Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill sprang from humble beginnings. 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.
Owner Mark 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.
Owned in part by former Heat star Matt Geiger, Courtside Grille reflects its dedication to sports with its distinctive logo: four sleek, intersecting streaks forming a stylized basketball. The crest can be found in every area of the restaurant, whether glowing white against the brick walls, or hanging over the bar as a light fixture. In the dining room, guests share piping-hot flatbreads and bites of burgers, pork chops, or Caribbean-style glazed salmon while betting their antique spoon collections on sports games broadcast on the 24 TVs.
Besides being a sports-bar and grill, Peabody’s Billiard and Games racks up good times in the triangle of pool tables, dartboards, and foosball. Of course, the 70 TVs and on-premises liquor store don’t hurt either. Periodic all-you-can-drink happy hours and other special events take place every week, offering table athletes of all stripes an arena for friendly competition. Patrons might square off in the weekly beer-pong rally, or pit their psychic skills against each other in the weekly poker tournaments. All the while, the kitchen bustles into the night, preparing late night items using only the freshest ingredients such as the Southern-style fried calamari and Peabody’s signature wings in one of nine sauces.
At Ocean Blue's Sushi Bar, sushi chefs assiduously assemble 50 raw and cooked maki options. Though focused on crafting seafood-filled rolls like the salmon skin—a medley of tempura salmon skin, chive, and cucumber with spicy aioli—chefs accommodate different tastes and dietary restrictions, too. For meat lovers there's the steak-and-cheese maki, which features a blend of teriyaki steak, cream cheese, and fried onions, while vegans can enjoy the aptly named vegan roll, a crunchy medley of asparagus and cucumber with creamy avocado.
Ocean Blue's menu also encompasses other Japanese favorites, from teriyaki scallops to pork dumplings paired with ginger shoyu sauce. Around 10 p.m., the fine dining atmosphere gives way to a club-like vibe, where the eclectic festivities last nightly until at least 2 a.m. Often presided over by live DJs, the bar's special events include Latin nights and 90s-themed dance parties, where patrons don outfits made entirely from K'Nex.
During World War I, Greek immigrant Louis Pappas served in the Army as a personal chef to General John Pershing. To give the hungry general some extra nutrition, Louis began adding scoops of potato salad to his traditional greek salads. When Louis returned to the United States, he opened up his own restaurant, Louis Pappas Riverside Café, where he would re-create this signature dish using fresh produce from his own ranch in Tarpon Springs.
Today, Louis Pappas's grandson continues his grandfather's old Florida family tradition at Pappas Ranch. There, he and his kitchen serve up a new menu of fresh seafood, poultry, sandwiches, street tacos, hand-cut steaks, and barbecue dishes whose "family flair" has been lauded by Metromix Tampa Bay. They continue to scoop savory housemade potato salad into their internationally renowned Louis Pappas Famous greek salad, tossing it in massive bowls that serve as many as four diners. Bartenders dole out glasses of locally brewed craft beers and wine or mix cocktails and martinis at the full center bar with flat-screen TVs.
The restaurant's decor channels that of the original Pappas family ranch. In the dining room, spacious booths are surrounded by rustic wooden walls, and outside is a covered outdoor patio.
Eddie's Bar & Grill, crowned as one of Tampa Tribune's Top Five Sports Bars of 2010, bustles as servers pass the eclectic menu's home-cooked dishes into athletic enthusiasts’ awaiting mouth end zones. Beer-battered buffalo burgers stampede across taste bud prairies, kicking up hot, medium, or mild sauce clouds that swirl with minced celery and blue cheese ($8.99). Roma tomatoes float upon waves of mozzarella and parmesan, which lap against an olive-oil-brushed shore in the margarita flatbread pizza ($12.99 for a full, $6.99 for a personal); thai sauce, lime, cilantro, and wasabi mayo stream through schools of Asian fish tacos ($13.99).