Best Gym 2005 | The Zoo Health Club | Goods & Services | South Florida
Eduardo, the short aerobics instructor who is trying to kill you, looks at you with zero sympathy as you lift the medicine ball above your chest, looking not unlike a dying cockroach. "Get stronger!" he says. And you do. Tough and unsmiling as Eduardo is, you still manage to feel very happy, very healthy, and very buff by the end of his Circuit Sculpt class, during which you'll race from station to station lifting weights, doing squats, and performing a sick amount of lunges. The other instructors -- like kickboxing coach/Japanese drummer Roy or cute little bendy thing Tara -- also make exercise a good time at the Zoo. It's not a big place, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in homey quirks. The bottom floor of this Fort Lauderdale beachside institution fits only the check-in desk and a smoothie bar. The second floor has just one aerobics room and a modest assortment of free weights, exercise bikes, and machines. But the roof is like a ghetto penthouse. Sure, the free weights are a little rusty from the weather, but here, you can join a cycling class, get a tan, watch kiteboarders, take in the sunset (or sunrise), and feel superior to all the fatsos down below. Membership (about $45 a month) includes a parking pass.
At first, Dewing's Fly & Gun Shop may look a bit out of place, sandwiched between a doggy bakery and an upscale seafood joint in downtown West Palm Beach. But a look at the 2,700 guns inside -- and their price tags -- reveals why Dewing's does so well. The guns, with inlays of ivory and gold and encrustments of rare jewels, can run as much as $1.5 million. That's a rare price; most cost several thousands of dollars for rifles that often took years to make. Dewing's is one of three gun shops in the country selling a large collection of high-end, handmade shotguns, owner Adam Trieschmann says. Palm Beachers looking to stock their hunting lodges out west or gazillionaires flying in on private jets to pick up rifles is common. "I can never have enough unique pieces," Trieschmann says. "I got a $50,000 rifle in yesterday, and it sold yesterday." Despite the high prices of some of the guns, the store is surprisingly approachable. The place has the feel of a hunting lodge with mounted animals, comfy leather couches, and wood paneling. Most of the guns can be picked up, although the more expensive ones are behind glass. And its neighbors appreciate the business; women hit the doggy bakery while men browse the rifles, and then together they hit Spoto's Oyster Bar next door for lunch.
You did her wrong. You were being a total guy when you said that, and you didn't realize it would offend her. She's upset. You need a second chance. You need a miracle. You need Walt Zelasko and his wonder workers at Poopie Doll Florist. For the past 20 years, Zelasko and his team of expert florists have been putting together bouquets and combinations of flowers, most from Colombia and Ecuador, in north Fort Lauderdale. Unlike at many florists, where price-gouging seems a lucrative side business, Poopie Doll keeps prices reasonable, from a dozen mini-carnations with a rainbow selection of colors for just $3.45 to a dozen daisies or carnations for $7.95 to a dozen deep-red roses with long, thorny stems sturdy as an elm for $39.95. What's more, every purchase is individually wrapped with care and professionalism. Heck, if it weren't for the flower power available at such places as Poopie Doll Florist, procreation would likely come to a startling halt.
There are a few essential traits for an outstanding gift store. First, its inventory must provide for occasions as diverse as weddings, birthdays, Valentine's Day, and hope-your-dog-gets-better. Second, there must be a wide price range -- after all, a bridal shower present for your uncle's sister-in-law doesn't demand the same wallet juice as does your nephew's bar mitzvah. So Abe's is your answer. This store has enough turnover of merchandise that there's something new to discover each time you visit. Cookware is plentiful, from a set of six glass tumblers for $6 to a set of six Victorinox steak knives for $30 or a fancy 22-piece tea and dessert set for $100. Plenty of wall decorations, in particular Florida-themed fish sculptures from $20 to $70. For the person who has everything, there's the kitschy: two-foot tall Laurel and Hardy figurines for $250 each.
After that failed attempt to manufacture wine in your bathtub, there's a way to escape the shame of defeat. Instead of bottling the rotgut you pressed with your feet, try bottling your own vino at Let's Make Wine in Delray Beach. This soon-to-be-national chain that started right here in South Florida lets customers mix their own wines to come up with unique blends, packaged with original labels. Owner Ann Rosenberg has plans to franchise her Delray Beach store across the country using the success pioneered by her late husband, Bill, founder of Dunkin' Donuts. Already, Rosenberg has opened a second store in Deerfield Beach and another in Colorado. The store allows customers to mix their own wine using pure juice or grape juice concentrate that's mixed with filtered water and bottled. The mix, which ranges from $160 to $319, makes about 25 bottles. Then the amateur winemakers create their own labels. Mostly, the idea has taken off as gifts for weddings and such, but Rosenberg says some customers just like having their own bottle of wine, without grapes between their toes.
You could chuck an anvil from one side of Kyoya to the other and a brick from its entrance to its end. In between, this wee shop stocks enough Asian culinary curios to require repeat trips. The front displays origami paper and a library of Japanese videos; the middle holds tea sets, bags of wasabi mix, canned Thai bamboo, ready-to-eat dried squid, frozen edamame, and pickled ginger; the rear features perhaps the smallest sushi bar in South Florida. No frills means cheap prices and generous portions that belie the store's small size. The $17 sushi combo for two includes ten pieces of sushi, two ample rolls, and a choice of salad, soup, or drink. The $8.50 volcano roll itself is enough for two people. Eat fast; the restaurant seats but six.
You've just dropped $25,000 on a new truck. The testosterone-fueling V8 engine and two-ton payload are all a man could ever want. But it's dreadfully boring on the outside. It looks like every other big truck out there. It doesn't express your -- shall we say? -- manly uniqueness. What's a Hemi-lovin' guy to do? Pay a visit to Ideal Automotive & Truck Accessories, a 64,000-square-foot warehouse and automobile accessories store in Pompano Beach. You can start with the inside of your ride, adding an AudioVox flip-down television and entertainment center (prices vary) and tinted windows ($100 or more depending on the vehicle). Then move to the outside. You'll want to strap on a leather LeBra for the front ($109), a Patriot bed liner ($169), and a hard-top tonneau cover ($995). In other words, if it's an aftermarket automotive accessory, Ideal Automotive will likely carry it. In a few short hours, you can have whatever you like installed and ready for the road.
South Florida can be a brutal place. Con men flock here like gulls on a bread crumb, and the smell of criminality is never far away. Desire for the Big American Dream -- not the one featuring a chicken in every pot but the one with two Mercedeses and a Porsche in every three-car garage -- drums the decency out of people here at a dizzying pace. So if this place is more dishonest than, say, Boise, what must the mechanics be like? Well, surprisingly, they aren't any worse than anywhere else, for the most part. Probably more likely to get ripped off in a place like, say, Beaufort, South Carolina, to pick an Old South town at random. And some South Florida garages, like Wales, are absolute gems. The garage has a motto: "For People Who Plan to Keep Their Cars." You gotta like that. Might as well say, "For Working Joes." Or "For People with Enough Sense Not to Throw Their Money Away on a Lease." The service at Wales is topnotch, and the turnover is quick. These people receive broken cars, fix them, and get them out the door in record time. And it's got longevity on its side. The garage was started by George Wales four decades ago. He sold the place in the early 1970s and went on to became better-known for his nearby restaurant, the beloved Café de Geneve, which closed in 2001. Today, the garage is owned by Stewart Levy, who has managed to preserve Wales' standard of excellence. It's a beautiful thing -- if you plan to keep your car.
Pull up under the carport of Flamingo Joe's Auto Spa and you won't find a list of prices anywhere. No billboard advertising the cost of a detail or a simple wash. Instead, you get the employees. "For you?" they'll ask, as if surveying how much they like you. Overheard prices quoted to customers went from $15 for a blond hottie who owned a convertible to $30 for an SUV driven by a suit-wearing yuppie. Then there are the stories of Mob connections. During a recent visit, an employee laughed off such rumors. Then he pointed out the baseball bat behind the counter. "We do loan money," he said in a New York accent. "The baseball bat is for when you don't pay. You get cracked." Minutes later, a guy in a Jaguar pulled up under the carport and asked how much for a detailing. "For you? $75." Not a bad price. Guess the guy had an honest face.
Don't let the high ceilings and exposed ductwork of Adult Video Outlet's 24-hour location (5249 Powerline Rd. in Fort Lauderdale) fool you. It might look like a warehouse, but Adult Video Outlet is about as classy a place as you'll find to buy your copy of the much-ballyhooed 1 Night in China, featuring two beefed-up former stars from World Wrestling Entertainment really wrestling -- you know, the way the Good Lord intended. Cordoned off into aptly named sections -- such as "Up and Cummers," "40+," and the catch-all "Alternative" -- most of the DVDs at Adult Video Outlet cost $29.95, with some available for $12.95 and others buy-one-get-one-free. This store has something for everyone, whether you're a frustrated single or a bored and horny couple. A few rows from the latest offering in the ouch!-that-must-be-painful, anal-obsessed Max Hardcore series, porno aficionados will find the gay hit Bat Dude and Throbin and, for those lusting after whips and stiletto heels, Severe Punishment, the movie tailor-made for all those naughty boys. Adult Video Outlet's two other locations (1030 W. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale and 3803 W. Commercial Blvd. in Tamarac) are open until 2 a.m. every night.

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