The temptation when seeing a beer brewer open a restaurant is to think the food will be along the lines of chicken wings and burgers.
The new Cigar City Brewpub, however, isn’t going that route. The Tampa-based brewer opened its first full restaurant location in Tampa on Monday with a menu many ultrahip, gastro-savvy restaurants would envy.
For instance: Instead of basic fish tacos, it makes a rum-cured and white oak-smoked swordfish taco with house-pickled cabbage and pablano aioli. Instead of a basic chicken sandwich, it marinates its chicken fillets sous
“When Cigar City started making beer, we made beer we wanted to drink,” said Baye Perry, a manager of the new Carrollwood location. “It became some of the best beer in the country. We want to take that same approach to our food.”
The restaurant is an offshoot of the brewing company that’s won national and global awards for its beers. Cigar City has already built out a combination bar/tasting room at its brewing factory on Spruce Street in Tampa, and Cigar City ships its bottled beers across the country.
In a bold move for culinary circles in Tampa, Cigar City recruited as its restaurant general manager Bob Wagner, who was a top chef at the company that operates Boca Kitchen Bar & Market, Samba Room and Ciro’s Speakeasy.
A big part of the restaurant’s philosophy is finding ways to echo the heritage, and sometimes infamous, history of Tampa. Besides using local meats and vegetables, the bar menu has a “Charlie Wall” cocktail named after the notorious Tampa operative, with Jameson, mint and berries, and there’s a “Gaspar’s Treasure” named after the pirate who originally invaded the city, with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, lime and grapefruit.
The location in Carrollwood at 15491 N. Dale Mabry Hwy. was a former TGIFridays restaurant, but is entirely transformed. The interior resembles a design project among hipster architects who deconstructed a brewer and remade it into a funky restaurant. There are chandeliers made of beer cans, booths with dividers filled with barley grains and walls lined with staves from dismantled wooden barrels.
Cigar City will be brewing several beers on site, but it’ll also brew its own sodas, including its version of a Dr Pepper called “Shaman Pimienta,” and a root beer called “New Fangled Root Cream.” For those who can’t make it to the restaurant, Perry said it’s a good bet it’ll end up bottling the soda for sale in local grocery stores.