With its plush couch and bookcase stocked with esoteric objects, the stage at Side Splitters Comedy Club might make audiences feel as though they’re watching the evening’s comedian in their own living room, right down to the emcee who keeps announcing what’s about to happen. The homey stage’s brick walls and off-kilter neon sign have played host to numerous local comedians, as well as talents such as Tom Arnold and Gilbert Gottfried.
The crowd noise and referee whistles of a football game aren’t complete without some other sounds. At Buckets Tavern & Tap, a full roster of domestic and craft beers click together in cheers. Eight-ounce Angus burgers sizzle on a grill, and five styles of wings crackle in a fryer. While bartenders sling drafts and bottles from Budweiser, Blue Moon, Magic Hat, and Dogfish, televisions with a wide range of channels broadcast games played by Florida teams and any team whose mascot is a family of sleepy baby raccoons. Bowls of buffalo shrimp and jalapeño poppers clatter onto tables, alongside baskets of clams with fries and slaw, burgers, and chili.
Though entertainment fads come and go, movie theaters remain, tempting audiences with fantastical stories new and old. The film buffs behind the Tampa Pitcher Show understand this craving for narrative connection, filling their movie hall and bar space’s calendar with first-run films, alternative events, and live music that helped them take home the prize for Best Kept Secret in Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay 2011 Reader’s Poll. Within the theater, projectors hum to life with current hits and cult classics every night; weekends welcome special happenings that include Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow-casts, art bazaars, and comedy shows. The Take 2 Lounge dispenses a sprawling menu of bar fare, including burgers, pizzas, and beers such as Magic Hat #9, Southern Tier, and Florida Avenue Ale flowing from 13 tap lines.
While House of Brews prides itself on its beer selection, it also features a hearty, upscale food menu. Find yourself appetized after polishing off a plate of drunken cheesy bread topped with tomatoes, onions, garlic, black olives, and blue-cheese crumbles ($8.99). Move on to a fresh salad ($3.99–$7.99, add chicken for $2) or one of the friendly sandwiches ($4.99–$9.99), such as mom’s homemade chicken salad on multi-grain bread with melty provolone ($8.99). On tap, the House of Brews collection includes familiar domestics such as Miller Lite ($3) and Blue Moon ($5), as well as some more adventurous varieties, such as Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat Ale ($5) and heavier brews including Bell’s Two Hearted Ale ($7). The bottled beer assortment features 50 different domestics, microbrews, and imports, including the mighty 9.5% ABV Victory Golden Monkey ($6.50).
Where there's smoke, there's a fiery Groupon. Fill your lungs with one night of unlimited fruity deliciousness at the plush and swanky Meridian Hookah Lounge (a $12 value). Meridian is an intimate and relaxing lounge that's open until 3 a.m. and has live music several nights a week.