At most Irish pubs, guests will encounter some combination of shamrock and leprechaun imagery, Guinness signs and possibly Dropkick Murphys playing on the jukebox.
Thatís about what I expected a bit more than a decade ago when I first visited Tampaís Four Green Fields, an Irish pub that has been around since the early í90s. Instead, I found an odd-looking structure capped with a traditional, Irish thatched roof. Inside, there was an old Sinn Fťin recruitment poster on the wall. The bartender had an Irish accent. This was not Benniganís.
The place was so legit that Sinead OíConnor once played a concert in it, and thatís with a capacity that canít be much over 100. If you were looking for the real deal, this was it, and that has remained the case for more than a quarter century.
In recent years, Four Green Fields has grown, expanding into two satellite locations: one at the Airside E terminal at Tampa International Airport, one in Section 123 inside Amalie Arena. Last summer, its owners won a bid to open a new bar and restaurant at downtown Tampaís Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, expanding the company into a full-fledged chain.
This raises the question: How many times can you reproduce a concept before it begins to lose authenticity? From a cozy pub on Platt Street to plastic cups of beer served during Lightning games ó is it still the real deal?
Seemingly in response, I was greeted at Four Green Fieldsí new location ó which opened last month ó by the jarring juxtaposition of a row of illuminated palm trees rising up next to Four Green Fieldsí legally trademarked thatched roof (this one covers only part of the entrance, rather than the full pub of the original), with the University of Tampaís minarets towering in the background.
Inside, however, I found a fairly typical Irish pub ó wood everything, lots of whiskey, Guinness on tap ó decorated with reproductions of many of the newspapers, posters and photographs from the original location, along with various memorabilia, like soccer kits and hurleys (used, of course, in the Irish sport of hurling), scattered throughout.
Thereís a small area for live music, opposite two perpendicular bars that cover a surprising amount of floor space. You could probably fit a Sinead OíConnor concert in here, as long as you didnít promote it too heavily.
On the tap wall, thereís a large, lit-up photo of Kinnitty Castle Hotel, a property in County Offaly, Ireland, that belongs to the Four Green Fields group. On tap, some Irish beers like Guinness, Harp, Smithwicks and Kilkennyís, along with four house beers, contract-brewed by local breweries such as 81 Bay. The current options: an Irish red, Monks Brew witbier, a seasonal blonde ale and Kinnitty Castle IPA.
The original Four Green Fields has always been great when it came to whiskey, and this one isnít far off. Thereís plenty of excellent bourbon and scotch (shout out to Old Pulteney), but the Irish whiskey menu shines, whether it is budget-friendly-but-uncommon labels like Douhans and Teeling, or higher-end stuff like Redbreast, Tyrconnell and Green Spot. Of course, thereís also lots of Jameson, which isnít a bad thing, considering the interesting stuff the distilleryís been doing lately, especially in the Caskmates series.
Itís very classic and simple ó not a sports bar, not upscale, no cheesy theme. Iíll admit that it does seem a little less authentic relative to its sister location on Platt Street, which is probably inevitable given its location at a downtown waterfront park.
But when you forget about the barís lineage and enjoy it for what it is, youíll find it to be a very comfortable pub, well-suited for pints and conversation, live music and merrymaking. Itís new and needs a little bit of time to develop that lived-in feel that every good pub has, but itís got all the pieces needed to make that happen. And, really, thatís all the authenticity it needs.
Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.
Four Green Fields
702 N Ashley Drive, Tampa; (813) 254-4444; fourgreenfields.com
The vibe: A traditional Irish pub on the downtown Tampa waterfront.
Food: Appetizers, soups and salads, $4 to $13; entrees, $7 to $18.
Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $4.25 to $7; wine, $7 to $13 by the glass and $26 to $75 by the bottle; liquor, $6 to $14.
Specialty: Try the line of four house beers, contract-brewed by local breweries such as 81 Bay Brew Co.: thereís an Irish red ale, a blonde, a witbier and an IPA. If youíre in a cocktail mood, check out one of the house cocktails, like the Black Irish Stone Sour: James Black Barrel, orange juice and orange bitters over ice with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry. Whiskey lovers would do well to peruse the barís solid selection of Irish whiskies, from the range of recent Jameson projects to single pot still whiskies like Redbreast and Green Spot.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily.