The Speakeasy Lounge

Hanging out at the Speakeasy Lounge in Lake Worth is like going to two bars in one night. The front bar area is narrow and cozy. Its long bar has ample seating, ideal for intimate conversations with a date or relaxing after a long day at work. Pass through into the back bar area and it's as though you've entered an entirely new venue. Complete with a stage that's often packed with live music acts or a burlesque show, the second bar area is quite lively. There's even a pool table to keep you occupied.

No, this isn't the most extensive wine list around, but it's among the most welcoming of wine bars. Owner Candace Proctor steers a selection at this locals joint for which Wednesdays and Fridays serve as in-house tasting nights. With more than 150 wines to choose from, this charming spot also knows its pairings and provides tasty delights to complement a glass or bottle. A knowledgeable staff, friendly regulars, and heavy pours cinch its spot as an oenophile destination. Cigars on the patio or flamenco indoors add fuel to an already festive environment. Go early, those who want to learn. The later it is and drunker regulars become, the more likel y your civilized evening will result in a swillfest. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's why we like it here.

The Blind Monk

Dim lights, red wine, dark-chocolate-covered strawberries — all the essentials are here. Yet the Blind Monk's genius goes far beyond the menu. It's a vibe that makes you want to linger, sipping your petite Syrah, listening to a soulful guitarist strumming on a Tuesday evening. Such sumptuous yuppie havens are common in New York or Chicago, but in South Florida, the Monk is a gem. It's small, with a cozy cluster of tables and a long leather couch under a TV screen that plays classic, black-and-white flicks. No need to worry about drunks in Ed Hardy shirts stumbling or spilling Bud Light at this bar. The ceilings are high, the décor sparse. There are craft beers for your date and enough cheese and prosciutto to soak up the booze. Sit down, stay awhile. This is the perfect place to hide from the world.

Lips
Christina Mendenhall

It's another Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale. You and your friends want to grab some drinks to forget about a shitty breakup that happened earlier in the week. Or perhaps it's someone's 30th birthday, maybe a bachelorette party. But heading to the same ol' spots just isn't what you've got in mind. Dripping in hot pink, glitz, and six-foot-tall, fast-talking, sassy drag queens, Lips is a 24/7 party spot where the frozen cosmopolitans flow freely. On the disco-ball-shimmering stage, drag queens dressed to the nines saunter about as they entertain the room with their spot-on diva impressions and cabaret numbers. As the signature cocktails keep coming, so does your liquid courage, and before you know it, you'll be getting a lap dance by the colorful-haired bubble butt named Twat LaRouge. Anything is bound to happen inside Lips, as long as you've got a few drinks in you and you're ready to give those hard-working performers a few tips.

Mystic Water Kava Bar

Walking through the doors of Mystic Water Kava Bar is like being on a psychedelic trip. In one fell swoop, you'll go from standing on a concrete sidewalk to being surrounded by a magical, fairy-tale forest. The interior looks like a giant tree house illuminated by purple and green fireflies. Paintings of mystical wizards adorn the walls, casting a spell on your senses. Although the bar serves only kava — no liquor or beer — the décor alone will have your mind feeling tipsy.

Kapow Noodle Bar
CandaceWest.com

Here's a happy-hour riddle: If the way to a man — or woman's — heart is through the stomach and not the wallet, how is it that flat, flavorless beer and baskets of deep-fried appetizers became synonymous with the postwork pick-me-up? Sure, that cup of Coors and basket of breaded-and-battered whatever may come cheap, but at what cost? The "happy-time" block offered weeknights at Kapow! doesn't half-ass it with the low-cost offerings. House wines and draft beers — an ever-changing assortment of familiar and strange domestic crafts and imports — are half-off from 4 to 7 p.m. But the real kicker is the menu of $3 bar bites. Instead of offering odds 'n' ends that you'd shovel down only if forced to by a beer buzz and budgetary concerns, these are treats — steamed buns, shishitou peppers, roasted cauliflower — that are well worth full price, drunk or sober. Add to that the cool tunes, hip décor, and energetic crowd and you've got a solution to the mystery of how to build a happy hour that doesn't compromise standards.

Pelican Landing

There comes a time in every drinker's life when you realize New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day are for amateurs and that it's much more pleasing to stay home to make one's own party. Similarly, there comes a time when you turn away from three-for-one shots, put down the Solo cup of Budweiser, and go toward the light — which is shining from the end of the docks behind the Hyatt Hotel at Pier 66. Pelican Landing, one of the Hyatt's restaurants, is a little tricky to find. Wander behind the hotel, past an assortment of multimillion-dollar yachts to the little building on the water and up the stairs above the marina office. There you will find stunning sunset water views, a lovely calypso musician bonking on his steel drum, perfectly refreshing specialty cocktails, and some of the tastiest ceviche this side of Peru. Best of all, drinks and select foods are half-off from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays.

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Carrie Bradshaw and her gang of high-heeled NYC ladies popularized the art of drinking pink martinis. However, there are two things Ms. Bradshaw never told us: (1) Walking in heels while attempting to sip from a martini glass isn't easy; and (2) cosmopolitans may look pretty, but they're rough going down the hatch. Luckily, places like Dapur know how to make martinis taste good. The venue's signature drink, the "dartsmoor," is comprised of fresh lemon juice, gin, and St. Germain and topped off with a cucumber slice. It's like a spa day for your taste buds. But ladies, beware: This drink is so refreshing, you'll barely taste the booze.

Bridge Hotel

When you're penning your postcards poolside at this hotel, it's certainly not the dreary eggs Benedict you'll be waxing poetic about. The cuisine at this waterside bar/restaurant is of the standard mid-'90s hotel issue: bland, likely frozen at some point, and largely forgettable. Service can, at times, be painfully awkward. Best to avoid this altogether and make a beeline for the bar. Order a few bottles of imported beer or a festive tropical mixed drink and take in the watery panorama, watching as luxury yachts cruise from Lake Boca Raton through the inlet out to the Atlantic. When spring break is nigh, you may be able to ogle some hotties taking a dip or catching rays at the adjacent pool. If humans fail to entertain, take a short stroll to the railing on the lower deck, peek over the edge, and watch the rainbow of tropical fish that congregate on the seawall abutting the restaurant.

Lester's Diner
Photo by Kristin Bjornsen

Some things about America really are all they're cracked up to be. Like the diner: lots of chrome, a carousel of cakes, raspy grandmas behind the Formica counter, and free refills in a tiny mug. Occupy a booth or air your grievances at the counter: This is food for the 99 percent at its most satisfying and no-nonsense. Chicken-fried steak is a crispy caloric splurge; an omelet's enough to see you through most of the day. For a few bucks, you can dig into a more advanced diner staple like a meat-loaf sandwich, or check out the full dinners to forget about all those fussy ahi tuna sliders you've been scarfing with your silly nouveau-riche pals. It's a great place to bring friends from out of town on the way to or from the airport; those from more diner-friendly climes will quickly recognize Lester's as the real deal. The loyal clientele includes cops, firefighters, and other such people you really should be eating breakfast with more often.

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