Make us your home page
Instagram

Bar review: Ybor City's Big Easy Bar does its NOLA muse proud

I first wandered into the Big Easy Bar in Ybor City during a raucous pub crawl.

Escaping the crowds in Ybor is an old pastime of mine, and this was a classic case. While The Lion's Den next door was wall-to-wall, with a long wait for drinks, the Big Easy Bar was wide open and relatively quiet — a much closer speed to what I wanted.

The Big Easy is a unique addition to the escape route. Rather than a lesser-known hole in the wall, which is where I usually find some relief from the party scene, the Big Easy is a very large, highly visible place right along a busy stretch of Seventh Avenue.

On weekends, the Big Easy's two full bars get plenty of action, and there's a spacious dining area that can handle a nice crowd. And it is liable to get crowded on the weekends, even if the vibe is less intense than at neighboring spots. On weekdays and other slow nights, it's big without feeling empty; chilled-out but only slightly removed from the perpetual party outside.

That's not to say that the Big Easy has no party vibe. You'll find the beads, carnival masks and other decorations that you'd associate with Mardi Gras, all worked into a faux French Quarter setting, complete with a balcony façade in the back.

Cheap shots are on the menu (Tullamore Dew and Captain Morgan are $5 all day, every day), there's plenty of draft beer, and live music is, of course, a staple. The whole thing is New Orleans-themed, and no city says "party" more than New Orleans.

New Orleans' French Quarter, of course, is known for Bourbon Street, which I think is a reasonably scaled-up approximation of Ybor City. Not even a block from Bourbon Street, amazingly, is my favorite French Quarter bar: Erin Rose. While the tourists are drinking $16 frozen daiquiris in light-up glasses 20 feet away, I'm enjoying a nice (and cheap) cocktail.

The Big Easy is much more high-profile than Erin Rose, but for me, it serves a similar purpose. It's a great place to have a drink and kick back for a while when you need a breather from the rest of the town.

As far as having a drink goes, I'd put that even higher on the list of reasons to visit. There is a nice selection of draft beers, including a handful of Abita brews — I'd love to see some NOLA Brewing on there someday — and an interesting selection of spirits, including Bayou rum distilled in Lacassine, just outside of Lake Charles.

The cocktail program at the Big Easy is killer. The list is fairly extensive, clocking in at 22 options, and it features an even mix of house takes on the classics, alongside some unique concoctions. If you only notice 20 cocktails on the printed menu, that's because two of them are rotating selections aging in barrels behind the bar. One of the current ones, for example, is a barrel-aged Boulevardier.

I tried one of the most elaborate cocktails on the list, the Centro Viejo. Ostensibly inspired by New Orleans' Vieux Carré, this drink uses the flavor profile of its predecessor — potent but sweet, with a classic vermouth-and-bitters edge — as direction rather than blueprint, creating a similarly robust cocktail with wildly different ingredients, ranging from Rhum Clément Barrel Select to black tea and vanilla syrup. Elaborate recipes can easily lead to failure, but this one easily passed the test.

Other noteworthy entries include the VooDoo Child (Hendricks gin and elderflower liqueur with cucumber and celery bitters, served in an oak-smoked glass) and the Angel's Envy Feature, which is a dealer's choice option involving the eponymous whiskey.

This latter option is your bartender's chance to shine, and mine did not disappoint, crafting a straightforward cocktail of Angel's Envy, a splash of simple syrup and Zucca, an Italian aperitif made with rhubarb, citrus and spices. Simple as can be, yet it was a completely new flavor combination for me.

Aside from the drinks, I just plain like the feel of the place. The brick and wood interior is nicely balanced with some low-key lighting and a few colorful flourishes, like fresh flowers and a cornucopia of garnishes, fruit, herbs and ingredients for cocktails along the bar. As far as themed bars and restaurants go, this one is on the money. The only thing that could make it more New Orleans is if the bar stayed open until sunrise, but alas, we're stuck with these boring old Florida laws. Given the rest of the positives, I'm willing to let this technicality slide.

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

Bar review: Ybor City's Big Easy Bar does its NOLA muse proud 05/18/17 [Last modified: Thursday, May 18, 2017 1:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91

    Obituaries

    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  2. If you miss out on Retro Futura tour, you'll be needing a little 'Tenderness'

    Blogs

    Closing out Retro Futura Week is a little bit of a cheat. We started the week with the English Beat and we end it with an offshoot of the Beat, the band General Public and their hit …

  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 20

    Events

    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T. rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    Eliana Goldberg, 5, of Wesley Chapel looks at a Lego sculpture called "Everlasting" at The Art of the Brick exhibit, which opened Friday in Tampa and runs through Sept. 4. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 19

    Events

    Monster Jam Triple Threat Series: Come early for the Pit Party ($15 or free at local Ford dealers) to meet the drivers and get pictures with the trucks. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $15-$80. (813) 301-2500.

    A crew member from the El Toro Loco monster truck, installs a truck tire, Thursday, 8/17/17 in preparation for Saturday's  Monster Jam Triple Threat Series at Amalie Arena, Tampa. The event will be held Saturday at 1pm and 7 pm.