Best Cigars 2000 | Cigar Factory | Goods & Services | South Florida
You can get Cohibas, Arturo Fuentes, and Macanudos at just about any cigar shop. It's only at the Cigar Factory that you can find a Fidel Castro, complete with the dictator's picture on the wrapper. Of course, the Fidel is a strong and brutal smoke. But does it signify anything politically? "Just a good idea to sell a lot of cigars," says the Cigar Factory's manager, Juan Carlos. But the Cigar Factory has a lot more than expert gimmickry going for it -- it has Jorge sitting silently behind a pile of tobacco, where he rolls up one sheer beauty after another. Just five months ago, Jorge came from Cuba, where he learned how to roll from the best in the world. He doesn't speak English; his cigars do all his talking for him. And in that sense, he's one of the orators of our time. Of the eight Cigar Factory brands, we tried the mild ones, Morejon y Cuesta and Cuba Habanos USA. Both are truly incredible smokes. The plump, fresh, perfectly packed tobacco made for seriously satisfying chomps, and the 'gars burned obediently, evenly, quietly, and patiently. The orange coals behaved like turtles, hiding inside the cigar, waiting for you to pull on them. Only then did they release the aromatic, smooth, damn near sultry white smoke of tobacco born of Cuban seeds and grown in the Dominican Republic. These are as close to real-life Cuban cigars as you can get (legally). Fidel can go to hell. Long live Jorge.

The big red X marks the spot for savings! And what a bargain it is. Where else in this great country of ours can you get a doorstop of a newspaper for half a buck? It used to cost 75 cents, but in a transparent effort to stanch the circulation loss north of the Miami-Dade County line, the mighty Herald can now be had for a song. Don't read it? You're not alone. But the price is very right -- the Dade edition costs a buck! So buy an issue or two and use them to line your birdcage, train your puppy, or make lots of those cool hats newspaper printers used to wear while tending to the giant presses.
Sure, there are plenty of mega-bookstore chains out there with a great selection, decent prices, and a helpful sales staff. All things being equal in those departments, however, we prefer a place that also offers a great cup of coffee and a goodly amount of sumptuous overstuffed furniture in which to lounge while checking out possible buys and sucking down said java. For such a combination, we turn to B&N, where the house coffee is that ultimate in Seattle brew, Starbucks, and comfortable seating abounds. The book selection ain't bad either.
This place has everything a used-book store should have: prices penciled inside well-thumbed covers; the warm smell of leather, ink, and paper; and books piled on blue milk crates, stuffed in shelves, flapping from racks, and strewn across countertops. The hand-painted sign above the door welcomes browsers, and Trader John's means it. You could spend an entire rainy April afternoon tackling Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and no one would bother you -- or even notice, for that matter. The store's hodgepodge of genres includes mysteries, classics, reference books, fiction, and the occult. There's even a rare-and-collectibles section in the front offering tomes dating from the late 1890s to the early part of the 20th Century. The store's selection of vinyl records and videos is just as eclectic: Ovid's The Art of Love neighbors the Three Stooges' Jerks of All Trades in the front window display. Don't let Paco, the large gold Labrador sprawled by the entranceway, deter your rummaging. He belongs to the owner and is somewhat of a book hound himself.
More than simply a repository of all things alcoholic, this megamart of mirth is party headquarters. It's also something of a bookstore, but more on that later. Before shoppers catch sight of a pint, fifth, or gallon of their favorite go-juice, they have to pass by a combination stationery store/ deli/gourmet food shop. Nothing comes across as a more thoughtful gift than booze, and ABC lets you give in style with a fine selection of bottle-shape gift bags and an assortment of greeting cards. Need a bottle of Jim Beam Barbecue Sauce to spice up the grilled chicken? How about caviar, salsa, pasta, sauces, meats, cheeses, bar utensils, or glassware? ABC has you covered in all of those departments, too, and the place features a large, walk-in humidor full of fine cigars to boot. The glassed-in stogy area sits across the store from the entrance, and to get there one must wade through a sea of wine selections, all neatly racked and organized by type. Along the back wall, a row of cooler cases keeps the large selection of brew, including plenty of microbrews and imports, cold. All the ingredients are certainly here for a blowout party, but if you need help putting everything together, check out the kiosk of books. Titles such as the Harvey Collins Drink Guide and The Entertaining Survival Guide: A Handbook For the Hesitant Host can boost your skills as a classy party purveyor. Finally, if you need something to make you feel better about imbibing, pick up The French Paradox & Drinking For Health, wherein author Gene Ford espouses the health benefits of moderate drinking.

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