As featured in the Tampa Bay Times (TBT) on Friday May 29th, 2015 | SEE OUR NEW MENU
Big Jim's Famous: it's a curious name, no? The full name used to be Big Jim's Famous Steaks, which is simple enough, but after the opening of this Philly cheesesteak joint's new location, the 'famous' part now applies to the other side of the name - 'Tavern & Tap' - too.
I've been to a bunch of these places: popular sandwich or pizza places that decided to get deeper into the beer game by offering a big tap list. Usually it works well enough, but not generally to the point where I'd make a special trip. But a reader gave me a heads-up on this one and insisted that it was the new spot for beer in Seminole, so to Big Jim's I went.
Unlike many 'famous' restaurants, Big Jim's actually has a bit of a pedigree, with its lineage dating back to the late '80s in Philadelphia. 'Big' Jim Reeves and his family racked up lots of local fans, winning 'best cheesesteak in the metro Philly area' for six years straight. The family moved to Florida in the '90s, and when Big Jim's son, Brian, wanted to open a restaurant in Largo, Big Jim jumped in, lending his name and expertise to the venture.
Now Big Jim's is at a new, bigger location in Seminole, which could use some more beer options. Big Jim's has made an attempt to answer the call with 50 draft beers - a big list for even a dedicated beer bar - and a full liquor bar, complete with a small list of signature cocktails.
With an increased emphasis on the bar aspect of the business comes a more polished, lounge-y feel. Stone walls, a granite bar top, ornate ceiling tiles, and even a patio with a fire pit! In the evening, the interior is bathed in low-key accent lighting, really selling Big Jim's as a bar and evening hot spot, rather than simply a sandwich shop.
Big Jim's stocks plenty of wine, which is of course the traditional accompaniment to dinner; and there's a pretty reasonable liquor se lection, as well as a list of house cocktails (most in the $7 - $8 range). The bigger draw, however, is Big Jim's Big Tap List, which features 50 beers, about half of which hail from Florida. A solid perusal of the tap list is a reminder of just how strong Florida's brewing scene has become. You've got Darwin's, Big Top, 3 Daughters, Rapp, Desoto, Coppertail, Motorworks, Intuition, JDub's, Pair O' Dice, Big Storm, Cigar City, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Mad Beach, Bold City, and Florida Avenue - and many of these have more than one selection on the menu.
The menu is constantly rotating, so expect to see new stuff all the time. I'm always concerned when a bar offers such a large number of beers on tap - low turnover means stale beer - but based on the Friday night crowd an hour before closing when I visited, I think Big Jim's will be all right.