Best of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of 2014

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Actress
Valentina Izarra

Kim Ehly's Fort Lauderdale-based Kutumba Theatre Project is just two productions into its existence, but it has established a niche brand as a voice for the lesbian-American experience. Theatergoers have already witnessed growth from its first production, the pulp throwback The Beebo Brinker Chronicles, to its second, Julie Johnson, about a young woman's sexual and intellectual awakenings. That growth largely stemmed from the superlative casting of Valentina Izarra, whose performance as Julie elevated the work of those around her, not all of whom had professional-theater bona fides. In the play's first few minutes, she was a rumple of clothes on the floor of her modest apartment, her face buried in her own despair. Izarra emerged from this state like a turtle finally exiting its shell and experiencing life for the first time. Her character began taking computer classes (cutting-edge for the show's setting, in 1980s New Jersey) and developing feelings for her longtime, female best friend, who, like her, was stuck in an increasingly loveless marriage. Izarra expressed these changes with a radiant positivity and joie de vivre that couldn't help but ripple outward to the audience. It would be reductive to say Julie Johnson is a feel-good play, but if you didn't feel good watching Izarra hilariously and sweetly stumble and fumble and awkwardly navigate these life-changing choices, then you may not be human.

Best Sports Bar
Bokamper's Sports Bar & Grill

Sports bars should have two things: drinks and TVs. Bokamper's has both in spades. Owned by and named after Dolphins defensive lineman Kim "Bo" Bokamper from the team's glory years, his fifth and newest location in Fort Lauderdale is the most overwhelming yet. A full bar includes craft beers and specialty drinks, but more impressive is the sheer number of televisions that cover the place wall to wall. You will be able to catch a glimpse of the game no matter where you sit. There are so many TVs that on an NFL Sunday, the same holds true for whichever game you wish to watch, even if the Jacksonville Jaguars are playing the Cleveland Browns. If you hate sports and are dragged here against your will, this Bokamper's sits on the Intracoastal Waterway, allowing you to root for whichever sailboat is the prettiest as you down another beer.

1280 S. Pine Island Rd., Plantation, 33324
MAP
954-533-7152
Best New Bar
Bar Stache 1920's Drinking Den

This party enclave caters to the hip: the chic, live-music lovers and those looking for a serious cocktail and a sexy time. The 5,000-square-foot space opened in fall 2013 and boasts gorgeous décor throughout the three-level club. Revelers are treated to two bars, plush couches, a fireplace area, and a whimsical portrait of George Washington wearing sunglasses. The impressive drink menu was concocted by Miami mixologist extraordinaire John Lermayer. Toss back classics such as old-fashioneds and Tom Collinses , or a WGA Sour — shaken with Disaronno, 100-proof bourbon, lemon juice, and egg whites. Visit during the club's weekend happy hour for a showcase of whirling nipple-tassels and hip-shimmying burlesque dancers working the stage. Dim the lights, baby; it's showtime.

109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33301
MAP
954-449-1044
Best Neighborhood Bar, North Broward
JByrd's Muddy Waters

The best part about a neighborhood joint is that you make it what it is. With Muddy Waters, you can make it a mental vacation to Key West or a detour to a nautical bar on your way home from the office. The place is decorated like a pirate ship, and you can eat like you're on one too — 69 cents per raw clam or oyster, all day every day. (Don't forget your rum!) Known for a homegrown karaoke night and Floribbean food, Muddy Waters is by locals and for locals. Come in with your crew when you desire the wild South Floridian vibes or by yourself when you need a bite and a conversation with a stranger. Good service, food, and drinks — it's the neighborhood bar trifecta. This place is missing only one thing: a "Locals Only" sign.

2237 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach, 33442
MAP
954-428-6577
Best Neighborhood Bar; Central Broward

When the Black Pearl Tavern shuttered last summer, a huge pained chorus of Boston-accented sighs shook through South Florida. Since 1995, the Pearl, a storefront bar crammed into a strip mall on East Commercial, was the go-to spot for Boston sports fans living in South Florida. Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins — the memorabilia hung from the walls. The games were on constant replay. The conversation pinballed from Tham Brahday to Bell Whalten to Hail Flutie. Then — poof! — it was gone. Luckily for these exiles, less than a year later, a new Pearl is rising from the ashes. The new location is east on Commercial in a space that once held the Gold Medal Wine Shop. The new space is no-fills — just a big square bar surrounded on three sides by stools. Boston sports continue to run from the flat screens, and it has Funky Buddha beers on tap. And the bar continues to pull in the usual crowd of neighborhood folks, off-shift restaurant-industry types, and Bostonians. Unless you want to be evil-eyed or shanked, don't walk through the door in New York Yankee gear.

1547 E. Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park, 33334-5717
MAP
954-491-7711
Best Neighborhood Bar; South Broward
Walsh's Irish Pub

You could sop up suds in bars across the land, and you'll never find It — that ineffable quality that the bards sing hymns to and bar hoppers sniff out like hounds hunting game. It — the perfect balance of down-home drinking, affordable prices, and friendly faces. It — what you'll never find inside an Applebee's or any other chain bar or restaurant named after a day of the week. But once you walk inside Walsh's Irish Sports Bar in Hollywood, the It-ness smacks you in the face. That's because owner Terri Walsh and her merry band of regulars have had plenty of time to get the whole bar thing down. Ever since Walsh worked at Hollywood's mainstay McGowan's in the '80s, she's collected around her a team of drinkers. Now, every night of the week, they pour into Walsh's own place on North Federal Highway, filling up barstools to swap stories and reminisce. But it's not a members-only affair. Strangers are greeted warmly and will likely be led through a whirlwind of intros by Walsh herself, all topped off with a tequila shot — a textbook It move.

2217 N. Federal Highway, Hollywood, 33020
MAP
954-920-5479
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Best Actress: Valentina Izarra

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