If you need a sign, there is literally a red neon sign telling you to come here.
Tampa serves as the home base for all points west and south, stretching from Clearwater to St. Pete, home of quasi-beach bar Shadracks. The west coast of the St. Pete peninsula is a collection of small islands and tiny causeways linking together a labyrinth of timeshares and condos. Despite the posh surroundings, a handful of dive bars dot the area, with Shadracks serving as the king of this far-flung sequence of outposts.
As far as locations go, Shadracks occupies a spot that’s a bit hard to describe, sitting in the middle of a sliver of an island about three blocks long, feeling like some sort of “downtown” in an area that really doesn’t have one on an island made up of beach, condos and also more condos. Continuing the theme of the beach-bordered area, the immediate surroundings don’t scream ‘dive bar,’ but there Shadracks sits all the same.
The bar’s nondescript exterior fails to hint at the impressiveness of the interior, a time-washed grey building with a simple neon sign above the door with the name of the bar and I’m going to say…a dove. What is clear from the outside is the open-air porch populated with picnic tables, a better-than-dive-bar-standard afternoon drinking outpost.
Rare is the dive bar that features neon lighting more impressive on the inside than the outside, but the defining Shadracks feature is the blazing pink-red sign above the exterior windows shouting the name of the dive bar. The glow of the light mixed with the Florida sun gives the space a beach bar vibe despite the lack of beach and abundance of walls.
And though describing a dive bar’s charm can sometimes be tricky, my attempt at a descriptor for Shadracks is a wooden shack turned inside out. In the best possible way. The walls resemble wooden shingles and the stretch of space that houses the aforementioned neon side bears an uncanny resemblance to a sloped roof. Someone wanted to make a shack…inside, and they did an amazing job.
A square bar in the middle of the space connects a handful of open but structured rooms, occupying the heart of some pretty generous square footage. One nook houses the houses the foosball table & dart board, another a set of three pool tables. The bathrooms provide more credence to my theory that this is some kind of inside out house, with a cut-out doorway and fake window opening up into a small hallway that houses both bathrooms.
Perhaps most impressive is an epic metal sign that sits just inside one of the scattered booths in the pool table room, an ode to Shadracks Beach Club (“Famous Since 1972”), a place that I pray was both real and lived up to the motto along the bottom of the sign, “Beer Wine Games.” And Shadracks continues to ace the dive bar wall art test throughout the space, a mix of new signage and thoroughly weathered beer signs that look like they haven’t been moved since about…1972.
Besides talking myself into the inside-out house theory while sitting at the bar, the predominant feeling I walked away with was a yearning to sit there for about 8 hours every afternoon lazily sipping Bloody Marys, and that’s probably a good sign. The surroundings play into the vibe, but it’s the space that sells it for Shadracks, bathed in red neon and with enough space to feel a breeze without the pesky requirement of sun and heat. Shadracks’ status as the dive bar king of St. Pete Beach is well-earned and worth the causeway-riddled drive.