Crum's Bar and Grill regales visitors with hearty feasts of inventive pub cuisine paired with plenty of craft beer and live entertainment. Guests belly up to the bar to sample 52 lagers, ciders, stouts, and IPAs on draft, or commune with the spirits of our sandwich-hunting ancestors while watching juicy burgers cook over an open fire. Regularly scheduled entertainment—from Thursday karaoke operas to live bands on weekends—adds a musical touch to meals, and dart boards and Xboxes release reserves of competitive energy.
A cultural fixture in the islands of the South Pacific, kava is derived from the roots of the Piper methysticum, and is typically consumed at a nakamal, or central village meeting area. Bula Kafe transports these traditions to the shores of the Florida Gulf, filling coconut shells with the cool beverage and serving them at its outdoor commons. Known for its medicinal properties, the kava root is first ground into powder and then steeped in water, resulting in an elixir that helps calm the body and relieve anxiety brought on by a phobia of dry powder. Along with traditional kava beverages, the bamboo-framed hut purveys such hot and cold delights as spiced chai, fruit smoothies, and frozen horchata.
Set amid an all-outdoor bar, Bula Kafe turns up the fans during hot months and warms its barstools with space heaters and tiki torches during the winter. Throughout the entire year, guests enjoy bouts of table tennis and darts, or compete in high-stakes sessions of board games such as Apples to Apples and Battleship as others strum on acoustic guitars, sip silently as they read a book, or surf the internet on free WiFi. Though the listed closing times are midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, the staff is known for accommodating late revelers with advance notice.
It might seem that the owner of Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill, Mark Ferguson, has it made in the shade—the shade of Tropicana Field, that is. The home of the Tampa Bay Rays towers across the street, forever funneling swarms of fans through the bar’s doors and hiding it from hungry giants. But his winding up in a sports bar’s ideal location was no accident, and it certainly didn't come easy. Lane DeGregory chronicled the bar's history in a 2008 feature in the Tampa Bay Times, noting that it took the former middle-school gym coach "17 years, countless kegs, three pro sports teams and a decade of sorry baseball to build his empire." While the stadium sat empty, Ferguson sponsored local softball, flag-football, and basketball leagues in the rundown downtown area once known as the “Gas Plant District." Luckily for Ferguson, it wasn't long until Tropicana Field filled with cheers for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Storm, and, eventually, Rays.
What started in 1992 as a concrete-block space with 75 seats has since grown into a two-story establishment whose sprawling indoor and outdoor seating areas encompass almost two city blocks. Like the growth of the business, the bar and grill's building materials reflect input from the surrounding community: the wood flooring was compiled from area gymnasiums, and the walls are paneled with hardwood from the old All Children's Hospital.
Ferguson continues to fuel his success with more than 70 TVs, classic bar eats, and a calendar filled with live-music and trivia nights. In addition to fans, the restaurant has been known to serve renowned politicians and—according to the Tampa Bay Times—Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Perhaps the duo chose the eatery for its paparazzi-curbing underground tunnel, which leads beneath 1st Avenue South to the stadium.
Emilio's is one of St. Petersburg's newest additions, offering denizens a sampling of fine coffee, pastries, paninis, burgers, and more. Light the flare on flavor landing strips with Emilio's bottomless cup of blend roasted coffee ($1.50) and the morning-making berry parfait similar to earth's interior of layered crunchy granola and berries atop Greek yogurt and honey ($4.99). The baguette blanche treats midday diners to a medley of savories masked in the makeup of stacked turkey, grilled mushrooms, caramelized onions, cream cheese, and pesto ($7.99), and the roasted red-pepper and goat-cheese panini adds a dash of zest with fresh basil, red onions, and a zigzag of balsamic vinegar ($9.99). Unlike stuffed animals, stuffed burgers won't fight back when bit and can be filled with a variety of tasties such as applewood smoked bacon, sundried tomatoes, pesto, and brie ($10.99). Pair meals with one of the restaurant's many wines or craft beers.
Ruby's speakeasy-style cantina slings frothy brews and heady cocktails against the velvety melodies of live jazz and blues crooners. Jazz jams on Monday nights highlight some of the area's most notable brass blowers, providing a stellar soundtrack for sipping on a slew of bottled beers ($2.95–$5.95), voluptuous vinos ($6.95 / house wines, $10.95 / upper-level varietals), and craft suds and ciders from Magic Hat, Stella Artois, and Strongbow ($4.95). Air-trumpet along to the infectious melodies bursting from Lounge Cat's weekly sets while raising a spiced-pear or espresso martini ($8.95) to the Ruby's pin-up style décor and bronzed collection of discarded mouthpieces and pork-pie hats.
At Crowley's Downtown, traditional Irish meals commence with an authentic plate of Irish bangers ($6.50), paired with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. Go entreeing with the slammin' cod sandwich ($9), with Guinness-battered fried cod gently hugged by bread. After 4 p.m., the traditional Irish stew ($13.50) quiets grumbling tummies with a brimming mix of lamb, potatoes, and carrots. For dessert, liquor and cheesecake combine superpowers like Captain Planet receiving an eye transplant from Cyclops to form the unstoppable Bailey's Irish cheesecake ($5). Barley buffs can comb the pub's page-turning beer list, which includes Irish specialties like Magners Irish Cider and Murphy's Irish Stout, as well as a few American variations, such as Rogue Shakespeare Stout, a creamy, mellow beer.
Chef Scott Vogel calls upon fresh, seasonal ingredients to inspire his dynamic dinner menu of European-spun sustenance. Practice your dish-passing skills before Thanksgiving by sharing some tasty tapas with your table, such as lump blue crab cakes, which come paired with spicy aioli and Asian slaw ($12), or pulled-duck quesadillas, which will pull at your stomach's heart strings with a symphony of meat, asiago cheese, and roasted peppers ($10). The bistro specializes in fresh fish dishes; opt for the wild-Norwegian-salmon entree ($16) if you have the appetite of a Viking or if your body's omega-1 and omega-2 fatty acids need a mediator. Diners that prefer a finless feast can savor a citrus-soy- marinated sirloin with chipotle balsamic glaze ($18), and vegetarians can indulge in the creamy wild-mushroom and grilled-vegetable risotto ($17). Complement your meal with something from the bar's ample selection of craft beers, specialty martinis, and wines by the bottle or glass.