BOTTOMS UP: Bartender Chelsea Barrios pours a round at The Kennedy.
Last Friday night, a gang of good friends and I set out for SoHo to experience its illustrious nightlife firsthand.
Our adventure began with pre-gaming at Cheap, a swanky restaurant and bar bathed in muted glowing lights in hues of red and blue, its cushy seating accented by faux-fur. We nibbled sliders and shoestring fries and nursed fancy cocktails (one Acai Blueberry Cosmo, please) before making our way down to The Kennedy for the month's first edition of Forever Fridays, where the ladies get in and drink for free until 11 p.m.
There, we did a round of Lemon Drop shots. We got our red sippy cups filled up. We did some mingling and bobbing to hip-hop on the inside, and soaked up the dank wafting reggae vibes on the patio outside before finally venturing back out toward the Howard Avenue strip.
FRIDAY NIGHT LINES: A crowd gathers outside The Dubliner Irish Pub.
A group consensus that popular watering hole MacDinton’s was outside the clubbier specifics of our mission, and a failed attempt to stop at The DrYnk (all we wanted was a slice of life, man) ultimately led us to our final destination — and, much to my surprise, my favorite place of the night — Hyde Park Café, party capital of SoHo and the heart of Tampa’s underground house scene.
Fridays are for Serious Soul and house music with resident Brian Busto, joined by whomever he decides to invite to the booth. (You can read the full story on HPC and its scene here
.) We hung with the VIPs, got down with our bad selves to pumping house music and, at the end of the night, as we stumbled our way to the cab that had come to take us back to St. Petersburg, came to the unanimous conclusion that hanging in SoHo on a Friday night ain’t half bad.
Annie Orban (pictured left): “It’s a great place for a girls' night out. The sushi is really good and you can have a conversation without getting blown out by the music.”
Mireille Fernandez (right): “We wanted to grab a bite to eat and a few drinks without all the craziness. I like the Asian cowboy feel and the ambience of the space.”
Next stop for the twosome? “Sometimes we go to The DrYnk. Tonight it’s Green Lemon, formerly The Lime.”
Jho Gonzalez at the SPOT Hookah and Cigar Bar.
Outside The SPOT Hookah & Cigar Bar
Jho Gonzalez, 28, originally from Colombia but a Tampa resident since 1996: “I usually frequent South Tampa a lot. A lot of the bouncers know me around here, for good reasons, not bad reasons.
“Usually I go to MacDinton’s, Yard of Ale. This place has opened up recently so I thought I’d check it out. I’m meeting a few friends here.
“It’s usually about the nightlife and usually more mature then, say, Ybor. Ybor sometimes has a lot of young kids. Usually here, a lot of these places are 21 and over. It’s not the most mature crowd, but it’s a little more mature. At least you don’t have the police here in riot gear, where usually in Ybor that’s your Friday or Saturday.”
DRINKS AL FRESCO: The patio at The Kennedy.
At Hyde Park Café
Anthony Shelby comes to Hyde Park Café for its atmosphere. “It’s a chill place and a great place to hang out with friends. It’s not too crowded, you have your outdoor-ness — I like it.” Drink of choice? “Grey Goose, all the way.”
At The Kennedy
Sheila (left): “I come to the Kennedy for its atmosphere. Less drama than other places.” Her drink of choice? “Grey Goose and Ciroc.”
Jennifer Lopez, 23: “This is the only place I’ll come on a Friday. I come every first Friday [of the month]. It’s the crowd here — young and fun … all the checks come in at the first of the month, so there’s more people.”