Best Gym 2007 | The Athletic Club at Weston | Shopping & Services | South Florida
At about $115 a month, the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston is about triple the cost of Gold's Gym or L.A. Fitness. But those other places don't have 25 tennis courts, three pools, and classes on how to dance the zumba. Bring CDs and DVDs to play while you're burning calories on the elliptical trainer, bike, or treadmill, each of which comes equipped with its own 15-inch LCD screen. As they say at the Midtown, "It's not just a club, it's a community," which may explain why they also host wine-tastings, a movie night, and even a junior fashion show.
It's advertised as "a country club for scuba divers" and, less humbly, "the best damn facility on the planet since 1972." Those claims are hard to argue with, because the Scuba Club has everything you need, from wetsuits and regulators (for rent or sale at the pro shop) to a classroom (basic certification costs $250 and includes five dives) to a swimming pool for practicing to a dock with the boat parked right there. Did we mention the steam room, the photo lab, or the hotel room (with kitchen)? "You pull in the parking lot and you're pretty much done," instructor Wayne Shoemake says. He, like much of the staff, has been here "since the Jurassic era" (20-plus years), and General Manager J.D. Duff even has a college degree in diving. In other words, they're folks you can trust with your life.
American hardware stores bore witness to three distinct evolutionary stages: First came the mom-and-pop epoch, where a kindly soul would take you by the hand down dusty aisles to find exactly the eyehook or hose bib you'd been searching for. Next came the Ace/TrueValue era, which began to outshine small family-run stores with their bright fluorescents and abundantly organized overstock. Finally, the Home Depot period (in which we're currently "existing," not "living") has all but reduced the hardware-store experience to a degrading, dehumanizing solo search-and-rescue mission followed by a long, slow slog to a faceless automatic scanner. Riverland Hardware not only looks, feels, and smells like a small-town hardware store from the 1960s, it's run by a real-life mom and pop. If you're looking for something, no one has to scroll through SKU numbers on a computer screen to see if it's in stock — they'll actually go and pull it off the shelf for you. Sure, Riverland Hardware is tiny. It's mostly there so you can go about fixing your toilet, unclogging your drain, and replacing those sprinkler heads. It doesn't sell riding mowers or gas grills, and it might not be as cheap as the orange, big-box monstrosity with the ocean-sized parking lot. But during those panicky, last-minute trips for hurricane supplies, you'll be so glad you're here instead of there.
Much like the National Beer Pong League and the American Beer Pong Association of America, the Cloud Nine takes its beer pong seriously. Not only does the bar have its own custom-built plywood competition tables, house rules, and referees; it knows how to draw hardcore "athletes" — with weekly $150 prizes leading up to the May championship (which comes with a $500 award). For the uninitiated, beer pong is a game in which a pair of two-person teams face off over a Ping-Pong-style table. Each team sets up six plastic cups half-full of beer, with the objective to toss the Ping-Pong ball and land it in one of your opponents' cups. After taking a hit, the player drinks the contents and removes the cup from the table. The team with the last cup standing wins; the loser wins a real nice buzz. All this for a $6 entry fee — enough to cover "equipment" like Miller Lite.
Everyone knows there isn't a legitimately cheap thrill to be found in money-mad Palm Beach County, so we decided to focus more on the thrill aspect of this award. And what could be more thrilling than driving your car as fast as you damned well please? Although you can achieve this cheaply on the highway if you so desire, there's a legal way. That would be at the quarter-mile drag strip at Moroso Motorsports Park, located off the Beeline Highway just north of Indiantown Road. Here's the drill: You pay $20, pull into the 330-foot concrete launch pad, rev your engine, and zoom down the drag, all the while being timed by a Compulink. If for some reason, your testicles haven't dropped yet, this may be just the thing. Wussies can pay $13 just to watch.
At press time, luxury car-rental shop Gotham Dream Cars had seven shiny machines in its fleet: a Lamborghini Murcielago with scissor doors ("as loud and as screaming a car — visually and acoustically — as you can get," according to the company owner, 28-year-old Noah Lehmann-Haupt), a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder ("the baby Lambo"), a Ferrari 360 Spyder ("a classic"), a Ford GT ("an engineering marvel... underrated... by far the best car in the fleet"), a Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet, a Corvette GO6, and a convertible 2007 Bentley Continental GTC. Gotham can provide insurance or work with yours, and they'll bring the car to you on a special delivery truck. They'll even forgive you for returning it with an empty tank or leaving your McDonald's bag on the floor (you have to take this sucker to the drive-through!). But at these prices — the 'Vette costs $495 a day, the Bentley $2,250 — they better. Says Lehmann-Haupt: "If someone crashes the car, we make sure no one was hurt and then give 'em a new car. They'll end up having to pay for the crashed car, but we wouldn't want that to ruin their weekend."
They came for the spot of subtropical sand with an orange tree in the backyard. That's the way Florida was built: countless bungalows on drained swamp with fresh citrus at near arm's reach. Then came the canker scare and the state's disastrous killing spree, wherein the dream was turned into a horror show of arboreal carnage. That unfathomable, shameful, and incredibly costly slaughter is over now. Since it appears to be safe to have a juice-maker in the backyard again, Spyke's Grove is the place to find one for you. They've got citrus trees of all stripes: lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, tangelos, grapefruits, limes, kumquats, you name it. And, most extraordinarily, they sell "cocktail" trees. No, these don't come with tequila inside the limes. They're spliced to grow different varieties of fruits on the same tree. We just got one with five different fruit varieties, including lemons, oranges, grapefruits, tangelos, and tangerines (all of them seedless). These are a bit more expensive (a 15-gallon is gonna run you about $225, whereas a regular tree goes for $140), but man, are they cool.
When you show up for your appointment with Stevie Moon or his cohort, Todd K., you realize one thing the moment you step inside the new, cathedral-ceilinged studio: You are not about to get beaten up. This may seem like an obvious point, but it's not. Most tattoo parlors are fetid swamps of masculine aggression, where the artists and the patrons seem at least as interested in seeming badass as they are in tattoos. Not so at Stevie's: Just like in the duo's old digs in Gateway Plaza, there is a couch, there are shelves overflowing with books about art (and not just tattoo art— Stevie and Todd are as into Marcel Duchamp as in Don Ed Hardy, and probably more so), and there are the two artists, quick with smiles and pats on the back and excited as hell about what they're about to do to your epidermis. Their work is as technically proficient as anybody's and vastly more proficient than most, but the difference is all in the ethos. These folks want to talk to you, want to find out what you're really interested in, and they want to make sure you get something you'll be happy with in ten (or 50) years. That's why there's no prefab flash art on the walls, and it's why the books on the shelves cover so many bases — the statuary of Oceania, lesser works of Flemish masters, it's all up there. And though the guys at Stevie's are always happy to stick some old Renaissance fresco on your thigh, they're quick to tell you that their real passion is for custom work — a concept they approach with a wide-eyed sense of happy adventure that is entirely refreshing and very nearly unique. They know that being an original is way more exciting than being a print.
We may have been in a port-wine-induced haze, but we could have sworn that Macabi's has something that so many modern establishments lack: an aura. It wasn't just a cloud of delicious cigar smoke. We recall dim lighting, a couch in the corner, and endearing piles of clutter behind the bar. There were chatty businessmen with shirtsleeves rolled up and glammed-up ladies taking pins out of their hair after stopping in for the last drink of the night. And then there was gregarious, opinionated owner Ashokkumar Motibhai "Pat" Patel and his wife, Kit Kirti, talking about growing up in Uganda, discussing city politics, and tipping the bottle for us again and again. (The only person who's unwelcome here, they say, is the city official who cost them $175,000 to defend a dispute about parking. "If she comes in here," yells Kit about Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, "I kick her out!") So, politicians aside, you can enjoy 15 types of clove cigarettes, Pirates Brew and Spaten on tap, Silver Oaks cabernet ($225 a bottle), and more than 600 kinds of cigars ($5 to $50). You can enjoy all this, that is, if you're lucky enough to snag one of just 11 seats at the bar.

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