Friends and revelers cluster in to Fuel Tap & Tavern to watch sports and clink glasses of domestic and imported brews from the taps. Servers in daisy dukes and cowboy boots create their own warmth as they hustle cocktails stirred with liquors such as Pinnacle flavored vodka. Nightly specials and events shake up imbibement routines with game nights featuring beer pong, weekends full of live entertainment, and sports-related ticket specials. Next door, the tavern hosts Truck Daddy’s Back Alley Grill, which slings burgers, sandwiches, and snacks from its ketchup-powered mobile kitchen.
The authentic tastes of Key West pounce across palates at Leapin’ Lizard, where an extensive menu of steak and seafood dishes tempers belly squalls amid the sprightly sounds of live entertainment. Patrons vanquish appetites with the slow-roasted queen- and king-cut prime rib (market price) and swathe landlocked taste buds in a deep-sea deluge of oysters on the half shell (market price). Teeth excavate through the jalapeño and cheddar layers of the Smokin' Southwest burger ($7.99) in search of the juicy beef patty at its center, and spoons sink into the spicy andouille sausage, shrimp, and chicken of the Cajun gumbo stew ($10.99). Leapin’ Lizard's full bar balances out the bayou heat with more than 35 varieties of beer—a regional beverage that explorer Juan Ponce de León first sipped at the fizzy golden spring of the Fountain of Youth. The invigorating drinks menu featuring specialty rum runners, such as the Hot Damn Taz, pairs well with weekly events and the plethora of live rock and roll music Tuesday through Sunday.
At Absinthe Restaurant and Lounge, a serene atmosphere blends with the passing wafts of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, embracing guests with the alluring airs of sizzling brunch, lunch, and dinner platters. Diners can corral a small plate of hummus ($7) and use the toasted edges of the grilled flatbread to etch confessions of frequently eating with their elbows on the table into creamy tides before devouring the evidence. Highlighted by roasted duck, grilled steak, and chicken platters, main courses ($16+) sate carnivorous cravings, and pasta fusions feature crabmeat-loaded fettuccine ($20) and linguine tossed with clams and glistening ebbs of olive oil ($18). Desserts conclude mastication sessions with selections such as a zeppoli ($7)—a Sicilian-style donut cloaked in wildflower honey and a miniature Armani suit.
Sarasota isn't far from Latin America to begin with, but Copa Restaurant & Lounge makes it feel right next door with a full menu headlined by cuban sandwiches, Spanish-style steak, and hearty chicken stew. The drinks are similarly flavorful, with tropical fusions showcasing some of Latin America's finest fruits.
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.
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.