For some serious New Orleans inspiration here in the Tampa Bay area, head to Zydeco Brew Werks in Ybor City.
Over the years, owner J. Paul Pepin has spent a lot of time in the Big Easy. So when he decided to open a NOLA-themed restaurant and craft brewery, he found a space with all of its vibe and charm. It’s a place where great drinks start the party, live music keeps it humming and the food keeps everyone coming back. An in-house craft brewery, complete with a 10-barrel brewing system, makes Zydeco Brew Werks unique. It crafts 20 kegs of beer at a time. That means it never runs dry on any of the dozen of beers on tap and ensures the beer is always fresh. Along with beer on tap, it also has a barrel room, where several beers age in old rum, tequila and bourbon barrels. These spirits from the past impart a unique flavor to beer that’s sure to raise your spirits from the very first sip. If you can’t decide which beer to try, order a sampler of four-ounce glasses. Typically they serve four beers in a sampler, but you can customize your sampler with any number you want. It’s the adult version of being a kid in a candy store.
Along with beer, Zydeco has a bar that would make the French Quarter proud. The whiskey list is extensive and includes a wide variety of bourbon, rye, scotch and both Japanese and Irish whiskey. There are almost 50 American whiskeys alone. On top of that, Zydeco offers hand-crafted signature cocktails, too. Coarse salt and cayenne pepper rim the glass of the Spicy Bayou Margarita, so it warms the tongue and loosens it at the same time. The VooDoo Gin cocktail is the perfect cure for a steamy summer day. Cucumber and basil are muddled into Nolet gin and St. Germain elderflower and then shaken with housemade agave sour and ice. It’s so refreshing, you’ll wish it were made in a frozen version, served in a 64-ounce glass.The taste of New Orleans shines in appetizers, flatbreads and entrees. To create a cuisine uniquely its own, Zydeco created a Cajun spice blend that fires the flavor of most dishes. It’s a secret recipe of about a dozen spices including garlic, paprika, onion powder and cayenne. This special blend anchors chicken and shrimp gumbo that takes you right to the Crescent City. That same spice blend flavors the olive tapenade in the muffaletta, the sandwich made famous by Central Grocery, near Jackson Square in New Orleans. Casino Bakery, just down the road from Zydeco, bakes the rolls just for this sandwich. They are stuffed with traditional meats and cheese and a generous spread of the magical tapenade.
There is one dish you shouldn’t pass up at Zydeco: the shrimp and grits. Havarti cheese melts into creamy grits, topped with blackened shrimp, andouille sausage and pools of brown butter sauce. The first thing you notice is the silkiness of the grits and smile that spreads across your face.
Find Zydeco Brew Werks at 1902 E. Seventh Ave. You can consider it on the corner of Bourbon Street and Seventh. It’s a place to forget about everything, where spirits flow, live jazz music fills the room and the kitchen turns up the heat. In the words of J. Paul Pepin, “Like New Orleans itself, it gets in your soul.”Check Zydeco’s Facebook page for up to date information. At the time this story went to press, the restaurant was offering takeout only due to the coronavirus pandemic. ♦