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Entries in Creative Loafing Best of the Bay (2)

Sunday
Jan022011

Independent Bar Tampa: BEST OF THE BAY/BEST NEW RESTAURANT

 

CREATIVE LOAFING WEEKLY

BEST NEW RESTAURANT 2010
The Independent, Seminole Heights


In spite of the economy, there were many potential contenders for this coveted award. However, there was only one new spot that combined all the qualities that signify a great restaurant: good atmosphere, fine service and food that is far better than a diner might expect. Surprisingly, that restaurant was a beer bar where food wasn’t even on the menu for the first six months. Thankfully, The Independent Seminole Heights has Christopher Tolan in the kitchen putting small but meaningful touches on a simple menu of exceptional bar food, making each dish into something special, creating an experience that both suits and transcends the humble nature of the restaurant. 5016 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-341-4883

Thursday
Aug192010

Creative Loafing Restaurant review: The Independent — Seminole Height’s new beer bar is one of the best new restaurants of 2010

August 19, 2010 at 10:58 am by Brian Ries

food_review_23 webThe Independent
4 stars
5016 N Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-341-4884.

(Ed. note: In the print version of this story, we had an incorrect name for The Independent’s chef, as well as an error in the author of this piece. It has been corrected in this version.)

When the folks behind St. Pete’s iconic beer bar — The Independent — announced they’d be opening up an outpost in Seminole Heights, a lot of locals felt that it was about time. Not for the place to expand, per se, but just that Tampa’s pepretually up and coming bohemian neighborhood would finally have the kind of neighborhood beer bar that would suit Heights denizens. Add in the outdoor space under the roof of the converted old gas station, some clever seating built from stained two-by-fours in the interior, and the Independent’s wonderful selection of ever-changing taps and bottles, and you had a place that seemed destined for the Heights.

The only thing missing was food, something that the Independent’s mothership in downtown St. Pete never fussed with. Then, about a month ago, that changed. This Independent would have a menu, and it sounded promising — just a small selection of casual dishes designed more as beer accompaniment than dinner destination, a convenience for folks out for a beer who didn’t want to drive dow the stret to Ella’s or the Refinery for a nosh.

Who knew that this simple idea would result in one of the best examples of pub grub in the entire Bay area?

Well, Chris Tolan had an inkling. He’s the driving force behind the Independent’s menu, and he waxed poetic to me about his culinary dreams almost six months ago when he ran a miracle berry booth at CL’s Sensory Overload arts fest. At the time, I was intrigued. Then, when I saw the final menu recently, I was pleased but unexcited. It took a meal at the Independent, complete with the beer that’s the bar’s raison d’etre, to truly appreciate Tolan’s vision.

Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the menu. Beer brat, cheese plate, veggie burger, grilled cheese — all of these seem innocuous enough, until they hit the table. But then, with your first bite, you realize that Tolan has pushed his bar food well past the usual, into the the kind of culinary innovation that is beyond the talents of most fine restaurants, let alone a pub.

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