My Florida vacation has come to an end and while my travel coffee set-up was more than sufficient to weather the coffee doldrums of Anna Maria Island, I did manage to visit a few area coffee shops during my stay.
Author’s Note: When it comes to visiting coffee shops, I am no Brian’s Coffee Spot. I do enjoy visiting and experiencing coffee shops, but it is actually pretty rare that I get the opportunity to go to one. When I do visit, I will typically order espresso or espresso based drinks as I do not get the opportunity to drink these very often. The three shops I visited on this trip were with my wife and children and thus seen through that lens as well.
Below are brief summaries and reviews of three coffee shops I visited while in the Tampa Bay(ish) area. My trip took me from Tampa to the Fort Meyers/Cape Coral area but these coffee spots are from Tampa down to Sarasota (about 60 miles south of Tampa). Special thanks are due to the members of the Twitter coffee community who pointed me in the right direction and helped me find some good places while on the road.
Perq Coffee Bar – 1821 Hillview Street, Sarasota
Perq is a multi-roaster coffee bar located in the heart of a trendy and fun looking area in Sarasota. From the time I walked up to this place until the time I left, I was impressed. The design is smart, intriguing and my type of style. There are horizontal boards of various shades of brown and gray covering the entire interior and exterior. The shop is accented with a lime green color that crescendos with the presence of a lime green Slayer espresso machine.
Other features of interest were the giant portafilter light fixture (with Edison bulbs) and the eight custom built-in Kyoto cold drip brewers mounted on the wall above the bar.
I found Perq’s menu to be abundant and more than sufficient for what I was looking for. They had offerings for coffee (espresso, filter and the aforementioned cold brew) and tea as well as quite a few other beverage options. There were quite a few pastries and food items to select from as well. Some of the menu items that I found most tantalizing (but sadly did not partake) were the gelato cold brew float and the affogato.
I happily purchased an intriguing pair of Ecuador coffees roasted by Roseline. These coffees were from the same farm but of different varietals. It has been very interesting and fun to dig into these two coffees over the last week and explore.
As previously stated, I found my experience at Perq Coffee Bar to be delightful and just about everything I look for in a coffee shop experience.
The barista that took my order and made my coffee was friendly and willing to answer my questions and talk about the coffee that they had on the menu. I enjoyed my Gibraltar and my wife’s Flat White was also quite enjoyable. My kids loved the sour cream donut and almost gobbled it up before I could even taste it.
I was more than happy with my experience and will try to go again next time I am in the area. If you are anywhere near Sarasota, this is the place to be.
Bandit Coffee Bar- 2662 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg
Bandit Coffee is a multi-roaster located in St. Petersburg. It opened on the first of February and I visited six days later. From its décor to its menu offerings it is pleasantly minimalistic. It is located in a remodeled 1950’s era paint shop on the fringe of what appears to be a very hip and booming area.
The chic black and white exterior is decorated with a scrolling B logo (see top picture) and a large painted sign that says “COFFEE.” Inside, the shop features a beautiful white Slayer espresso machine with several white grinders (an EK-43 and two Peaks I believe) on a long white bar. The shop was tastefully accented with the occasional potted succulent.
I found the seating to be a bit limited and felt there was room for one or two more tables. Although, I must admit we were there on a Saturday during prime coffee shop time.
Bandit’s minimalistic theme continues with their menu and offerings and I found it refreshing. Espresso offerings were limited to espresso and espresso plus milk (4 oz or 6 oz). There was also batch coffee, pour-over via the Kalita Wave and cold brew. Non-coffee offerings were kombucha, tea and an assortment of bottled drinks. There were some (quite delicious looking) pastries as well.
They were out of two of their four coffee offerings which I took as a sign that their opening week went well. The original coffees that were offered were from Kuma, King State and Middle State. There was some whole bean coffee available from these roasters as well as some brewing equipment for sale.
I really enjoyed my experience at Bandit coffee. Although my preference is not typically for the minimalist style, I can appreciate it and I enjoyed the simplicity of the menu. I am a firm believer that it is better to do a few things well than to try to offer many things and be inconsistent.
The staff was helpful and apologetic at the absence of some of their offerings. The coffee was prepared well and the blueberry mini bread was pretty outstanding.
I would definitely like to visit Bandit coffee again and see what direction they take their coffee bar. I am inclined to believe they will iron out some of the little details and continue to improve and better themselves. It was quite a great showing for it being the end of what was probably a very long first week.
Off topic but on point- If you like a good taco, I would recommend checking out Casita Taqueria. It is across the street from Bandit Coffee and I found the atmosphere and the menu selection to be excellent. Of the four tacos I tried, the carnitas were my favorite.
Buddy Brew Coffee: The Roastery- 2020 W. Kennedy Blvd, Tampa
Buddy Brew is a coffee roaster with several cafes in the Tampa area. From a design perspective, the Buddy Brew roastery is on the other side of the spectrum from its St. Pete neighbor, Bandit Coffee. It is eclectic and offers a variety of interesting and unusual elements to feast your eyes on (including an outstanding view of their roasting works). I visited this shop last year and couldn’t resist stopping in for one final Florida coffee before I went to the airport.
They have a large selection (an entire giant wall) of coffee paraphernalia available for purchase as well as a good variety of coffee origins to choose from. This roaster is booming. There are multiple locations and they will be opening up another café later this year. There is also a super sweet Buddy Brew coffee truck that roves the neighborhoods on occasion (and is for hire for area events).
I popped into Buddy Brew quickly on a rainy Saturday afternoon and one thing was abundantly clear; they can crank out some coffee.
Buddy Brew offers a variety of espresso and espresso based beverages as well as three or four origin offerings for the slow bar (which was the Kalita Wave when I visited). There is also an assortment of teas and other drinks available. They offer food and pastries; though I couldn’t tell you what as I did not investigate (I was in a hurry).
Although Buddy Brew started out as a small roaster with self-serve bottomless coffee, it is now a Tampa coffee institution. They do coffee really well, but you can generally expect (at least at the roastery location) to search for parking and squeeze yourself into this buzzing coffee bar.
I ordered a pour-over from the slow bar and watched with pleasure (and amazement) at the speed that the coffees were cranked out. The beverage was brewed well but make no mistake, this is not the type of place (at least from my two experiences) where the baristas have a lot of time to be super chatty. They are busy.
I would recommend checking out one of their locations if you have the time.
- Coffee Bar at Oxford Exchange- 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. Tampa, Florida
- Buddy Brew in Sarasota- 1289 N. Palm Ave. Sarasota, Florida
- Buddy Brew Hyde Park (Coming Soon)– 1605 Snow Ave. Tampa, Florida
Bonus Coffee Roaster- Zeal Coffee Roasters
I wanted to add a little bonus write up about another Tampa area roaster. In early 2015, I had the opportunity to visit a coffee bar run by Zeal Coffee Roasters located in a boutique shopping center (Rarehues). Peter Davidson, the owner, happened to be there that day and, in addition to making me a great pour-over, chatted with me about coffee.
I have not had the opportunity to visit their main roasting facility but their coffee was enjoyable and they have been growing since I visited. They have purchased a new roaster and seem to be making a splash in the Tampa coffee scene. If you are in the vicinity of either of their locations I would recommend checking them out.
- Zeal Coffee Roasters- 1930 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. Lutz, Florida
- Zeal Coffee Bar at Rarehues- 10005 N Dale Mabry Hwy. Tampa, Florida