Last night, my family made the trek from Orlando to Tampa to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning kick butt…or attempt to at least (I love hockey, so don’t get me started on a sports rant or I might never stop.) But of course, before spending three long hours losing our voices cheering our lungs off, we needed sustenance. And no sports game is complete without a few brewskies before hand, so what better place to go to than The Tampa Bay Brewing Company. I had heard about this place from living in Tampa for so long but needed to see for myself what this was all about. Let me tell you, I don’t think there is enough hype about this restaurant.
The restaurant is tucked into a little awning in the central Ybor City district. There is plenty of indoor seating; for a Saturday night at 5pm it was crowded but we were seated right away. Additionally, there is an outside patio that gets full service as well.
The inside ambience couldn’t have been more appropriate for a brewhouse. All things beer decked the walls (even in the bathrooms): funny signs, local and national awards received for their beers, shirts, kegs, beer steins. The chalkboard art at the bar further gave the restaurant a relaxed and fun vibe.
The beer menu had an option for every beer drinker out there. The Tampa Bay Brewing Company brews 8 of their own unique beers: an APA, IPA, Blonde Ale, Red Ale, Barleywine, Imperial Stout, Porter, and Hefeweizen. In addition, the brewery featured a rotating beer menu with seasonal items, at least twelve more to choose from, and it being Christmas and all, came complete with an eggnog ale and gingerbread stout. You are allowed to sample any of their beers on tap if you have “beer commitment phobia” like me, so of course I had to sample both the eggnog and the gingerbread. Both were unique and absolutely delicious, but the high ABV on them (8%) had me choosing their Red Eye Amber Ale. I have to pace myself for running a marathon, not a sprint, in the beer world, especially if I was to attend a hockey game later and keep my drink on. I am an amber beer fanatic, so have tried as many different ones that I can get my hands on. This Red Eye Amber Ale quickly became my favorite . The caramel and malty flavors balanced perfectly with just a hint of sweetness. Not too hoppy but not lacking on flavor. A definite addition to the top of my Untapped list. Oh, and if you’re not a beer drinker: Tampa Bay Brewing Company also had a handful of ciders and a full bar to satisfy the needs of every drinker.
I’m so excited to mention the delicious carefully handcrafted exceptional beer than I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Let me tell you this; to say I had a flavorgasm is an understatement. Laugh all you want but that word best describes it. This restaurant features a beer cheese soup, so of course I had to try it. Upon first sight of it, I thought the chef had dropped an entire block of cheese in my soup. It had the brightest, most orange cheesy color to it, with more shredded cheese on top. The cheese lover in me immediately jumped for joy inside. And when I tasted it, game over. My joy was through the roof. The creaminess melted right down my throat and warmed my insides. The interesting part: there was a hint of sweetness from the beer, which made the cheese overload not an overload at all. It was actually the perfect tasting liquid gold.
For the main course I ordered the Cuban, while my sister had the fish and chips and my brother-in-law attempted to eat a calzone. The reason I say attempted: this calzone was the size of my head. Ok, so maybe I exaggerate a bit, but seriously this thing came out and my mouth dropped to the floor. The dough of the calzone is made with their True Blonde Ale, which I thought was unique. They use their beer in most of their menu items, giving a uniqueness to their food. Delicious.
The fish and chips was perfectly seasoned and came with either regular tartar sauce or a habanero (you can’t go wrong with spicy food ever) tartar sauce, all homemade of course. I’m sure you have had fried fish before where the batter was falling off the fish, That certainly was not a problem here. The batter reminded me a bit of tempura batter, perfectly light, flavorful, crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.
And the Cuban. Holy cow, my mouth is watering just thinking about it again. You will just have to try that one to believe it yourself.
I have absolutely no complaints about this restaurant and would go back in a heartbeat. I am going to recommend it to anyone in the Tampa Bay Area. The service was great, the food came out quickly and hot, the beer was ice cold, the food was delicious, and the ambience was fun and laid back. As an FYI, if you are going to a Lightning Game afterward, there is a trolley that picks you up at the restaurant and takes you there so you don’t have to worry about crazy game day parking at the arena. And at the end of the meal, I almost even walked away with one of their decorations…
Here is my restaurant fun fact: the cider wings, “The Bomb” burger, moosekiller meatloaf, and spicy curry mussels have all been featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. So you have to go check it out yourself.
If you end up going leave me a comment about what you think!