1. Life & Culture

Bar review: Tampa's M.Bird brings rooftop view to Armature Works

I wasn't aware that the Florida state bird is the Northern Mockingbird. Now I understand the reference made by M.Bird, the trendy new bar atop Tampa's already trendy Armature Works. As for the stylization of the name, maybe it's a David Henry Hwang reference?

Whatever the answer, the bar is set high right away here. I walked up a serious flight of stairs to get to the rooftop, to be greeted by a host and a tall door to the entrance. A door guy, in the early evening on a Monday, at a bar with a name that's almost aggressively pretentious? This place better be good.

Well, it is.

Armature Works is a mixed-use facility of the kind that's proven popular across the country, featuring a diverse range of restaurants and bars. There are a handful of cool spots represented, including some very good bars, like the simply-named BAR at Armature.

M.Bird brings a new element to the Armature setup by virtue of being a rooftop bar that covers 6,000-square-feet of space overlooking the Tampa Riverwalk.

RELATED: Enjoy the views at Tampa's best rooftop bars.

Umbrella-shaded lounge seating, potted palms and the generous use of terrazzo are standard for bars nowadays, but M.Bird has wrapped these familiar elements into an art-deco tropical fusion that feels more Miami than Tampa. It's an impressively atmospheric mix, blending lo-fi hip-hop and a roomy, indoor-outdoor element to create a hangout that's almost too chill.

One of the coolest aspects of M.Bird is its layout. Half of the space is covered, featuring a bar and loungers arranged into large seating rectangles. There are standing tables between, further reinforcing the casual vibe.

It spills out onto an open-air patio with its own bar access. The view of the Hillsborough River and downtown Tampa is unobstructed. Just try to find a more Instagram-ready brunch spot.

The focus of the beverage program is on rum-based drinks and other tropical concoctions involving a number of exotic spirits and ingredients. Sitting at the bar, I was impressed by a cooler full of fresh juices, housemade mixers and purees: grenadine, kiwi and spicy shrub, for example.

These make appearances in most of the drinks, like I Left My Wallet at La Segunda, which features guava-coconut cream, or the New Slang, which features "passion fruit compound." Passion fruit compound? I want to roll my eyes, but the drinks just taste so good.

These guys really got the details right, down to the little mockingbirds die-cut into the bar's drink rails. The cocktails are clever and innovative, the rum selection — nearly 50 varieties — is top-tier, and the place is a visual feast. From the mismatched white-and-grey tile patterns behind the bar to the palm trees on the patio, M.Bird boasts a memorable look.

M.Bird isn't wasting time landing on everyone's must-visit list, and it's easy to see why. You can do great things with location and lots of money, and from what I can tell, M.Bird has both. But it takes vision to make it count, and this is where it all comes together. M.Bird is the real deal.

— Contact Justin Grant at


1903 Market Street, Tampa. (813) 296-2702;

The vibe: A breezy rooftop bar that combines tropical and art-deco aesthetics.

Food: Small plates, $12-$28; desserts, $8.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $5; wine, $7-$11 by the glass and $79-$349 for bottle service; liquor, $6-$28.

Specialty: With nearly 50 rums in stock, M.Bird is a rum-drinker's paradise. Rum also plays heavily into the bar's tropical-cocktail selection. Try the Ybor City-inspired I Left My Wallet at La Segunda, which features Smith & Cross rum, Gosling's Black Seal rum, house-made guava-coconut cream, orgeat syrup, pineapple and lemon juice, garnished with a cherry and sugar wafer.

Hours: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday- Saturday; 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday.