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Hot nights, Hot bars

By SUSAN THURSTON AND ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 9, 2002


It's August.

You stare into the mirage of autumn, misled by the onset of football, unable to expel the heat.

Dry-mouthed, you count the months.

Summer. It ends sometime in December, doesn't it?

Then this appears: a dewy, chilled glass.

Could one be blamed?

If so, perhaps there is safety in numbers -- in the hourslong line outside the Blue Martini, in the mobs sharing mug-o-ritas at Adobe Gila's -- and certainly in the skill of knowing when to give up the car keys.

Has it been a while?

Curious about the latest hot spots?

We peeked at a few.

photo
[Times photos: Stefanie Boyar]
True blue partiers hit the bar last week at the Blue Martini, one of the “in” places to be and to be seen at the moment. With temperatures soaring, a cold one at a cool place can be just the ticket.

* * *

ADOBE GILA'S: Cheap drinks lure lurkers

Adobe Gila's promotes itself as a no-cover alternative with a bird's-eye view of raucous Seventh Avenue.
photo
DRINK: Mug-O-Rita
PRICE: $17
LOCATION: Centro Ybor
ATMOSPHERE: Open-air cantina

YBOR CITY -- The madness starts with the margaritas.

Sixty-four ounces -- half a gallon -- served in a souvenir thermos-sized plastic cup with two-foot straws.

Adobe Gila's calls them mug-o-ritas. Up to six can play.

Professional partiers prefer to go it alone. Remember this is Ybor City, the drinking capital of Tampa.

The first one sets you back $17. Repeats rounds go for a bargain $10.

For another buck, you get another shot of Sauza Gold. Three's the limit. You still have to get home.

Taker Jim Kennedy says it's not a bad deal, especially with the extra kick.

Last week, he polished one off in no time, then washed it down with a beer.

"Something different," he says. Those 'ritas are sweet.

And teeming with tequila, code for ta-kill-ya.

Adobe's carries 30 different kinds, from Cuervo Gold to Cabo Wabo. All guarantee a good time, so long as someone else has the car keys.

The Southwestern cantina opened in 2000 as a no-cover alternative to Ybor's pump and thump nightclubs. Perched on the second floor of Centro Ybor, it offers bird's-eye views of raucous Seventh Avenue.

"It's not too clubby," says Garth DeBevoise, one of the managers. "There's a good mix of people."

Customers vary from college kids to tourists. Many come for the open-air atmosphere. Others for the cheap beer and frozen drink selection. On an average night, the bar stocks 12 kinds, from Sex on the Beach to Pina Colada.

Mix 'em and you get a Pink Panty Pull Down.
photo
Gerron Overstreet pours a round of shots at Adobe Gila’s. The bar carries 30 kinds of tequila and offers a 64-ounce “Mug-O-Rita.”

Buck beers and a bartender contest lured the crowd on a recent Wednesday night. Tom Cruise wannabes juggled liquor bottles and stainless shakers. Video cameras rolled. Funky Cold Medina blared.

DJ Willie Lugo yelled, "Make some noise!"

Christina Jarvis' 20-something friends came down from the Toledo, Ohio, area to prowl for guys and enjoy a Florida vacation.

"The dollar beers work," declared Maureen Morgan.

"We heard about Adobe Gila's and drove 18 hours," joked Ryan Tuttle, 26.

And the women? "They all have cleavage," said Mary Michalski.

The Mexican theme centers on a legendary mean lizard named Adobe Gila that hung out at a saloon.

It's not to be mistaken for Dobie Gillis, a 1960s sitcom character. Or the Green Iguana, another reptile-inspired bar down on the street.

A sign hanging from Adobe's ceiling says, "This place bites, and so do the bartenders."

The bar caters to drinkers, not eaters. Nachos kill the munchies, but don't make a meal.

It's one of a handful across the country. Orlando has one. So does Columbus, Ohio.

Erika Ross and Miguel Adrian took advantage of the dollar beers while on vacation from South Florida. They liked the atmosphere, the crowd and, of course, the prices.

"In Miami, you'll never find this," she said, swilling a $1 Miller Lite.

Others opted to pay full freight.

"I was just in the mood for a Bud Light," said Erik Todd, who shelled out $3.50 for a cold one.

Crazy? Maybe not. Just particular. He calls it loyalty.

To Dave DeMaio, it's a missed opportunity.

"Usually, when I come to Ybor I spend $200," he said. "Not tonight."

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

* * *

MACDINTON'S: When a dab of Dublin will do

MacDinton's is the neighborhood bar of choice for South Tampa denizens in search of the familiar.

SOHO -- The Irish accents are as heavy as the Guinness and Harp on tap.
photo
DRINK: Pint of
Guinness
PRICE: $4.50
LOCATION: SoHo
ATMOSPHERE: Irish pub

Chunks of granite and slate wrap the walls in a cozy gray shawl. They're imported from Ireland, the manager says. Likewise for the blue wooden dinghy with nets and oars, which once carried mail to Galway.

A mural behind the band stage and dance floor depicts a castle and moat.

Interior design is by Clive Keogh of Tipperary -- his colors, a hearty stew of mustard and paprika seasoned with choice details such as Celtic circles and the MacDinton's crest.

"It's owned and run by all Irish people," says Erin Mulvihill, a graphic artist and a part-time hostess.

Mulvihill even hangs out at MacDinton's in her off time. It's one of a handful of choice South Tampa bars she patronizes regularly, including Mangrove, the Hyde Park Cafe and Blue Martini.

Tonight she's just hanging, nursing a "snakebite" -- a combination of Harp and Strong Bow, a cider beer with a strong apple bite.

"This is the best bar to go to by yourself,' she explains, meaning that it's the kind of place where a girl with a lot of friends will see enough people she knows so that she doesn't appear to be alone.

Phil Heil, 23, is another solo regular. He lives in the nearby Madison at Soho apartments. He comes for the good, reasonably priced bar food -- a steak sandwich, a plate of penne Soho. And a pint of Guinness on tap.

"I've gotten to know everybody -- sort of like Norm on Cheers," he says. "When I'm walking in from the parking lot, they're already pouring my beer."

He has a favorite bar stool.

Tonight it's occupied by a middle-aged businessman happily devouring what appears to be an appetizer of mussels.

MacDinton's sees all ages.
photo
At left, Melissa Hazen chats with Sean McKenney during happy hour at MacDinton’s, an Irish bar for adults of all ages.

On Thursday night it's a cocktail -- one part just-squeaked-out-of-college, another part, expensively dressed 30-something professionals, with a dash of men who look near 60. Though it just opened May 25, the place draws standing-room-only crowds, especially after 10 p.m. on Friday nights when there's a band.

"Our main idea was a place with a friendly Irish staff," says manager Barry O'Conner, "a place that's easy-going, a regular hangout with great service where the bartender knows you and your friends."

The bar, at Azeele Street and Howard Avenue, used to be the Penalty Box, among other past lives. Once it was a seafood joint. Once, a French restaurant. It was once named MacDinton's, though not this Irish version.

A group of four Irish businessmen who also own a bar in Stamford, Conn., sought out Tampa because "it's one of those cities that hasn't yet met the need for enough Irish bars," O'Conner says.

It's a South Tampa bar of the moment and O'Connor wants to keep it that way.

Wild popularity and "newness" go together, he says.

The trick is to keep people coming back.

-- ELIZABETH BETTENDORF

* * *

BLUE MARTINI: The beautiful people in blue

The cool hues of the Blue Martini set the scene for urban hipsters who want to be seen.
photo
DRINK: Blue Martini
PRICE: $9
LOCATION:
International Plaza
ATMOSPHERE: Sophisticated lounge

INTERNATIONAL PLAZA -- Wander into the Blue Martini mid-evening on a Thursday in summer and you'll have one thought:

Cool.

Friday nights are even cooler.

A jazz band jives on a stage behind the main bar, bathed in a wall of light. Blue glass bottles and vases shimmer.

The famous blue martini arrives in an oversized snifter with a neon glow stick.

The stick is blue. So is the drink.

It's sweet and soothing, with a roar -- the kind of drink that will knock you off your stool without a little forethought (food) and pacing (slow).

"Try this!" urges Grace Yates. "It's smooth, but wicked. I'm going to have to take a taxi home."

Management protects the signature recipe. The bartender says it's a complex blend of vodka, Blue Curacao, 7-Up, Cointreau, orange juice and sweet and sour mix.

Most nights, it'll set you back $9.

If that's too steep, come between 4 and 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, when prices drop, shaving $3 off the Blue Martini.

But later is when things get interesting.

Really interesting.

Beneath recessed ceilings bathed in colored light, men and women look at each other with great affection.

They look and look, perhaps admiring the fruits of a dress code.

No flip flops. No jeans, T-shirts or cutoffs.
photo
Bartender Joel Michael pours a Blue Martini, a potent blend of vodka, Blue Curacao, 7-Up, Cointreau, juice and sweet and sour mix.

It's the place for stylish capri pants, a little black dress. High heels.

It's also the place to be seen.

"This is absolutely the bar of the moment," says Rob Fillmore, a commercial real estate developer. "It's upscale, nice, with our kind of people."

He likes the array of women.

Fillmore and his group of friends, visitors from Pinellas County, have crossed a bridge for the Blue Martini.

Others have come after shopping. They come beneath Nordstrom and Tommy Hilfiger bags, some with Gucci purses slung over their shoulders.

"I love it that we can shop and go to the bar immediately afterwards," says Lori Bailey, 42.

She's an executive recruiter.

The men she meets at Blue Martini all seem to have jobs.

Her friend, Nancy Schultz, who is 40, looks around and sees people her own age.

Those uninterested in trading phone numbers relax in wicker bistro chairs beneath market umbrellas along International Plaza's Bay Street.

A few steps away, a vendor sells silver jewelry from a kiosk and patrons at Starbucks' outdoor cafe catch sultry drifts of jazz.

On Friday nights, people wait for hours to get in.

The bar stays busy until closing at 3 a.m.

It's all about sophistication, Schultz says.

"The music is fabulous, so is the whole look of the bar."

-- ELIZABETH BETTENDORF

South Tampa bars: a navigator's list

GOOD JUKEBOX

  • Tiny Tap, Hyde Park
  • The Hub, Downtown

HIDING PLACES

  • James Joyce Irish Pub, Ybor City
  • The Fox, Westshore Boulevard
  • Charlie's Wine Cellar, SoHo

CAPRI PANTS REQUIRED

  • Hyde Park Cafe, Platt Street

HEAD-SPINNING DRINKS

  • The Hub, Downtown

25-CENT POOL TABLES

  • Tiny Tap, Hyde Park

REAL POOL TABLES

  • Baker's Billiards, Tampa Street

MOJITOS

  • Samba Room, Hyde Park

SANGRIA

  • Ceviche, SoHo
  • Sangria, SoHo
  • Columbia, Ybor City

SOUR APPLE MARTINI

  • Mia's, Hyde Park
  • 42nd Street, SoHo

INTERESTING BANDS

  • Orpheum, Ybor City

FREE LIVE MUSIC

  • Green Iguana, Ybor City

GOOD GAMES

  • Gameworks, Ybor City
  • Pop City, Channelside

DOG FRIENDLY

  • Pipo's Latin Cafe, Davis Islands
  • Samba Room, Hyde Park
  • Yeoman's Road, Davis Islands

OUTDOOR DECKS

  • Whiskey Joe's, Rocky Point
  • Margarita Mama's, Channelside
  • Bahama Breeze, Courtney Campbell
  • Red Dog, Bay to Bay Boulevard

WATERFRONT VIEW

  • Stump's Supper Club, Channelside
  • Jackson's, Harbour Island
  • Rick's on the River, Riverside Heights
  • Ashley Street Grill, Downtown

FOR BOATERS

  • Jackson's, Harbour Island
  • Rick's on the River, Tampa Heights

PIANO BARS

  • Howl at the Moon, Channelside
  • Bern's dessert room, SoHo

LONG BARS

  • Big City Tavern, Ybor City
  • Bonefish Grill, Henderson Boulevard
  • Roy's, Boy Scout Boulevard
  • Latam at El Centro, Nebraska Avenue

FINGER FOOD

  • Sidebern's Dim Sum Lounge, SoHo
  • Ceviche, SoHo

BEER & A SLICE

  • Demmi's Market, Ybor City

CIGAR & A HAIRCUT

  • King Corona, Ybor City

DRINKS & JOKES

  • The Improv, Ybor City

SEASONAL BEER

  • Tampa Bay Brewing Co., Ybor City
  • Barley Hopper's, Ybor City

IMPORTED BEER

  • New World Brewery, Ybor City
  • Mad Dogs & Englishmen, MacDill Avenue

EXPENSIVE DRINKS

  • Blue Martini, International Plaza
  • 42nd Street, SoHo
  • Mangrove, SoHo

SWIZZLE STICKS

  • Kahunaville, International Plaza

LAWYER SHOPPING

  • Bella's, SoHo
  • Four Green Fields, Platt Street

JOCK SIGHTING

  • Profusion, International Plaza
  • Cheesecake Factory, International Plaza
  • Malio's, Dale Mabry Highway
  • Club 1509, Ybor City
  • Fleming's, Boy Scout Boulevard
  • Roy's, Boy Scout Boulevard

GAME WATCHING

  • Mac's, SoHo
  • Beef O'Brady's, MacDill Avenue
  • Sports Shak, Neptune Drive
  • Press Box, Dale Mabry Highway

POST-GAME

  • Newk's, Channel District
  • Hooters, Hillsborough Avenue
  • Bennigan's, Dale Mabry Highway

FREE BEER NIGHTS

  • Bar Tampa, Ybor City

THE TROPICS

  • Rain, Downtown
  • Hyde Park Cafe, Hyde Park
  • Bahama Breeze, Courtney Campbell

TASTEFUL

  • Mise en Place, Kennedy Boulevard
  • Sidebern's, SoHo
  • Wine Exchange, Hyde Park

THE UNWASHED

  • Tiny Tap, Hyde Park

MUSICALLY ANNOYING

  • Four Green Fields, Platt Street

SMOKIEST

  • Green Iguana, Westshore Boulevard

ROMANTIC

  • Left Bank, Hyde Park

DEARLY DEPARTED

  • Chatterbox, SoHo
  • Blues Ship, Ybor City

GLADLY DEPARTED

  • Magnolia, Hyde Park
  • Bacchus, SoHo

City Times: The rest of the stories

  • If cable covered the gate
  • Hot nights, Cool bars
  • 'Semper fidelis'
  • A lifetime on the pier
  • Village officials seek more flexibility
  • She lived a life of charity, modesty
  • A popular fountain is tapped for more hours
  • If only all of us had the cash
  • StillWater offers buyers estate homes, large lots
  • Smoke rooms: A hot idea
  • On the lighter side of art
  • Hands-on painting
  • Neighborly conference is chance to share ideas
  • Dentist to expand to South Tampa
  • Speed tables scoped out
  • Governor, judge, editor and clerk
  •  
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