Rooftop bars are nice, but a touch of long-awaited fall weather makes them indispensable. Right on cue, Dunedin has welcomed two new rooftop ones — its first two — to the city's growing dining landscape.
One is the long-awaited Rusty Lyon, a burger-focused sports bar boasting an extensive whiskey selection, interesting craft cocktails and, yes, an upstairs bar overlooking the corner of downtown largely occupied by breweries. The formula is pretty simple: burgers, bourbon and beer. There are a range of burger options, 34 taps between the upstairs and downstairs bars and at least that many whiskeys on deck.
The downstairs has a TV-lined island bar surrounded by a large dining area, complete with sepia-toned photos of whiskey distillery barrel rooms, adding some touches of warmth to the cement floors, exposed beams and roll-up garage door of the industrial-style building.
Out the back and up a flight of stairs is a fenced-in and partially-covered rooftop patio looking out onto Broadway. It's close to the water, but these aren't waterfront views.
Instead, you'll see the pieces of Dunedin's growing drinking scene.
7venth Sun Brewery, Woodwright Brewing and Dunedin Brewery are all two or three blocks from the Rusty Lyon, with Cueni Brewing less than a block away and HoB Brewing literally next door.
Beer is anything but scarce in this neighborhood, but Rusty Lyon does a good job keeping a mix of hyper-local brews on tap alongside other craft beers from Tampa Bay and beyond.
Whiskey is really the play here, though. What could be better than a glass of the good stuff at the upstairs bar in a cool November breeze?
Like food and booze in Dunedin, Florida's distilling scene is also on the rise. To that end, you'll find a few Sunshine State spirits in the mix, from St. Augustine Distillery, American Freedom Distillery (St. Petersburg) and Cotherman Distilling (about a 30-second walk from the back door).
The cocktail list, unsurprisingly, is also whiskey-centric.
When I visited, the official menus were not quite ready, but a helpful bartender loaned me her recipe cards so I could figure out what went into drinks like the Blue Lemon Ol' Fashion (a hearty pour of Templeton Rye, blueberry simple syrup, lemon bitters and club soda) and the Smoke & Lyon (Jim Beam, creme de cacao, amaretto and black walnut bitters in a smoked glass).
There's a compelling case to be made for the Rusty Lyon. Burgers, beer and bourbon — plus sports, and craft cocktails — are an easy sell, but the Rusty Lyon provides a deluxe lineup of all of them individually.
Throw in a rooftop bar and some extremely nice weather, and you've got yourself a real treat on Broadway.
— Contact Justin Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WordsWithJG.
The Rusty Lyon
923 Broadway, Dunedin 34698. (727) 303-0750; rustylyon.com
The vibe: A casual, whiskey-centric sports bar and restaurant with a rooftop patio.
Food: Appetizers, sides, soups and salads, $2.95-$12.95; entrées, $7.95-$21.95; desserts, $3.95-$6.95.
Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $4-$6; wine, $5-$8; liquor, $5-$9, with some premium whiskeys priced up to $20.
Specialty: Although the craft beer and cocktail selection are well worth a perusal, the whiskey selection is a high point. The bar stocks more than 30 whiskeys, primarily bourbon and rye, including several from Florida, like Horse Soldier, St. Augustine and Cotherman, the latter produced just a block away.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday.