At Gatsby's in Boca Raton, Prohibition Is Sooo 20th Century
Every so often, a girl's gotta release her inner Zelda Fitzgerald. You know — be unapologetically flamboyant and tempestuous and have herself a classy adventure, replete with fancy drinks. So, last week, I grabbed a well-read wingman and we went up to Boca to pay a social visit to Gatsby's, or, as its proprietors like to call it, the "new home of the $5 martini."
It didn't take us long to tell that Gatsby's isn't just great; it's fucking awesome. Unless, of course, you don't like an expansive catalog of cheap martinis, liquor-soaked literary talk, and cleavage deeper than the plot of The Beautiful and Damned.
Best Quote Overheard From a Random Stranger at the Bar: "A friend told me he was in Davie. I said, 'Who's Davie, and does your girlfriend know?' "
Ambiance: Gatsby's was surprisingly chic; dark wood, well-decorated, and quite expansive, all with a subtle Jazz Age theme. On this particular night (of college football season), the U-shaped bar and candlelit tables were spotted with sports fans, and the ruckus of the Florida State/University of Miami game blasted from seven huge-screen TVs. The first room was lushly furnished with booths and a large bar; adjacent to that was a swanky little area with a dance floor and stage, its walls adorned with irregular mirrors and huge black-and-white framed photos. Past that was a pool table and, beyond that, two private rooms set up like giant, old-fashioned libraries. These were furnished with richly upholstered reading chairs, velvet pool tables, bookshelves, leather couches, and huge, jazz-era paintings of faceless musicians and dancers. In short, it was the kind of party library where you might meet plenty of owl-eyed drunks, "beautiful little fools," and depressed millionaires. Or, like tonight, a pack of young people in the middle of a fantasy football draft. Since I'm less interested in tossing balls than tossing back, I moseyed back to the first room and pitched myself into a stylish booth, situated directly beside a red-lit glass shelf stocked full of bottles of booze. Jay Gatsby wouldn't have had to worry about that silly 18th Amendment here.
Martinis: "Tell me about this place," I instructed our waitress. Nicole was petite with a cherubic face, well-tweezed eyebrows, and a pleasant laugh. More noticeable were her boobs: They, and all surrounding skin, were jammed into a tiny red corset top.
"Nice corset," I said, but what I really meant was "nice rack." "Did you get to pick the color?"
She laughed airily. "We get to pick from three colors: red, silver, and gold."
"All classy," I said, nodding my approval. "But red is the hottest. Now, what can you tell me about Gatsby's?"
"Recently, new owners took over, and they've changed things up a bit," she said. "They installed the new dance floor, and now we get DJs on Wednesdays and the weekend. Also, they changed up the specials."
"What's the special tonight?" I asked.
"Monday is $5 martinis," she said.
"Which martinis?" interjected my friend and fellow Fitzgerald lover, Beard. "There are three menu pages of them."
I contracted a minor buzz just from her telling us that all martinis, fruity to dirty, were going for five apiece. With names like Jolly Rancher, Starburst, 007, White Chocolate, Las Vegas, and Flamingo, I knew it was going to be a vodka-soaked, sugar-coated evening.
I settled on the Fitzgerald Martini, a blend of O Finlandia grapefruit vodka, triple sec, watermelon pucker, sour mix, and pineapple.
"Sour," I said, after a cautious sip. Which, I determined after many more sips, was quite fitting for a drink named after a bitter, bipolar writer who died of alcoholism.
More Martinis: Minutes later, I'd completely downed the Fitzgerald and ordered the Great Gatsby, a blend of Grey Goose, l'orange, triple sec, cranberry, and Sprite. Beard, after swigging down a dirty martini, had somehow ended up with a frothy Key Lime martini.
When Nicole slid it down in front of him, he glanced up at her tremulously.
"This makes me a woman."
It wasn't a question; he knew damned well he'd just been served the kind of beverage an 8-year-old girl would order if her fake I.D. were good enough.
"It is a little fruity," Nicole said.
"I'll just have to drink it really fast," he said.
"I'll help," I offered, and reached for it.
Patrons: The clientele of the bar let out a collective joyous scream, and the University of Miami took the game back over, 14-10. I approached a pair of tank-top-wearing hot blonds in a booth facing the biggest TV in the joint. Despite both being real stunners, they appeared slightly disgruntled.
"We're Florida State fans," said Jenny, who was taller and perkier than her friend, with an easy smile. "We were looking for some camaraderie, but not here, apparently."
"Indeed," I said. Turned out, the two ladies had been friends for 27 years and had grown up in Boca.
"We wanted to get the hell out," Jenny noted.
"After college, we went all over the place," her friend Jenn continued. "England, Las Vegas, you name it. One time, after she'd moved to Atlanta, I went to visit her for a day. It turned into a week, then a month, and I ended up living out there for three years."
"After that, all we wanted was to get the hell back," said Jenny. "So here we are, trying to figure out what to do next in this damned economy."
"Indeed, the Roaring '20s, this isn't," I said wryly.
"You need to save money in times like this," Jenny advised. "We've got pictures of us in bars all over the place — drinking, having a good time, spending money on drinks every night of the week. No doubt it was fun; just wish I could remember it." She laughed.
Just then, Nicole interrupted. "Sorry, did you want another martini?"
Of course I did. I ordered the White Chocolate, having exhausted my Fitzgerald-related options.
"They're only $5," I said sheepishly.
More Martinis (can you ever have enough?): "Recommend another martini," Beard commanded Nicole.
"The White Chocolate is good, the Caramel Apple is tasty — " she began. I nodded in assent, but Beard waved her off.
"A manly drink," he insisted. I think it was just to impress Nicole's cleavage. She brought him a whiskey-infused Manhattan, and then he quickly ordered another Key Lime martini, this time sharing none of it.
The people at the next table were an interesting assortment of folk: a guy in a fedora, a couple who couldn't stop cuddling, and a dude in a pressed shirt with a loud booming voice. I'd overheard one of them order an Alka-Seltzer from the waitress, the others discussing the Chemical Brothers, and someone say "When my body starts acting up, I punish it" just before he took a long swig from his beer.
The guy who'd ordered the Alka-Seltzer introduced me to everyone at the table: his wife, dark-eyed and very quiet; his boyfriend, Fedora-hat (yes, there was some Gatsby-style romantic intrigue going on) ; and Phil — just a friend. ("We're better friends than lovers," Phil said.)
"Has anyone read the Great Gatsby?" I asked. The evening was drawing to a close, and I wanted a good hearty literature discussion.
The awkward pause was palpable. Wait, I thought to myself. Maybe I'm drunk. No one wants to talk literature with an inebriated nightlife columnist who's been channeling Zelda Fitzgerald for most of her life. I excused myself.
Now, where was Nicole and her ample cleavage? I told Beard I was going to need another Fitzgerald martini — extra sour. " 'So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,' " Beard quoted and reached for the menu.
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