COMMENTS

Bar Tab: Tap & Cork in Venice, Florida

/
BarTab_1

John Soos plays "giant Jenga" while enjoying a craft beer during happy hour at Tap & Cork in Venice. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

I arrive before 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday expecting the place to be empty. Wrong. All but one of the nine stools at the Tap & Cork in downtown Venice – or “Venice Island” or just “The Island” as the locals call it – are occupied. The empty seat is in a cramped corner that makes me claustrophobic just glancing at it.

I pause, awkwardly, to survey the dark, cool room. Everybody seems to know everybody, except, well, me. A gentleman looking old enough to collect social security enters, is greeted by name and takes the last vacant stool. Another fellow appearing to be in his early 30s gets up to use the men’s room and I stand behind his seat to order a drink. But there’s a glare in my eyes, which don’t work too well even with my glasses on, and I can’t clearly read the chalkboard announcing the rotating cast of 20 craft beers on tap. Frustrated, but trying my best not to show it, I ask the bartender to please bring me whatever IPA she recommends.

I sink back into the high top area and sip my potent (ABV: 8 percent) pint of Twisted Pine Hoppy Knight India Black Ale that costs $6.50. A poster with the venerable Cigar City Brewing logo on it reads, “Tap & Cork: The Craftiest Pub in Town.” I realize my source must be correct, I have found the best craft beer bar in Venice. And for that, I’m happy.

But I’m also a bit lonely. I’m feeling a long way from my home in West Bradenton. Someone else gets up to use the restroom and I notice under the bar there are hooks for women to put their handbags. My amazing wife Kristin loves those things and I’m wishing she was here with me. It has been a long time since I’ve been at a bar by myself and I’m not sure exactly how to behave.

Bartab_2

Austin Soos plays "giant Jenga" while enjoying a beer during happy hour at Tap & Cork in Venice.  STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO.

A couple eventually gets up to leave and I plop down in a stool to order a second beer. Closer to the action, I can read just about everything now and order a Mutiny IPA from Capital Brewery in Wisconsin (ABV: 6.2 percent; $6), which I enjoy even more than my first tasty selection. I throw myself into a conversation and I’m soon invited by John Soos (age 52) and his son Austin Soos (age 22) to play some Jenga. Well, not real Jenga. Jenga with giant wood blocks. I feel like a freshman girl just peeled off the gymnasium wall and asked to slow dance by the quarterback.

After about 15 minutes of precise maneuvering, I manage not to be the one who knocks down the Jenga tower and we share a lot of laughs. By the end of my hour-plus long stay at the Tap & Cork, I feel like a regular. It’s only my second visit to Venice and I want to return, with Kristin, and do a better job of working my way up and down that craft beer menu at Tap & Cork. I inquire about the best hotels within walking distance, restaurants, etc., and promise to return.

Tap & Cork, 101 W. Venice Ave, Venice; 488-2337; venicetapandcork.com

Tap & Cork
101 W. Venice Ave, Venice;
488-2337;
venicetapandcork.com

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 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 in 2013 and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: September 19, 2013
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.
COMMENTS