Advertisement
  1. Food

Bar review: Throw one back at Axe & Ale

Patrons hang out around the modest bar at St. Pete Axe & Ale, which is connected to Ferg’s Sports Bar, an institution for sports fans in St. Petersburg. St. Pete Axe & Ale celebrated its one-year anniversary this month. It is the first ax-throwing venue in the area, making for a fun night out. Photos by Justin Grant | tbt*
Published Jun. 20

By Justin Grant, tbt* correspondent

It's been about a decade since I visited Ferg's Sports Bar. That's not to say that I have no love for the iconic downtown St. Petersburg hotspot, an institution for sports fans for the past 27 years. It's just that I didn't think it had much for me, the non-baseball fan who often begins his bar selection with the question: Will it be too crowded?

I found that Ferg's has transformed tremendously over the years, adding several additional bars, access to a tunnel that leads directly to the Trop, a live music venue, duckpin bowling, a Bitcoin ATM, a dog park — seriously: they even serve dog food, made in-house — and even an ax-throwing venue, which celebrated its one-year anniversary earlier this month.

It's all a bit over the top, but if you're in the market for a crazy night out, Ferg's has more than a few tricks to help you accomplish it. In my case, the occasion was a friend's birthday, which seemed like a perfect opportunity to see what ax throwing is all about.

St. Pete Axe & Ale is the name, and it's a modest standalone area back on Ferg's south patio, neighboring the Trop tunnel. It is St. Petersburg's first ax-throwing venue and the only one in the bay area that serves food and drink.

As a sport that traces its modern history to Canada, it's only appropriate that tasty brews should be a part of the process. I don't think anyone would advocate anything beyond a base coat of beer before throwing an ax, but there's just something so right about kicking back a few with friends while taking turns throwing an ax at a plywood target.

Axe & Ale does a great job of reining the chaos with some reasonable rules — no one over the line, only one axe thrower in the box at a time and crucially, no high heels — making the process a lot safer than you might expect. Owner Michelle Simpson is always on hand to make sure things run smoothly while also doling out some helpful ax-throwing advice. Getting the ax to actually stick into the target is harder than I imagined, but Simpson had our group hitting bullseyes within minutes.

The setup: two sheets of plywood with targets in the center. Each concentric ring's points increase in value as the ax travels inward toward a red, six-point bullseye. The lanes are framed in chain link, and there are high tops between the axe throwing lanes and the bar, where groups can congregate while waiting their turn.

The lanes go for $60/hour, so you'll probably want to bring a small group, although I would love to meet the person that goes solo. There are plenty of fun group game activities in bars around town, and this one belongs toward the top of the list. It's a heck of a good time.

Of course, one of the big selling points is that alcohol is part of the equation. I'd consider throwing an ax while sober, but if presented with the option, I'm bringing beers into the equation. The Axe & Ale bar is well-stocked, with a variety of canned and bottled beers to go with a few wines and a full liquor selection. The bar around the corner has a ton of draft options, as well, so you've got choices.

It's an odd niche, but the Axe & Ale combo fits right into the surprisingly eclectic range of options at Ferg's Sports Bar. I'll be sure to pop in a lot more regularly to see what shows up next, lest whatever bizarre amenity the Ferg's folks dream up. When I do, it'll be with a reservation for some axing and ale-ing, too.

— Contact Justin Grant at jg@saintbeat.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.

St. Pete Axe & Ale

1320 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 742-8487; stpeteaxeandale.com

The vibe: A pair of axe-throwing lanes in the corner of a sprawling sports bar compound.

Food: Appetizers, soups, sides and salads, $2-$11; entrées, $6-$13.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $3-$6; wine, $5-$7 by the glass and $26 by the bottle; liquor, $4-$12. Happy hour is from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday (excluding Rays home games), featuring $1.50-$2.50 select domestic beers, $3 well drinks and $3.50 house wines.

Specialty: At Ferg's, there are standalone bars approximately every 10 feet, including one conveniently located in the Axe & Ale portion of the south patio. You're going to want to go the bucket of beers route. The good news here is that the bars are surprisingly well-stocked, with everything from the most basic domestic macros to around a dozen local brews, not including the fairly extensive draft selection.

Hours: By reservation only. Book online at stpeteaxeandale.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Garden Cobbler cocktail made with gin, sherry, cucumber, mint and red fruits cordial at Sonder Social Club. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The downtown Dunedin craft cocktail hub offers plenty of good reasons to belly up to the bar. | Restaurant review
  2. At The Tiki Cove, you don’t need too much imagination to place your mind and mood at an actual beach. JUSTIN GRANT  |  Justin Grant
    The Tiki Cove is a Florida-only novelty that anyone passing through will be sure to enjoy. | Bar review
  3. Try I Am The Walrus Berliner Weisse ib draft at Hidden Springs Ale Works, or look for it in cans at your local quality beer shop. JUSTIN GRANT  |  Justin Grant
    This is Florida, so some of our autumn brews fall outside the paradigm. | Local beer of the week
  4. Dunedin's Parlor House Bistro will feature an American-French menu that includes house-made pastries. Courtesy of Ryan Steffensmeier
    The new restaurant will serve American-French cuisine, offering a New Orleans vibe.
  5. Ginger molasses spice cookies LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times
    They’re loaded with fresh seasonal spices, plus pecans and raisins.
  6. Screenshot of Austin Davis from a Vice News documentary on Youtube. Vice News/Youtube
    The 20-year-old Keystone Heights resident has selective eating disorder believed to stem from childhood trauma.
  7. The John's Pass Seafood & Music Festival will return to Madeira Beach for its 38th installment this weekend. But the Friday event, Flavors of the Gulf, is a big draw for gastronauts. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times (2016)
    Flavors of the Gulf and two stone crab fests embrace Florida seafood, plus a mac 'n' cheese fest, Top Local Chef and a gardening class.
  8. Rocca partner and chef Bryce Bonsack stretches fresh egg yolk pasta that will later become tagliolini at his new Tampa Heights restaurant. LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rocca’s chef will pay homage to the people he spent months learning from in Monforte d’Alba.
  9. A kamayan feast held in Tampa. Courtesy of Baybes Who Brunch
    A change in cocktails, more global ingredients, and here’s what else.
  10. A rendering of one retail corner at Sparkman Wharf, which is building up its dining offerings in Tampa. Courtesy of Strategic Property Partners
    The new arrival will pair small plates with more than 150 bottles of wine.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement