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Best Of 2014

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Theater for the Arts

Over the past year, Slow Burn Theatre Company has proved that sometimes the best theater can originate from the unlikeliest places: in this case, a high school in the boondocks of West Boca Raton, an area so remote that you're likely to pass tumbleweeds on your way to the parking lot. But once you get inside, you're transported to worlds that are complex, moving, frightening, and unique. Founders Patrick Fitzwater and Matthew Korinko, who launched Slow Burn five years ago, are never content to restage the same old theatrical warhorses, preferring to challenge their audiences with plays they've never seen before — and sometimes improving on the source material in the process. This past year saw the theater fully emerge from its shell; for the first time, it became eligible for Carbonell Awards, and its first show of the season, Next to Normal, promptly received more nominations than any other production in South Florida (Fitzwater won for Best Director of a Musical). Slow Burn presented this rock musical about a bipolar housewife with remarkable depth and humanity, bolstered by six dynamic voices and a beguiling set design inspired by M.C. Escher. The company followed it with Parade, another high-water mark (see our Best Musical winner). Its next show, Chess, couldn't match the previous two in emotional connection, but its breathtaking lead performances continued to shatter boundaries.

12811 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 33498
MAP
954-323-7884
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, 33312
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 Theater for the Arts: Slow Burn at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre

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