By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
By Liz Tracy
By Chris Joseph
By Liz Tracy
By Matt Preira
By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
When the weather is shitty, your boss is pissed, your dog dies, and no one seems to understand, there's only one thing to do: Stop being a pain. Life is pain, Princess. And the only way to survive it is by going to your happy place. My happy place exists in the form of booze-dispensing joints, which I frequent almost constantly. Behold! The following is an account of my journey through the happiest bars in South Florida.
Rosie's Bar & Grill: Rosie's (no affiliation to Ms. MacDonald, one flamboyant bartender pointed out) is perpetually busy and quintessentially Florida. Pink spotlights bathe the nightspot's surrounding palm trees; its booming bass is audible for miles; the patio is packed every single night of the week.
My two wingmen and I opted for patio seating and were led past a glass case full of Rosie's T-shirts (including one with this Sapphic message: "You have a kind face — the kind I like to sit on!"). Sexy pop-music videos flashed across the flat-screen TVs; photos of starlets, old movie posters, and vanity license plates ("PRINCESS") spattered the pink walls. Random decoration: a small Cruella de Vil doll poised within the confines of an oversized, red-sequined, high-heeled shoe. The white rafters were adorned with tiki masks, framed photos, and stuffed animals. The clientele was diverse: Rosie's has beauties and beasts, geezers and youngsters, intimate couples and rowdy groups. All are dispersed among the high tables, booths, and barstools.
2449 Wilton Drive
Wilton Manors, FL 33305
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Wilton Manors
Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery, 2621 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Call 561-368-4643, or click here.
Antea, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, 1881 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 888-554-2131.
Outside on the patio, under a ceiling of colored paper lanterns and fairy lights, my wingmen — Beard, my facial-hair-sporting drinking partner, and Shaun, his best friend and former frat brother — scoped out the variety of drink and snack selections and listened in as the two dudes behind us discussed Brad Pitt at length. The menu featured a cartoon drawing of a plump brunet on the front. She was pictured in heavenly voluptuous glory, wearing a black dress and white feather boa and seated atop a white bulldog with pink polished toenails. A beach scene stretched across the background.
"Rosie's buxom," Beard observed, tracing her bulky cleavage with his index finger.
"Certainly curvaceous," I said, pointing at her chunky calves.
"She's luscious," Shaun said.
I've always been all hips and lankiness my entire life; Rosie's goddess-like figure evoked slight jealousy deep in my bony core. Definitely a lush; not quite luscious.
Looking for a bit more entertainment, I sauntered indoors — to an uptempo remix of Kim Wilde's "Keep Me Hangin' On" — and hopped up to the bar. Ron, the slight, tanned bartender, was drying glasses and happy to recommend a Rosie's mojito, bloody mary, or piña colada (their most-requested drinks).
"Who's Rosie?" I asked.
"Rosie is... very fun-loving, confident," he said. "She loves traveling... has a big, loving family, but she's always off vacationing somewhere new."
"The place used to be called Hamburger Mary's," he continued. "The owners wanted to keep everything feminine-themed, but they're two gay guys."
"So Rosie doesn't exist," I said, a little disappointed.
"Well, she's actually based on one of the waitresses here," he said, pointing across the room. "Danielle! The one with the ta-tas!"
Sure enough, a plump, buxom babe with cropped dark hair was carrying a tray of hamburgers across the room. She dropped off the plates and stopped by to see what Ron was yelling about.
"You're Rosie," I said.
"Yup, there I am on the menu," said Danielle, pointing. "Large calves and all."
On my way back outside, I noticed a large group of women who were loudly celebrating and sipping fruity drinks.
"What's going on?" I asked a girl wearing an off-the-shoulder green sweater and heavy matching eye shadow.
"We're celebrating two birthdays today," she informed me.
"Woo! Twice the drinking!" I said.
"I'm one of the birthday girls!" said a girl behind me. She was tall and sturdy, with sparkly makeup, long blond hair, and a perfect doll face.
"You barely look like you're turning old enough to drink," I said in a predatory quasilesbian way. "What's this, your 23rd?"
"I'm sorry, I don't know you," she said, catching me up in a gleeful hug, "but I like you. I'm actually turning 28!"
I didn't know if she was drunk, but I like hugs from hot girls. I made my way back out to the patio, ready to enjoy more beverages, flashing lights, and ultra-upbeat pop music. And if that's not happiness, I don't know what is.
The Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery: The Funky Buddha is the ultimate happy place all the time, but especially lately — now that it's fixin' to open a microbrewery, has added kava to its menu (which already boasts coffee, shots, cappuccinos, teas, beers, mixed drinks, appetizers, and ales), and has moved to a new, bigger location. And it's also especially happy on Wednesday open-mic nights: Cover charge goes to charity, and the place gets slammed with Boca Raton's most talented amateurs.
The Buddha is part opium den, part after-class coffee bar, part happenin' local music scene. The walls are purple-red and decorated with sconces and inspired paintings of beer bottles and feminine body parts. There are statues of peaceful Hindu deities and big-bellied Buddhas up and down the bar, which I took a seat at, next to a long-haired dude with black-painted fingernails. Beautiful, ornate hookahs, tea bags, and liquor bottles decorated the space behind the bar. Cool white smoke curled from patrons' hookahs up to the ceiling.
John, the blue-eyed general manager, brought me a half-pot of kiwi-pear white tea and gave me the 411: The Funky Buddha is about to become Boca's biggest microbrewery; they're working on becoming a music-focused venue; open-mic nights have been benefiting charity for four years now.
"Who's the Funky Buddha?" I asked.
"That's open to interpretation," John said. "He can be whatever you imagine him as."
"He's Buddha's cooler, laid-back, stoner brother," I said.
"If that's how you see him," John said.
"What flavor hookah should we have?" interjected Beard, who was perusing the extensive list of hookah flavors (everything from sex on the beach to cappuccino to licorice).
A few minutes later, John was bringing over a hookah full of Hawaiian Dreams, his recommended flavor, and Beard was guzzling a Chimay ale.
The open-mic host — broad, with a booming voice — beat-boxed for a few minutes before calling a pair of musicians up to the stage.
The duo — a vocalist with bushy brown hair and tight jeans, a guitarist with shaggy black hair and stunning jaw lines — seemed uncomfortable at first. But then the singer — who was 16, by the way — let loose with his high, clean vocals and stunned the buzzing audience, which suddenly became slack-jawed and silent.
When their original song ended, the duo followed it with an acoustic version of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." It was emotional, moving, and beautiful — basically everything Lady Gaga's version isn't.
I took a long drag on the hookah, spat out a stream of billowing smoke, and charged over to the pair as they left the stage.
Guitarist Eric had discovered Brett — who sweetly hugged me when I complimented his singing voice — only a few weeks ago.
"Can you believe this kid isn't famous yet?" Eric said after Brett went outside to wait for his father. "Since we've met, we've been cranking out songs by the dozens."
"That's incredible," I said. "Kid seems nice too."
"He's a little insecure," Eric admitted. "If I had his amazing voice? I'd be like, 'What, bitches!' But he'll learn."
Next up was a string of decently funny comics; basically, they used two topics: masturbation and weed. (One comic mentioned feeding a dog chocolate, but he lost the audience's attention so fast that he laid down on the stage for his remaining five minutes. Awkward.)
"Hi, my name's Matt," one bearded, long-haired comic said. "I like smoking pot and watching ethnically diverse people fuck on the internet." Cheers and laughter ensued.
"Who likes smoking pot?" he asked.
The truth about the Buddha: It's where a shitload of different people — stoners, college kids, goths, and even a quartet of high-heel-wearing, supermodel-hot chicks — all get together, chill, blow fruity smoke rings, and laugh at semen jokes.
Antea: Antea is a brand-spankin'-new bar in the Fort Lauderdale Beach Hilton Hotel that serves sexy drinks, is perpetually packed, and has somehow managed to commandeer the entire hotel lobby and turn it into a happenin' nightspot. Antea is so new, it borrows its drink menu from the outdoor patio bar, but it's got all the liquor and fast-paced bartenders it needs to make anything your little lush heart desires. Let's just say this: My pungent, blood-red hurricane (made with Bacardi, gin, amaretto, grenadine, orange juice, pineapple juice, and grapefruit juice) put me on an alcohol-soaked cloud nine.
I had to wait in a line three people deep just to talk to Lisbeth, the dark-haired bartender. She entertained my questions over the sterile steel counter, aware of the swarming masses of beverage seekers. "We are always this busy," she said as though I were an idiot. "We're in season right now — this hotel is packed with people going and coming on cruises."
"What about your drink menu?" I asked.
"We're working on developing a specific menu for Antea," she said. "Whereas the patio bar specializes more in cocktails — like the hurricane, island driver, Hilton punch, and various kinds of mojito — we're going to specialize more in martinis."
I'd settled down with my hurricane on one of the lobby's classy couches and was imbibing near a well-dressed man with sharp blue eyes and a long-legged bottle blond in a short, spotted dress. She had her legs crossed and kept glancing at her phone. Although they were both sucking down drinks at an alarming rate, she seemed rather surly. I overheard him tell her he was working on a "big case" and then ask what kind of men she liked.
"Good ones," she said curtly.
The thing that makes this such a euphoric place to be is not the white, plushy couches, immaculate counters, expansive chandeliers or charming bookshelves boasting tomes with names like Guide to Freshwater Fishing — it's that celebratory vacation vibe. It's the crackling of different languages and accents and being among the vacationing elite in all their sun-tanned glory with nothing on their agenda except ordering another round of drinks.
Back on the couch, Ol' Blue Eyes was cracking jokes and had offered his blond acquaintance a sip of his rum (a gentleman's drink, he said). She humored him and took a drink. A quick glance in their direction revealed that she was smiling slightly.
Sometime later, while I was busy polishing off my own drink and people-watching, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the pair stand and leave the bar, stepping onto the moon-bathed patio, where they disappeared together into the crisp night.
Someone's getting la-aid.
And if that's not a happy place, I don't know what is.