We've studied the South Florida margarita scene for a long time. It's a sad, lonely pursuit. There's the place that serves margaritas flavored with exotic fruits, like the prickly pear (boring). There are joints that pump out phosphorescent-looking frozen margs, distinguished only by their high alcohol content. And there are bars that just don't know how to make a marg, like the fancy Boca joint where they squeeze so much lime and lemon juice into the mix that you get a bitter aftertaste. But then we go back to the Yucatan. Most of the margaritas there -- a menu column's worth -- are leavened with Cointreau and Grand Marnier, as well as the restaurant's patented sweet-and-sour mix (and no, it's not bitter). The Golden Margarita starts out with Sauza Comemorativo; the Yucatan Margarita uses Sauza Tres Generaciones. All use fine añejos, and all cost around six bucks, though you can get a twofer during Happy Hour, 4 to 7 p.m. Close your eyes and you are drinking in Mexico.
Photo by Monica McGivern
Could there really be any other choice? For almost a decade, the husband-and-wife rock-star team of Greg and Sharon Alliferis has run this midsized venue as if it were a major-league ballroom. They regularly pack the house for big names and offer a solid sound system and friendly service to smaller fries, both important elements in creating a buzzworthy club. In 2005, though, they really honed their focus and put together a consistently eclectic, exciting roster of shows, including the Killers, Soulive, the Extreme Music Festival, Railroad Earth, and Reigning Sound. The décor is all black and perfectly sparse, kind of like a blank palette for the music, and bands tend to step up and offer topnotch performances thanks to the room's iconic history. From death metal to bluegrass to local faves to national headliners, there's no better place in South Florida to rock the hell out.
With a scene that's becoming increasingly incestuous, purveyors of local nightlife put us to task this year in determining any sole winner in this category. Having chosen collective status over individual stardom, Fort Lauderdale's Phoenix crew -- just one of a few groups that now call local venue Roxanne's home -- has put to bed the notion of marquee DJs, opting to supply eclectic music and culture to a Broward community jaded by Himmarshee Street. Comprised of a blend of scenesters -- including drum 'n' bass maestro Sean Weeks, Poplife mainstay Ray Milian, and burgeoning Lauderdale DJ Andie Superstar -- Phoenix bears the imprint of the Brothers Alexander but is growing sturdy enough legs to distinguish itself from the Crush milieu. Weeks, specifically, is an anomaly in this indie-centric scene, having spent the past half-decade spreading frenetic jungle beats through his nights at Karma and other SoFla locales. Yet somehow, the Chicago native has found a comfortable fit in a group more likely to break it down to DFA and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah than Metalheadz. But Weeks is just one component of a well-oiled machine, and with veterans like Milian on board for the ride, Phoenix Fridays thrives thanks more to a fiercely talented collective than to any single luminary.
When a place is as far south of the Mason-Dixon Line as South Florida, its slow dancing should pack a little boot, scoot, and boogie. Round Up, which boasts one of the biggest dance floors in the county, is the perfect place for the city slicker set to cast off his Yankee rigidity and learn a whole new way to move across parquet. For the small price of a $5 cover fee, Round Up will teach you the basics of two-step and then turn you loose. Unlike many dance ballrooms that banish newbies to the wall to wistfully watch the preternaturally gifted pros whirl and strut, Round Up focuses its attention on the shy novice with two left feet. At 7 p.m. daily, wannabe rug-cutters line up for a gentle line-dancing lesson, and on Thursdays and Saturdays, couples can remind themselves of the basics of the two-step, swing, and cha-cha from 8 to 9 p.m. But Round Up is no playpen -- experienced hoof-shiners have plenty of space to preen and mince on the spacious floor. Good thing four full bars ring the dance floor, making it easy for a novice stumbler to refill on a little liquid courage before giving it another go.
Strip clubs usually stick to a basic formula: stage + pole + alcohol + naked chicks + free buffet! So what makes Scarlett's Cabaret the best? "It's almost like going to a concert," one fan says. "The music, the lights, the fog machine!" The consensus seems to be that other strip clubs either fall into category A, wherein the girls think they're too hot for the clientele, thus making the whole experience disappointing and frigid, or category B: just plain skanky. Scarlett's fills the comfortable niche in between. "The girls are fun," says... well, everybody. Which includes the couple from Jacksonville that was leaving at
7 a.m., the drummer who was supposed to be playing a gig across the street but could not be dragged away from the girls, and a couple of yacht captains who had just spent all their money, proving for the ten-hundred-gazillionth time that boobies make men do dumb things.
The needs of pool players are few: a quality table, cheap beer, and a place to smoke. George's brings all of that right to your dexterous little hustling hands. There are ten pool tables for the standard game, along with two pocketless billiards tables for those who understand why there's a table without pockets. The tables are nicely spaced, so you aren't bumping ass with your neighbor or poking holes in the wall with the butt of your cue. The dim lights and great service make it a relaxing atmosphere to shoot some eight-ball or nine-ball. Classic rock plays at a respectable level from the jukebox, unless the young waitresses get ahold of the remote; then it's time for the top-of-the-charts remix. But either way, the $1 Bud Light drafts make up for it. From the bar, regulars drink and watch your game carefully and wonder if you're worth their time. You probably aren't, but what the heck -- rack 'em up.
Led Zepp tattoos, handlebar mustaches, and skullcap bandannas: That kind of biker symbology you can find just about anywhere. What really counts at a biker bar worth the title are two fundamentals: babes and brawls. Nothin' Fancy's girls are the real thing: tanned and leathery with wind-beaten, low-lidded stares that look straight through you to an asphalt horizon. On Saturday nights, one gal is stationed at the door to welcome you off your hog with a winsome smile and a rusty wink, and by the time you've gotten yourself a seat beneath one of the bra bouquets that dangle from the ceiling throughout the bar -- all C or D cups, rest assured -- a different hoary venus is by your side, pressing her twin helmets into your chest and making sure your tank is full. As for brawls, Nothin' Fancy has the finest: In 2004, it made the news when a patron attacked three customers with a baseball bat, only to be stopped cold when one of them, a permit-packing gun-toter named Kevin Kelly, shot him in the stomach at point-blank range. The attacker, John Nicol, later got off scott free when a Palm Beach County jury acquitted him of aggravated assault and battery, which means he can belly up to the Fancy bar any one of these nights. You can't get much more authentic than that.
New Moon's unchallenged reign over the Fort Lauderdale lesbian scene is an inclusive one -- every day of the week, a family-style neighborhood hangout and a lesbian meatmarket coexist within its walls, lubricated by a steady stream of fine wine, live music, and an occasional bump 'n' grind on the pool table or a drag king show. On a recent Monday night, behind the sedate older couple enjoying a quiet birthday party, the denim-clad ass of a vamping pool table nymphet sways provocatively. Behind the bar, the bartender pours out shots, one for herself and one for a woman who squeals that it's her birthday and that she wants a boob job. "Let's find the short girl with the neck piercings!" yells a tall woman to no one in particular as she barrels by en route to the broad patio filled with chrome-colored furniture. She causes barely a ripple in the cozy Sapphic dimness. But the illusion of anonymity is just that, because a visit to New Moon is akin to punching your card at the nerve center of dyke Fort Lauderdale. If you're new, before the night is out, someone will invariably ask you where you're from. They usually explain: "You can't be from around here if I've never seen you at New Moon before."
Excuse me, sir, but I noticed you're at Dada at least once a week, and I have to ask: What is it that brings you back so often? Is it the dinner menu? The fine wine? The arty ambiance? "Uh, yeah, that's nice and all. But..." Oh, right -- it's the live music. Saturday is an especially happening night. "No, it's the..." Wait staff! I knew it. They're very personable. It's almost like they're hanging out with you. "Dude, you're not listening. I like all those things. But, well, just look over there... and there. And... let's see... ah, right there. See the pattern? It's the women -- young, attractive, and not hampered by the presence of oafish boyfriends. There's something about Dada's club-and-restaurant combination that gets me. Sure, everyone's officially there to dine. But really, it's all about being seen. And boy, do I like what I see." Well, I guess there's no arguing that. Anyway, good luck. Just make sure your prospective date really is single. Getting body-slammed on those patio rocks doesn't exactly tickle.
For this one, the female staffers of New Times had to choose between journalistic integrity and our own selfish instincts (i.e., letting other women in on our secrets). Lucky for you, we went with integrity and decided to divulge our man-trap. But note that we did not call this category Best Place to Meet Rich Men or Best Place to Meet Commitment-Minded Men. We just said single. Because of its location on Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Treasure Trove is a treasure-trove of lifeguards, boat captains, kiteboarders, and dive masters -- especially on "Taco Tuesday" (two-for-one tacos!). Because they have just come back from sea (even if it was just for two hours), these guys are looking for a little company of the female persuasion. While a dude named Catfish Hunter plays laid-back tunes on guitar, these gentlemen will regale you with stories about going through the locks of the Panama Canal and show you where the Marquesas Islands are by drawing a map on a napkin. They're likely to sport a tan and muscles and, if you're lucky, a Spanish or South African accent. In some cases, they've come straight from work, smelling like diesel fuel mixed with suntan lotion, a potent brew. Because they have to sail to the Bahamas tomorrow, they might not buy you a diamond, but they will certainly get you a Sierra Nevada or three, and a sleepover (on a boat!) isn't out of the question. No, you won't regret it in the morning, for you will have discovered the lair of a fun-loving, adventurous, chivalrous bunch.

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