packed club and one on the patio. Both feature live bands covering top 40 hits for the buff babes and dudes who come to Harpo's to par-tay, and get picked up. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m.-3 a.m.
The Irish Pub, 1721 E Seventh Ave., 248-2099. A traditional pub with a slightly grungy feel. Serves up Guinness, pub grub, and live music for a mainstream crowd. Mon.-Tues. 4 p.m.-1 a.m., Wed.-Thurs. 4 p.m.-3 a.m., Fri. noon-3 a.m., Sat. 1 p.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 1 p.m.-midnight.
Jazz Cellar, 1916 Avenue Republica de Cuba, 248-1862. It's one flight down from the sidewalk to the jazz "underground," an intimate space with a house band and local favorites like Belinda Womack. Very cozy, very dark, with a lounge decor and an older crowd. Nice place to escape the crazed atmosphere of Seventh Avenue on a Saturday night. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m.-2 a.m.
Jellyrolls, 1812 N 17th St., 247-2447. Two words: dueling pianos. A pair of guys with magic fingers take requests from the audience and then whip them into a vocal frenzy with old favorites like Crocodile Rock and All Shook Up. Wed.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 7 a.m.-3 a.m.
Jimmy Mac's, 1815 E Seventh Ave., 242-6900. South Tampa's favorite for burgers comes to the Latin Quarter. Full bar. Mon.-Wed. 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 9:30 p.m.-3 a.m.
Luna Lounge, 1802 E Seventh Ave., 248-3460. Somehow, too much attitude on the part of the proprietors translates into a very comfortable and inviting second-floor space with an interesting crowd. Soothing, ambient dance music and a balcony that overlooks Seventh Avenue. Downstairs on the patio next to Carmine's is a disco party every weekend. Fri.-Sat. 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Market on 7th, 1816 E Seventh Ave., 248-2356. Pool tables, cocktails and pizza in the old Demmi's Market, with cushy chairs and a TV behind the bar. Mon.-Sat. 4 p.m.-3 a.m.
Masquerade, 1503 E Seventh Ave., 247-3319. At the renovated Ritz theater, a young pierced and tattooed crowd lines up for deejay-powered alternative and techo nights. Thursday is Old Wave, and the occasional Friday Night Disco Parties are highly recommended. Huge dance floor where the theater seats used to be, and a video room on the side. Free entry to adjacent Steel Cue pool bar with cover. Wed.-Fri. 10 p.m.-3 a.m., Saturday 10 p.m.-7 a.m.
New World Brewery, 1313 E Eighth Ave., 248-4969. Palms, tropical plants and hand-made furniture crafted from recycled materials fill the courtyard of this funky little bar. Four house beers are brewed on location in small portions for freshness, with 12 beers on tap and more than 50 different kinds of bottled beer. Live music on Tuesday and Thursday. Mon.-Sun. 3 p.m.-3 a.m.
The Oak Barrel, 1901 N 13th St., 247-1164. A cavernous space on the ground floor of Ybor Square, a renovated cigar factory that serves as Ybor's mall. A hangout for both boho-types and regular working stiffs that has a huge selection of beers and good burgers. Live music Thursday through Saturday, and Wednesday is liter night, when $4 will get you a beer so big you can't hold it with one hand. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m.-3 a.m.
Ovo Cafe, 1901 E Seventh Ave., 248-6979. A chi-chi late-night watering hole and daytime eating spot. Ovo has the best-dressed servers and most uptown attitude of any place in Tampa, even if it does go a little heavy on the gladiolus and Nagle-style prints. Try the famous dressed-up waffles and take a stool by the window to people-watch. Mon.-Tues. 10:30 a.m.-3 a.m., Wed.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
The Rubb, 1507 E Seventh Ave., 247-4225. A chic, new club with a polished, urban feel. Gorgeous futuro-graphics murals and shapely modern furniture and fixtures fill the cavernous, two-story space, which has become perhaps the best venue for live music in Tampa. Expect pasty alternative music fans on weeknights, tanned, Gap-clad twentysomethings on the weekend, and eclectic sounds ranging from rockabilly to funk to alternative. Wed.-Sun., 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.
The Safari Club, 1327 E Seventh Ave., 248-5533. Add trophy animal heads and a few plants to the old Trolley Stop Cafe, and what do you get? Oh well, at least the old wooden booths are still intimate and cozy and the pressed-tin ceiling still beautiful. Features the Thirsty Ear poetry-and-music happenings on Thursdays, live bands on Friday and Saturday, and a full menu. Mon.-Tues. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Wed.- Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m.
The Silver Ring, 1831 E Seventh Ave., 248-2932
248-2549. Love that gorgeous tile floor, even if it does amplify the music to ear-splitting levels. A mixed crowd shows up on the weekend to hear live bands tucked into a tiny corner of this long, narrow space, or to eat traditional Spanish and Cuban food in the adjacent Silver Ring Restaurant. Silver Ring open Mon.-Thurs. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m, Fri.-Sat. 6:30 a.m.-2 a.m., Speedy Brown's Thurs.-Sat. 4 p.m.-midnight.
The Thirsty Troll, 1906 N Republica de Cuba Ave., 248-9394. Blue neon and swirly painted walls make this smallish bar feel like the inside of an aquarium. You were expecting a Scandinavian cave, maybe? Tues.-Fri. 3 p.m.-3 a.m., Sat. 7 p.m.-3 a.m.
Tracks / El Goya, 1430 E Seventh Ave., 247-2711. The best disco in Tampa is also a gay bar that welcomes open-minded straight people. Tracks has a huge dance floor and a recently revamped cabaret room featuring an all-lip-syncing, all-dancing extravaganza with buff boys in hot pants and drag queens in fabulous costumes. Look for eclectic and alternative music in the video room, clubby beats in the main room. Tues., Thurs.-Sun. 9 p.m.-3 a.m., cabaret at midnight on Tues., Thurs., 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
Uncle Buck's, 1621 E Eighth Ave., 248-8463. Greek food. A blackjack table. Free T-shirt with five-drink purchase. Live bands in the garage portion of the restaurant. We really tried to say something coherent and thematic. We really did. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m.-3 a.m.
Vertigo, 1505 E Palm Ave., 241-8300. The beautiful, neoclassic facade of the historic La Benifica Building masks a labyrinth of spray paint-encrusted rooms full of alterna-kids dancing to techno music. Also features pool tables and lots of artificial smoke. Wed.-Sat. 10 p.m.-3 a.m.