Happy Hour can be a magical thing. Just a few short hours every day in which drinks are cheaper, bars are crowded, and people are happy. Knowing a good happy hour means you have the inside track. You don’t have time for that “$2 off of house wines” nonsense. No. You know the places that serve incredible cocktails, good wine selections, and sometimes even light appetizers for a price so reasonable it sometimes feels like stealing.
The next time you are looking for something to do after work on a weekday, remember that bars and restaurants all over Tampa are trying to draw you into their lounges with special pricing.
So why not let them?
#3: Bernini of Ybor
Time to leave South Howard and venture into Tampa’s most unique neighborhood…Ybor City. Ybor is where all of the famous Tampa cigar factories were once located, and the cultural mix of the Cuban, Spanish, and Italian workers therein have created an eclectic and impossible to forget neighborhood. Bernini of Ybor is a corner restaurant on 7th Ave promising “Innovative Italian Cuisine”. The restaurant is in a unique, two story building that has vaulted ceilings inside and sidewalk seating outside. Opened by restauranteur, Jason Fernandez, who sharpened his teeth at the Colombia Restaurant down the block, at the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, and then under Wolfgang Puck, Bernini promises that it is “Not an impersonal corporate chain, but rather an eclectic eatery where the cuisine compliments your surroundings without compromising your wallet.” This place offers a fun environment, rustic Italian food, and a great bar menu.
Speaking of the bar menu, absolutely every single day until 7 pm, you can enjoy $3 Finlandia Martinis. There are 13 different flavors to choose from! Also daily, between 4 pm and 7 pm, guests can enjoy 50% pasta and entrées. If you want to go out in Ybor on a Friday or Saturday night, start at Bernini’s for dinner and drinks, and then hit 7th from there.
Recommendations: Two or three lemon martinis. The Crispy Duck entreé, and the Rigatoni Bolognese.
Your Bill: $34
This place is frustratingly difficult to Google. Go ahead, try a search for “Cheap bar, Tampa.” You will get a list of dives and chains, but this place likely won’t appear until you add the street it is on (South Howard Avenue). Also, Cheap is somewhat of a misnomer. Situated on the ground floor of a boxy brick building that takes up an entire block on South Howard, one of Tampa’s more notorious party streets, Cheap is a swanky little lounge that consists of three bars and three different kitchens, all with a unique vibe. The first room feels like a club, the second like a trendy restaurant, and the third is vaguely like a dive. The menu is large, and segmented by kitchen. There is an American section, an Asian/Sushi section, and a Spanish section (note: Spanish, not Mexican). You can order off of any of the menus, and based on your selections those orders will be delivered to three different chefs in three different kitchens, and they will come out whenever they’re ready, so don’t count on course-planning here.
This place makes the list for “best happy hour”, because of their 5 for $5 promotion. It isn’t as simple as a daily happy hour. It takes place Thursdays (all day), and again on Fridays & Saturdays from 5-8pm. This is one of those elusive weekend happy hours, and the selection is fantastic. You can choose from a diverse list of menu items, and a great little cocktail list. Everything listed will be just $5 each. If you are looking for an inexpensive place to grab a bite and a few drinks on a Friday or Saturday night, you absolutely will not do better than this.
Recommendations: Calamari Fritos & a Shrimp Tempura Roll. A coconut mojito followed by your choice of a call drink.
Your bill: $20.
This Gastrobar is new to South Howard Ave, but it is a fantastic place to enjoy a few cocktails. You can choose from their main bar which is situated right on Howard Ave, right behind some floor-to-ceiling windows that open completely to make the whole place feel like a patio or the super swanky rooftop bar that will make you wonder why everyone in Tampa doesn’t spend more time on roofs. (Fair warning, the downstairs and upstairs menus differ slightly.) Bulla is an inventive Gastrobar that is quickly growing, with locations in Coral Gables, Doral, Winter Park, Atlanta, Tampa, Plano, and Charlotte. But just because people in other cities are in on the secret doesn’t make this place any less fun. Here is what Bulla says about themselves: “why all the buzz? the bar and open kitchen design set the mood with an energetic vibe. the emphasis is on quality gastronomic creations made with the finest and freshest flavors. with tantalizing tapas, seasonal menus, hand-crafted cocktails, and an impressive wine list, bulla is where you go to indulge in a celebration of good taste.” (source).
This swanky new place made the Best Happy Hour list because every weekday between 5 pm and 7 pm, every drink on the menu is half off. You can get a craft cocktail, a glass of wine, a bottle of wine, or a pitcher of sangria for half off the listed price. There aren’t any deals on food, but Howard has a great food scene. If you are planning a night out, definitely start at Bulla for drinks, then you can either decide to stay to enjoy dinner, or pack it up and try someplace new on the block.
Recommendations: A pitcher of the red Sangría (always trust a Spanish place to make a great Sangría). You should get 3-4 glasses out of each pitcher.
Your Bill: $14.50
Dinner and drinks don’t have to break the bank in Tampa. Try one of the three fantastic places on this list, and try not to drunk text anyone important.