Smart men in South Florida do exist, but they're not where you'd expect them to be — say, at the local Mensa meeting. That's because the regular Mensa meetings in Palm Beach and Broward counties are at the Bennigans just off Cypress Creek Road. Bennigans? Even a Chili's would be an improvement. Whatever. Here's where you can meet men smart enough not to settle for chain restaurants: Hollywood Vine. It's a smart wine shop featuring well-attended winetastings every Tuesday evening from 6 to 8. When they opened the shop last year, owners Luciano Armellino and Steven Kracow set out to create a sophisticated space of granite and mahogany where you can "unwind, enjoy, sample, savor, and socialize." So wander around the shelves containing up to 600 varieties of vino from around the world. Try one of the ever-changing varieties offered daily, ranging from $3 to $20 a glass, relax at one of the tables outside, or perch on a barstool in the back of the shop. You'll still be able to see who's walking down Harrison Street through the storefront glass. If you find a bottle you like and don't want to take it back home to share with the cat, crack it open there and wait for your social life to bloom.
Do you come here often? I see you've moved beyond primary-level stretches and on to modified secondary; it really shows in your lotus. I have always fancied myself more of a Bikram yoga kind of guy, but when I see you glide into the plow, my body temperature jumps to 105. A little earlier I was rubbing some tiger balm on my muscles — they're very sore because I work out so much — and I couldn't help but notice that deep in your yoga bag is a copy of Essential Rumi; yeah, as far as medieval Persian philosophers go, he's one of my favorites too. I see that you're busy meditating right now — good work by the way, it looks like you're really in touch with your core. Maybe when you're done ensnaring your power animal, we could go out for some carrot sticks and ginger root and, you know, just shoot the shit about asanas, discuss the finer points of sublimation, and then go back to my place and, you know, adjust each other.
In 1961, Vincent Capone owned the Flicker-lite Lounge on Grand Avenue in Chicago. Dreaming of warmer climes, he headed south to a sleepy town called Hollywood, where there was only one restaurant on the beach. Capone opened the second. His wife, Joan, did the cooking, and when they added Chicago-style pizza to the menu, a local institution was born. The Capone family still runs the place, which added waterfront dining in 1980, and some of the bartenders have been around since that decade. Another expansion in 1994 didn't mess with the local flavor. The barstools are still well-worn, the meatballs are still homemade, and every Bears game is still watched religiously. So Green Bay Packers fans may want to stay away on NFL Sundays.
It's the best neighborhood bar in Fort Lauderdale, but it feels like the best neighborhood bar in Johannesburg, South Africa. For 40 years, thirsty patrons have found a home in the Kalahari's cool interior, decorated with zebra pelts, old-man chairs, a mock fireplace, a pool table, antique photos and maps, and a bookshelf. To step inside is to join the secret club that watches rugby, can turn a phrase or two in Afrikaans, and knows a warthog from a wildebeest. To participate in Saturday karaoke or occasional "Bring and Braai" barbeques is to have a really "lekker jol" (nice time). Sadly, current proprietors Hal and Dee Hofmeyr are retiring — Hal's turning 80 — so the bar is up for sale. But we have faith that the trusty bartenders — all of whom have been there for five years or more — will keep the place intact. After all, the family that drinks Springbok cocktails together, stays together.
In the wee hours of a recent Wednesday, an unlikely couple entered the Chit Chat Lounge. One tall white kid and what appeared to be a teeny-tiny but very-butch black lesbian spied a few regulars lazily throwing darts in a corner and a dressed-down man and woman at one end of Chit Chat's worn-but-gleaming bar, speaking and laughing softly in a non-specific Southern accent. It was an unpretentious crowd, not at all rambunctious and remarkably good-natured for 1 a.m. The bar, which had been standing for about 60 years, was filled with pictures of a pretty blond lady named Sherry, the proprietor for the last 16 years; that's just about how long George, the gent tending bar at that weird hour, had been working there. There were no musicians on Chit Chat's little stage, so George was slowly feeding dollars into the digital jukebox in between pours. The teeny-tiny but very-butch black lesbian let out a whoop of delight as she recognized Teddy Pendergrass' welterweight soul croon, exclaiming, "That's my favorite goddamned song!" Smiling, George proceeded to program a solid half-hour of Pendergrass into the machine, while somehow keeping everybody's glass full and carrying on conversations with all patrons simultaneously across the great expanse of Chit Chat's wide, dark-wood floor. He never even raised his voice. The easy congeniality of the evening was not a fluke. This is a place where quiet nights cuddle side-by-side with big events — NASCAR, blues, open jams on Wednesday with the Joe Friday band, karaoke Thursdays.
The fact that it's been a bar since 1953 makes the Sail Inn Tavern a historic neighborhood bar. The boat on its roof and its staunchly loyal locals make it an institution. The place is so beloved, the bartenders come up through the ranks after many years as regulars. Decorated with salvaged nautical elements such as portholes, ocean maps and boat ropes, and personal memorabilia from the bar "family," the place is both kitschy and homey. With just one pool table and a few TVs, the real entertainment comes from the characters: bikers, golf and tennis pros, writers, tattooed bad asses, loudmouthed lesbians, metal heads, meatheads, and the late-night party set. With the best Jäger bombs ever, don't plan on getting tanked and sleeping it off on site. The Sail Inn doesn't actually offer lodging, but the name is a convenient setup for its motto: "Sail Inn, stumble out!"
The second oldest bar on Clematis Street — younger only than Respectable Street on the same block — is a family-owned pub that has long been a second home to local artists, musicians, and poets. The loyal (and frequently smartass) staff always remember the regulars and often greet people in a brogue straight from the Emerald Isle. Lots of dark wood and quaint pastoral knick-knacks hark back to the Old Sod without being pretentious about it. With honest pints (none of those skimpy 12-ounce posers) and $2.50 Guinness on Mondays, O'Shea's even offers a hangover cure in the form of a delicious Irish sausage hoagie that's even better dipped in the potato and leek soup. And while it's not exactly Irish, there's free barbeque on the spacious back patio (which also hosts periodic indie rock shows) for Friday's happy hour.
The mermaid is back! According to local legend, it was circa 1956, when the Yankee Clipper was built (in the shape of a ship), that the landmark hotel started offering regular mermaid shows. Back then, at the height of kitsch culture, wannabe Rat Packers would step down into the dark wood bar, order martinis and highballs, look out through the porthole windows, and be treated to the sight of beautiful creatures gliding flirtatiously through the water. These were, of course, performers who reached the pool only by going outside and upstairs, but the dreamy effect was like looking into an aquarium or out of a submarine window. Sadly, the world lost a whole lot of style when the mermaid shows ended around 1962. But earlier this year, the lovely Marina Duran-Anderson decided to pin a flower in her hair, slip into her gold-lame tail and seashell-bikini top, and jump in the pool. Marina — whose side jobs include fire eating and belly dancing — can hold her breath for 90 seconds and open her eyes underwater. Order a tall one and watch her pass by the window when her shows take place during happy hour on Friday nights. And at this poolside bar, you don't even need to bring sunscreen.
Liz Dzuro
The only real reason most bars need to have food in South Florida is to offer those patrons who libatiously overindulge in the booze — which is what brought them to the bar in the first place. Hello! In a handful of other, more tight-assed localities like Plantation and even entire states farther away, like Virginia, pesky governmental types use their lawmaking powers to require that every drink-swilling establishment operate a full kitchen. That said, even when you're out-of-your-mind drunk and need to eat right now, you couldn't do better than the Rum Shack. Here, the fries go beyond just soaking up the alcohol in your belly that's beginning to rebel. Here, these hand-cut treats can come with oozing gorgonzola. Not in the mood for the tater-based version? Try the ones made from the vitamin-rich sweet potato. They'll make you feel like you're making a healthy choice, at least until you remember that the only reason you ordered them is because you popped back eight Jäger shots and two of the hardcore, will-always-get-you-there Rumpleminz variety. Oh, about the homemade onion rings: They're shoestring and not overly coated with heavy batter. Forsake the fried and try the very smoky fish dip — just the way smoked fish dip should taste. Use the warm garlic bread it comes with to dish it all up.
Despite having been around for two years, the Naked Grape is still basically undiscovered. It's a state of affairs that must endlessly rankle the proprietors, but it's damned lucky for the regulars: The vibe at the Grape is mellow enough that you can have a quiet conversation with friends without straining your throat, and the bar is usually half-full, resulting in quick and friendly service. The moment you step through the door, bright, soft light gleams on clean metallic surfaces across the bar's airy open spaces, and you realize this is a place for casual oenophiles — a community watering hole as much as an outpost of serious viticulture, where you can see a few selected faces from the neighborhood gathered and talking for hours amid the free-form arrangement of big, comfy sofas near the bar's entrance. As you step in, reds are on your left, whites are on your right, and the more intense fuller-bodied wines — along with ports and assorted oddities like the "chocolate" wine, Trent Adue — are farther back, along with the Grape's pricier selections. The bar offers a small but intriguing mix of beers hailing from the Netherlands, the Bahamas, and all points in between, a selection of sakes and sake cocktails, and an assortment of cheeses and chocolates. Proprietor Michael Bocraft has a laissez-faire attitude toward live entertainment, so just about anybody could be doing just about anything on just about any night. It is this sublime relaxedness that makes the Naked Grape stand out so: Come as you are, do you as you please, and stay till it suits you.

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