Best Cigar Bar 2006 | Smoke Café | Shopping & Services | South Florida
On a late weekday afternoon, all is as it should be at the Smoke Café. Several patrons are perched along the black marble-topped bar, where a phalanx of elaborate stainless-steel lighters stands. A retired gentleman is regaling a visitor with tales of a near-death experience, puffing slowly throughout the narrative to build drama. A beefy young man is flirting with Kate, the cigarmaid from Pittsburgh behind the bar, whose blond hair contrasts with the deep auburn wood of the walls. Outside, a cigar store Indian keeps vigil over several tables where customers can breathe in fresh air and a fresh Presidente. The café offers free Internet access with the purchase of wine or beer. A humidor nestled in the back holds plenty of the cigars you're here for in the first place.
You have to love a business small enough that you're dealing with the owner and big enough to be overwhelmed by selection. If you're a novice smoker or buying for a friend, you won't go wrong with the helpful recommendations of owner Moe Sohail, who's been running the place for eight years. But even if you know the difference between a Churchill and a Robusto, it's nice to have Sohail's advice after passing through the door into the sizable walk-in humidor. There's also a fine selection of lighters and cutters, from the workhorse variety to the guy-who-has-everything gift items. And smoke if you've got 'em; there's a small leather-chaired lounge. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and closed on Sunday.
Wine snobbery, or at least wine appreciation, has finally trickled down to the masses: You no longer need 1,600 dusty bottles in the cellar of your baronial manse to enjoy quaffing a decent port. Getting to know good wine is supposed to be fun -- Bacchus is a party god, after all. That wicked cherub reigns supreme at Hollywood Vine, where a handsome, irreverent crowd congregates around the granite counters to sample from a chalkboard listing of 20 or so wines, conducting off-the-cuff mini-tastings before plunking down $20 or $30 a bottle (the prices per glass are about half what you'd pay at a restaurant). This retail wine shop and liquor store has the intimacy and pizzazz of an upscale neighborhood pub, done up in glossy mahogany shelving to showcase wines and spirits from around the globe, plus a handful of artisan cheeses. On Tuesdays, vintners and distributors show up for light lectures and free tastings too. Partners Luciano Armellino, who formerly worked with Kendall Jackson distributors, and Steven Krakow, who managed a retail wine store, tasted 1,600 wines before they opened their doors this year. "We just chose our favorites," Armellino says. "Good wine is good wine."
If there are two things no household should be without in these Republican, family-value-touting times we live in, it's an American flag and a full-sized reproduction of Jesus. For the latter, there's Moroneys', which is jam-packed with Christian symbols, artifacts, clothing, and jewelry. There, standing atop a display table, is the classic representation of the Messiah: long face, flowing hair, sad-yet-caring eyes, arms outstretched wide to the heavens. The fiberglass, bronze-colored statue was made in Italy and costs about $6,500 -- but you can always dicker. If the Son of Man is out of your price range, some four-foot St. Francis sculptures are both tasteful and less expensive at $700 apiece. In several poses, the saint of animals seems to be juggling four white doves above his head. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nothing says "I earn more in a year than you do in a lifetime" like a good, old-fashioned luxury yacht. Water Fantaseas employee "Arnold" (he's a bit cagey) is ready to help you choose your pimpin' boat ride from the widest selection of locally available luxury boats. They range from a 94-foot Ferranti, complete with salon, wet bar, and wood paneling, to an 84-foot topsail schooner that wouldn't look out of place in a Disney ride. Water Fantaseas isn't shy about its status as supplier of Fort Lauderdale's most outrageous vessels. Arnold will tell you that the company has played host to a roster of A-listers that includes Will Smith. No surprise; in addition to coming equipped with experienced crew, Water Fantaseas can provide the catering and accommodations to satisfy even the most discriminating of celebrity posses.
When New Times Broward-Palm Beach gave BC Surf & Sport this award two years ago, the store was at a different, much smaller location. With BC's move to a new storefront last November -- about a block to the north -- it's like going from a four-foot mini ramp to a vertical 14-footer (but much safer, of course). Now situated in a stand-alone building, the new shop's nearly twice as large. For merch-hungry skate grommets, shopping has gotten much better (or, in skate lingo, sicker). Despite its surf-oriented moniker, BC is heavy on the skate goods. Normal decks average $54.99 (Flip, Girl, Alien Workshop); another ten bucks gets you an old-school reissue (remember freestyle boards?). Speaking of reissues, BC's DVD collection includes oldies but goodies like Powell Peralta's The Search for Animal Chin ($50 for the special edition) as well as newer films like Baker 3 ($31.99). If you're planning a trip to the skatepark but don't have a helmet, pick up a Pro-Tec ($29.99 to $39.99) on your way. And while you're at it, try finding a replacement for those raggedy Vans on your feet -- perhaps Emerica's Andrew Reynolds model ($64.99) or Adio's Jeremy Wray ($61.99). Now you'll have no excuse for not landing 360-switchflips.
Whose idea was it to exclude adults from the joys of things that go vroom? Certainly not the boys at RC Boca, who maintain their own private fiefdom of motor-powered testosterone toys in a tucked-away corner of Boca Raton's Mission Bay Plaza. Inside this remote-control-enthusiast shrine, all customers are expected to worship at the altar of miniature monster trucks, helicopters, speedboats, and their many tiny assorted parts. Heaven help the innocent who utters the term "model cars" in this establishment. Nor can you find any dinky plastic cars that might be sold at Toys ÔR' Us. Instead, RC Boca is all about souped-up mini-muscle cars that are built for speed -- and collision. (One manufacturer the store features rewards operators who total their cars with a free model shell for every dozen they destroy.) And not only does RC Boca sell its remote-controlled miniature power vehicles rip-roaring fast -- it sells them sexy. Just ask one of the "RCBoca Babes," who front the store's website wearing cutoffs, mini-monster trucks, and sultry expressions.
If you drive a Volvo in South Florida, you can expect plenty of jeers and obscene hand gestures from fellow motorists who don't understand the allure of boxy Swedish engineering. You can also expect to be screwed by a nitwit mechanic who's never heard of Sweden, let alone that country's signature brand of hideously safe motor vehicles. Unless you know Leon, who still wears his name on his coveralls in his small Volvo repair shop in Pompano Beach. The tiny shop is a real mom-and-pop, run by Leon and his wife, and it specializes entirely in Volvo maintenance and repair, to the unadulterated joy of beleaguered Volvo owners across Broward County. Offering fair prices and a promise to do all repairs the same day (to prevent customers from being stranded without their ponderous steeds overnight), Leon also won't bullshit you: If your 1989 240DL is a hunk of junk, he'll tell you to scrap it, even though that's a couple of grand less work for him. Of course, he knows you'll be back -- when you buy your next Volvo.
It's a rare thing for a pawn shop to try to make its customers feel like anything other than the petty thieves, out-of-luck gamblers, and dumpster-diving opportunists that they are. But Davie Pawn and Jewelry has a different philosophy -- swaddle customers in an atmosphere of quality and familiar jocularity and you will be rewarded with their love. There's the long, blue awning that reaches clear out to the parking lot of the Country Road Shoppes strip mall, New York City-style, to funnel would-be hockers into the store's shady interior. There's also the immaculate glass cases of jewelry lining the store's interior. And there's an entire wall devoted to musical instruments -- gleaming electric guitars and patinaed trumpets galore. The place offers other services besides the typical hock -- the in-house jewelry repairman will replace your watch battery for $7, and while you wait, you can wire money to loved ones from the on-site Western Union. The only reminder that this place isn't some Las Olas boutique is the door buzzer -- even the best of pawn shops still have to screen their clients. Ah well.
Just as the name suggests, this ain't no Western buckskin outlet. Managed by Bear Man, a founder of Fort Lauderdale's Leather University, this store offers the rougher side of leather, from pants and boots to full bondage wear. Particularly eye-catching is the faux-police uniform by Interstate Leather for $169. A two-piece made fully out of black leather, the ensemble is completed with an across-the-chest hide strap, belt, and shiny baton. The selection of chaps hangs as numerous as backyard palm fronds, all arranged by "upper thigh size." The store also stocks more than 1,000 square feet of leather in all types of colors and thicknesses for unique desires. Keep a sharp eye out when you're trying to find Leatherwerks, because the storefront is inconspicuous. Open Monday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.

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