Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Chef/owner John Zimmerman closed this casual neighborhood hangout in 2006 with plans to refurbish the kitchen and completely redesign the outdoor drinking and dining areas. Problem was, he ran out of money. But Zimmerman convinced a group of local patrons to pool their resources and invest, raising more than $2 million to complete his tiki-themed dream. Now the winding paths are in place between screens of banana and bamboo, the coconut palms and the waterfall have been installed and the docks rebuilt: It's a tropical fantasy that looks like a set some Hollywood King Kong might come crashing through in search of a damned good margarita. That Zimmerman was able to do this is testament to how well loved his waterfront bar has been over the years. The same oldies, hipsters, pleasure boaters, and reggae aficionados have come back to chow down on fish tacos and bloody marys. And they're still not dressing for dinner.
With its rustic, wall-to-wall wood and brick décor complete with moose-antler chandeliers, the Lodge Bar and Grill is the antithesis of any place you'd expect to find in chic downtown Boca Raton. Being an antipode to its Mizner-style surroundings is not what makes this cozy gem stand out; the rotating lineup of 24 imported and microbrews on draft are the main attraction here. With a blackboard denoting what's on tap in chalk scribbling, weekly tastings of savory suds from the likes of Belgium's Duvel and Colorado's Left Hand breweries, the Lodge is a beer lover's paradise. For around $20, take home the "Lodge Growler," 64 ounces of its favorite craft brew. The kitchen puts out some quality accompaniments too; juicy Angus beef burgers that have never seen the inside of a freezer and tasty truffle fries infused with white truffle oil and topped with Parmesan cheese make the perfect pairing to wash down a syrupy Ommegang Abby Ale.
Everyone makes bloody marys differently, and that's what makes them the ultimate brunch drink. Any Southern belle would be remiss not to sip hers with a skewer of pickled okra. The bon temps in Louisiana are most commonly supplemented by house-pickled green beans. Here in Florida, we're bastard children: We want our marys strong and extra bloody (read: spicy), and the more ingredients, well, the better. Enter Lauderdale Grill's weekend bloody mary bar. The restaurant offers an entire buffet table's worth of fixins and lets you concoct your own. Just ask one of Lauderdale Grill's waitrons for a glass and a double shot of vodka (only $4 each), and saunter up to the table to assemble. Choose from about five kinds of tomato juice, then spice your drink up with any of the following: cherry tomatoes, celery, scallions, spicy peppers, horseradish, A-1 Sauce, Worcestershire, Tabasco, okra, green beans, cilantro, pickles, onions, garlic, lemon, and lime. The combinations are as endless as the weekend is long. And if you want to go the simple route, there's always the most popular recipe: Owner Jamie Baker's own zesty secret blend made in-house from fresh vegetables.
Some you've already fallen in love with. Others will be entirely new. But if you're feeling lonely, any of these ladies will gladly go home with you for an uncomplicated romp. The smart gay girls you'll meet on the shelves at the Compass lending library include novelists Sarah Schulman, Sarah Waters, Dorothy Allison, and Rita May Brown; lefty lezzie social critics Karla Jay and Donna Minkowitz; British photographer Della Grace; sexperts Pat Califia and Susie Bright; and classic midcentury philosophers like Germaine Greer and Monique Wittig. Peruse hundreds of anthologies, biographies (Dusty Springfield, Melissa Etheridge), trashy Naiad romances, diaries, Gay & Lesbian Almanacs, tomes on film and history — any of which can be checked out for two weeks or read on the spot. The new Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Lake Worth is a blue and white oasis of pristine leather chairs under ceilings painted to look like sky, tasteful sculpture, and vintage Madonna playing softly in the background. Compass hosts events and meetings and runs HIV programs, but you can also hang here with your laptop and use the wi-fi, peck out a tune on the white baby grand, or just sit and wait patiently. Ms. Right is bound to show up eventually to return that Jeanette Winterson novel.
Strip clubs appeal to the simplest impulse of man: sex. So how did we let the strip club become so damned high-concept? Is the modern man really unsatisfied with merely the sight of impossibly gorgeous nude women? Must he also be seated on some regal piece of furniture within a palatial space throbbing with neon, nibbling on an impeccably cooked filet mignon? No, give him a stiff drink and show him some boobs and the modern man's a happy camper. This is the streamlined, classic approach at Cheetah's in Pompano Beach. Five beautiful women are dancing nude on stage while another dozen or so cavort in various states of undress on the club floor, in the VIP areas, or on the 13 "full friction" chairs. The music isn't so deafening that you can't have a conversation. There aren't laser beams shooting off every wall. This place isn't trying to be anything but what it is: a good titty bar.
Pub crawls are usually the sort of thing randomly cooked up by groups of friends or orchestrated by groomsmen. But if the city wants to sanction this drinking tour and throw in a trolley to transport drinkers from bar to bar, well... who are we to argue? During a night out on the Fort Lauderdale Bus Loop, you'll be chauffeured around town via a red-and-yellow Sun Trolley. You'll be getting blasted for a good cause, as proceeds go to charity. After forking over $18 beforehand or $25 at the pickup stations, you score a drinking card — sort of a passport to get smashed — that allows you free drinks and some appetizers from nine hot spots along Las Olas Riverfront and A1A. Each venue stamps the card, leaving you with a nifty souvenir at the end of the night. You can stay at each bar as long as you like (total drinking time: five hours), although it's hard to stay at the bar when you can drink on the trolley. Just be courteous, and try not to spill anything, especially on the bus loop driver.