The Angry Pickle's house-made spicy pickles sit across the high-topped tables from hand-shaped burger patties and a selection of 14 draught beers in a casual eatery. Appetizers such as fried pickles, available in dill or a house-crafted angry spicy blend, named after Sporty Spice after her exposure to hulk-inducing gamma rays, dance across taste buds, and palatable jalapeño poppers burst into a culinary fireworks display of gooey cheese.
When it comes to bringing a taste of Ireland to the states, Pub 32's head chef Matt Brown has a very specific taste in mind: whiskey. After aging them for 21 days, Matt finishes grilled cuts of certified Angus steak with Black Bush whiskey-spiked mushroom sauce. He coats racks of pork ribs with a whiskey marmalade glaze, and even infuses slices of strawberry shortcake with Irish Mist. But not everything is reliant on rye. Malt vinegar and salt flavor hand-cut fries, while sweet chili sauce adds a kick to tobacco onions, a tastier alternative to cigars that make you cry when you smoke them.
Like Matt’s recipes, Pub 32's bar favors whiskey with its generous selection of Irish, Scottish, and American brands. The bar also slings wine, beer, and beer cocktails such as Black Velvet, a blend of champagne and Guinness. On most days musicians perform live renditions of soothing tunes and traditional Irish songs.
"Hookah should always be an enjoyable, chillaxing experience." So says the staff at Lunar Starburst, where hookahs blossom into great clouds of steam and smoke. Puffing a choice of herbs, tobacco, or steam, guests relax in "a fun and carefree hookah lounge" that eschews intimidating staffers and strobe lights in favor of a more welcoming atmosphere. Lunar hosts encourage guests to plug their own iPhones and MP3 players into their sound system. They also schedule DJ visits, art gatherings, tarot readings, board-game nights, and video-game nights.
At Tiki Joe's, guests leave behind the worries of the workweek with the help of tropical cocktails, sports, and a spread of bar food. Fish tacos come loaded with blackened barramundi, and burgers are topped with grilled pineapple. There's baskets of zesty chicken wings, too, and pizzas piled with bacon and sausage. In addition, two full-service bars offer drinks such as the Sneaky Tiki—a blend of rum and fruit punch garnished with caged seagulls.
For 25 years, Big Top Brewing Company's founder Josh Wilson cut his teeth crafting small batches of beer for family and friends. Now at his own brewery, he brews a variety of craft beers inspired by Sarasotan history—especially its close ties to the Ringling Circus. His Circus City IPA, for instance, offers hoppy flavors with a bold finish. The Trapeze Monk, on the other hand, combines light notes of wheat and citrus, which is rumored to give trapeze artists confidence. In addition to five year-round beers, Josh also whips up 15 seasonal varieties and other experimental brews to expand his catalog.