Where adding to the Jager collection is a goal, maybe a requirement.
Elmer’s Sports Café is, stay with me now, a sports bar. And that can be a very good thing, but can also run at odds with a true dive bar vibe. And Elmer’s probably falls a little harder on the sports bar end of the spectrum, but that’s not to say that a spot with plenty of space, inexpensive drinks and an impressive display of empty Jägermeister bottles is all bad.
South Tampa is a bit of a mixed bag, with what I would call “regular” bars and restaurants broken up by wildly expensive houses and beach or ocean views that command the price tag. This kind of in-between piece of the city just north of MacDill Air Force Base can make for an interesting excursion, with Elmer’s conveniently located only a few minutes away from beach-themed Tampa dive bar Barefoot Billy’s Friendly Tavern (it lives up to the name).
Outside, the bar doesn’t exactly jump out along a fairly nondescript stretch of road, with only a classic, illuminated sign signaling Elmer’s location (and proclaiming Elmer’s as “South Tampa’s Original Sports Café”). A shallow patio faces the street, with room for a handful of tables, but the real action, at least on our visit, was inside the space.
Elmer’s Sports Café is a deceptively large space, a significant bar dominating the front room, a U-shaped extension of one wall, feeding out into an area dotted with low seating and a handful of bar games. Screens and signage are thick, as the sports café name suggests, the open floor plan definitely extending the feeling of a single, communal interior. An elevated area behind the main seating area features three pool tables that overlook the bar. A handful of arcade games and dart boards border the space.
Though the real dive bar features aren’t plentiful at Elmer’s the ring of Jagermeister certainly qualifies, an impressive display of empty bottles surrounding the elevated pool table platform and stretching along one wall of the bar. Whether it took a weekend or years to burn through that much Jager is, to me at least, a mystery, but loudly proclaiming the accomplishment through prominent product placement feels fair.
Outside, the dive bar reputation seems reasonable given the fairly humble curb appeal of the building, but inside it’s the sports bar piece of Elmer’s DNA that takes over, making the Sports Café more a classic sports bar than a rustic Tampa dive bar. It does, however, inspire one to kick back a Jagerbomb or two, a credit to any bar.