Best Plant Guru 2014 | David McLean | Shopping & Services | South Florida

Some people are born with green thumbs. In David McLean's case, he was born with emerald hands. His garden — an Eden just south of downtown Fort Lauderdale — is brimming with all things tropical, lush, and fragrant. McLean is a master at growing what grows best in South Florida and is happy to share his knowledge during his popular "walk and talks" on the first Saturday of every month. Through the seasons, you'll find native tomatoes and blueberries, thornless blackberries, and Okinawa spinach for sale — all of which will thrive in your own garden with a little love (and some of McLean's advice). But if the last of your Everglades tomatoes dies in the swamp of summer, fear not. You can still get your fix at the 11th Street Annex, a restaurant literally surrounded by the garden that serves some of the edibles McLean grows. Talk about farm to table.

(After this item was printed, New Times learned that David McLean passed away June 5 at age 79. In lieu of sending flowers, please plant something native in his memory.)

Sure, you could send your kid to a normal camp, one of those sunny compounds with a Native American name that is ironically full of white Jewish kids. There, he'll shoot arrows, erect tents, get tick bites on all areas of his body, and do all that other typical camp stuff. What fun. But do you want your kid to be just like the others — some sunburnt little thing who knows how to fashion a weapon out of a flat rock and a blade of grass? Or do you want your kid to be different? Well, the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre specializes in different. While the rest of those smelly little terrors are busy building a fire out of their parents' antique furniture, your kid is going to be dancing, singing, and acting. Imagine it. Your own little Jean Valjean putting on one-man shows when the power goes out. For kids in grades 2 through 10, the FLCT's summer camp will teach all aspects of theater, from acting to stage design. And at the end of the program, campers put on a real live play with costumes, sets, and pizzazz for their families and friends. Send your kids to the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre. You owe it to your furniture.

Photo by Eric Barton

For almost 30 years, Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale has been the home of FLIFF — the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. This monthlong fall festival is no slouch, playing films that are making their world premieres or have played only at Cannes; films that will go on to win Academy Awards and the fawning adulations of movie critics and film students. The rest of the year, Gregory von Hausch, president and CEO of FLIFF, and his team carefully curate the weekly offerings of films you won't find anywhere else in South Florida. Cinema Paradiso's home theater is tucked behind a parking garage on the south side of the New River — a spot you'd never find if you weren't looking for it. The former church was there long before most of the rest of modern downtown, and you just don't move out of a building that cool for any reason. But this year, the theater expanded to a second, more easily found location in downtown Hollywood. This new spot is located within walking distance of bars and restaurants. "It's close enough [to the original location] for us to manage and far enough to reach a new audience that wouldn't necessarily be willing to journey to Fort Lauderdale a couple of times a week," von Hausch says. "And Hollywood is kind of central to gain traffic from Dania and Miami. We do draw people from those areas for FLIFF, so we figured they would be interested." Though the second location is actually a little smaller, with 110 seats, better daytime parking allows for matinees and more screenings. With this second location, both FLIFF and Cinema Paradiso are sure to continuing growing, bringing brilliant independent film to a public overloaded with blockbusters.

There are plenty of hotels for well-heeled socialites armed with martinis and red-lipped smiles who are hunting for husband number two. But Lago Mar is designed for that well-heeled socialite after baby number two. Located just off the main A1A strip in Fort Lauderdale, the comfy hotel has the bay in its front yard and a private beach in its back. And though the accommodations may seem a bit mundane, the beach will play center stage for the Broadway-caliber play that is your Fort Laudy beach vacay. There are multiple pools where little children come to get wet and big kids can swim a few laps. Tipsy moms will drool over volleyball-playing musclemen; Grandma can try to live through one more vacation at the shuffleboard court; and hubbies will blow off some new-dad no-sex steam at the tennis courts. Probably the coolest thing about the family-friendly hotel is the Soda Shop downstairs. It'll give you a chance to gorge on pizza while your kids get high on ice cream, and Nana can talk about the old days buying soda at Woolworth's for a nickel. Lago Mar offers something you once thought impossible: a chill family trip.

Girls rule; boys drool. That's the sorry lesson to be learned in the water closets of Coastars, the coffee bar at the heart of Lake Worth's South J St., AKA Little Bushwick. Owners Chris Palacio and Liz Brach figured they had a crowd of young creative types on their hands and said, Hey! Let's leave pens and crayons in the restrooms and see what our young geniuses come up with. What could be bad? But their fond hopes came half-undone. The boys sank to the occasion, rock-bottom, Greyhound-latrine style, unleashing their inner yobbos in crude and filthy texts about body parts and fluids. The girls, however, rose to the occasion, poetically and philosophically. Their walls are even now festooned with instruction and mystery and wit: "Please be responsible for the energy you bring into a room," says the graffiti. "There's gold beneath the highway." "Now something so sad has hold of us that the breath leaves and we can't even cry." "The guy at the counter is cute." Visually, symbols and caricatures are smattered through the lettering for an intricate and sprawling rainbow mash to rival a Persian miniature. Will J Street's boys redeem themselves one day and put their restroom walls to better use? Maybe. But they'll have to bring their own crayons. Chris and Liz took theirs away and scrubbed the walls clean.

A 15-year-old Heat fanatic's wish to be a Miami Heat broadcaster. A 6-year-old's wish to go to Alaska. An 11-year-old's wish to meet Taylor Swift. These are just three of the 9,000 wishes Make-a-Wish Southern Florida has granted to children with life-threatening medical conditions over the past 30 years. That's one wish every 16 hours. It takes a special person to look heartache right in the eye and find hope; Make-a-Wish Southern Florida is full of such people. For 30 years, the organization has consistently refused to shy away from some of the toughest cases around, providing happiness to those who haven't seen it in some time.

Dear Humans,

I write to you on behalf of myself and all the other cats at Abandoned Pet Rescue. First and foremost, I hate you. You're all stupid. Your ignorance with respect to the appropriate time and duration of belly rubs makes me want to regurgitate more than just hair. If you were before me now, I would dig my claws into your silly hairless flesh and laugh as you screamed in pain. While my hate for you is strong and fiery, it is not the reason I write this letter. I write to tell you about a small but exceptional group of humans who run Abandoned Pet Rescue. They are truly tails above the rest. I've been here for a year now, and during that time, I've encountered some of what are no doubt the warmest blankets on this planet. My naps have been both long and uninterrupted, and despite that one time they stabbed me in the butt with a long metal stick, my time here has been decent, which — in the cat world — is high praise. Visit these people. Donate to their cause. And please, for the love of God, please come and adopt Pickles. I hate Pickles. He is stupid, and I'm tired of looking at his dumb face in his cage as he sits in the cage across from me. That is all. I hate you.

— Ferguson

Volume One isn't so much a bookstore as it is a big fat Valentine to South Florida bibliophiles. Walking into the store, which is slotted into a strip mall in West Broward, you're immediately surrounded by unruly stacks and cartons and shelves and leaning towers and skylines — of books. Literally, it's like walking into a maze built entirely of preloved literature. And it can be just as confusing getting around inside the cramped store, considering how well stocked the place is. But the real value in Volume One is that the quality on hand matches the quantity. You can walk into any used paperback slinger to pick up a well-thumbed edition of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a spine-cracked Life of Pi, or a shoebox of Agatha Christie titles. Volume One, however, is filled with as many gems as the sea floor after a pirate wreck. Looking for a first-edition hardcover of Albert Goldman's 1981 Elvis Presley biography? You'll find one here. A little-circulated collection of James Agee's prose? Check. Alma Guillermprieto's dispatches from Latin America, The Heart That Bleeds? It's on the shelves. The clerks at Barnes & Noble would just drill a confused look into your skull if you asked about any of these titles. That's why when your reading habits are off the bestseller list, Volume One is where it's at.

Tate's Comics

Geeks are cool. And the coolest of the geeks in South Florida know there is only one place that will satiate their unrelenting thirst for all things comic book and anime. Serving comic book fans for a daunting 21 years, Tate Ottati says opening Tate's quickly turned into the best decision of his life. The 6,000-square-foot Lauderhill location is a flagship store selling action figures, comic books, cool toys, and Japanese snacks. But wait, there's more. Upstairs, Tate's wife (who was once a regular customer) has made her dream part of the story by opening Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery — a funky gallery that focuses on wall-hanging-worthy art and monthly events. Opening a second location in Boynton Beach arose out of necessity: the throngs of geeks who cannot get enough of the magic from just one Tate's store.

Style. You either have it or you don't — or you have a whole lot of it and you open a boutique. That's the reality for Paula and Laurie Newlands, sisters-in-law and joint owners of StyleNest, a self-described "designer-inspired fashion boutique." Since 2011, StyleNest has been bringing unique and celebrity-inspired fashion to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea with the bonus commitment to keeping prices reasonable. Like any successful fashion boutique, it has established an online following and does booming e-commerce business in addition to in-store. Keeping with its hip and affordable attitude, the site even features an "Under $25" section you will want to live in forever. Though based out of Florida and heavy on our palm tree vibes, StyleNest knows how to appeal to a national audience and keeps everyone on her toes with the announcement of new arrivals.

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