Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
For martini-drinking ambience, head for the lounge at Fort Lauderdale's St. Regis Hotel, where a jazzy score rolls across a vaulted ceiling of blond wood. But the St. Regis, like so many other upscale joints in South Florida, has an unexotic array of gins, and that's bound to rankle the true martini snob. He's liable to follow the scent of juniper berries a few blocks north along A1A to the Trina lounge, inside the Atlantic Hotel. Here one can find Martin Miller's, a brand whose British makers followed their gin obsession all the way to Iceland for glacial waters that are the world's purest. This is perhaps the deft touch of mixology and hospitality guru Nick Mautone, a consultant to the bar and restaurant. Mautone seems to have also imparted a few lessons to the bartending staff, who are wise to the subtle ways of martini creation.
The lobby bar at the Ritz Carlton in Manalapan serves a delicious little plate of olives with its dry Sapphire martinis. There's so many of them, and they pair so satisfyingly with the cold gin and the light streaming in from the beach, that you can't help but have another drink. And then you're doomed. What to do? You don't want to go to Florida Stage, which is just across the street — it's very uncool to pass out in the middle of serious theater. And nearby Sushi Bon, though delightful, is probably not an option, as even good sushi can make drunk people yak. Anyway, you've just spent plenty of money. So why not just... walk? We recommend heading north. In just a mile or two, you'll see some extraordinary things. Just recently, we spied Ann Coulter standing outside of what was presumably her house, watching as a cute young valet from a nearby country club parked a car. Even if Ann's out of town on one of her peerlessly illuminating book tours, you might catch Rod Stewart weeding his lawn, Rush Limbaugh grazing in his, or Henry Paulson sitting glumly on his front porch, wondering how it all went so wrong.
The taxidermy foxes have seen better days. Their fur is matted and thinning in areas, but the artist captured them in that moment of frisky scuttling — just before some Brit shot them both full of lead. You can't help but make up stories like that about these furry scamps while knocking back pints of lager at the Fox and Hound. After all, their eyes stare at you — one pair from the fox on the bar and the other from the fox high up in a picture box on the wall. You suspect they used to wear monocles, or perhaps top hats. Surely they carried pocket watches and spoke with refined British accents that bordered on purring. Sometimes, around the holidays, the bar fox is decorated with a tiny Santa hat: That's got to piss off the fox on the wall, on top of the fact that the bar fox is already closer to the packets of crisps. Taxidermy décor does more than make us feel classy when we hang at the Fox and Hound; it makes us wonder. And for that, we're thankful.
There are two things you cannot school Kilmo on: playing the bass and cooking great bar food. Alligator Alley is Kilmo's joint, and it's his knack for combining freely flowing live music with a southern/Cajun menu that keeps us stopping in for dinner year after year. Ideal bar food must be absorbent, and the Alley has the best selection of fried in town. Kilmo uses a secret batter, but there have been less sober moments late in the night when he's dropped a few clues to its components: buttermilk, specially seasoned breadcrumbs, and "love." Check out their shrimp po' boy: this generous hoagie overflows with shredded lettuce, breaded and deep fried tiger shrimp, and remoulade sauce. It's enough to make Atkins quiver in terror and us squeal in delight. The rest of the menu offers fried gator, fried oysters, gumbo, ribs, and more. Everything is great. To eat a bad dish at this bar, you'd have to phone in an order to another restaurant and have it delivered.UPDATE: This location is now closed.
Some smokers like to sit in a dense fog while they imbibe cocktails, absorbing just as much second-hand smoke as they do first-hand. But others, the more enlightened smokers, prefer to toke outdoors. And in the warm South Florida clime, that should spell out lots of options. Except that a surprisingly large number of bars here are hidden inside shopping centers. Then there's Anglesea — which looks like a funky little fishing shack and boasts a relaxed vibe to match. Technically you can't smoke at the bar inside Anglesea Pub. But hardly anyone sits at the actual bar anyhow. That's because the outdoor covered deck, and a few picnic tables near the canal, are where the action (and the occasional breeze) is at.
A room full of beer-swilling pirates swaying to loud AC/DC near the beach would be the best place to take the cool guests you're hosting — that is, folks you want to get drunk with, and set to reminiscing, not people you need to impress. This would be true even if the Pirate Republic were nothing more than a laidback bar across the street from the beach with cheap beer and good-looking girls. But it's a little more than that. Take the décor: Its walls are covered with pirate paraphernalia – skulls, planks, and more black flags than a Henry Rollins scrapbook. Plus, there's a store next door that sells mementoe ss, including "I want your booty" panties and life-size pirate dolls.