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Bar Tab: Best of the bars 2013

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Darwin’s on 4th HT

Tracy Paleta and John Lichtenstein try a Cigar City Florida Cracker Beer while enjoy an evening out at Darwin’s on 4th, located at 1525 Fourth Street in downtown Sarasota. It's one of Bar Tab columnist Wade Tatangelo's picks for best bars of 2013. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVES

Ever spend an hour or so at the liquor store staring at shelf after shelf of superior spirits because you only have room at the home bar for another bottle or two? That’s basically how I felt while compiling this list of Top 10 local drinking destinations. I could have easily created a Top 10 of just my favorite places for hand-crafted cocktails and a separate one for joints specializing in cheap, ice cold draft beer, which I also adore. Oh, yeah, and another devoted solely to happy hour spots that serve fun foods. Ultimately, though, I felt it only proper to spread the praise by creating 10 categories representing the best bars of 2013. Cheers.

ConnellyBuffalo

Sunset view from Lido Beach Tiki Bar. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVES

Best beach bar: Lido Beach Tiki Bar
The Ritz-Carlton owns this beauty of a bar but it’s open to the public, offering an unbeatable combo of first-rate libations and gorgeous Gulf of Mexico sunsets enjoyed from right on the sugary sands of laid-back Lido Beach. Ritz Carlton Beach Club, 1234 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 309-2000; ritzcarlton.com.

Best brewpub: Darwin’s on 4th
Darwin’s is a brewpub everyone can love. Yes, it brews superb craft beers but also excels at cocktails and banging food ranging from the ostensibly simple to the awesomely exotic. 1525 Fourth St., Sarasota. 343-2165; darwinson4th.com.

State Street _RB_HT

Bramble cocktail, a modern classic from London, pairs well with the homemade turkey sandwich at State Street Eating House in downtown Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / RON BORRESEN

Best cocktail bar: State Street Eating House
Classic cocktail culture thrives here with proprietor/chef Christian Hershman effortlessly taking customers back to an era marked by hand-crafted, old-school mixed drinks, homemade dishes and the prime recordings of Frank Sinatra. State Street also has an impressive wine list and cool collection of canned beers the mixologists pour into pint glasses. 1533 State St., Sarasota; 951-1533; statestreetsrq.com.

Best dive bar: The Drift-In
A short stumble from the sands of Bradenton Beach, The Drift-In is where you will find a full bar of strong, discounted drinks; a mostly carefree bunch of suntanned regulars; the occasional live music acts stuffed in the front corner and a jukebox partial to the songs of country greats like Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall and vintage Hank Williams Jr. 120 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, 778-9088.

Star Fish from water

View of Star Fish Co. in Cortez from the waters of north Sarasota Bay. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVES.

Best dockside bar: Star Fish Company
Nestled along north Sarasota Bay in the Old Florida fishing village of Cortez, Star Fish Co. is where you go to consume super-fresh seafood exceptionally priced and $1.41 draft beers while sitting on the dock of the bay. 12306 46th Ave W., Cortez 794-1243 starfishcompany.com.

Best happy hour bar: Libby’s Cafe + Bar
Every day from 4-7 p.m. Libby’s offers delightful deals like $5 Grey Goose, Bombay, Dewar’s, Bacardi and Jack Daniels drinks plus half-price bar plates, which are all delicious, especially the eggrolls filled with cheesesteak. 1917 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, 487-7300, libbyscafebar.com.

Aces Live HT

You can always find some action at Aces Live in West Bradenton. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVES

Best music bar: Aces Live
Aces regularly hosts shows by top national, regional and local roots/rock acts. Plus, there’s a full bar inside as well as another on the deck and the kitchen serves flavorsome Italian-American dishes. 4343 Palma Sola Blvd., Bradenton; 795-3886; aceslivemusic.com.

Best neighborhood pub: Tap & Cork
This cozy, Venice island hotspot features judiciously-chosen craft beers, hospitable bartenders, a convivial clientele and “giant Jenga,” making it the ideal place to hang with friends, or strangers who will likely be your friends after a pint or two. 101 W. Venice Ave, Venice; 488-2337; venicetapandcork.com.

Mannatees Sports Grill 2

Co-owners, Bart Mann and Mark Collings, on right, of Mannatees Sports Grill, 7423 Manatee Ave. West in Bradenton. HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVES

Best sports bar: Mannatees Sports Grill
A bunch of craft beers on tap, wine deals, liquor specials, totally tasty food including the blackened wings and the myriad TVs labeled in advanced with the game being shown on it are just a few of the many reasons this sports bar rocks. 7423 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. 794-1400; mannateessportsgrill.com.

Best wine bar (with a local connection): Central Café
Have a cocktail, have a beer here, and definitely order something to eat, but, please, don’t forget LOLA. Central Cafe chef and owner Marc Cripe’s younger brother, Seth Cripe, founded LOLA Wines about five years ago in California. These wines are uniformly tremendous. My amazing wife Kristin and I regularly go with the pinot noir, which pairs perfectly with the fish tacos filled with a generous amount of grilled rare ahi tuna and served with a heaping side of hand-cut fries. 906 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton; 757-0050; centralbradenton.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: February 19, 2014
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