Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
The Mai-Kai was a mini Polynesian theme park in the middle of Fort Lauderdale when Fort Lauderdale consisted only of a beach and a few condos. Except for some recent, hurricane-induced renovations, the restaurant hasn't changed much since its opening in 1956. Its over-the-top jungle décor, flowing rivers, and roadside torches remain. The drinks are your typical island-vacation fare, except for one: the "mystery drink," which might fail to be much of a mystery to devoted South Floridian fans after 50 years. Still, it's the only drink in the area that will get you and three friends noticeably hammered as — spoiler alert! — hot Pacific Islanders dance for you. If you keep drinking and decide to roam through the Mai-Kai's tropical gardens, be mindful of all those pesky waterfalls and rivers that totally come out of nowhere.
Not much in South Florida makes a Philly fan feel at home. It's nearly impossible to find a genuine Philly cheese steak, sports fans are more apathetic than psychopathic, and there is a haunting lack of William Penn statues. The Parrot Lounge is as close as it gets to walking down Broad Street. It's game days when the Parrot really shines. Hours before kickoff during football season, hundreds of people flock to the bar. Once the Eagles take the field, 90 percent of the televisions are tuned to the Eagles and 100 percent of the folks in the bar are screaming (mostly obscenities) at the top of their lungs. Every play is scrutinized, every call is wrong, and every point scored is accompanied by an earth-shattering E-A-G-L-E-S chant. As a bonus, wear a Giants, Cowboys, or Redskins jersey during football season and you're likely to get free drinks... "accidentally" spilled on you and your loved ones. Just don't try it during the playoffs or you'll be asked to leave for your own safety — literally. It's enough to make a grown Philly boy cry.
Nonsmokers don't get it. They believe, in their lung of lungs, that with enough advertising campaigns and public education seminars, smokers will see the light, become converted, and quit. What they don't understand is that you smoke because it's awesome — that a cigarette with coffee or a frosty pint of beer is the Greatest Thing in the World. Sure, your shelf life is limited. Your lungs are lined with more soot than a coal mine. You smell bad. And you know what else? You don't give a shit. You will not convert. So in an age when smokers are pushed onto patios and exiled from their native habitats (bars), you need a bar that shares your passion — a place where the beer selection is lengthy and British, where the jukebox is packed with funk and soul, where strangers buy you drinks and become friends. And that, my friends, is why you go to the Fox and Hound. Robbie and his dedicated crew are always quick to light your ciggie and empty your ashtray, often with such grace that you hardly know it's happened. They take pride in being the finest pub around, and they welcome all types: even you scoundrels reeking of Marlboros.
When relatives come to town, they want to see skin. They're sick of sweaters. And they should tell you this as soon as you grab them from the airport curb. If they don't demand this — because they should be demanding this — do them the favor. Don't take them to some fancy, indoor martini bar even if they request it. It's January, they've forgotten what the sun feels like, and they know no reason. Just drive them to Dirty Blondes. For their sake, ignore any request that doesn't involve the swarms of bathing-suit-clad 20- and 30-somethings who drink at this beachside bar. Remember the tiny bikinis and full liquor bar. Remember all the pool tables and games in the back and the beauty of the beach and ocean that can be seen from the front. And let them see the reason Florida's been crowned the Sunshine State, after all.
Finding the right bartender is like meeting a soulmate: Once it's happened, you'll never stray. If you've been fortunate enough to stumble into (or out of) Maguire's Hill 16 during Trixie's (birth name: Tricia Cline) shifts, you already know this. More charming than a Shirley Temple and wiser than a desert shaman, this red-haired libation mixer adds a dash of positive energy to every drink she serves. When prodded, she'll explain that her cheerful demeanor stems, in part, from her other careers as a spiritual healer and ordained minister. So what is this nondrinking angel doing shoveling shots to you and your obnoxious friends? "I believe that you have to understand the dark to appreciate the light," she'll say, most likely with a wink. Belly up, become a regular, and have this sage pour you a Boddingtons. Just don't forget to tip your life coach.
"You walk in here, it's like Barbie fucked Beetlejuice," quips drag-show hostess Diva about the cabaret establishment Lips, where the disco balls outnumber the queens and performers boast such sophisticated monikers as Twat LaRue. It's Friday, and it's time for the late-night revue. Diva informs those easily offended by bawdy humor, "You've just been fucked out of a cover charge." She circles the room, endlessly singling out targets for questioning. But watching your friends squirm to avoid Diva's merciless interrogations of their sexual history and anatomy is only half the fun and accounts for only a fraction of the show's raunch factor. Bring lots of bills, and not just of the $1 variety. These ladies may call one another whore, but they're not cheap whores.
Alligator Alley's booze selection is nonexistent. But you won't need shots, because the Alley's beer selection is kickin'.
There are two brews from Unibroue, those incomparable Canadian brewers. There are Caribbean ales. Key West ales. Triple-fermented craft beers. And the bar food is prepared with an attention to detail and inventive flair that's hard to find at other watering holes. Fried oyster poboys are better than much of the competition in New Orleans, and mind-bending spicy gumbo is cooked to secret specifications in ten-gallon batches.
Yet it's not the beer nor the food nor even the Alley's reliably great jazz and rock music that make it so spectacular. It's the place itself. Go in, drink, and eat and you'll meet some of the coolest heads around. Old session musicians who'll riff on their glory days with Buddy Guy, science fiction writers, painters, psychedelic visionaries — all just sitting around, shooting the shit, treating the place like a second home. For lots of us, it is.UPDATE: This location is now closed.
Sometimes you want a bar with a generous selection of top-shelf liquor and tasteful décor without the pretensions of a dress code. This is South Florida, after all, and you live here because Reefs are appropriate footwear pretty much everywhere. Georgie's Alibi in Wilton Manors boasts three polished wooden bars with marble countertops, good booze, and awesome specials, including $1 domestic longnecks on Wednesdays and $2.50 margaritas on Mondays. A Wheel of Fortune-type contraption on the wall dictates what additional specials will be at various designated times. Floor-to-ceiling television sets seem to rotate Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, and Madonna music videos. But if sensory overload brings out your Baudrillard-esque paranoia, you can move out to the patio tables. You won't be able to stare at the cute barback, but so goes barhopping.
When the powers that be decided to renovate the underused outdoor patio at Revolution Live and reinvent it as a permanent pool party, they went long on fun and short on pretension. They hired tiny, clean-cut, young barmaids; adopted the tagline "Grillin' and Chillin' "; built the center bar as a replica swimming pool; and narrowed the musical set list to highly singable mainstream anthems. Should you pop in at America's Backyard for happy hour (4:30 to 9 p.m. Friday only) straight after work, don't be too anal about your nice J. Crew outfit, because you are highly likely to get caught in the crossfire of the bartenders' water-balloon fight. Said bartenders (dressed like lifeguards, down to the board shorts or bikini tops and whistles) will make it up to you by passing out free drink tokens as freely as Halloween candy and by putting three or four straws in those giant, bucket-sized fruity cocktails. You know this is a place where things regularly veer out of control because they feel compelled to have a whole "Lost & Found" page on their website. "Good morning!" it says, knowingly. "You had a lot of fun last night, huh? So what did you lose; cell phone, keys, a present, a friend, credit card, shoe, camera, boyfriend, your panties, your pride?"
Education is important, so cheers to learning in classrooms, and cheers to learning in bars — near FAU classrooms. And cheers to the never-ending lesson of learning one's self. Mull the following questions over discounted drinks at Nippers any time from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday. Is "happy hour" a marketing scheme designed to get you drunk? No, wait, put down the drink and listen for a moment. Are you supposed to be getting drunk during these hours? Hey, don't throw that empty glass in this direction. OK, you're heard: The only thing that matters here is being smart and saving money, and Nippers lets you do both.
It has been said that O'Malley appeared on Hollywood Beach after the hurricane of 1926. Accounts vary as to where he came from: Some say he drifted ashore, some say he arrived by boat from the Bahamas, and some say the real story is much less interesting. One thing is certain — it doesn't matter. O'Malley's Ocean Pub is a place where the worries of everyday life just wash away. It might be the fact that it's located on a busy stretch of Hollywood Beach — outdoors but at the same time covered and protected from the sweltering sun and unpredictable rain. Or it could be the variety of frozen drinks, double-shot mojitos, and low-priced, all-day refills served in carved coconuts. Maybe it's the bevy of televisions tuned to every sport available and the collections of people eagerly watching their fantasy teams on laptops thanks to the free WiFi. Most likely, it's a combination of these things and the fact that more locals and regulars populate O'Malley's than you'd expect at a busy beachside bar, proving it's not a tourist trap or fad like so many other bars littering the beach.
The stretch of Dixie Highway from West Palm to Boynton Beach is a wonderland of dive bars: the Office, Harry's Banana Farm. But the Little Owl Bar is the coziest, with its mix of blue-collar Budweiser drinkers and the Lake Worth progressive set (you shall know them by nose rings or dangly earrings). The Owl's dark main room, sticky floors, old pool table, and flickering TV are always welcoming sights, whether you're here to suck down a longneck on a hot summer day, attend a Food Not Bombs potluck, or watch your favorite all-girl punk band play (Go, Angry Pudding!).