The British Are Coming!
With summer heat still in its hellish full swing, it's hard to get the mail without producing enough sweat to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. And that's at night. Go outside during the day? Forget it. You're better off standing naked under your air conditioner until the sun goes down. It's enough to force a columnist to take holiday someplace foggy, cool, and stocked full of good British brew.
But plane tickets to London ain't cheap. So I tried Dania Beach. The Kings Head Pub (500 E. Dania Beach Blvd.) is a gem of a local bar — because it not only has double deckers full of good food and drink but also what the owner calls "London fog" — an extensive misting system positioned around the perimeters of the pub's outdoor patio. Supposedly, it emulates the mother country's climate, allowing you to enjoy your ale without losing a bucket of sweat.
Well, that's all it takes to make me a turncoat.
Ambiance: After swerving into the parking lot (a red, London-style telephone booth, positioned in front of the pub, caught my eye from the road), I walked around the modest, Tudor-style building until I found the patio area. It was covered by a rainforest-like canopy of huge red umbrellas, and drinkers were indeed kept cool (15 degrees cooler, according to the pub's owner) by the constant stream of fog. The owner is no bloody fool — he allows us to enjoy the great outdoors, our Benson & Hedges cigs, and Newcastle all together. Somebody knight this guy.
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The restaurant area of Kings Head has forest-green floors and is decorated with bookshelves and carefully hung paintings of long-dead British royalty (because who doesn't want to be stared down by King Henry VIII and his brood of beheaded wives while enjoying fish 'n' chips?). The décor of the pub is less formal: Paper English pounds, photos of British trains, and maps of the Mother Country blanket the walls. There was barely room for the couple of TVs and pair of dartboards. The bar runs L-shaped through the room, and behind it are beer-vending spigots, bottles of liquor, and a collection of pretty young bartenders.
I plopped down at a metal barstool closest to the door.
Bartender: Fe wore glasses, kept her dark hair in a ponytail, and danced with self-assured ease through the bar area and its crowd of regulars. She grabbed me a Bud Light and flashed a smile.
"These bartenders sure move fast," I commented.
"They're always really good, especially Fe," said Jason, a man in a white polo, with smooth skin, blue eyes, and an unmistakable British accent. "But come to think of it, maybe they're just moving so fast because the owner is in today."
Drinks: Jason, who works in the casino business and hails originally from Manchester, England, sat drinking a Coors Light and periodically checking his cell phone. His rapport with Fe led me to quickly conclude that he was a regular and had been for awhile.
"Do you come here because you're homesick for England?" I asked.
"Well, I've been away from England for 19 years," he said. "But yeah, I come here like Americans seek out American bars when they're in England. Always looking for a little bit of familiarity."
"What, you've been away that long and still speak with that strong an accent?"
"I don't think a British accent ever fades," he answered.
"So, you come to a British pub, talk in a British accent, and drink a Coors Light?" I smirked, pointing at his beer.
"Usually I get Guinness," he said. "But if I drank those all the time, I'd have a huge gut."
Which he did not.
"Touché," I said. But I'm American, damn it! I'll have my thick, foamy beer and wash it down with a Big Mac, thanks.
Just then, Richard, the bar's owner, breezed by. He's tall with sandy-colored hair that's slightly long in the back.
"The food sucks, the drinks suck, the service sucks," Jason called to him teasingly.
"Then find somewhere else," Richard countered. He pointed. "There's the door — what's stopping you from walking out?" The two erupted in laughter.
Soon I was sipping a glass of British apple cider.
"Now, this isn't like American apple cider," Richard told me. "This is alcoholic apple cider."
Down went the rest of the glass.
"It's fermented, like wine, and contains higher alcohol than the beers here do," Richard warned. He wasn't joking — this stuff immediately gave me the buzz my Buds were failing to provide.
Customers: Since I was seated very close to the dartboards, I immediately grew tense when two slightly inebriated men began playing a competitive match. I became more nervous when one of them began sing-screeching the words to Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive." To avoid being pierced, I stood up. "Who's winning?" I asked.
"We're tied," said Joe, who was short with a graying beard and stud earring. He cocked an eye at the board and threw his darts — all which landed in the outermost circle of the board.
His taller, dark-haired opponent, Paul, landed his darts closer to the center, but still no bull's-eye.
Finally, Joe had one hit dead center, and the two men shook hands.
"I was lucky," said the apparent winner. "He beat me in the last four games."
"I was almost a pitcher for the Yankees," said Paul, who wore reading glasses on his face and sunglasses propped up on his head.
"I'm better at shuffleboard," Joe admitted.
"I almost went pro at shuffleboard," Paul said.
Joe and I turned toward him skeptically.
"OK, that's bullshit," he said, grinning.
"Well, can you at least tell me the truth about what you two are doing here tonight?" I asked.
"I'm up here with my girlfriend — who I'm currently neglecting for this dartboard," Paul said. "I actually met her at this bar, and we've been together eight years."
"I'm here because my daughter works here," said Joe, gesturing at a pretty, petite bartender. "This isn't my place normally, but I like to stop by for a few beers and see her. She's my whole world."
"What a good daddy you are," I said.
"You're a pretty girl," he said. "You should really go after what you want in life."
Clearly, he doesn't know that being pretty is gonna get me everything I want in life.
"And you shouldn't just hook up with just any guy who has muscles," he continued. "He'll get into your pants, and will he call you?"
"Yes?" I said hopefully.
"Wrong!" Joe said. "And you don't need that. My daughter's going through a divorce. I don't mean to be an asshole, but do what you want to do. Don't let a guy get in the way."
London Fog: I went back outside, considering his (good) advice and preparing to depart. I paused in the middle of that delightfully cool patio area for a few final seconds before making the sweaty journey back to my car.
"This patio is awesome," I said to two women sitting at a picnic bench-like table.
"Perfect temperature," said Dorothy, who had long black hair with subtle shocks of gray. "It's a great place to sit and smoke."
Her companion, Elaine, petite with streaked blond hair, shivered and zipped up her little black sweater. A sweater? In Florida? You read that right, kids.
"Actually," Elaine said, "it can get kind of chilly out here."
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