Thursday, July 19, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Big Bamboo Bayside is a room with a view

Even I, an avowed humidity hater, have to admit that catching a Florida summer sunset is an experience worth having now and then. Apparently, others find this notion agreeable, judging by the size and popularity of our many beachfront bars and restaurants.

Iím not much of a beachgoer ó I have the high-contrast farmerís tan to prove it ó but Iím a big fan of tropical cocktails in the shade. If I can see the water, thatís good enough.

Iíll take that one step further and suggest that it doesnít even need to be a proper beach. Cue Tampa Bay, which is where I discovered a hidden gem tucked away on Rocky Point along the eastern shore.

Thatís not to say this area is unknown to residents. Itís typically jammed with visitors and locals alike, tearing around the bay in personal watercraft, dancing to DJs in the sand and tossing back fruity rum drinks in cabanas at the bars and restaurants on the small island.

Still, I suspect most people might not think to look for a bar scene at the Sailport Waterfront Suites; youíd need to know where to look to find it. Iíd just as gladly leave the crowds behind for something more low-key, and thatís where the hotelís bar, Big Bamboo Bayside, comes in.

Between the bright turquoise, lime-green and tangerine color scheme and a bamboo wall and bar faÁade, Big Bamboo could easily be mistaken for an actual beach bar. That it overlooks the bay rather than the gulf is no issue ó the sunset views are spectacular. The guest swimming pool is between the bar and the water, which can be a bit distracting, but the bar area is self-contained enough to maintain the beach vibe once you tune out the kids doing cannonballs a few feet away.

The space can fit maybe a couple dozen, which is a welcome contrast to the larger resort bars nearby. Big Bamboo, cooled by a few ceiling fans and the breeze coming off the water, is decidedly more casual. Just a few small tables make up the dining area, and thereís room for six at the granite bar. Thereís a kitchen window behind the bar, much like a permanently parked food truck.

Despite its modest size, thereís lots to choose from on the menu.

I ordered a vegan burger (tasty) with a side of fruit and opted for a classic ó a Salty Dog ó from the cocktail menu. Big Bamboo makes its Salty Dog with vodka instead of gin, giving guests the choice of which vodka to use. Thatís easy for me: Banyan Reserve, a corn-based vodka from St. Petersburg Distillery.

Big Bamboo stocks several of that distilleryís products, including Tipplerís orange liqueur and Oak & Palm coconut rum. Thatís not all of the local selection, though, as a handful of the dozen-and-a-half beer options are bay area-brewed. Thereís Big Storm Wavemaker amber ale, Cigar City Jai Alai IPA, Cigar City Cider & Mead Homemade Apple Pie Cider and 3 Daughters Beach Blonde ale.

The cocktail list is the place to look for a cool summer drink. The house specialty is The Big Bamboo, a hefty rum punch smoothed out with OJ and pineapple juice. If youíre there for the sunset, the drink is half-off ($5!) in the hour before the sun calls it a day. There are seven other house cocktails and another 10 classics, including things like Mai Tais and Bloody Marys.

If youíre in the mood for a laid-back summer evening, Big Bamboo Bayside is worth a look. Itís small and not particularly fancy, but it comes with a nice slice of Tampa waterfront and panoramic views of the pink and purple skies during sundown. My advice is to get there early, as time has a tendency to fly when youíre sipping cocktails in the shade with a breeze coming off the bay.

ó Contact Justin Grant at jg@saintbeat.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.

Comments
Nitallyís set to reopen at a new, more intimate, South Pasadena location

Nitallyís set to reopen at a new, more intimate, South Pasadena location

Folks who have missed testing their taste buds with a St. Petersburg eateryís famous inferno soup will get a chance to do so once again.Nitallyís ThaiMex Cuisine, which closed its downtown St. Petersburg location in May, will open soon in a smaller l...
Published: 07/18/18
Tampa Bay is a perfect place to make your own food tour. Here are our suggestions.

Tampa Bay is a perfect place to make your own food tour. Here are our suggestions.

There are many good reasons to eat at four or five places in one night. A near overwhelming number of new restaurants in the Tampa Bay area can provoke anxiety in a certain kind of diner, the one who wants to try everything but doesn’t have th...
Published: 07/18/18
Food tours offer an informative, and delicious, look at different areas of Tampa Bay

Food tours offer an informative, and delicious, look at different areas of Tampa Bay

There is a running list on my phone of restaurants to try. A romantic evening at St. Petersburg’s Reading Room. The Safety Harbor double date night, so we can finally take our friends to Pizzeria Gregario. Splurging on the chef’s tasting ...
Published: 07/18/18
Where to get a good hot dog in Tampa Bay for National Hot Dog Day

Where to get a good hot dog in Tampa Bay for National Hot Dog Day

Monday, July 23, is National Hot Dog Day. I donít know precisely why, but I think some major lobbying from the sausage board was involved. Itís baseball season, itís barbecue season, itís I-donít-feel-like-cooking season. Those are plenty of reasons....
Published: 07/18/18
Where to eat and drink around Safety Harbor: Gigglewaters bar, Parts of Paris, Sno Beach and more

Where to eat and drink around Safety Harbor: Gigglewaters bar, Parts of Paris, Sno Beach and more

Not that many years ago, downtown Safety Harbor was a little lean on places to eat. Green Springs Bistro had been an anchor, Whistle Stop and Celloís Char House, too. But no one would have called it a dining destination. It was too bad: The city of 1...
Published: 07/18/18
Eat and drink your way through Tampa Heights with stops at Hall on Franklin, Armature Works and more

Eat and drink your way through Tampa Heights with stops at Hall on Franklin, Armature Works and more

Five or six years ago, if you were to stand on the steps of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and look north along the Hillsborough River, there wouldnít be much to see. Just a couple of old warehouses and some rubble in the area ...
Published: 07/18/18
In South Tampa, create a dinearound with stops at Bernís, Haven and the Epicurean Hotel

In South Tampa, create a dinearound with stops at Bernís, Haven and the Epicurean Hotel

I had a specific vision for my 35th birthday.Relaxation mostly. Bathrobe. Wine. Maybe a massage or a pool. Food, food, food. A handful of close friends. I did some research at beach hotels in Clearwater and St. Pete Beach and found the price range ou...
Published: 07/18/18
Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Why, exactly, are bowls the new plates? The Wall Street Journal declared it so. Tableware companies like Fiesta have reported serious double-digit growth in the sale of bowls, salad bowls, cereal bowls, you name it. Fast-food restaurants have jumped...
Published: 07/17/18
Fantastic French red wines for just $15 a bottle

Fantastic French red wines for just $15 a bottle

We usually donít expect red wines from Anjou, a small subregion of Franceís Loire Valley, to be any good, but hereís an example that will persuade even the most cynical wine skeptic to scour store shelves for obscure wines. I also recommend a refresh...
Published: 07/17/18
This simple shrimp dish lets summer vegetables shine

This simple shrimp dish lets summer vegetables shine

o the Washington PostThis meal of crisp vegetables and plump shrimp is light, fresh, flavorful and fast. It is just the thing to whip up when you need to reset from a weekend of typical summer party fare, heavy on the grilled meats and mayonnaise-y s...
Published: 07/17/18