Best Of 2021

Teenage Bottlerocket at VFW Post 39/ SPoT

After it was announced in May, everyone felt some kind of way about this show. Tickets for the June gig at St. Pete’s VFW Post 39 were just $18 if you were vaxxed, and $999 if you weren’t. Leadfoot Promotions’ Paul Williams said he just wanted to keep his friends and the band safe while driving money to one of the South’s oldest VFW halls, but literally every outlet from the Washington Post and seemingly every news station in the U.S. wrote about it, and the global attention led VFW elders to back out, leaving Williams with no choice but to move it to the Skatepark of Tampa where, well, no one took him up on the $999 no-vaxx offer, leaving a bunch of 5G’d-up punks to have some fun on their own. @leadfootpromotions on Facebook

Metropolitan Ministries and Feeding Tampa Bay

Hunger has always been an issue in Tampa Bay, and we’re not talking about the kind of pangs you feel when scrolling through foodie Instagram, either. We’re talking about the kind that can turn a family on its head and drive folks to do things they normally wouldn’t. Thankfully, pantries like Metropolitan Ministries and Feeding Tampa Bay have always been there—and stepped up especially huge in the peak of the pandemic—for the community. Powered by donations and volunteers, these essential nonprofits do work that we hope isn’t necessary one day—until then we’re glad they’re here to feed the city. metromin.org and feedingtampabay.org

Michael Ross

By and large, bass players don’t get as much love as they deserve, so it’s high time we honor Ross. He’s been a fixture on the Tampa Bay jazz scene since 1977, when he arrived from Pennsylvania as a freshman music student at USF. He’s provided rhythmically agile, harmonically savvy bass work—not to mention stirring solos—for an array of bands, most notably Liquid Bebop, which he led in the 1980s. Ross willingly schleps his big, shapely, wooden instrument from gig to gig and plays his ass off—and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude. He hasn’t owned an electric bass since 1978. The acoustic bassist has lived in Sarasota for quite some time, but still performs intermittently north of the Skyway. Keep an eye out for his duo shows with vocalist Fred Johnson. They’re something to behold. michaelrossbass.com

Gay Commie Skate Crew

For more than a year, the crew has taken the streets and skateparks of Tampa Bay by storm. The crew is hell on four wheels (they love Halloween), but they’re so much more at the same time. They bring their queer, leftist, mutual-aid based mission to the spaces where they skate and they fight for causes like #landback, as well as resisting polluting oil pipelines. They give to the needy and protect each other in a sport usually dominated by males. Together, they’ve found solidarity and protection, and through their activism, they’ve extended those same values to complete strangers. @gcsc.tampabay on Instagram

Get Along strawberry shortcake doughnut

Joel Davis’ Union coffee shop closed at Pickford’s Counter over the summer, but there’s a sweet side to the bad news, and that’s Get Along, a doughnut company where Davis leans on baker, recording engineer and skateboarder Asher Lakes plus Library Coffeehouse co-founder Marie Cullinan who help run the show. The shop—set to eventually open in Seminole Heights—has been doing pop ups, and if you can get your mouth around one of its strawberry shortcake concoctions, then you might petition decision makers in Plant City to make the sweet treats mandatory at their spring festival. @getalongtpa on Instagram

Tony Krol

As we interviewed Tampa Bay’s Black artists for our Spring Arts Preview, Tony Krol’s name kept coming up. Krol worked with several Black artists in 2020, created murals with them, provided space for them to show their work, and brought them into conversations about curation. The collaborations introduced Tampa Bay to the Black Activist Photographers and New Roots Art Collective. They brought us Tampa’s Black Lives Matter street mural, “Cultural Currency” at Peninsularium, and “Black Storm” at Cafe Hey. Krol knows that Tampa’s diversity is one of its greatest assets, and he’s making sure that diversity is well-represented in Tampa’s art galleries and streets. mergeculture.com

Burnz

Bern’s Steak House is a rite of passage in the Tampa dining scene, but now so is Burnz, just two miles north on Howard Avenue. There’s no wine room at the West Tampa restaurant, but there are Caribbean, Hispanic & American plates in a setting that’s definitely less velvet-y than the Bern’s reception). So next time you’re planning a date night, tell your partner , “We’re going to Burnz, baby.” burnzrbg.com

Peachey’s

It’s the fair food treat that I still think about daily: Peachey’s fresh and warm glazed yeast donut topped with a mountain of coconut cream pie filling, whipped cream and coconut shavings. It was big enough to share, but I didn’t want to. Peachey’s (FKA The Amish Baking Company) gets out of Florida during the super warm months, but should be back in Sarasota by November. @peacheysbakingco on Instagram

Tiffozi Apparel

When was the last time something came along that you didn’t know existed, but also couldn’t live without when you found it? Enter Tiffozi, the ridiculously meticulous vintage soccer (football if you’re cool) apparel shop located on the old Main Street near North Howard Avenue Boasting a seriously impressive collection of vintage soccer gear, from track jackets to jerseys and the like, Tiffozi has a collection worth gawking at, even if you aren’t a fan of the sport. What makes it even cooler? It’s appointment only, unless you can make it down on a Saturday to see the goods in person. I know where I’m headed for my next Steven Gerrard jersey. tiffoziapparel.com

Café Gala at The Dalí

"Van Gogh Alive” at The Dalí was the most popular art exhibit Tampa Bay’s hosted in a long time. I had to book an appointment a month in advance to see it, and I’m an arts writer. But as much as I loved the exhibit, it’s not locally made. And it will probably be mostly the same no matter where in the world one sees it. But the Dalí did add a few personal touches that made the experience special for me. My favorites were the vases of sunflowers decorating the tables at Cafe Gala and Chuck Bandel’s Van Gogh-themed charcuterie board. Bandel’s pairing of Dutch cheese with a sunflower seed bar and a roasted pear was absolutely delightful. Before we dug in, I snapped a photo of our art snack next to a vase of sunflowers that would make most any art-lover think of Van Gogh. thedali.org