As far as I can tell, Skip's on Main Street in Dunedin hasn't qualified for the "& Grill" part of its name in some time, although I have to admit that this was my first visit to the local institution, which has been a mainstay for Dunedin residents since Skip opened it more than a quarter century ago.
The issue is that I don't get to Dunedin often, and when I do, it's invariably to check out the local breweries. A meal at Casa Tina's is a very occasional bonus. But I knew I couldn't forever ignore the quirky, bunkerlike corner bar outfitted with a gigantic dog mural that reads "Welcome to Dogedin" on the side.
There's precious little to say about Skip's, which is close to as no-frills as you can find in the ever-growing area on and around Main Street. That's probably why it's such a hit. It's a reliable watering hole — cold beer for cheap(ish), a jukebox and a patio.
Inside, Skip's vaguely resembles the archetypal loose Irish/dive bar theme, with a green and white color scheme, a couple of small booths wedged between a jukebox and a KISS pinball machine and a long bar opposite with a couple of TVs. It's small and cozy, but it's kept tidy and the volume is on the lower end. It's a place to have a conversation.
The jukebox is a cool throwback in the day of Touchtunes, featuring plays for 25 cents apiece, with a disc selection that appears to have gone without an update in a decade or two. It reminds me of the Hub's setup in Tampa. Without even flipping pages, I found hits collections from Squeeze, the Specials and Dave Brubeck, so this one's an automatic winner with me.
People dig Skip's in part because it's completely unpretentious. Order a PBR and it comes in a bottle, inside of a paper bag. Seriously. Draft beers come in plastic cups, and transactions are cash only. There's nothing fancy about the place, but it has endured for longer than just about any place in town. People like straightforward, honest neighborhood bars.
Located on the corner of Main Street and Douglas Avenue, Skip's occupies some pretty premium real estate, especially in terms of people-watching while spending an afternoon tossing back cold ones.
When I visited, the bar's interior was empty, save for patio guests coming in for refills. This was on a Sunday, when other bars had people crowding around TVs to watch football. The patio, though? No free tables!
Skip's boasts one of the better outdoor spots in town, so that's not surprising, but a quick survey of the patio demographics revealed more information: a little under half of the patio's occupants walked on four legs. In other words, if you want to bring your dog out drinking, Skip's is the place.
I ran into one of the patio's best-known four-legged guests, who is not a dog at all. Maple the pig with painted toenails is a regular at Skip's on Sundays. So, more accurately, Skip's is dog- and pig-friendly.
Chatting with our bartender, I learned that he's only the seventh employee that Skip has hired in 25 years. There's no liquor, no craft cocktails, a limited (but perfectly reasonable) beer and wine selection, no food and no real gimmicks, beyond the dog- and pig-friendly patio deal. But it's the old-school reliability of the place that makes Skip's successful. Few bars enjoy this kind of run, and the ones that do aren't purely by accident.
Contact Justin Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WordsWithJG.