Best Bar, Broward 2001 | Shakespeare's Pub & Grill | Arts & Entertainment | South Florida
When considering such a lofty title as this, there are a great many factors to consider. The easiest thing to do is first rule out any place that is overpriced, which excludes the beach bars, the Las Olas Riverfront, Himmarshee Village, and, well, just about every other place in Fort Lauderdale. Next lose any place where you can't get a nice European beer. Now all the dives are gone as well. You'd think there would be nothing left, but luckily a few communities surrounding Fort Lauderdale still have bars where the owners believe in serving quality drinks in a price range that allows even those bargoers on a strict budget to get tanked. Wilton Manors is one of those communities, and Shakespeare's Pub is about the best thing going. On a righteous night at Shakespeare's, you can drink a high-quality yet reasonably priced beer or five while listening to some good local bands and laughing at some piss-poor ones. And that's what going to a bar is all about, isn't it?
The oldest gas station in Delray Beach is still the best place in town to get gassed. All right, so that's a bad pun. But there's something about the funky, open-air bar in Delray's now-trendy downtown that inspires goofiness. And it's not just the giant picture of Elvis, the mounted fish, the moldy-looking moose head, the stained longhorns, or the giant Orange Crush bottle cap. It's the atmosphere, the blending of the past with the present, of down-home folk with glitterati, of wannabes with I-don't-cares. The bar at Elwood's is the former station's car lift; once used to hoist cars above the heads of greasy mechanics, it now serves as a place for patrons to rest their elbows while hoisting brewskis. Just as Elwood's is proud of its past, it makes no apology for its location. When trains scream by on the adjacent tracks Thursday nights, Scott Ringersen, Delray Beach cop by day and Elvis impersonator by night, simply raises his voice. Ditto 301 East, the versatile band that calls the bar home. While renowned for its ribs, the best thing about Elwood's is free -- grab a barstool, sit back, and watch the well dressed, pretentious types stroll down the avenue or gawk at the impressive array of Harleys lined up in the parking spots owner Mike Elwood reserves for his biker friends. If you're looking for quiet conversation, go elsewhere. At Elwood's there's always something to shout about.
When the well drinks have gone dry at other Broward bars, parched partyers' divining rods point to Casey's. Seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m., ice cubes are clinking, the DJ is spinning, and nobody (thank God!) knows your name. Best of all, after-hours gal Susan Hayslett provides service with a sympathetic smile. She doesn't smirk when you roll in, eyeliner smudged, and order a shot of Jäger. In fact you kinda get the feeling she's been there, too. And in that case, make it a double.

Holiday Bowl might be small, but it has a '50s ambiance that you can't find at gargantuan game rooms and theme parks. This joint's sincerity so impressed Carnival Cruise Lines last year that it shot a commercial here depicting tourists on vacation -- in the Bahamas. Its 16 lanes, café, and lounge have catered to bowling aficionados, Québecois tourists, and hackers for more than 40 years. Manager Bernie Harrold rolled his first gutter ball here when he was seven years old. At two bucks a game, it's easy to see why other youngsters have followed his lead. Murals on both sides of the alley picture kids taking aim. The "Beer Frame" lettering on the east side of the alley refers to a time when the trailing party in the fifth frame had to buy the next round. Nowadays the alley hosts leagues, tournaments, and also those looking for a drink or dinner. The pro shop polishes your ball for eight bits, and if you arrive in sandals, don't fret. You can pick up a pair of socks there as well. We recommend it. After all, some of those shoes have probably been around for decades.
So you and your mate are tired of evenings spent vegging out to Friends or Ed? Dinner on Las Olas or Clematis too pricey for your slender wallet? Try Dania Jai-Alai, where the entry fee starts at $1.50 and the game is faster than the NHL and NBA combined. The competitors, who are mostly from Spain and France, play a kind of Basque handball that will keep you quite literally glued to your seat for hours. (Yeah, neither the crowd nor the facility is especially highbrow.) And when you're not ogling the fronton, people-watching is primo. Old guys stand outside the seating area and holler the last names of their favorite players, while younger fellows scream obscenities in raspy Spanish and families munch on a variety of perfectly delightful and unhealthy fare. Then there are the bets, which start at two bucks. You don't have to wager, but you get more involved when you do, and the pots can be sweet. The fronton opened in 1953, back when sports in South Florida meant anything that included gambling, and it still has the feel of that era. Everyone, but everyone bets at Dania Jai-Alai -- security guards, concession-stand workers, even pets. The biggest pot on a recent Sunday afternoon was $578.40. And just think, you skinflint, you won't even have to pay for the air conditioning.

It's a rickety old place with only six screens. But how can you go wrong at $2 admission on weekdays and $2.50 on weekends, especially when the person who books the films always manages to include one or more features from the art-house circuit? Maybe the choices reflect the fact that most of the clientele consists of retirees from the Northeast who, whatever their shortcomings, have a taste for movies with more to them than bang-bang, snicker, and leer. You may hate to find yourself behind them on the highway, but you could do worse than find they're ahead of you in the ticket line.

Here it is a rainy Saturday afternoon, and there's not much to do. Going to the movies doesn't seem like such a good idea, unless you're dying to see Crocodile Dundee Got Fingered or whatever. So how about this? Ride the Tri-Rail. If you live down south, hop on at the Hollywood station and locomote through Fort Lauderdale, Pompano and Deerfield beaches, then Boca and Delray, to the end of the line in Mangonia Park. If you live up north, take it the other way. Or try both. Flat-fare, all-day adult tickets are available on weekends for $4, and they're good for one-way, round-trip, or multiple rides in each direction. So pick up your portable CD player, grab your favorite book, and enjoy. Or look out the window and be glad you're not stuck in the traffic jam that's bound to spring up on I-95.
An unsuspecting man walks into Voodoo Lounge on a Sunday night. It's a bit too early to be going to a club, but he's bored at home and figures, "Well, what the heck? Let's start the night off early." The first patron, he saunters up to the bar with blasé self-confidence. He orders a Stoli and Red Bull, then casts a glance at the tall drink of water at the other end of the bar. Now that is one tall, leggy blonde. Damn. He sips a bit more of the Stoli, especially after the blonde gives him a dirty look. Wait a minute. That's no woman. That's a man! Ah well, if you don't know any better, it's an easy mistake to make Sunday nights at the Voodoo, when the club puts on two performances of "Life's a Drag," South Florida's top female-impersonation show, which begins at 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. Hosted by Daisy Deadpetals and featuring fellow dragsters Lady Valentina, T.P. Lords, Lola Lush, and Glitz Glamour, the performance includes lip-synchs of songs by popular female pop stars. These people do it well; they are professionals. Anyone could have mistaken them for the real McCoy, even this guy I'm talking about, who looks absolutely nothing like me.

Upon its release in 1966, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album was seen as a stumbling block in the band's career, a detour from the AM-radio hit parade. Thirty years later you can't swing a surfboard without hitting a critic who places Pet Sounds in any position but best record of all time. The album has even warranted a four-CD boxed set, perhaps the most elaborate analysis of any single album ever. South Florida was lucky enough to be included on the tour when Wilson assembled a 10-piece band and 55-piece orchestra to reproduce faithfully each and every intricate note of the Pet Sounds album, even down to the Coca-Cola cans and bicycle horns used on the original recording. Though the man appeared more than a little out of it (unsurprising considering his legendary chemical intake), Wilson presided over a piano and TelePrompTer while his band churned through a thrilling "Sloop John B.," complete with crystalline harmonies; the sepulchral bliss of "You Still Believe in Me;" the James Bond drama of the title track; and the heavenly heartache of "Caroline, No." Elevating a simple mid-'60s pop record into an experience rivaling anything the Beatles ever produced, Wilson's performance finally cashed Pet Sounds' postdated paycheck.

One look at the dress code, outlined on a sign above the front door, and you know you're in the right place. It reads: "No muscle shirts, tank tops, cut-off or beach shorts, spurs, knives or guns." And for good measure, keep those cigars, pipes, and clove cigarettes in the car, buddy. You're at Davie Junction, the most Western bar in South Florida. The décor is pure country honk, featuring dark paneling, neon beer signs, and wagon wheels. For a reasonable price you can get yourself a longneck, scoot your boots, and tuck into a big steak. (The place bills itself as a "Western-style nightclub" but offers a full menu.) The bands play both kinds of music, country and western. And management offers line-dancing lessons so you don't have to look so dang stupid trying to figure it out.

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