Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The "wow" factor of many set designs lies in their enviable resplendency — their evocation of worlds in which most of us wouldn't mind spending the rest of our days. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre's Annie and Other Desert Cities come to mind, with their lush and livable milieus of money well-spent. Others, like our winner, reside on the opposite extreme, reminding us of places we hope to never see or, since it's a historically grounded piece, to never see again. The Timekeepers is set in a labor camp, and with his design for Island City Stage's production, Michael McClain took the bold gamble of fencing in his set with row after row of barbed wire. Inside the richly detailed, modified chicken coop were wonderfully curated objects, from the makeshift toilet — AKA, a metal bucket — to the vintage Victrola to, most important, the box of broken watches we understood to have been removed from the remains of Holocaust victims and whose existence is the only thing keeping the play's two central characters alive. Those obtrusive wires were a constant reminder of the characters' hopelessness, but at the same time, when the drama heated up inside the camp, you forgot they were there. This set might not have worked on a larger stage, but with its already inherent sense of confinement, Empire Stage provided an ideal environment; it was the best set we've ever seen in that room.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.