Tampa Bay Times: Six Amazing, Unconventional Tiki Bars

Tampa Bay Times: Six Amazing, Unconventional Tiki Bars

Tiki bars come in all shapes, sizes and spirits. Some of them do, in fact, double as laid-back beach bars. Others sneak up and surprise you in sleek restaurants and trendy drinking districts.

Here are six of Tampa Bay's best and most unconventional spins on the traditional tiki bar.

Creative Loafing Review: New bar Saigon Blonde aims to be "an escape" in downtown St. Petersburg

Creative Loafing Review: New bar Saigon Blonde aims to be "an escape" in downtown St. Petersburg

Intentionally mixing history and fiction, the narrative look of the new bar features design elements like commissioned artwork and custom fixtures to create “a surreal setting unlike any other in the Tampa Bay area.” The owner partnered with Pinellas Park’s Creative Arts Unlimited, Inc. and St. Pete’s Wax & Hive to bring Saigon Blonde to life, and much of the art, which is a crucial component of the bar, was done by local contemporary realist Jean Michael Fait.

St.Pete Foodies: Exotic Cocktails with a Splash of Tropical, Post Vietnam War at Saigon Blonde

St.Pete Foodies: Exotic Cocktails with a Splash of Tropical, Post Vietnam War at Saigon Blonde

Saigon Blonde is a one-of-a-kind lounge & cocktail bar that takes you to a different world. From their exotic cocktail menu, to their extraordinary post-Vietnam War themed decor, to their talented bartenders, they provide St. Pete with a fascinating experience. A night out for cocktails at Saigon Blonde is unlike any other in the area. Kevin, Lori and I had a great time sipping on these cocktails and we especially loved the presentation of each one!

15 mezcal cocktails to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Tampa Bay

15 mezcal cocktails to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Tampa Bay

Unlike tequila, which must only be made from blue agave, mezcal can be made from more than 30 types of agave. This is why all tequilas are mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequila. There are also differences in how and where the production of both spirits goes down.

Now back to the celebrating. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, follow our guide to 15 mezcal cocktails crafted by Mexican eateries and drinking dens around town.

Creative Loafing: Paper straws drive the sustainability efforts we're seeing at Tampa Bay bars

Creative Loafing: Paper straws drive the sustainability efforts we're seeing at Tampa Bay bars

Downtown St. Pete’s Saigon Blonde has incorporated a tropical aesthetic into its paper straw design. The replicas of bamboo culm complete the cocktails, including classic Mai Tais, guests enjoy while people-watching on Central Avenue.

Owner Peri Bandazian, a firm believer in the anti-plastic straw movement, launched Saigon Blonde last year with paper straws. And good thing, too, according to bartender Marisa Shaw. Based on the amount of straws the bar goes through on a monthly basis, Shaw says she couldn’t imagine using the plastic kind or how it would impact the environment, especially Florida beaches and sea life.

Tampa Bay Times: New Cocktail Bar

Tampa Bay Times: New Cocktail Bar

Saigon Blonde offers a full bar with cocktail service in the lounge areas. Bar manager Jenna Conway and program co-creator Jason Dyer have crafted drinks that boast a serious lineup of tropical ingredients and flavors (rambutan puree, for instance) and mesh together to create light, refreshing cocktails you won't find anywhere else. Served in good old-fashioned barware, tiki heads and even fresh coconuts, these are drinks that feel special but have a price and profile that encourage you to order another.

Tampa Bay Times: New Restaurants and Bars in Saint Petersburg

Tampa Bay Times: New Restaurants and Bars in Saint Petersburg

Best Cocktail list featuring Saigon Blonde in the Tampa Bay area. Saigon Blonde is a high-concept bar with a Vietnam War-era theme, design details and exotic cocktails.

Tampa Bay Times Review: Saigon Blonde in St. Petersburg is an immersive experience

Tampa Bay Times Review: Saigon Blonde in St. Petersburg is an immersive experience

The space at 265 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg has always seemed out of place. Surrounded by a cigar lounge, restaurants and cocktail bars, its most recent dance-club incarnations never quite meshed with the block's entertainment scene. 

So what better successor than a bar so thematically ambitious that fitting into the neighborhood isn't even a consideration? 

That bar — the newly opened Saigon Blonde — is already one of the most exciting concepts I've experienced in the Tampa Bay area. It would be a disservice not to pass along the word now, even if there are some kinks to be ironed out.