Bar review: A Dunedin institution is reimagined

Photo courtesy of Jai Jacob There are two separate entrances from Main Street into Crown & Bull, creating two rooms that share an outdoor patio and bar.
Photo courtesy of Jai Jacob There are two separate entrances from Main Street into Crown & Bull, creating two rooms that share an outdoor patio and bar.
Published Aug. 8, 2019

Let's begin by acknowledging the legacy of Kelly's-Chic-a-Boom Room, a Dunedin institution for three decades. Since the late 1980s, Kelly's has been a go-to brunch spot for many locals, and its bar (the aforementioned Chic-a-Boom Room) has been a staple on Main Street since 2001.

When owner Virgel Kelly decided to pass the torch in 2017, Dunedin native Dion Falzon stepped in, bringing his brother Christopher on as chef. The business ran under its former moniker for a while before officially switching over to the Crown & Bull, a reimagining of Kelly's and the Chic-a-Boom Room with Falzon's bulldog Huey as its mascot.

Falzon has a lot of plans. He's already turned the back parking lot into a sprawling outdoor patio with its own bar, in-table fire pits and a beautiful old oak tree glowing with blue light at night. There's a wine cellar now, and the menu has been completely redone, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. A speakeasy in the early-20's century loft above the bar is in the works.

For many years, Kelly's has held a reputation as the place for both vegetarian food and brunch in Dunedin. The new menu has ample options in both categories, as well as a new Bloody Mary bar on the weekends. The place is seemingly always open, and food is served all the way up until 1 a.m. Oh, and there's live music and DJs seven nights a week.

There's a renewed focus on cocktails and high-end spirits at Crown & Bull. I was surprised to see the full Pappy Van Winkle lineup available at the bar. If you're not familiar, Pappy is an all-but-unattainable wheated Kentucky bourbon.

Well, you can try the 10-, 12-, 15-, 20- and 23-year varieties at Crown & Bull — at least if you've got the money to burn. One-ounce pours of Pappy start at $70 and go all the way up to $220.

The cocktail list contains just over 20 options, overwhelmingly of the fruity, fun variety. Cocktail purists may not be impressed, but there's a lot to like. For example, I tried a Princess Peach (Crown Royal, peach purée, muddled mint and lemonade) and was impressed by how well the whiskey stood up to the bold flavorings when it could so easily have been buried in the mix. Ditto with the similar Peach Tea Lemonade, which uses 1792 bourbon instead of Crown and peach liqueur instead of purée.

For somewhat more traditional drinks, there's a fun take on the Old Fashioned involving a touch of Disaronno, as well as a perfect (sweet and dry vermouth) Manhattan made with Bulleit rye and both orange and Angostura bitters. There's also a cucumber gimlet, which is about as good a warm weather drink as you'll find out there.

Aside from the cocktails, you'll find 16 beers on draft and a nice wine list of about 30 wines, including plenty of bubbly and Champagne.

It's a tough gig taking over a beloved local institution. You won't please everyone, but you can honor the old while bringing in some new energy.

If you make a checklist of what people loved about Kelly's, you'll find that Crown & Bull checks the same boxes, as well as some new ones. Whether it's late night cocktails, brunch and Bloody Marys, Crown & Bull has a heck of a lot to offer.

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Crown & Bull

319 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 736-5284.

The vibe: A changing of the guard for an iconic venue, with a renewed focus on cocktails and nightlife.

Food: Sides, soups, appetizers and salads, $4-$16; entrées, $14-$29;

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $3-$6; wine, $7-$18 by the glass and $26-$140 by the bottle; liquor, $6-$12 (some ultra-premium spirits are priced higher). Happy hour is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, with $2 off all drinks.

Specialty: Most of the 20-plus drinks on the house cocktail list are of the fruitier variety, but they're mixed strong enough to stand out from the average fruit-sour mix-splash of booze drink. Want something special? Crown & Bull is one of the only bars around pouring the full lineup of Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, as well as Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac. 1-ounce pours start at $70 for a 10-year Pappy and go up to $225 for Louis XIII.

Hours: 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday-Saturday.