Probably the median Florida dive bar experience.
Before traveling to the Tampa area to take in the wide variety of dive bars available in what is a profoundly interesting part of the country, The Drunken Clam is exactly what I pictured a Florida beach dive to be. Bright colors, whimsical name, open windows, dollar bills stapled to the wall, an abundance of wood. And while The Drunken Clam lives up to that beach dive vibe, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there may be about 100 similar dives up and down Florida’s western coast.
And that’s ok, really. Not every Tampa dive bar can be a Mahuffer’s-style epic, bras-hanging-from-the-ceiling experience. Some kind of quirky dive bar characteristic shouldn’t be a requirement to warrant an afternoon of High Life buckets, which is precisely the kind of afternoon that The Drunken Clam invites. The seating is ample and comfortable, the breeze flows in from the beach across the street and the crowd is clearly a crew of regulars never too far from removed from their last trip to the bar.
The building is unmistakable, a striking orange and teal-rimmed façade that sits just off the main thoroughfare through the mini-island it sits on, opposite St. Pete Beach access. Even the parking lot is easily identified, certainly thanks to proximity, but more entertainingly because of the sea scene painted on the building opposite The Drunken Clam. The mural’s finest feature is, you guessed it, the depiction of a clam drinking a sudsy beer, the kind of subtle allusion befitting a Florida dive bar.
A screened-in porch rings the building, offering one step closer to the beach, an experience altered slightly by the smoking currently allowed within the outside space. Inside, the surfaces scream ‘dive bar’ from the dollar bill-covered walls to the nicely aged wood plank floor. For what is really not that big of an interior space, the TV game is strong, with a solid ring of them in eye shot of every seat.
A bar extends from one wall, with high top tables nestled along the opposite wall. Christmas lights drape over the back wall, making sure that box gets checked for the dive bar ambiance offered by The Drunken Clam. In true Florida dive bar fashion, a game of chance is never too far behind, The Drunk Clam choosing a classic drop-the-quarter machine offering some tantalizing prospects, though this reviewer was able to restrain himself from sinking $20 in quarters into the machine.
The story of The Drunken Clam ends there, a supremely comfortable space that offers all of the open-air seating, varied wall art and ocean breezes to be expected from a St. Pete dive bar. And though the bells and whistles may not be there to call it a truly unique experience, sometimes a little fresh air, a place to sit and daily drink specials is all it takes to make a Florida afternoon enjoyable.