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Tampa’s Bearss Tavern + Tap has popularity potential

The venue near USF features the creative cocktails and drink specials needed for a go-to college bar. | Bar review
Two of the creative drinks are the Loaded Bear Claw and the Blame it on the Juice. [Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson]
Two of the creative drinks are the Loaded Bear Claw and the Blame it on the Juice. [Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson]
Published Nov. 7, 2019

Bearss Tavern + Tap started out slightly different than what you’ll find now.

It was formerly Prost Kitchen + Bar until a legal issue forced a name change this year. A pivot from a German theme to a Southern-style kitchen was made, and Bearss Tavern + Tap arrived, serving the greater University of South Florida area with comfort food and cheap drinks — just the stuff for college students.

The modern, smartly designed space has all the features — patio, booth seating, corner bar, extra-high ceilings, spacious dining room — and cool décor. Then there are plenty of TVs, a nice sound system and a well-stocked bar with fun drink specials and a full menu.

The result?

A versatile college bar.

It’s not a sports bar, but this has to be the place to watch USF games. The campus is just a few miles down the road, and this is definitely one of the cooler bars where you can cheer on your team.

On busy nights, this is probably enough to make any shortcomings seem insignificant, but when it’s slow, it’s easier to notice some glaring issues such as burned-out light bulbs in restrooms already in need of some TLC, unused booths shoved into a corner near the bar and interesting menu items that are out of stock.

The first drink we ordered required a substitution for the listed tequila. The second needed a vodka swap for the same reason. The third included house-made jam but subbed blackberry liqueur for the jam because it apparently didn’t hold up in the drink as well as its creator had hoped.

These are minor issues, but that makes their presence even more irksome in such an attractive space that, when I visited, also has a friendly and attentive staff.

Still, there’s a lot more good than bad. There are the drinks, for example. Take the Playground Pouches, which make up three of the seven house creations. These are boozed-up Capri Sun knockoffs in 20-ounce packets that are served with a bendy straw and based around a primary spirit, various fruit concoctions and a hefty pour of Truly hard seltzer. The seltzer also is available on draft and forms the base of the bar’s unlimited mimosas on the weekends ($10).

These are fun and great creations.

There are a few classic drinks, too, like an Evan Williams Old Fashioned and a Casa Noble margarita that are $5 all day, every day. There are 20 taps of local beers, solid imports and cheap domestics. And yes, there is plenty of White Claw, including the Loaded Bear Claws option, which involves a White Claw of your choice tipped into a liter mug with some Casa Noble and fresh citrus for $8.

Then there are cheap beer buckets and generous happy hour specials — all at college student prices.

For example: You can get a nice pour of Suntory Toki Japanese whisky for probably cheaper than anywhere in Tampa.

That’s worth something.

For area residents and, especially, USF students, Bearss Tavern + Tap is a great mix of novelty and value. But it could be a far bigger draw with just a little more attention to detail. The good news is that all of those issues would seem to be an easy fix.

So perhaps when you stop in, Bearss Tavern + Tap might be the well-executed, polished college bar that it can be. I have faith that it will, because it has too much potential to be spoiled by any oversights.

— Contact Justin Grant at jg@saintbeat.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.

Bearss Tavern + Tap

2802 E Bearss Avenue, Tampa. (813) 466-5249 bearsstavern.com

The vibe: A modern Southern-inspired restaurant and bar popular with USF Tampa students.

Food: Appetizers, sides and salads, $2.49-$10.99; entrées, $9.49-$16.99.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $4-$7; wine, $5; liquor, $4-$10. Happy hour is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily, featuring $2.50 well drinks, wine and Miller Lite.

Specialty: There’s no shortage of options. You’ve got the Playground Pouches, which are boozed-up, oversized riffs on Capri Sun. You’ve got 20 beers on tap and plenty of local options. There are $5 classic cocktails on sale all day, every day, and there are $10 all-you-can-drink Truly hard seltzer mimosas on the weekends. You can even get a Loaded Bear Claw for only $8 — it’s your choice of White Claw hard seltzer flavor boosted with a shot of Casa Noble tequila and some fresh citrus. Don’t overthink it.

Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday-Thursday; noon to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

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