Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cigars Along the Gulf

My lovely wife and I just returned from a nice two-week vacation. We started off in Florida, traveling through Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, then back to Florida; 2000+ miles! Very, very pretty part of the country, highly recommend stopping in Alabama and Mississippi, although I can't really say that they were the best places when it comes to cigars.

So let me tell you about a few cigar places that we stumbled upon...


This place was so nice that we had to stop here twice, once when we first arrived in Florida, and then the night before we left back to Seattle. Enormous selection of cigars to choose from, although when I asked where the CAO Amazon Basin cigars were hiding they told me that they'd been out of them for a couple months. LOL!

But other than that, the place has a great bar with inside and outside seating. No food though. I guess that's the catch here. Apparently in Florida if you serve food, you can't have tobacco products. Period. So you won't see any food in a cigar bar, not even nuts.

If you're a Washingtonian like me, seeing a place like this is pretty amazing. Check it out the next time you're in Orlando.

Clearwater, Florida: Fusion Cigar Lounge
Clearwater Beach actually has quite a few cigar lounges, in fact, there are two other cigar bars within walking distance of this one. (Can you imagine walking down Lake Street in Kirkland and seeing 3 cigar lounges? Yah, right...)

Anyway, what a great place for cigars and booze. Excellent selection, hip atmosphere, and plenty of seating both inside and out. This was probably our favorite spot for cigars - just a great place to hang out and chat with the locals. Lots of fun!

Something I saw on the beach:

I've been to the Gulf side of Florida many times, but I hadn't seen one of these signs before

Moving on... 

Sarasota, Florida: Smokin Joe's

Now this is not necessarily a cigar bar, but you can smoke cigars here, plus they do indeed have a small walk-in humidor with a pretty fair selection of cigars to choose from. We watched the Cowboys vs. Lions football game here - the place was packed! Turned out to be the perfect spot to watch the game and enjoy a fine cigar - we loved it! This place is also located on what looks like "Restaurant-Row" - lots of really nice places to eat. Check it out if you're ever in the old historic part of Sarasota!

Bradenton, Florida: Cork's Cigar Bar

Cork's is located in downtown Bradenton, real easy to find, we drove straight to it. I think it might actually be in the better part of Bradenton as well. (you'll know what I mean if you're driving from Sarasota)

 Anyway, lots of nice restaurants here on the same street - pretty cute part of town.

Cork's doesn't have much of a cigar selection, but the locals must love it here - it was pretty packed the night we were there, and I think it was a school night! Really nice place to hang out and listen to some music or watch the game, and of course smoke cigars. We enjoyed it!

You know, Florida is the place to be if you smoke cigars. I don't think there is another state quite like it.

New Orleans, Louisiana: Cigar Factory New Orleans

We stayed in the French Quarter of New Orleans, we were here for the New Year's Eve festivities. Boy, talk about a wild and crazy place! Holy Cow! There were about a million people here. I knew it would be crowded, but not this crowded! SHEEEEEEEEEEEE-IT! Plus the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State vs Alabama, was happening on New Year's Day, so another million football fanatics were here as well.

Can you say: "PARTY-TIME!"

Anyway, after a magnificent dinner over in the Warehouse District, and before the fireworks started, we stopped by this little cigar shop that wasn't too far from Jackson Square. Jackson Square is the place to be if you're here for New Year's Eve. This is where you'll be able to see the fireworks and listen to the live music. Yes, this is where everyone was, all one million of us.

Anyway, we discovered the Cigar Factory about 6 hours earlier when we were walking around the French Quarter. Cute little shop with a couple guys rolling cigars just as you enter the store. There's no booze here, but they told us to feel free to bring alcohol into the shop, "this is New Orleans after all."

So when we returned later that night after dinner, those same two guys were still there rolling cigars. I thought to myself, "these guys are frickin' machines!"

I had bought a few of their cigars earlier in the day when we first stopped by, and I must admit that I was surprised at how good they were. No kidding - They weren't bad at all! I'm sure if I lived down this way I'd buy them again.

The Cigar Factory has more than one location here in the French Quarter, and I did see one of the other stores, but it was way too busy to go inside when we passed by. I guess they do a pretty good business down here.

Anyway, NYE was a crystal clear evening, but darn cold, maybe not Seattle cold, but cold for these parts. Luckily the Cigar Factory store was nice and toasty inside. Good place to warm up and have a cigar before the fireworks. I bought a couple beers from the store next door, so I was all set to kick back for a bit. A Perfect Evening!

Now for the places that we stayed where we couldn't find a cigar lounge, or couldn't find one that stayed open past 5pm:
  • Panama City Beach, FL. 
  • Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Gulf Shores, AL
  • Biloxi/Gulfport, MS
  • Tallahassee, Fl
  • Melbourne/Vero Beach, FL
Now I'm sure these places do indeed have cigar lounges, but either they weren't open late enough, or they were too far out of town and we didn't want to make the trek all the way out there. I've gotta tell you though, Alabama and Mississippi are beautiful states with some strikingly beautiful beaches. Very, very pretty indeed. We'll be back, I'm sure!

Side notes: 
So when we were over at Navarre Beach in Florida, the wifey-poo and I took a walk out on this long pier to see what the view would be like from the end of it. As we're walking out to the end, I took a gander over the side of the railing and up towards the end of the pier, I see a shark being pulled out of the water! Now from the water to the top of the pier is about 20 feet, and this big-ass shark is doing some serious flipping around as it's being pulled up. Holy Crap! I look topside and see three guys using all their strength to pull this fish out of the water. Mind you, this 250 lbs shark was caught at the end of a pier! Yikes! I think I'll skip my next swim in these waters.

 Check out the video.

Welcome to Florida!

Happy New Year Y'all!


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