by Karla Cordell
As a college student and a full time worker, I look forward to my weekends to unwind and relax. I am always seeking to experience new places and activities. While living in Tampa, I quickly discovered the variety of restaurants, bars, and entertainments that this city has to offer. In one of my recent searches, I stumbled upon a mysterious establishment. This small restaurant and bar is located near the heart of downtown Tampa. It is well-hidden, right across the street of the popular Bayshore Boulevard, and in close proximity to the prestigious Bern’s Steakhouse. Just by driving around there, you would never know that Ciro’s Speakeasy restaurant and bar lies within a residential building. There no noise suggesting its presence in the neighborhood, and there is only one very discrete banner that points to its exact location. I learned very rapidly that even though this place looks like a secret, it is actually highly popular among the locals. I was required to make a reservation online to be able to enter and by mid-week, most of the time slots were already taken for that following weekend. But what is so good about this place, you might ask? Ciro’s Speakeasy is both intriguing and exciting, due to the history behind it, the original menus, the outstanding service, and the privacy it offers.
Ciro’s Speakeasy brings us back in time to a peculiar era in the United States. During the 1920s, the American and Canadian governments passed laws that prohibited the consumption, distribution, and transportation of alcohol. An interesting rebellion against this law gave birth to the “speakeasies,” which were areas within an establishment that illegally sold alcohol. These highly secretive environments required a password in order to enter and enjoy the “goods” being sold within. The consumers were required to “speak easy,” hence the meaning of the name, in order to not raise suspicions of their illegal endeavors. During those times, one had to be very careful while frequenting such establishments. It was not only that they were doing something against the law, but they were exposed to riots, and to the criminals who ran the place. Despite all efforts, the “speakeasies” grew in popularity and provided their locals with entertainment and good, or bad, liquor.
Ciro’s Speakeasy allows you to relive the excitement and environment lived in the 1920s during this era called “Prohibition.” You are provided with a password which is required to enter, as you stumble upon the discrete wooden door. The place inside is very small, decorated with dark colors, such as black and burgundy. The music playing varies greatly, providing a mixture of the past and the present, but always contributing to the environment. The first thing you notice upon entering is the colorful bar with a great variety of liquors. They proudly inform their customers that all of their drink mixes are made-in-house. If they do not have the fresh ingredient in-house, then they do not provide the drink/cocktail.
Ciro’s Speakeasy, living up to the history behind its name, has an extensive cocktail/liquor menu. I am not a big drinker, so I asked my waitress to surprise me with one of the most popular drinks. She was very knowledgeable and attentive; she promptly came back with a rum based drink called Ebb & Flow. Needless to say, the Ebb & Flow was delicious, definitely a “must try.” At Ciro’s Speakeasy, you can pick your favorite “spirit” and be surprised with the variety of options offered by their bar. Their bar tenders are highly experienced and willing to cater to your every need. Ciro’s food menu, is by no means either extensive or inexpensive, but it is exciting and original. Ciro’s French chef delights in creating delicious tapas-style dishes that are heavily influenced by the different “spirits.” My favorite dish was the “Brandy Baked Oysters,” but Ciro’s Speakeasy is known for their “Mighty Duck Fat Fries.” Their food menu does offer a reasonable variety of options that may appeal to different crowds, such as salads, seafood, sliders and even chicken-and- waffles.
The service at Ciro’s Speakeasy is excellent. You are welcomed and surrounded by friendly faces with warm smiles. Furthermore, the waitresses, even though they are extremely busy, take their time with the customers, and answer any question gracefully. One of their main goals is to give the illusion of the era, and they do attempt to wear outfits to represent it. The whole atmosphere is very relaxing and low-key, due to the friendly service, low lighting, and the easy-listening music that enhances it.
Perhaps one of the most interesting features about Ciro’s Speakeasy is their private booths, which are surrounded by sheer panels that provide a sense of privacy. Ciro’s speakeasy is a great place to bring friends and have a couple of drinks, but in addition you can have your own little area for a few hours. You can quickly convene special gatherings or drinks after work in a completely secluded environment that offers the ultimate escape from routine and the outside world.
The next time you are looking for something new to try, give Ciro’s Speakeasy a shot. Make sure to make a reservation and be prepared to discretely give your password upon arrival. Ciro’s Speakeasy is truly an exciting and unique experience. It gives you the opportunity to travel through time to the fascinating, yet intriguing, “Prohibition” era. It offers a brief escape from everyday routine, with the addition of exceptional food, drinks, and service.