I received quite a bit of reader feedback on my visit to Buffalo City Bar & Grille, a long-standing St. Petersburg establishment recently "rescued" for Bar Rescue. Interestingly, the bulk of the feedback was centered on grievances from past visits to the bar, and both curiosity and skepticism regarding its recent transformation.
The takeaway? People have long memories, and it takes a big change to make up for bad experiences.
When I visited Palm Harbor's New England's Ale House Grille in 2015, it struck me as a straightforward sports bar with a New England inspiration that was more suggestion than theme. But based on a few years' worth of online reviews that I reviewed recently, New England's was overdue for a big change. I'm not surprised it would make Bar Rescue's list. It's now Das Brauhaus: an ostensibly German-themed bar and restaurant with real promise of a fresh start.
Why German? I suppose we'll find out if and when the episode airs, but I'd guess it has something to do with the closure of the beloved German Restaurant in nearby Holiday last summer. Why not scoop up some of that clientele in the process of rebranding?
Not much has changed in the layout. The shrub-lined front patio — now biergarten — has swapped picnic tables for café tables, and artificial turf has been added to the street-level cornhole court. This was, and remains, quite a nice spot for an afternoon meal and a beer.
Inside, the space is divided into three: a cozy dining room with brick walls and maroon curtains, framed above by timber-framed panels reminiscent of 19th-century German architecture; a smaller, sunlit dining area; and a small bar with a sunken bar top and wooden slabs in lieu of placemats.
Behind the bar is a draft system encased in a copper pipe with a sign above boasting the "world's coldest beer." There are more than 30 beers on the menu, including about a half-dozen German and German-style beers from traditional breweries like Hofbräu, Schöfferhofer, Warsteiner and Weihenstephan, along with locals like Sarasota's JDub's and Palm Harbor's deBine. Here's the cool bit: if you order a beer on nitro — say, Guinness — you can have a custom image printed onto the foam, courtesy of a Ripples system that combines 3D and laser-printing technologies to etch an image into any foam-topped beverages with a coffee-based "ink." This is purely a gimmick, of course, but it's a good one. I haven't seen this machine anywhere else, and it's more fun than it has any right to be. You'll need to see it for yourself.
The seven-drink cocktail menu is a winner, too, featuring ample fresh fruit and creative flavor combinations, like the Watercress Kühler, which combines tequila with cucumber and lime juices, agave syrup and a few sprigs of fresh watercress as a peppery garnish.
The peach and blueberry mojitos are noteworthy in that they come unsweetened, featuring only rum, fresh fruit purées, lime, mint and soda. The fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness, making typical sweetened mojitos seem downright saccharine.
My favorite: the Smooth Hopperator. This one is simple but satisfying, featuring Evan Williams bourbon mixed into a pint glass with orange bitters, simple syrup and a thick pour of Guinness. Did I get a picture printed onto the foam with the Ripples machine? I did.
Only time will tell if Das Brauhaus' reinvention will resonate with locals, but if it doesn't, it won't be because of the redesign and drink menu. With any luck, folks will stop in and have a look at the bar's new direction. I think it's off to a strong start.
— Contact Justin Grant at email@example.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.
Das Brauhaus & Cafe
3419 Alt. U.S. 19, Palm Harbor. (727) 785-9700; facebook.com/dasbrauhausandcafe
The vibe: A German-inspired bar.
Food: Appetizers, soups, salads, $3-$5.95; entrées, $7.95-$9.95; dessert, $6.
Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $3-$7; wine, $5 by the glass and $28-$47 by the bottle; liquor, $5-$11. Happy hour is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to close daily, featuring $3 select domestic beers, $1 off of craft drafts and buy-one-get-one-half-off house wines and single-mixer well cocktails.
Specialty: The 30 draft beers include several German brews, but expect to see more than a few orders for Guinness or Jdub's Bell Cow milk porter, two nitrogenated brews that can be topped with images printed with coffee-based "ink." Even better, try the Smooth Hopperator, which combines Evan Williams bourbon with Guinness, simple syrup and orange bitters.
Hours: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.