1. Life & Culture

Salt Public House reimagines the beach bar

The Indian Rocks Beach venue’s casual atmosphere belies its elevated food and drink. | Bar review

Dissecting business names isn’t especially exciting, but it can lend some interesting insight. Take Salt Public House in Indian Rocks Beach.

Salt, of course, draws attention to the bar and restaurant’s location, right across the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Public House, the fancier, full form of the more popular pub, implies a status as a community fixture, fit for dinner and drinks with locals and visitors alike.

I like the balance. I’ve never been much of a beach bar guy, so a lot of otherwise cool locations fall under the radar for me.

Salt Public House promises more than a cookie-cutter beach bar in its name, so I decided to see how the idea worked in practice.

You’re likely to catch a mildly saline breeze at Salt, where roll-up shutters create an open-air format in a space evenly divided between indoor seating and a patio. There are rocking chairs and picnic tables out front, and a more typical industrial-modern sports bar setup inside, complete with a row of TVs neatly lined up on a brick wall.

On warm days, powerful fans near the entrance keep the breeze going, but in cooler weather there’s plenty of space for a nice breeze to move throughout.

Opened a year ago last November, Salt has brought something a little different to Indian Rocks, with food and drink that’s more elevated than you might expect outside of bigger hotel resorts.

It’s the type of place where your food comes served on cross-sections of a tree, and the cocktail list ventures well beyond margarita and piña colada territory.

It’s all perfectly casual, of course. You’ll find a ring-toss game and oversized Connect Four, just as you might at any other laid back beach bar, but you’ll also find a nice little whiskey list, a diverse food menu and a small but quality beer selection.

The bar program is on point, offering a dozen or so wines and eight house cocktails, as well as five “mules around the world,” featuring different international-inspired iterations of the classic ginger beer and lime cocktail.

The cocktails are well worth a look. You’ll find classics, like a house margarita (Sabrina’s Rita), a mai tai, and even an intriguing twist on the Old Fashioned made with Knob Creek Smoked Maple bourbon.

There are some cool house creations, too, like The Refresher, a “press” (mixed with equal parts club soda and a citrus soda like 7-Up or Sprite) cocktail made with Three Olives Cucumber Lime vodka and pomegranate juice. Then there’s EL Vocho, a spicy margarita made with jalapeño-infused tequila and blood orange liqueur.

Lately, the bar has been offering some more novel picks, as well, like a traditional absinthe fountain, complete with Alandia sugar cubes, which are supposedly designed for this specific use. On the other end of the spectrum, there are watermelon chunks that have been soaked in vodka.

Those two options are reflective of the business as a whole. Sure, you’ll find anything you’d want to find at a beach bar, but you’ll find some surprises, too. It’s a great all-aroundbar, which is what the best pubs tend to be. Wrapping up a little bit of the beach in the whole equation is a compelling proposition, and it’s one that pays off nicely at Salt Public House.

Many beach bars have an identity based solely of their location. Salt would work just as well a few miles inland, and the beach vibe merely complements an already satisfying concept.

If you’re in Indian Rocks Beach and are looking for something new, this place should be on the list. Follow @WordsWithJG.

Salt Public House

1309 Gulf Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach. (727) 386-5961,

The vibe: A laid-back beach bar and restaurant that doubles as a sports pub and cocktail bar.

Food: Sides, starters, soups, salads and entrées, $2.95-$15.95.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $3-$7; wine, $5-$8 by the glass and $30 by the bottle; liquor, $4-$15. Happy hour is daily from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., featuring $1 off beer, house wine and spirits.

Specialty: Check the house cocktail list for a handful of solid options. A classic Blackberry Smash made with 1792 bourbon would hit the spot most days, but cooler weather might favor the Salt’s Smoked Maple Old Fashioned, which features Knob Creek Smoked Maple bourbon for a savory-sweet spin on the classic. El Vocho might be the best of the bunch; this jalapeño-infused margarita uses blood orange liqueur in place of triple sec, with a spiced rim to bring it all together.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.