When was staying in Tampa, I had a swell time, but honestly, I'm having far better luck finding what I need over here on The Peninsula than I did in the cigar capital of the world. Then again, I know that some of the best places in Tampa are ones I didn't get to hit - like The Man Cave, Tampa Humidor, Edward's, Lit Premium, and Kuba Cigars on the Davis Islands.
But I tell ya, I couldn't be happier where I am now. Especially since I've discovered a lot more great smoke outposts in the area recently, giving me a vast range of choices within minutes from my front door. A wide open field awaits the wide awake man.
First and foremost, Cuban Paradise at John's Pass has some of the best locally-made sticks it's been my pleasure to procure. I am seriously addicted (oh, wait, no, strike that, bad word to use when it comes to tobacco) to the Santana-Lapinet New Generation smokes they roll. And they're right next door to a fine bar that stocks hundreds of craft beers, which is something you sadly don't see every day in Interzone.
Cigar Republic is on Treasure Island on your left, just as soon as you get off the causeway from Paradise Island. It's a full-on cigar bar, and has some hard-to-find stuff in the humidor such as the XEN torpedo (I didn't even know they made a torpedo). Also Cuban Stout, something I'd never heard of called Perdomo Fresco and their very own in-house fine CR line.
All this time I've been here, I didn't even know St. Pete Cigar was hidden tucked away in the corner pocket of a shopping center several blocks north of me. The selection here is eye-popping, with all kinds of goodies I'd never heard of, including Recluse Iconic and Oliveros Eight Zero. The neighborhood's seemingly a little shifty, though, because you can't just march into the place, you have to ring a security buzzer to be let in. I try to pull the wool over my own eyes and convince myself that this just means I'm privy to a very special private club. This place is also way deep into Oliva, My Father, Tatuaje and Camacho.
I had stopped going to Central Cigars in St. Petersburg because, well, frankly, there was a guy working there who was a jerk. But I haven't seen him there lately, so me and this cigar bar are back on speaking terms. Which is good, because this place has a very deep selection of all my favorite Rocky Patel cigars, most notably the Royale. Now if they'd just go deeper into the Drew Estate they'd almost be my number one go-to smokerie again. Thank goodness Cigar Loft up the street has plenty of those, and much much more.
You can also tell that they actually smoke cigars regularly, and know all their products from experience. (You'd be surprised how many cigar store people have obviously never sampled even a tenth of their own shop's products, and some make me wonder if they even really smoke at all. Some even actively diss the very sticks they're selling!)
Habana Cafe & Cigar Factory is still my primary spot, being very near my home. I bought up all their Alec Bradley Nica Puro, Drew Estate Jucy Lucy, Illuminati Shield robustos and Rocky Patel Royale though - time to restock, guys! (They did restock my XEN toros though.) Meanwhile, I also get San Lotano, Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve, Oliva G and the Cigar Factory house blends, direct from the Dominican Republic, especially the barberpoles and ligeros. Tell Morgan and Sebastian I sent you by!
La Habana Cigar Club is still on my dance card too - this is the only place around I can find Herrera Esteli, Gurkha Ninja, Tamayo barberpoles, and Nat Sherman Timeless Collection. They keep having cigar events featuring, so the flyers say, "The La Habana Cigar Club Girls" which I regret to say I've missed out on thus far. And what I like most about this place is that they have a short description of each cigar on a piece of paper in front of it, with a series of star-shaped stickers that are color-coded to tell you which are mild, medium, and full. Oh yeah, and you get a free cigar each ten you buy, and they remember when you're up for your free one even when you don't.
There's even more cigar joints back up in the north part of the peninsula in Clearwater, as previously delved into on this blog. And Google Maps tells of some places on the islands like El Loco Cigarro and Havana Beach Cigars that I still haven't checked out yet. There's also Norman's Liquors in St. Pete's Beach and many ABC Liquors locations sprinkled around, and they all have deeper humidors than you might suspect.
You have to hit every location to see it all and keep up with it all, not that I mind. I'm always in motion like the future, like Yoda said.