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Tarpon Pointe Grill: Taste of Old Florida

It's Key West right in our own backyard. Is this just the most perfect setting in the world, or what?

Every coastal town in Florida needs a place like Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar, 801 Riverside Drive E. Its location on the banks of the Manatee River, the palm trees around it and the straw roofs of the tiki huts are what Florida natives mean when they say "Old Florida."

Listening to the live, tropical music on a sunny afternoon while the palm trees shimmer in the breeze, well, it's Key West here, right in our own backyard. It blends classy and laid back. It’s a destination where guests can eat, dine or just hang out comfortably in a dress shirt and khakis – or cut-offs and a pair of flip flops.

Tarpon Pointe's slogan is, "Where elegance meets Old Florida," and that seems about right.

“We don’t want to just be known as a great bar,” said Tarpon Pointe’s proprietor, Kelly Gotha. “We want to be known as a destination.”

The site is comprised of two distinct drinking and dining sections. One is the main bar. It’s a grass-covered tiki hut surrounded by white, powdery sand and a partial wooden deck where seating offers breathtaking views of the Manatee River. You’re a stone’s throw from the live music.

The main dining area is in a separate but similar structure. And the atmosphere is much the same – no need to put on a suit and tie to get in, but feel free. There’s a bar, televisions, fans mounted above the diners and plenty of places to sit. But this area is a bit farther away from the band’s stage (which also is covered by a tiki) and has thick, partially-clear plastic visors that can be pulled down if weather conditions call for it.

No matter where you sit – the main dining area, the bar, the second-floor observation deck or one of the many seats on the boardwalk or nestled in powdery, white sand – visible are the blue waters of the Manatee River and the handful of condos and upscale houses of Riviera Dunes in Palmetto.

Due west is Bradenton’s new Riverwalk. Is this just the most perfect setting in the world, or what?

Tarpon Pointe has live music seven days a week. On the weekends the music starts early and is usually an acoustic or one-man band playing popular classics with a tropical twist. The stage is under its own small tiki hut, if there’s only a light rain and it’s not blowing from all directions, the live music can go on. But Tarpon Pointe has had to cancel its music before because of inclement weather.

But that doesn’t mean Tarpon Pointe itself closes. Their new rainy day special actually gives patrons reason to stick around: When it rains, draft beers are two for one and Bar Bite appetizers are half price. Curt Wilson, one of Tarpon Pointe’s servers, recalled when management first introduced that “rain special.” Since word has started to spread, a dreary day at Tarpon Pointe is anything but.

“People had it in their minds that Tarpon Pointe shuts down when it’s raining,” he said. “The customers were excited when they found out about this.”

Outside of the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour, drink prices are $3.25 for draft beers, $3.50 for domestic bottles, $4.25-$5.50 for imports, $5 for wells and $5.25-$7.50 for top shelf. Wines start at $5.50.

The recently-extended happy hour offers $2.50 domestic bottles, $4 Smirnoff matinis and $5 house wines.

Tarpon Pointe also offers catering and private parties, flat-screen televisions with NFL Sunday Ticket, volley ball courts, corn hole, and 600 feet of dock space. It's also family friendly. Patrons under 21 are welcome but they can't sit at the tiki bar.

Around Bradenton this weekend:

  • In Cahoots, 5917 Manatee Ave. W., has a pool tournament every Friday night. Registration starts at 8 p.m.
  • Kettle of Fish is playing at Ace's Lounge, 4343 Palma Sola Blvd., at 9 p.m. Friday. They describe their music as a rootsy blues rock with soul. No cover tonight.
  • Distillery Tavern, 450 Old Main St., is open for breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday. Stop in and try a slice of three different breakfast pizzas: Eggs Benedict, Bacon Egg & Cheese Scramble or Sausage Gravy. Bloody Marys are $3.50, domestic pints are $1.75 and wells are $2 drinks until 7 p.m.
  • “It’s Never Too Late for a Halloween Party” at the Hi-Way Bar, 420 301 Blvd. E. This is the bar’s monthly party that falls on the first Saturday of every month with free food, courtesy of the Dorics family (the Hi-Way’s owners) and side dishes from patrons. Poker starts at 1 p.m. and the food goes on at 5 p.m. There’s a costume competition scheduled for 7 p.m.
  • Watch all NFL games at Badda Bing! Bar, 7004 Cortez Rd. BaddaBing has NFL Sunday Ticket, a free buffet during the afternoon games on Sunday and free draft beer – that includes any beer on draft -  for all night games from kick off to the first score.

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