Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
It is early, and the crowds have not yet gathered. It is what they call happy hour, but the old man sees little obvious happiness here. He raises his drink to his lips. For a happy hour, it is very quiet. Quietness is good. You do not want loudness. You want the place to be clean and pleasant. You want the bartender to be pleasant, but you do not want her to talk too much. The bar is clean, with its long laminated counter. It is well-lighted, with little hanging lamps and curled-paper shades. There are neon highlights along the ceiling. There are hightop tables with stools, but the old man prefers the bar. There is music -- something by an artist previously known as the Artist -- but it is not too loud.
"Another one?" asks the pleasant but not-too-talkative bartender named Angie.
A group comes in and orders drinks. The men order something called a cosmopolitan. A pink drink that should be consumed by women, the old man thinks. The women order rum and Coca-Cola. Not the smooth Puerto Rican rum but something called Captain Morgan. A harsh, masculine drink. The old man shakes his head. If the bar were not so clean, he would spit on the floor.
"Another?" asks the bartender.
The old man shakes his head. Nada, he thinks. Now, he will have nada. Two of the bitter mixtures of gin and quinine water ($6.75 for both, at the happy hour rate) are enough. He is sufficiently steeped in gloom. But he will be back. He will return when he senses the necessity of drinking quietly in public during the happy hour.
So there's Fast Eddie, the balding barfly. He always tries to sell his blood for money. He drinks Honey Brown. He has track marks up and down his arms. He has a nervous twitch. He has an itch he just can't scratch. He performs at the open-mic night down the street, and he always sits at the end of the bar. Then there's Mary, who, quite contrary to popular belief, has never been with Eddie, or Freddy, in the back of her Chevy. She guards the jukebox and plays the Jam. She drinks Blackbeard Ale in flipflops bought at a yard sale. Then there's Bobby and Jenny, with their skinny jeans and thrift-store shirts, talking to Shelly and Tracy, with their high-pitched laughs and vintage skirts. They're all drinking Tsingtao and mussing their 'dos, tapping their toes and talking about the Who. Another beer? Make that two. These are the various characters who inhabit the tables, barstools, and dark corners of the Billabong Pub, an unassuming joint nestled in a strip mall behind a strip club, next door to a "massage parlor" and a Mattress Giant. Sound intimate? It is: The lighting is low (and most of the time, this is a good thing), and the crowd is forced to stand eye-to-eye with the band, as there's no stage. And if you happen to be lingering after the pub's 2 a.m. closing time on Fridays and Saturdays, you can spot Indie Rock Rob chatting up Carl the Car Salesman with the lazy eye, over a delicious flute of Lambic Frambois ($5 per glass, $10 per bottle). Readers' Choice: Culture Room
A "traditional" Irish bar located smack dab on the corner of Sleazy Street and NE Drunk Avenue in Pompano. Really doesn't sound like it should work, right? But the clientele that packs the Briny every night (especially Saturday night, when Rob Rage, the Briny's own rock 'n' roll cover band, plays) doesn't give a shit. They're just there to drink, shout incoherently, and hope the room stops spinning before they get thrust out upon the beach at 2 a.m. Actually, it's easy to think the room's spinning even if you're not drunk, since the bar is cluttered with kitschy Florida décor (mounted fish, thick ropes, life preservers, photos of people holding mounted fish and life preservers) and other assorted oddities such as encyclopedias. A word to the bar fight-inclined: The Briny has an extra-long bar top, perfect for throwing the raving lunatic hitting on your girlfriend down the bar, where your friend will have hastily set up a pyramid of beer bottles for him to smack into. Readers' Choice: Poor House, Georgie's Alibi (tie)
The lights are low. The clinking of silverware and hum of conversation, mixed with anticipation, swirls around the room. Tonight is someone's lucky night -- you can feel it. The large book is passed around the table. They must make the right decision. And then, it's go time.
"When I was young, I never needed anyone/And makin' love was just for fun..."
You listen, the sound filling your ears.
"All by myyyself... don't wanna be... alll BYYYY MYYY SELLFF."
Things have taken a turn for the worse, and it suddenly sounds like a dying cat has lodged itself in the speakers. But you can't leave; you still have a plate of food. It's just another night at Sushi Toi. The restaurant is named after owner Sushi Boy's wife, but he's the master of ceremonies. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, it's Boi's job to coerce patrons, preferably those tanked on 15 glasses of sake (but then, they really don't need coercion), to the Sushi Toi stage to belt out tunes picked from the massive songbook. And if the stars happen to be aligned just so, you might be able to hear Boi himself sing "Lady in Red." If that doesn't drop a tear in your Kirin, you're dead inside.
Ladies who dig ladies are throwing lipstick across their smackers on Friday nights and heading to Wilton Manor's Five Points to experience the 7-month-old lesbian hot spot, Martini Cabaret. Resident DJ Daddy spins Latin and dance mixes for a crowd that's thick till 3 a.m. The digs are upscale, and martinis run around $8.50. Happy hour is 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Cathode Ray is the standard gay bar in Broward County. Described by co-owners Larry Wald and Scott Belding as an S&M club -- stand and model, that is -- the three-room bar draws a large crowd on the weekends. But if there is pretension at the 20-year-old Cathode, it's overshadowed by the ready-to-go-crazy crowd that doesn't take itself too seriously. Smokers and shmoozers pour through the door onto the sidewalk and bust sensational moves to music that ranges from Madonna and Whitney to '90s booty mixes. Formal fun includes Wednesday night's Pick-a-Trick contest hosted by Larry and live drag performances by Monica Moore every Thursday at 10:30 p.m. There's always a drink special during the relaxed happy hours, and it's unlikely that you'll go home without a new number in your cell phone. The new madness at the club is a 4-month-long drinking contest called "Cathode University, The Institution of Higher Drinking," which includes a two-tiered mock fraternity system and cash prizes to be handed out along with mock degrees at the September graduation.