TAMPA, Fla. — Warning, you may come into contact with peanuts if you take this excursion during the 40th Republican National Convention in Tampa Aug. 27-30. Most of the suggested bars are within a 10-minute taxi ride from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the RNC is being held.
Gaspar's Grotto: The peanut risk is extremely high here if you care to enjoy Gaspar's Grotto in the Ybor City area of Tampa. Spiced boiled peanuts were the reason I stayed for a few more pints.
Owner Eric Schiller, a retired sea captain, made a study of the best taverns in ports the world over and incorporated the best features into this must-visit in Ybor City. Exploring the history of this cigar-making section of Old Tampa is worth the time.
Columbia Restaurant: Just a few blocks from Gaspar's Grotto is one of my favorite American bars and restaurants, which has surpassed the century mark. The tile work and carpentry are beautiful. The paella and alcachotas will make the trip worth it even if your candidate does not receive enough votes. Casimiro Hernandez Sr. emigrated from Cuba and opened Columbia in 1905; it's now run by the fourth generation. You will feel part of the familia as soon as you walk in the door and order an ice cold Estrella beer. A nice selection of cavas also is a plus at Columbia. Perhaps you can celebrate your nominee's success with a Spanish bubbly.
The Hub: If Mitt Romney wants to meet salt-of-the earth types who enjoy a stiff drink, here is the place to find them. Formica has not been forgotten here, and though not high on glitz, it smacks of a great dive bar. Glancing across the street, you might recall the glory days of Ike's presidency after you see the deteriorating Woolworth's sign. If you're going to the Tampa Theatre for any entertainment, it's just next door.
Tiny Tap: Per my research, you would be in one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously operating beer joints in Tampa. Cash only.
The simple cinder block building is not much to look at, but the free market reigns here. How so? In Florida, if less than 10 percent of your sales are derived from food, you can smoke inside. Last time I was in the Tiny Tap, I was watching a football game, and the older, local gentleman seated next to me and I started talking about our college football days. He had a bit more to talk about, because it was former Heisman Trophy winner Howard "Hopalong" Cassady from Ohio State. Great local crowd with inexpensive pool, foosball and darts to play while you discuss your party agenda.
Whiskey Joe's: One of my top 10 beach bars in a U.S. metro area. You can start here because it is near the airport and can provide for a beautiful sunset if you are bringing your significant other. Interesting menu to boot as you sit next to the outdoor taps.
If you go
Columbia Restaurant, 2117 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa; 813-248-4961; columbiarestaurant.com.
Gaspar's Grotto, 1805 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa; 813-248-5900; gasparsgrotto.com.
The Hub, 719 N. Franklin St., Tampa; 813-229-1553; thehubbartampa.com.
Tiny Tap Tavern, 2105 W. Morrison Ave., Tampa; 813-254-3872.
Whiskey Joe's, 7720 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa; 813-281-0770; whiskeyjoestampa.com.
Best Tampa Bay watering holes for RNC visitors
Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City area of Tampa (Handout)