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  1. Food

Bar review: Bohemian Blue Tavern is the art of beer and wine

Bohemian Blue Tavern, located in a tiny Palm Harbor strip mall, offers wine and beer with a few select cocktails.  Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson
Bohemian Blue Tavern, located in a tiny Palm Harbor strip mall, offers wine and beer with a few select cocktails. Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson
Published Jul. 18

I dug into the archives this week, skimming through a cluttered mess of old notes.

It was just over four years ago that I visited Local Brewing Company in Palm Harbor, a feature-laden tavern that, strangely, does not brew any beer (though it does have nearly 100 beers on draft). At the time, I made a note to myself to check out its comparably modest neighbor, Bohemian Blue Tavern.

Usually when I neglect to follow up on these notes for as long as I did this time, the bar in question ends up being either a stagnant dive (hence no reminders popping up for me to follow up) or closed outright. When I looked up Bohemian Blue, I was surprised to find it both open and also pretty popular.

Better late than never?

Here's the short version: Bohemian Blue Tavern is a simple beer and wine bar, bolstered by a very impressive collection of original art on display from co-owner Scott Griffith, a talented painter who signs his work Griff.

It's a locals joint, where a regular will bring in a slow cooker of chili for the other patrons to enjoy and the bar's owners (Griffith and co-owner Tracy Davis) alternate shifts working behind the bar, serving drinks to a clientele that mostly seem to be on a first-name basis with the owners and each other.

Don't infer that the atmosphere is unwelcoming as a result, because it's not. It's actually rather cozy, with a sofa up front, a few two-seater high tops bordering a long bar, a popcorn machine in the back, low-volume music in the background — a mix of good modern country and chill pop music during my visit — and a row of four TVs behind the bar playing both sports and cooking shows.

There are board games and puzzles at the bar, along with plenty of boxes of various Trivial Pursuit decks and the ubiquitous Cards Against Humanity. You could post up here in a rainstorm (I like to keep it topical) and stay busy for quite a while.

I looked up the term "bohemian" for about the fiftieth time in my life and was reminded that it means something socially unconventional and often involving the arts. I'm not sure about the first part, but boy is the second one on the money.

Bohemian Blue Tavern is almost as much an art gallery as it is a bar, with colorful acrylic paintings from Griff hanging from nearly every surface. Fine art isn't my area of expertise, but it's easy to be attracted to Griff's takes on various famous paintings, many instantly recognizable (The Last Supper, for example) but depicted in a very modern, stylized fashion with chubby, stone-faced figures playing the roles of the Mona Lisa, Jesus Christ, San Sebastian and other famously painted figures.

The work reminds me a bit of Colombian painter Fernando Botero's work, but it's wholly unique, despite being inherently derivative in nature (insert commentary about all art being derivative here). Whatever the case may be, it's a heck of a backdrop for a beer and wine bar, and that's worth a visit by itself.

That said, there's plenty to be charmed by at Bohemian Blue without even considering its aesthetic qualities. The drink selection is good and varied, offering a solid range of options for beer and wine drinkers alike, despite a relatively modest selection. And, while there's no liquor, the bar does serve a Bloody Mary, a Long Island and a Sex on the Beach, as well as several fun shots made from wine-based faux spirits. I wouldn't sip these neat, but they're not far off the mark in cocktails like these.

All of this explains why a tiny Palm Harbor strip mall bar that opened in 2013 has made it this far. What it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in charm. And the art is really cool, too. If you live nearby, you might already be a regular; if you're not, stop in sometime and you may become one.

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

Bohemian Blue Tavern

35615 U.S. 19, Palm Harbor. (727) 754-4934; facebook.com/bohemianbluetavern

The vibe: A quaint beer and wine bar filled with original art from co-owner/artist Scott Griffith.

Booze: Beer and wine. Beer, $3-$7; wine, $4-$9 by the glass and $20-$32 by the bottle. Happy hour is from 2 p.m.-7 p.m daily, featuring $2.50 select domestics, $5 select craft drafts and $3.75 house wines.

Specialty: There are nearly 30 beers and ciders available at Bohemian Blue and nearly 20 wines, not including four varieties of house-made sangria with flavors ranging from apple crisp white to blueberry-pomegranate. If you're in a cocktail mood, there are several cocktails and shots available, all made from wine-based faux spirits. Scoff if you will, but the Long Island iced tea packs a punch!

Hours: 2 p.m.-3 a.m. daily.

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