Are you in Tampa? Are you in New Orleans? The architecture and vibe of Ybor City and The French Quarter are very similar. The difference: in Ybor City getting some great Latin food such as rice and beans or a Cuban sandwich are easy to find, but if you want some good Cajun food, there’s only one place to go. Zydeco Brew Werks brings all the great flavors of Louisiana to the heart of the cigar epicenter of the US. But in addition to great bayou-inspired food, co-owners J. Paul Pepin and Paul Rutherford deliver with some world-class beer and the soon-to-be completed largest cigar balcony in Ybor City.
The beer brewed at Zydeco is in a class by itself! Paul Rutherford, who is also the head brewer, learned his craft in Germany and is a big believer in some of the simple, but difficult to brew, beers of Central Europe such as a helles lager and a Dortmunder lager. „These lighter beers really pair well with the Florida climate“ says Rutherford. Myself as a beer lover, I would have to agree with him. In a world of porters and stouts and IPA’s, it’s nice to see a brewer provide the public with some of the classic recipes.
„The lagers take about 6-8 weeks to store before they can be served. This occupies a lot of time in storage and this ties up resources in which other beers could be brewed. Also, if the batch comes out bad, you’ve wasted resources and time.“ explains Rutherford. „Brewing an IPA is not as long of a process and the over-abundance of hops covers some of the imperfections in the brew.“
Zydeco does have a great IPA, the Pablo IPA (Spanish for Paul, paying tribute to the two owners), and a fragrant double IPA, Street Cred, for all of the hopheads out there. In addition, this brewery also stores barrels of various backgrounds such as bourbon or wine storage, in order to store and enhance the flavors of future brews.
If you know anything about food from the N’awlens area, you know that it is something special! Cajun inspired cuisine rules the menu at Zydeco, and the flavors are on point! I tried the shrimp and grits, apparently a bayou classic! This dish was more than food, it was a thoroughfare to another dimension that had me sitting on the curb of Bourbon street listening to some jazz and soaking in the sights and sounds of NOLA.
I’m pretty sure every spice at their disposal was present in this hybrid of 2 classic Southern delicacies. The menu also features such Gulf Coast classics as the Po Boy sandwich and a chicken or shrimp Gumbo. A Cajun food restaurant is not legit without Gumbo! There are also many flatbreads available that baked in a beautiful brick oven that can be seen from the dining room.
Every building in Ybor tells a story. Most places in the United States have buildings that are put up and knocked down with the latest fads and byways of suburban sprawl. This is even more true in the South, which does not have many areas like the Northeast of the country which is littered with majestic old brick buildings that tell many tales.
Zydeco has the great fortune, like many Ybor businesses, of being in an old red brick building that was originally built to be a staple in Ybor’s legendary cigar history. A weathered tile display toward the front of the establishment states that the building originally was The Montebello Café in 1906. A sign that was left in the back-storage room informs us that the building was later Louie’s Hardware Store. And any 40-something year old, like myself, knows that this building was the most popular club in Ybor through the 90’s: Empire.
With the second floor still under construction, the future of this gastronomy looks very bright indeed. The building boasts the largest outdoor balcony in all of Ybor City. This will become the cigar deck. When you’re in Ybor, you are surrounded on all sides by cigar bars as well as mini cigar factories, so finding the tobacco of your liking is never a problem. This establishment will soon offer the trio of great food, great beer and cocktails and a great smoke, all within the same building. Although this building has had many names and purposes over the years, I believe it will be Tampa’s Big Easy for some time to come!
Zydeco Brew Werks
1902 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605, USA
Tel: +1 813-252-4541
Offers cigars: n/a
Offers alcoholic beverages: Yes
Offers food: Yes
Smoking indoors/outdoors: n/a