I haven’t seen it all just yet. But almost.
I’ve visited and profiled countless bars in the Greater Bradenton Area. But not all. So this being the first week of the New Year, it’s time to set about accomplishing a mission that didn’t get finished last year. You know, one of those goals that sit on the shelf and await the fresh perspective of a new year.
Let it be known then, that in the year 2012 there will be Bar Tab columns on the five area bars briefly profiled below. Five bars that have yet to grace the cyber pages of Patch.com.
My New Year’s resolution is to spend quality time at each of these locations on a given night sometime this year diligently researching – researching throughout the night, if need be - then writing a column.
Badda Bing! Bar
, 7004 Cortez Rd., is part of a mini chain of local sports bars with two locations in Sarasota and one in Bradenton.
The bar is open from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. every day and features a lengthy happy hour from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. It was a football fan’s paradise during the NFL season with $6 pitchers, $10 beer buckets and free drafts from kickoff until the first score for every Sunday and Monday night games. The NFL playoffs are just around the corner, so we’ll have to find out what types of specials Badda Bing! plans for the coming months.
While Badda Bing! is a traditional sports hangout with the square-shaped bar surrounded by crisp, flat-screen televisions, it differs a bit from similar locales like Gecko’s Grill & Pub and Scores Taproom & Grill. While the latter two are more family-oriented restaurants during the day, there’s no mistaking Badda Bing! for a bar. Its black ceilings and ash-gray tile floor complement its low-key lighting which keeps the inside dim even in the middle of the afternoon. It has a couple of pool tables in an adjoining area and smoking is permitted throughout. There is a cigarette machine inside.
The bar serves food, wine, liquor and a large selection of beers including (on tap) Stella Artois, Guinness, Harp, Magic Hat No. 9, Shocktop, Yuengling and the popular domestics along with a wider selection of bottles.
“It’s a hometown bar like Cheers where you come in and meet new friends,” said Joann Rossa, bartender at , 5435 15th St. E. Loyal customers even get homemade birthday cards from the bar every year.
Bubba’s Too has all the makings of an old Florida bar. Nothing fancy, dimly-lit with a wooden interior but plenty to drink for the right price. It has a full liquor bar, wine and domestic beers with a few imports thrown in like Corona and Heineken. Happy hour from 4-6 p.m. on weekdays offers $1.25 domestic drafts and $2.50 domestic bottles. The kitchen serves hungry customers fries, wings, chicken tenders, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and grilled cheese.
Smoking is permitted and cigarettes are sold from a machine in the bar. There are also video games, a jukebox, cash machine, dart boards and pool tables. Live country music bands are the predominant entertainment every Friday and Saturday night.
Bubba’s is open from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. seven days a week, 365 days of the year. The owners sold the original Bubba’s which is now D&D’s Pub in Palmetto.
Firkin & Fox Restaurant & Pub
, 2505 Manatee Ave. E., straddles that line of restaurant vs. bar, and I’m opening a can of worms if I start reviewing restaurants in the Bar Tab column. But it tips the scales ever so slightly to the bar column with an outstanding selection of import bars, a huge liquor selection and, well, it has “Pub” in the title.
The “Fox” is Bradenton’s entry into the Firkin Group, a chain of restaurant/pubs that started in the United Kingdom. While the UK chain is no longer owned by the original group, it has stayed alive in the states and elsewhere, with a dozen locations across America. The chain is notable for its various names for each location, always beginning as Firkin & “something.” Bradenton has the “Fox.”
Draft beers include Bass, Boddingtons Ale, Guinness, New Castle, Smithwick’s, Stella Artois and the usual domestics. Bottles selections include several varieties of Sam Adams, Tecate, Magner’s Cider, Red Stripe, Amstel Light and more. The bar also offers a full menu with everything from bar-food appetizers to full-course meals. The long, elegant bar in the front of the building is flanked by two large dining areas and an enclosed room on the east wing for private functions. There is ample seating outside with overhead fans.
The Fox opens every day at 11 a.m. and closes around 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, although its will remain open later on weekends, depending on the crowd.
Oneco Beach Bar
Oneco Beach Bar, 5151 15th St. E., is another small dive that has tested the trials of time. Al Kochanowski, owner for 27 years, said its history dates back to the 1950s. It doesn’t serve liquor, doesn’t have too many seats and hasn’t had a live music act in ages, but it’s one of those bars with a tight customer base that’s as close as a family.
“It’s just a watering hole for the locals and anyone else,” Kochanowsk said. “I like to call them the ‘One More Club’ because they always want one more beer before calling it quits.” Most of them are in walking distance from the little bar, he said.
The bar counter seats about 10. A couple two-seater tables abut the wall next to the bar’s lone pool table. There’s a television behind the bar counter, video games and a dart board. Pool and dart board leagues come through here on the weekdays. Karaoke is a popular activity in the evenings.
There isn’t a happy hour because the prices are good enough to make anyone happy. Drafts are $1.50, cans and bottles are $2.25 and wine and coolers are $2.50. The bar is open from 9 a.m. until midnight seven days a week.
Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar
This is the type of bar/restaurant that the Gulf coast was created for.
, 801 Riverside Drive E., takes full advantage of the beautiful scenery of the Manatee River and Florida’s warm weather. It’s dependent on it, in fact, because there is really no “inside” to Tarpon Pointe. It consists of two large tiki bars and a series of seating on a white, sandy enclave on the river where patrons can take in a sunset, a game of beach volleyball, or just lounge with a drink while live music plays in the background.
Tarpon Pointe even caters to boaters, which makes perfect sense because of its location. It offers 600-feet of docking space along the river to dock and easily stroll ashore. Vehicular parking is ample but fills up fast on the weekends; valet parking is available. There is plenty of seating along the bar counter in the tiki huts, tables and the raised platform running along the riverfront.
Happy hour is 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day with $2 domestic bottles, $1.75 domestic drafts and $4 vodka martinis. The menu includes appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers. Live music starts in the afternoon on the weekends and goes into the evening.
AROUND BRADENTON THIS WEEKEND:
- , 5722 14th St. W., has happy hour specials Monday through Friday from 9-11, 3-7 and late late night with $3.75 double shots and $2.35 domestics.
- Fred Eaglesmith, alt-country guitarist and vocalist, makes his triumphant return to , 4343 Palma Sola Blvd., at 9 p.m. Friday. Special guest: The Ginn Sisters. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
- Live music all day Saturday at , 801 Riverside Dr. E. Swamp Donkey plays from 2-5 p.m. followed by Three Piece Band from 7-11 p.m. No need to leave between bands! Happy hour drink specials from 3-6 p.m. featuring $2 domestic bottles, $1.75 domestic drafts, liquor from $3-$5 and $4 Smirnoff martinis. Happy hour food prices, too.
- Live music from Shakemode on Saturday from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. at , 1814 14th St. W. This Tampa-based trio plays contemporary and classic hits and originals tunes from every type of music from rock to funk to reggae. Check out Gator Lounge’s remodeled interior: New floor, walls, cushioned benches, new lighting and more.