Tampa Bay: My first work trip of the year

Back in December, I was asked about my availability to head out and work in Florida at some point in January. Wanting to get out of the cold and blowing of Northeast Indiana, I immediately said yes. I figured that I'd be going to Orlando, but not so. The city turned out to be Tampa Bay.

I've never been to Tampa. Well, not really. I don't count the day as a teenager my family drove up to Busche Gardens at the crack of pre-dawn, hung out for the day, then drove back to my Grandparents in Okeechobee. So I was excited to see a new place.

When I head to cities for work, especially places I've never been, all I really hope for is a couple of nights to do some exploring. I always search out decent places to eat and drink.

We arrived the day before Gaspirilla Pirate Festival, which is a festival I had not heard of before. After some research, it had the potential to get wild. This would make for interesting people watching, a favorite past time. But this being early afternoon on the day before, which left plenty of time to search the downtown area.

After grabbing a Reuben at Primo's Deli Cafe and wandering around a bit. We found a beer pub called The Pour House. My friend/co-worker Nate and I opened the joint up at 3pm. I really liked this place. It had a nice bar, around 30 craft beers on tap, friendly people, and couches! We spent a few hours there drinking new to me beers including Terrapin Oaked Wake-N-Bake, Bells Hopslam, and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

With a slight buzz it was early but time to find some dinner and head back to the hotel. We stopped at a pizza joint called Pizza Fusion and ate a mighty fine pizza and more beer.

I stumbled back to the hotel around 10pm, completely wiping out on the sidewalk at one point. I failed to see the tip in the curb and tripped. Surely the alcohol buzz had nothing to do with my coordination.

Saturday brought a short day of work because the Gaspirilla Festival basically had everything around the convention center shut down. We unloaded the truck, got changed, and walked around the madness. Now this is not nearly as bad as Mardi Gras in terms of the amount people or craziness but it's still very unique. Pirates and wenches as far as the eye could see.
And flesh. I'm still amazed at how cheap plastic beads get people to expose themselves. However I am all for it. And for the record, I did not partake in the bead throwing action, just observed some being thrown.

Thanks to our noses, we came across a restaurant called The Smoke BBQ during our wandering. This was some damn good BBQ and quite possibly the best Mac & Cheese I've ever consumed. After gorging ourselves we fought back through the mob at the heart of Gaspirilla, then quickly decided to go chill on the balcony of the hotel for a few hours.

We left the hotel just as Gaspirilla Parade was ending. We started walking. Along the way we looked down the street towards the parade. Through the tunnel and coming over the four lane bridge bridge is nothing but a massive amount of people. Their screams and chants echoed through the tunnel. It's was a massive mob of drunkenness and celebration. I've never seen a sight quite like it. I would post the picture I took of it all, but justice would not be served. We decided to get in front of the mob and ended up going back to The Pour House. We drank not nearly as many beers as the night before and watched as people quickly packed into the place. After a couple of hours we left because a very long work day awaited on Sunday.

A couple of days went by before I had time to do anything else. The next stop on the food/beer tour was an Irish Pub called Four Green Fields. The place looked like a small hut with a grass roof from the outside but once inside there was a lots of tables plus a large winding bar. I had an outstanding Shepherd's Pie with a couple of Kilkenney's Draughts. An excellent place which looked like it could be a lot of fun.

The next night we traveled to a strip mall area for some Thai food at Thai Thani Restaurant. I ate some amazing steamed dumplings and sampled Nate's awesome crab ragoon. I couldn't decide between a main course of seafood or duck. I choose seafood since I had yet to have any on this trip and I usually reserve my seafood eating for when I am near a coast. I ate an excellent dish which had muscles, clams, squid, octopus, and shrimp coated with lots of Thai red chilies. Very good going in. However around midnight the meal did not agree with me. I violently threw up three times during the night. Puking red chilies is not fun. It's too bad because it was tasty going down.

The week was winding down. We had a short Thursday. I wanted to explore more on the last day, despite my belly fears and did so. Where we ended up was possibly the best the meal of many on this trip. A restaurant called The Jerk Hut). The smells made my queasy belly rumble with joy. I couldn't decide between Ox-Tail Soup or Goat Curry. Both are meats I've never eaten. I went with the goat. Excellent. The goat meat melted in your mouth allowing you to easily pick out the cartilage and grizzle. I cannot put into words the deliciousness of the meal. It was the best eating experience of the week.

After lunch we wandered into this dive bar I wanted to check out. The Hub ) is a small, dark, historic to Tampa bar known for their generous pours. Nate got a rather large whiskey and I went with a gin & tonic, which ended up being all gin & splash of tonic. A little stronger than I usual make myself but the price was definitely worth it. Nate and myself started to talking to some of the locals, including a guy who worked for years on a carnival. We were educated in the ways of the carny as we drank. It made for an entertaining couple of hours.

It was back to the hotel with full bellies. I wanted to get out towards YBor City that night, but didn't feel 100% on taking the chance. Nate went out with a couple the other guys on the crew while stayed in the hotel room. Damn my stomach!

Friday brought a decent travel day and the arrival back to Fort Wayne. Where about 14" of snow awaited me in the driveway.
Thanks Snowpocalypse 2011.

Over all I experienced a some very great food and drinks on this trip and some good people as well. Usually I don't get this much time on a work related trip, which is nice. But man did I spend that Per Diem.

Creative Commons License Digg! submit to reddit

No comments: