Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
There's a hedge between Waxy O' Connor's and the busy 17th Street Causeway that serves to enclose a rollicking outdoor seating section, where pints of Guinness and Bass are consumed by hearty young men and women. Comfortable swinging tables, TV sets tuned to sports channels, and a diverse crowd of well-traveled yacht hands add up to a party for the senses. Inside, the dark-wood bar is considerably more quaint, though equally packed. Expats sit idly at the bar sipping beer, ready to dispense their worldly wisdom. Live rock bands move the throngs of Waxy-ites with upbeat covers. And for those looking for a relaxing night, the nook-like booths that line the wall provide intimate retreats. Happy hour is from 4 to 7 p.m.; that's when drink prices are reduced (though you don't get the usual half price).
Fort Lauderdale finally got its big-time rock venue last year. Revolution does more than hip-hop, dance, and house beats. The Himmarshee club brings big names to town. So far, Snoop Dogg, George Clinton, Slayer, and Mos Def, among others, have graced the stage of the former Edge, Chili Pepper, and Star Bar. On a good night, 3,000 people crowd in. Manager Jackie Bressler, a former Deadhead from (where else?) New Jersey, and her management team (including production manager Jason Bray, head of security Archie Powles, and operations director Shane Berry) have a long-term entry in Fort Lauderdale club life on their hands. At least, we hope so.
Success on the club scene involves risks, Bressler says. It's like her choice of carny amusements. "I was always into the rides," she says. "The scarier and faster, the better." Sounds like a prescription for a club named Revolution.
Dark, loud, smelly, and glorious, the Poor House is everything a real rock 'n' roll bar should be. There's a tangible sense of reckless excess within its smoke-stained walls, a well-lacquered, incidental hipness developed from years of serious drinking and heavy shredding. Think spring break meets the Sunset Strip and you get an idea of the kind of head-banging, shot-taking shenanigans that go down. With a no-cover policy and a roster that ranges from boogie-friendly blues to max-rock bands like AC Cobra and Pandabite, Poor House offers something for everyone every night of the week (as long as you don't mind Third World bathroom conditions). Cheap drinks made stiff by a surprisingly courteous bar staff keep the eardrums relatively numb to the sound system's cranked-past-ten volume, so don't be afraid to get in front of the low stage and make an ass of yourself. This is rock 'n' roll, after all.
Sometimes, all you really need from a bar is comfort, space to move around in, and a jukebox loaded with early '90s rock. The kind of place with free peanuts and a floor to catch the shells. Simple. Sure, it doesn't hurt that the spacious Sauer Apple Saloon balances four nights of live music into the equation, including original local rock on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Throwing love to local musicians is way cool. And that's not all. DJs provide the tunes on Monday nights, when there's an "In the Biz" extended happy hour, and Thursday nights, when ladies get two-for-one martinis and free sangria starting at 9 p.m. By the way, typical cocktails run around $5, and a Budweiser goes for $3.25. Happy hour is two-for-one drinks every day from 4 to 7 p.m., so it's seriously affordable. The daily fare includes quality liquors like Bombay Sapphire gin, Skyy vodka, Bacardi rum, and Jim Beam bourbon. The coolest part is: Happy hour tokens are redeemable any time, and that means good times.
Cucina Dell' Arte has been around for years. Snooty Palm Beachers have stuffed their rich faces full of pasta there since it was a quiet Italian joint on Dixie Highway. Then came the Coniglio family, owners of the raucous and successful E.R. Bradley's. The Coniglios bought Cucina in its new digs on Royal Poinciana Way in April 2003 and appointed the family's next generation, 26-year-old Nicholas Coniglio, owner of the place. The youngster quickly turned Cucina into something else completely. Now Cucina has become the first good reason since, well, ever to make a nighttime journey over to the island. The place is packed on weekend nights with a crowd that has made Cucina perhaps the island's first-ever hangout for us working folk. There's regularly a smattering of the hoi polloi from the mainland mixing with the Palm Beachers in their Easter-egg-colored polos. "We say the crowd is from 21 to 71," says Coniglio, a Palm Beach native and former snowboarding instructor. "And you can get everything from bathing suits to tuxedoes." Coniglio expanded the restaurant's hours, and the place now is regularly packed from opening at 7 a.m. to closing at 3 in the morning. Oh, and that thing poking you in the back while you're on the dance floor? That's the overstuffed wallet of the guy in the tomato-soup-colored blazer.
It's got the posh bistro ambiance, and the bar looks like it was transported from the Sideways set, but don't worry: This place isn't just for wine snobs. The owner, Danish-born Per Jacobsen, makes sure of that. He's a first-rate host who knows his wine and is happy to impart his knowledge and vast selection of vino to all comers, whether they be Miles Raymond (the aficionado played by Paul Giamatti in the aforementioned flick) or Six Pack Joe. And when Per isn't there to guide you, the rest of the staff gives you that rare commodity in South Florida: fine service. As for the goods, well, the markups on the bottles aren't all that bad (you can get a bottle of 1997 Barolo that retails for about $35 for $59). But let's face it, when you're talking about wine bars, you have to be ready to plunk down some dough, especially if you plan to eat (first-rate cuisine) and drink until your soul is good and merry. And Vienna is the place to do that.