Culture Room
Photo by Monica McGivern

It's hot, loud, and way too crowded. But would you expect anything less from a rock club? The Culture Room books an eclectic mix of bands. On any given week they might have David Allan Coe, the Misfits, Johnny Winter, a local group of hardcore rockers, and northern Europe's meanest-sounding death metal makers. What sets the Culture Room apart from the other hot and sweaty clubs around, though, isn't necessarily what goes on atop the large stage; it's the nice, refreshing atmosphere just outside the main concert room. If you don't care so much about seeing your favorite rock stars up close, in the flesh, you can still rock out a few feet away, under the beautiful Florida sky — and watch a video projection of the show while you sip a beer. Or if you're really hardcore, as you pound Jägermeister and break the bottle over your own head.

Coco Loco's

Hotels near the freeway aren't normally hot spots for salsa. But Coco Locos, on the second floor of the Ramada Inn on Marina Mile Boulevard, makes short work of skeptics. The Caribbean sounds that blare from the DJ booth can turn the shy footloose, and by midnight, everyone's on the hardwood dance floor under the raspberry- and lime-toned strobe light. Señoritas get in free before 11; those looking to learn salsa moves will find obliging gentlemen. And should you have too much to drink, or wish to have your next dance horizontal, you're already at a hotel.

Connolly's Sports Bar and Grill

A sports bar cannot be built on plasma TV screens alone, and the weight of its success cannot be shouldered by girls in orange short-shorts. Merely serving wings won't ensure success any more than kegs of Bud will. To be the best sports bar you need added value, maybe by mixing the sports with a lingerie show, or Wednesday night Wii competitions, or live music from bands such as Knuckle Busters and Rug Burn. Connolly's does all that, plus it offers darts and pool leagues four nights a week, serves the requisite bar food, and always has the game — NASCAR, baseball, whatever — on its 20 TVs. We also love that it's independently owned — by a chick, no less. A word to the wise in football season: At Connolly's, it helps to be a Steelers fan.

Rachel's Adult Entertainment & Steakhouse
Anybody can see a stripper shake her rear for singles any night of the week without having to look too hard, but a great adult-entertainment experience means more than just a tight body on a shiny pole trying to make enough to pay off her student loans. It means fantastic-looking girls with pleasant attitudes, a nice environment, and good food. The discriminating patron is bored sifting through cheap buffets as a blond thrashes to Poison. Enter Rachel’s: upscale stripping for upscale clientele with full nudity and fine food. They serve top-shelf champagnes and liquors as well as steaks, lobster, and caviar every day until 1:30 a.m. Starting at 1 a.m., you can order a hearty breakfast. They also offer free flu shots at the beginning of flu season. A strip club that cares about the community: Doesn’t that just warm your cockles?

This Irish pub has lots going for it, with full-bodied beers like Guinness on tap and a full menu with comfort food like shepherd's pie. Drink enough pints while sitting in one of its dark corners and you might actually feel like you're visiting the Emerald Isle. But the real action is outside, on Waxy's covered front patio, where yachties — the captains and crews of those multi-million-dollar floating exuberances — hang when ashore. Why Waxy's? It's just always been that way, since the place opened in 1997. Its proximity to Port Everglades and several large marinas likely helps draw the international boat-hand crowd. Rugby and football matches on the telly help, too. And the breezy front porch is sailor heaven.

On Friday evenings starting at 5:30, the portholes at Wreck Bar in the Sheraton Yankee Clipper (91140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale), become inhabited by a half-woman, half-fish named Marina. For 30 minutes at a time, she glides through the pool, eyes open, with perfect grace, a marvelous feat considering she's holding her breath and being assaulted by swimming pool chemicals. In the earthbound world, she's known as Marina Duran-Anderson.

NT: Where did this phenomenon of mermaids swimming over the bar come from?

It was popular in the '50s and '60s to have mermaids in a restaurant. It was this gimmick during the golden age of tourism. It's fallen out of fashion, but I'm a pop culture enthusiast. I love all things retro and kitsch.

So you decided you would bring back the mermaid?

Yes. I went [to Wreck Bar] and it was beautiful. It was untouched. I asked the manager, 'Do you have any mermaids?' He said 'No.' And I said, 'Have you considered it, because I would love to swim through those portholes.' He looked at me like I had a third eye, but he said, 'Go ahead.' What could I do? It had to be done.

Why aren't there any mermaids in B-movies?

There are! There are some really funky mermaids. She Creature came out in the '60s, I think, and it was recently re-released by Stan Winston, the famous special effects guy. But he took some artistic license, recreated the mermaid as a monster. She was nasty — like mermaid meets werewolf. She's kidnapped by these carnies who want to make money by showing her to people, but she whacks their heads off with her tail.

Big Bear Brewing Co.
C. Stiles

There are a handful of places in Broward and Palm Beach counties that offer 100 or more different brews. And there's nothing wrong with that. We'd give them all commendations for bravery in the service of beer if we could. However, one small, independent brewery that's sat in suburbia unnoticed for ten years deserves the highest honors: Big Bear Brewing Co. The upscale brewpub does not have a large selection. It doesn't stock rare English imports, indie microbrews, or even Budweiser. What it does have is eight masterfully crafted beers made in-house, in the large silver kettles that decorate the restaurant. Brewmaster Matt Cox is the wizard behind the cauldrons: He imports Belgian malts for Big Bear's award-winning Kodiak Dubbel, sources fresh cascade hops for the Hibernation Pale Ale, and brews seasonal fruit ales, porters, and stouts with adoration and care that more than makes up for the drive to the far reaches of Broward — especially when the place has Bourbon Double Barrel IPA on tap, perhaps the best beer ever crafted in Florida.

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