Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Wind your way past the throngs of skinny-jeaned teenyboppers, up the escalator to the third floor. There, across from the movie theater snack bar, is a dimly lit bar. Inside, the dance floor is tiny, made of mosaic marble ideal for spinning. The rotunda ceiling is painted sky blue with white clouds. By 11 p.m. on a Friday, this space is filled with writhing bodies — thrusting hips, glossy red stilettos, metallic belts, greased hair. The people sweat and sparkle as if with one breath. The DJ, speaking only in Spanish, feeds the frenzy, spinning crowd-pleasing salsa, bachata, merengue, and reggaeton. Almost no one is stumbling drunk or leering. Dancing is the only thing that matters here. Beginner salsa students shyly pair off beside the people who were born to move their hips this way. Newcomers watch, mesmerized and breathless, as the best couples compete in impromptu contests. Stand on the sidelines long enough and someone will take your hand, clear a space for you on the floor. You dance until you're exhausted. Then you stumble back out into the air-conditioned theater, wondering how anyone could watch a movie on a night like this.
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.
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.
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.