As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
Amid brick walkways and burnt-red walls, leaves rustle softly. Steam rises in the distance, then quietly disappears. One moment, this place emits smoky hints of cedar; the next, it teems with notes of ginger and cinnamon bark. This isn’t an idyllic college campus on a brisk autumn night. It’s Infusion Tea, a charming café on the balmy streets of Orlando. Sun streams through oversized windows, warming chilly scoops of gelato and triple-decker cream-cheese sandwiches. More than 70 types of tea—including blacks, greens, oolongs, and herbals—can be ordered hot or cool, like most jazz saxophone solos. Though they hail from faraway lands such as China, Japan, and South Africa, many of these teas are organic and fair-trade certified, reflecting values owner Christina Cowherd cultivated while traveling the world in the Peace Corps. Rare, premium teas such as gyokuro transport taste buds to new frontiers as well, whether nestled in a takeaway tin or steeped in a pot made for sharing in house.
Filled with 50 tons of carved ice and most recently inspired by Ernest Shackleton's failed Antarctic expedition, Icebar's 27-degree, bacchanalian winterscape earned itself a feature in Frommer's and a spot on the Travel Channel's list of The World's Coolest Bars. After bundling up in fur coats and gloves, guests can spend up to 45 minutes touring the room's collection of frozen sculptures, floes, and sled-dog huts, raising toasts to their favorites with glasses made entirely out of ice. Frozen stools covered with seal fur line the bar, where mixologists pour frosty cocktails and root around for two identical snowflakes.
The adjacent Fire Lounge allows visitors to warm up afterward by snagging a drink from the full-service bar or bobbing their heads to the mixes of DJ Sher-khan. The pulsing sound system helps to get blood flowing again while lasers and strobe lights scan the room for any escaped snowglobes.
A self-described “gastrolounge,” Hammerheads Beer & Wine Bar serves up creative, satisfying pub dishes alongside craft beers and frozen cocktails. Its dishes add a subtle, upscale twist to pub mainstays: croissant sliders are filled with bourbon pulled pork, and corn dog balls are wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon before meeting their fate in the deep fryer. Boneless chicken wings and their cousins, tempura-battered chicken nuggets, are carried to tables atop beds of savory waffle fries or sweet potato fries.
Alternating red and yellow walls create a cheery atmosphere, as does the collection of framed paintings and pictures scattered throughout the pub. Regular karaoke nights challenge patrons to lock vocal cords with their buddies and demonstrate their crowd-pleasing prowess by making up choreography to accompany each song. Hammerheads also offers a variety of entertainment options each week, including movie nights and live music.
Unlike restaurants where drinks are an afterthought, Draft Orlando makes them an integral part of each meal. They stock their marble-topped bar with 40 draft beers and 100 bottled selections. In October of 2011, Orlando magazine restaurant critic Joseph Hayes recognized their efforts, stating, "whatever food you are contemplating, there is probably a matching beer." Hayes goes on to laud the eatery for its "well-executed takes on pub food like fish and chips and impressive crab-cake sliders." The chefs also branch out from classic pub cuisine by deep-frying calamari and sprinkling flatbreads with toppings such as Angus rib-eye steaks, which they age for 21 days.
The restaurant's walls incorporate geometric textures, and, depending on the time, the interior can be lit by everything from natural light to the gentle luminance of flat-screen TVs displaying staff screen savers of their pet rocks.
Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant not only imports ingredients and products, but also recipes. With roots in northern Spain and Catalonia, these dishes come together on a menu of more than 100 hot and cold tapas selections, along with paella and cazuela. Paella, a widely varied rice dish cooked at length in a wide pot over open flame, can contain Serrano ham, scallops, pork, chorizo, and saffron rice the stunning golden hue of an alchemist's magazine advertisements. Though the restaurant spans multiple locations, each one presents guests with some charming element: a poolside patio at the Tampa location, a central tapas bar in Orlando, and a flamenco room in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, no matter the location, events bring about live music and joviality, all supported by an ample list of Spanish and Portuguese wines.