Is stoner food over? Not even close

With 4/20 approaching, a couple food-slinging Tampa Bay breweries weigh in on munchies.

MUNCHIES, MAAAN

Got a stoner-like craving you just can't kick? Here's a list of local hangouts, several of them breweries, with 4/20 soirées in store.

All events take place on April 20 unless otherwise noted.

Arkane Aleworks A belated 4/20 celebration, but a stacked one nonetheless. The young brewery's inaugural smokeout and bake-off encourages the community to enter their baked goods and smoked foods — free of charge and "magical green" ingredients — into a friendly competition. Those who want to spectate instead of partake are asked to take a small sample from each contestant, and a voting ticket is included with every beer purchase (munchies-inspired brews included). Chant the Trees also provides the day's soundtrack. Visit the Facebook event page for registration and day-of details. April 23, 2-6 p.m. 2480 E. Bay Drive #23, Largo, 727-270-7117, arkanebeer.com.

Brew Bus Nutella, Cheez Whiz and other stoner snacks are featured across the on-site Eatery's menu for Munchies, Movies & Music, an event that spotlights items like Lick the Pot Brownies and Harold and Kumar Sliders, featuring King's Hawaiian rolls, beef patties, mayo and American cheese. Non-edible highlights include the the Juanjamon Band's reggae tunes and classic stoner comedies from the ’90s. 4:20-10 p.m. 4101 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-990-7310, brewbususa.com.

The Cider Press Café Embrace the not-so-healthy at Cider Press and Coppertail Brewing Co.'s collaborative Vegan Fat Kid pairing, where cauliflower "chicken" wings two ways and dessert shooters are up for grabs. Coppertail brews — including Gucci Mango and Strawberry-Coconut Wheat Stroke — are matched with the 600 Block cafe's plant-based takes on classic beer-drinkin' grub. Seating is limited, so call for reservations. $35 per person in advance, $60 per couple. 6 p.m. 601 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-914-7222, ciderpresscafe.com.

Empire Oyster This pop-up oyster bar inside Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails, once a temporary EDGE District fixture itself, hosts Lobstafari for 4/20. Patrons sip craft cocktails, beer and wine while downing lobster rolls, raw oysters and other sustainable seafood. Plus, Empire Oyster neighbor Buya supplies the party's yakitori. Tickets for the all-inclusive seafood spread, which includes one drink, are available online, but à la carte purchases can be made throughout the night. $49. 4:20-10 p.m. 1111 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, empireoyster.com.

Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company Returning for a second year, Mad Beach's 4/20 Sesh brings more astronomical culinary creations to John's Pass Village & Boardwalk. Choose from offerings like the Hogleg (Cuban-style pulled pork, white Cheddar curds, arugula and diced tomatoes tossed in toasted pecan pesto, then rolled into a flour tortilla) and Dat Sticky Icky (a slab of mac 'n' cheese with white Cheddar sauce, smoked Cheddar cubes, Manchego and Parmesan). The brewery's Peanut Butter Cup Stout, which I'm told tastes just like your favorite chocolaty, peanut butter-filled treat, gets released, too. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 12945 Village Blvd., Madeira Beach, 727-362-0008, madbeachbrewing.com.

Red Star Rock Bar A lineup of area food trucks and drink specials await at this Seminole Heights neighborhood bar's 4/20 Charity Jam, benefiting Redefining Refuge. In addition to what's sure to be munchies-curing fare, guests enjoy $3 Bud Lights and Miller Lites, $4 Smirnoff flavors and $2 PBRs, as well as live sounds (Dre and Snoop, anyone?) and a video montage of weed-friendly flicks. 7 p.m.-midnight. 5210 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-237-0012, redstarrockbar.com.

click to enlarge At Mad Beach, 4/20 creation Cheese and Chong is also featured as April's Burger of the Month. - Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company
Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company
At Mad Beach, 4/20 creation Cheese and Chong is also featured as April's Burger of the Month.

Gone are the days when Funyuns or a White Castle run seemed like obvious cures for a hardcore case of the munchies. Now we have, at least in Tampa Bay, indulgent restaurant bites that include everything from funnel cake fries to mac-‘n’-cheese-covered hot dogs.

But with the unofficial stoner holiday that is 4/20 upon us, I can’t help but wonder: As getting high grows more mainstream in Florida, what with Amendment 2 and all, is stoner food, as Harold and Kumar know it, over?

Gluttonous treats, dunked in this and topped with that, definitely aren’t on the decline locally, so maybe stoner food has more or less transformed into these funky, sometimes over-the-top offerings that keep diners talking like, the Cronut, or a pizza garnished with a ridiculous amount of tacos.

The Eatery chef Max Sherard agrees that the idea of stoner food has evolved. Sherard, who recently joined the in-house Brew Bus restaurant in Seminole Heights and has cooked in the kitchens of fine-dining spots like Tampa’s On Swann, Epicurean Hotel and SideBern’s, says he thinks the competitiveness of the industry leads people to try to outdo themselves.

“I definitely think with the right atmosphere and timing there’s a clientele out there [for] that stuff,” said the chef, who’s stoked to be using stoner-friendly ingredients such as Cheez Whiz for Brew Bus’s 4/20 festivities.

For Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company founder Matt Powers, stoner food is far from dead. His Madeira Beach brewpub showcased an all-day menu of munchies for its inaugural “4/20 Sesh” last year, and Powers says he’s seen an increased interest in the 2017 celebration, which is set to serve items like the Peanut Butter Cup Stout (a sweet, 9-percent imperial stout brewed with chocolate and peanut butter) and a burger that speaks to weed pop culture called Cheese and Chong.

A veteran of Mad Beach’s tongue-and-cheek 4/20 lineup and available at the brewpub through the end of April, Cheese and Chong comes with five slices of cheese, two strips of “thick AF” bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and a half pound of beef. But the most prominent feature is its bun, which swaps traditional bread for grilled cheese sandwiches.

“If anything, with the ever-loosening marijuana laws across the country, stoner food could become even more prevalent,” Powers told CL. “That’s a great thing because it ultimately means more options beyond the ‘Fourthmeal’ at Taco Bell as local restaurants and chefs get in on the action.”

Good thing, too, because one of the best-selling selections on Mad Beach chef Tyson Williams’s regular menu is the Jelly Donut Burger, a dreamy creation that piles an Angus ground chuck patty, raspberry jam, crispy bacon and smoked Cheddar between two glazed doughnuts.

The Eatery has also drawn inspiration from a pothead’s paradise for its most popular order. After his latest trip to Denver, where he and friends hung out at the pub-style Euclid Hall, chowing down on cheese curds, Brew Bus Founder and President Anthony Derby decided to add the pillows of fried goodness to the menu permanently. To him, theyre “the ultimate stoner food.”

“Everyone says they want to eat healthy,” said Derby, a University of Colorado Boulder alum who spent his college years attending the now-extinguished 4/20 smokeout that once drew a large crowd to the campus’s Norlin Quad. “But to be honest our No. 1-selling item is cheese curds.”

Brew Bus’s 4/20 event, “Munchies, Movies & Music,” has live reggae tunes and ’90s stoner comedies planned, alongside a special smorgasbord from chef Sherard. The Garbage Plate Flatbread (Cheez Whiz, fries, mushrooms, bacon and “everything that will fit on the damn thing”) and Fat Boy! Sammy (fried chicken, tots, Funyuns, gravy and bacon on Texas toast) are among the options.

“It goes beyond just being stoner food to being a cheat day for someone on a diet, or just plain good old comfort food,” Powers said of Mad Beachs munchies-satisfying fare. “Healthy food is great and all, but everyone craves a little gluttony from time to time, regardless of whether or not their mental state has been altered.”

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