A Tour of Fort Lauderdale's Waterfront Bars: Pelican Landing, Beachside Grill, and Yak-Zies

I grew up landlocked and still get pretty intimidated by the great big ocean— and bathtubs, for that matter. My favorite way to experience massive amounts of water and all that lies beneath is from a few feet away, with a very alcoholic beverage firmly in my clutches.  So I took a rapid-fire tour of some of the coolest waterfront bars in the area — both best-kept secrets and brand-spankin' new — with enough nudie photos, 12-inch wieners, colorful characters, and corsets to last a lifetime. Take it from me: The water doesn't look so deep once you get a couple of Pelican Punches in your system.  

Pelican Landing: Located in the Pier 66 Marina on the Hyatt Hotel grounds, Pelican Landing is a well-hidden jewel of a bar; it overlooks the docks and offers a stunning view of the Intracoastal — not to mention an array of sunny, fruit-tastic alcoholic beverages.

I had heard on the grapevine that Pelican Landing is trying to establish itself as a Tuesday-evening hot spot, so a handful of friends and I made our way across the docks and up the stairs and comfortably situated our asses at one of the candle-dotted wooden deck tables. Inside was a full-sized bar; outside, a guitarist crooned Bob Dylan hits under a hazy crescent moon. I quickly ordered the pinkest drink on the menu (a Pelican Punch, or, more accurately, an alcohol-infused diabetic coma) and leaned back to relax, enjoying the caress of the salty evening breeze, the distant sound of lapping water, and the all-too-familiar sensation of liquor sucker-punching me in the liver. Ah, this is the life.

Jason Crosby

Details

Pelican Landing, 2301 S.E. 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-6666, or click here.

Beachside Grill, 4658 N. Ocean Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Call 954-489-1544.

Yak-Zies, 868 S. Federal Highway, Pompano Beach. Call 954-786-0033, or click here.

"You meet all kinds here," said Paul, the Pelican Landing employee who has been given the mandate to, as he put it, "make Tuesday nights happen." He continued: "I met a pair of rich Dutch guys a few days ago. And earlier, I was talking with a rum maker from Tennessee."

"Random," I said.

"We're trying to create the perfect Tuesday night here," Paul explained while clad in a yellow, blue, and red Hawaiian shirt. "A great blend of music, tourists, locals, and half-price drinks."

"What should I order?" asked my lovely lady friend, Blondie. She was sipping a blend of Grey Goose and cucumber, which she had deemed "too sweet."

"How about a hot dog?" Paul asked.  He smiled slyly and pushed a flier toward us, which read: When was the last time you had a 12-inch?

"I don't need that much hot dog," Blondie said. She ignored the subsequent onslaught of phallus jokes and complied only after Paul informed her that hot dogs are free on Tuesday nights.

Peter, the ponytailed guitarist, had pulled up a chair and was taking song requests (we asked for Beatles and Rolling Stones) when the hot dog arrived, slathered with relish and spicy white sauce.

Blondie looked aghast and immediately offered some to Peter.

"No thanks," he said. "Can't eat or drink for two hours before playing guitar."

She sliced a piece for my friend Beard, who, on his third vodka tonic, put the wiener in his mouth without much protest and deemed it delicious.

Personally, I've never been to a place where you can sip rum from a second-story hotel bar like some kind of classy tourist and still be invited — no, baited — to make penis jokes. Plus, it's a beautiful view. Get your ass out there.

Beachside Grill:  The interior was composed mostly of earthy shades of stone and brick; the seating included leather booths (complete with a mini-TV affixed to the wall beside each) and the uncluttered, rectangular bar was chicly decorated with wine glass racks, candles, and pink orchids. I grabbed a spot at the bar just beyond a black-and-white photo of Frank Sinatra. Around the bar was a collection of mostly tanned, middle-aged-and-up folks who were laughing, talking, and watching the slick Italian co-owner, Charlie, teach a corseted, brunet waitress how to properly pour liquor.

"One... two... three... You've got to feel it," he coached as she sloshed liquid into a glass. "Practice with water. You'll get it."

"She's trying," I said a few minutes later.

"She's never worked in a restaurant before," Charlie told me. "She told me that up-front — but said her husband went to Iraq and she really needed a job."

"And you asked her if she could fit into a corset, right?" I asked.

He laughed. "No — the corsets are a new thing, actually — but I hired her on the spot, and she's been one of my best workers since."

Formerly the owner of a New York gourmet ravioli company, Charlie — who wore a black button-down and had a handsome grin — had opened Beachside Grill only a month ago.  Monday nights, he told us, the bar hosted a sports radio talk show, with former Dolphins player Jim Kiick as one of the commentators; weekends, they brought in crowds and encouraged dancing. He also told us the crab cakes are to die for, and my friend salivated at the mention of the house Italian gravy. Then he busily sent us on to talk to James, a long-term (well, relatively, for a place open only a month) patron.

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