Pour House – A relaxing corner bar in the Channel District that’s walkable from the arena but a bit of a hike. Pour House features copious taps with a great mix of local favorites and brews from beyond. A couple couches give it a homey feel. Dogs seem to not only be welcomed but encouraged.
The Independent – When I used to cover high school football games on Friday night, myself and a group of fellow writers would meet up after our stories were filed at The Independent, an indoor-outdoor craft beer mecca that looks like an old gas/service garage turned hipster haven. Their kitchen is open when most are closed, and I would order a bratwurst topped with sauerkraut and spicy mustard and wash it down with whatever new IPA they were offering on draft. It was the perfect way to unwind from the freneticism of writing on deadline. The Independent is a pioneer in the Tampa Bay craft beer movement, and if that’s your sort of thing, you owe it a visit.
Hattrick’s – Tampa’s hockey bar. Jerseys and pictures of former and current Lightning greats adorn the walls. If there’s hockey on TV, they’ll have it. The wings are their most popular food item. Try them my way: Lightning hot and shake and bake style.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company – I come here often for lunch to get the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. Unfortunately, work frowns on sampling the craft brews during lunch, but if I were drinking, I’d wash it down with a Reef Donkey, a deliciously underrated American Pale Ale. TBBC is in the heart of Ybor City in the Centro Ybor complex.
Fly Bar & Restaurant – The draw at Fly is the funky, eclectic design; the wide variety of drinks, including an above-average cocktail menu; some seriously delicious bites – the roasted garlic fries are always a hit — and a rooftop bar that isn’t always open but is a treat when it is. Fly was one of the first ‘hip’ places to pop up in downtown Tampa back when it opened on what was described then as “a sketchy stretch of Franklin Street” back in 2006. It’s remained ‘hip’ ever since, and that sketchy stretch of Franklin has turned into prime real estate, paving the way for the recent development going further north on Franklin into Tampa Heights.
The Franklin Manor – Part club, part bar, part outdoor Florida lounge, Franklin Manor ticks all the boxes for late-night entertainment. They have a surprisingly nice mix of beers, and the outdoor courtyard is a great place to sit back with a cold beverage with friends and people watch.
The Stein & Vine – You’re going to have to travel a bit to reach The Stein & Vine; it’s a 20-minute drive from Amalie Arena east of Tampa to the Brandon suburb. But if you’re looking for the best gastropub in the Bay Area to combine great food with an amazing draft/bottle list, The Stein & Vine is worth the extra effort. They typically have a panko fried pork loin sandwich on the menu that rotates how it’s presented. Today I see it’s a Schnitzel Cuban, topped with ham, salami, Swiss cheese, mustard aioli and veggies on toasted Cuban bread. Yes please! The Cajun Fried Corn on the Cob side dish is served dripping in butter. I came here during a Lightning playoff run and had that greasy smell in my beard for days. It was totally worth it. And more good news: They just opened a kitchen inside Ybor City’s Coppertail Brewery Co., a short, five-minute drive from downtown. But visit the original if you have the chance.
The Canopy – The Birchwood – If you find yourself in St. Pete, check out the view of Beach Drive, North Straub Park and beyond into Tampa Bay (the body of water) from the fifth floor bar at The Canopy rooftop lounge. Has a bit of a Miami South Beach vibe with private cabanas and stylish couches gathered around fire tables. The Canopy is on top of The Birchwood boutique hotel, which also houses the well-reviewed Birch & Vine restaurant.