Best Bartender 2015 | Chris Brennan | Arts & Entertainment | South Florida

It's not every day you find a mayoral candidate mixing your Jack and Cokes. But if you sidle up to the bar top at Oakland Park's Big Dog Station when Chris Brennan is pouring the drinks, you'll be in the presence of a Broward political mover and shaker. The Fort Lauderdale-born and -bred Brennan, a former park ranger, first made a splash when he lost his gig as a water-taxi driver after speaking out in opposition to Marina Lofts, the downtown Fort Lauderdale development that threatens a 90-year-old tree. Brennan later launched a quixotic and gonzo bid for Jack Seiler's seat in City Hall. "I hate to admit this, but I know I am going to lose," the friendly candidate told New Times shortly before the election. But as long-shot as his campaign was, it gave voice to a slice of Fort Lauderdale that usually gets overshadowed by men in suits. He fought the good fight. Tell him so next time you're ordering that Miller Lite.

Readers' Choice: Lisa Radwan, Village Pub Wilton Manors

Boring holes in the walls whose big promotion is five-buck Miller Lite pitchers are dying a slow, yet just, death. As bars that haven't changed since the 1980s refelt their pool tables, places like Tap 42 continue to pick up their customers left and right. All the way from its vast assortment of crazy-ass craft beers down to the sweet potato fries, Tap 42 laps the competition when it comes to quality. It doesn't hurt that Tap 42 is located inside a beautiful building, with ample outdoor seating that gives the place a chill vibe. The owners are already planning new locations, praise be.

There are plenty of bars along the beach in Deerfield, but the days of blue-collar dives are going by the wayside in favor of swanky lounges serving cuisine from countries on lists of "hot places to go." But sometimes you just need a damned beer — and Rattlesnake Jake's will give it to you. Although it can get a little cramped at night, Jake's is a casual place to kick back with a cold one and people in Salt Life T-shirts. The walls at this old-school dive are covered with photos of people showing off a giant fish they caught. Really — all the walls, from top to bottom. The Tex-Mex food is also a draw, with delicious fish tacos and sizzling fajitas that can be washed down with all the normal-folk beer you need: Budweiser, Bud Light, and Blue Moon.

Readers' Choice: Funky Buddha

Just two blocks from the sun-baked Florida sand sits this homey Irish-style pub with polished wood walls and Guinness on tap. Miniature clipper boats sit atop the door awning and welcome you into the self-described hole in the wall. On any given day, the jukebox will be playing classic-rock and top 40 hits as the friendly bartenders serve cold beer and patrons swap stories about fishing or sunbathing. But the true takeaway from Ocean Mist is the cozy feel — the place looks like a sea mariner's living room, with low ceilings and walls covered with sailor figurines and wooden-boat steering wheels. Some people say South Florida lacks authentic pubs, but Ocean Mist proves that theory wrong.

Readers' Choice: Tap 42

There are bars, and then there are dive bars. And then, way on the bottom of the spectrum below those, you've got the Bimini Bay Bar. Hard-core porn playing on the TV? Drinks served by the actresses in said hard-core porn? Yup. We'd go on to tell you about the cheap drink specials, but at this point, why bother? The grimy porn-shoot-meets-garbage-dump aesthetic of the Bimini Bay Bar makes it a necessary stop for anyone just passing through town. But the secret of the oversexed bar? Everyone is damned nice there. For real. Go forth and enjoy.

Readers' Choice: Whiskey Tango

"Malt does more than Milton can/To justify God's ways to man." OK, you're not going to find that sort of high-brow couplet on the marquee above this Lake Worth watering hole, a low-life highlight of threadbare Dixie Highway, where a shot and a beer is the style. But the bar owners are damned witty, their sign out front featuring a new zinger each week, like: "I taught Christian Grey all that stuff"; "Tim Tebow in NYC will be bonking a Kardashian in no time"; and "Welcome to Lake Worth: A drinking town with a beach problem." Such boozy insights and wry resignation have a certain integrity of their own, though no one involved, proprietors or patrons, would presume to any aspiration higher than "Let's have another."

Readers' Choice:

Saying a bar is the best is, of course, subjective; it depends on what you’re into and what you like most — but Off the Hookah checks most all of the boxes. Hookah’s has a special every night, most incredibly affordable. Themed nights, college nights, ladies’ nights, all-you-can-drink nights — just reading the promotions can be exhausting. Hookah is especially perfect for college-aged young adults.

In the end, a good bar is one that makes it easy to kill time, and you could comfortably slaughter a whole week at Turn3. The West Boca watering hole is parked in a retail space in a boring-looking shopping center. But through the doors, you'll find yourself in a place that has more fun stuff scheduled than a weeklong Carnival cruise. And at Turn3, you won't have to worry about sunburn and the norovirus. Monday night, the bar hosts an open-mic jam session for whoever wants to channel his or her inner Sammy Hagar. Tuesdays, the bar hosts a dart league, and Wednesday is Texas Hold 'Em poker night. Friday and Saturday, live music blares from the bar's stage, and Sunday is karaoke night. Couple the smorgasbord of activities with cheap prices and a friendly atmosphere and you've got a perfect home away from home.

Readers' Choice: Tanzy

The brainy hipsters behind FAT Village's C&I Studios Inc. refer to Next Door on their website as a "creative art studio, coffee shop, and lounge." We don't speak fluent creative-type, but we're guessing that translates into "good-ass place to hang." Fort Lauderdale's hip hood is growing like a Hialeah gym rat after a cycle of HGH. Next Door has become a unique drinking option for folks who have logged too many hours in Laser Wolf. Half the room has an art-studio vibe; the other looks like a used bookstore. In between is an ample bar space where you can waste the hours guzzling craft cocktails.

Michele Eve Sandberg

Rodney Mayo, he who has given us pretty much every cool nightclub and restaurant in Broward and Palm Beach for four decades, is on a perpetual mission to improve West Palm Beach's downtown. Camelot, his 13th establishment, is the newest addition to his portfolio. An antithesis to Mayo's early punk pits like Respectable Street and Lost Weekend, Camelot is a grownup lounge that brings upscale late-night entertainment to the Clematis area. The club's design is an homage to the Kennedys and their love of the ocean, sailing, and Palm Beach. There's a bar that serves lobster and a DJ booth that looks like the front of a yacht. With only premium spirits and a membership card needed to get past the doorman, Camelot isn't exactly attracting the college bro crowd — and that's by design.

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