I ventured out of my Cincinnati/Tristate area roots to go spring breaking in Tampa, Florida. While I know that this blog is about Cincinnati bars, I will say that there were enough Cincinnatians with me to dilute the unique Florida experience.
The bar isn’t advertised. There is not a billboard to attract tourists. This place is tucked away underneath a bunch of condominiums and hard to get into without a reservation or a bit of name dropping. Luckily for my group we had both means of entry.
Or at least I thought…
Unluckily for me, I am easily thrown for loops and I have friends who can’t help but mess with my head. When we walked up to the man standing at the valet stand next to the small sign that read Ciro’s Speakeasy and Supper Club and told him we had a reservation he asked us for a password. My group had plotted against me and made the password ‘OUT OF SEASON PEACHES’ as a way to make fun of me for demanding a detour to a peach farm that did not have any peaches…because while the sun was shining and the temperatures were high, it was still March.
The makeshift bouncer told us that password would work if we would have shown up five minutes earlier, but that, unfortunately, that specific password had already expired. Our eyes widened as I checked my phone for another password and my friend pulled out his phone to call his sister, head chef of the restaurant. After a good five to seven minutes of ridicule from the bouncer, he finally cracked a smile and told us he was informed to not let us in just to get our heart rates up before we were wined and dined by one of the finest restaurants around.
Heart rates up, stomachs empty and hope high for a decadent meal, it was apparent that we all needed a drink. We were given one of the larger rooms with couch seating and pillows all around. Tiny square tables adorned the room as the waiter explained the unique drink menus. Our friend insulted the waiter by thoughtlessly ordering a ‘Jack n coke.’ The waiter closed his eyes in agony and we explained to our dear friend that this is not a bar, but rather a unique experience where they concoct their own creations rather than a two-ingredient drink. She informed the waiter she would accept anything with Whiskey and he went off to place the order.
The drinks while unique happened to be a bit strong for our tastes. Few of us were able to handle more than one, but with the exceptional food we all kept shoveling into our mouths, we didn’t have much room for intoxicating concoctions anyway.
The food at this place screams anything BUT ‘hole-in-the-wall’, and rightfully so. This place is by far the best kept secret I have ever experienced. I’ll take chicken fingers and a Bud Light at a dreary bar any night of the week, but on our March spring break 2012, this place could very well have made my year.
Our friend’s sister, as I mentioned who is top chef of Ciro’s, aided us in ordering nearly every tempting dish on the menu from scallops to quail egg atop a raw dish all the way to my favorite dish, baked oysters. Having never heard of half the foods we were to be subjected to, I was a bit weary of them. I was surprised to have discovered, though, that my friends and I could very well have a taste for high-class food!
Every plate brought out is meant to share among the group, and there was not a dish that did not leave our room empty. ‘Mmm’s’ and ‘yums’ filled our dark-lit room until the final desert dishes of fruit with a chocolate dip and a waffle adorned with bacon was brought out and instantly devoured. We all wished we were able to indulge in more of the savory drink creations, but after our 14-hour drive from Cincinnati that day, we accepted defeat from the seemingly never-ending decadent dishes.
Nearly two hours of indulgence and casually hanging out with the waiters and bus boys later, we all had to head back to our friend’s sister’s place for the night. We were greeted in the parking lot by the truck pulled right to the door by the valet before we even stepped foot outside. Leaving more stuffed than drunk ,we knew that this hidden treasure of Tampa had been well worth the find.