Editor’s note: Wade Tatangelo created what would eventually be called Bar Tab while working as a correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in 2003. He would continue writing about bars for Maxim, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, OC (Calif.) Weekly and The Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune as a staff writer earlier this year and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab.
There are many excellent reasons to sneak out of work early to visit a bar, and happy hour drink specials and a nice spread of free food rank pretty high on the list. Meeting up with a beautiful woman for libations is another huge incentive for risking your boss’ wrath.
After slipping out the back door of Herald-Tribune headquarters in downtown Sarasota around 4:15 p.m., I make the short trip to Evie’s Tavern on Ringling. The always affable Matt White, bartender there for the past half-year or so, greets me with a smile the moment I enter the cool, dark room with high ceilings. He soon brings me a perfectly poured pint of Southern Tier IPA.
Sipping on my tasty, potent beverage (ABV: 7.3 percent) and beginning to enjoy its soothing effects, I survey the room. Matt operates behind a long, handsome wood bar in front of a bank of booze bottles. Above, there’s a row of large flat-screen TVs.
Following one of the zillion vicious attacks shown during “Shark Week,” I glance over my shoulder at the other patrons. They range from baby boomers to a cadre of chain-smoking young professionals to a couple who probably attend college together. It’s a nice mix where pretty much anyone should feel welcome.
Behind me, there’s the table of free food, which along with the drink deals makes Evie’s a top downtown Sarasota destination spot for happy hour. Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. the bar serves $2 domestic drafts and $3.50 Three Olive vodka drinks as well as complimentary hot dogs and a random appetizer sent in from Evie’s catering.
On Tuesday, in addition to the happy hour incentives, there are $5 martinis from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays feature 2-for-1 “bomb shots” all day. Fridays get even more dangerous, with $4 Fireball Whisky from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
While Matt drops all this knowledge, I look up from my reporter’s notebook to find a beautiful brunette walking toward me. She’s a successful businesswoman who turns heads while exuding this totally sexy, blasé confidence. I’ll never really understand why she agreed to marry an old barfly like me.
My amazing wife, Kristin, sips on a Michelob Ultra with a couple fresh limes in it and I ask Matt to make me his favorite vodka drink. He brings me an Orange Creamsicle, sans the whipped cream, thankfully. Although I’m more of a scotch-and-soda guy, or at least was, the kiddie cocktail tastes, well, like the orange-flavored creamsicles we all consumed as children.
I’m hungry now and giddily tell Kristin about the free hot dogs, freshly popped popcorn and pierogies in red sauce waiting behind us. She agrees to share a plate with me but only takes a couple bites, then cuts me off before I can finish a second plate of pierogies, to leave room for the decidedly healthier lobster and crawfish tacos we’re going to have over at Eat Here.
“Man, I wish this place was around when I lived in downtown Sarasota 10 years ago,” I tell my wife. “I would’ve been here every day. Just think. For $5 I could have two Budweiser drafts, tipped a buck and had a free dinner almost every night of the week.”
Kristin smiles, because she knew me 10 years ago, and says:
“Just two beers, really?”
Evie’s Tavern on Ringling, 1989 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota; 955-3843; eviesonline.com