Cathode Ray is the standard gay bar in Broward County. Described by co-owners Larry Wald and Scott Belding as an S&M club -- stand and model, that is -- the three-room bar draws a large crowd on the weekends. But if there is pretension at the 20-year-old Cathode, it's overshadowed by the ready-to-go-crazy crowd that doesn't take itself too seriously. Smokers and shmoozers pour through the door onto the sidewalk and bust sensational moves to music that ranges from Madonna and Whitney to '90s booty mixes. Formal fun includes Wednesday night's Pick-a-Trick contest hosted by Larry and live drag performances by Monica Moore every Thursday at 10:30 p.m. There's always a drink special during the relaxed happy hours, and it's unlikely that you'll go home without a new number in your cell phone. The new madness at the club is a 4-month-long drinking contest called "Cathode University, The Institution of Higher Drinking," which includes a two-tiered mock fraternity system and cash prizes to be handed out along with mock degrees at the September graduation.
Don't hold this bar back because its name is as inventive as a Sun-Sentinel headline. Yeah, and ignore the classic rock advertised on Friday and Saturday nights. That's not why you should come to Cheers. This large watering hole, with two fully stocked bars, three pool tables, and a stage, offers a neighborhood feel, friendly clientele, and an escape from the elbow jockeying needed to get a buzz at Riverfront. This joint's happy hour runs every weekday from noon to 8 p.m., with wells, domestic beers, and house wines priced at $2.25. After nearly two decades in north Fort Lauderdale, Cheers should be considered an establishment. It lacks the pretense of new Fort Lauderdale but caters to the urge that made the city famous: bottoms-up drinkin'. After all, the bar's motto is: "Music and mayhem till 4 a.m." Make of that what you will. Just call a cab when you're done. Readers' Choice: Max's Grille
Think you're pretty experienced at bending the elbow after a long day's labor? Then maybe it's time you tip one with the boys and girls of HHH. For more than 20 years, Bo Zaza has gathered the Happy Hour Crew on Fridays at 6 p.m. at bars in and around greater Fort Lauderdale. These are not spur-of-the-moment choices. As Zaza notes on his website, the selection is made "after weeks and weeks of extensive research, intensive analysis, careful scrutinizing, and painful soul-searching." In other words, this selfless man spends the other six days of the week locating the very best watering holes for mankind. And he invites each and every one of you to join him. Destinations for 2004 are laid out on the website, except for a few Fridays, which are slotted as "mystery picks," for which Zaza solicits votes for a handful of candidate bars. If you prefer to drink by yourself with nobody else, then check out Zaza's list of Broward County bars, which must be the most complete compilation of saloons, pubs, package stores, holes, and dives online.

I tell them, 'Get the fuck out!'" says Ugandan-born owner Ashok Patel (a.k.a. Pat), demonstrating how he clears his sophisticated cigar shop/bar of rowdy clientele. A sign in front of the toilet in the storage/bathroom reads, "Gentlemen, it may be smaller than you think, so stand closer. -- Pat." The walls of the tiny bar that he runs with his wife, who goes by Kit, are lined with cigars that range from $3 to $30. And if, after downing a pint or two of Spaten Dark or Light or Warschteiner ($5), you get too close to the cigars, spill a drink while lounging on the chairs by the window, or get loud, well, then, you might as well be skating with Tonya Harding on pond ice in April. Any combination of these behaviors will definitely get you tossed out on your ass. When you come back, they'll let you in, but they will not hesitate to talk about your uncouth antics within earshot. If you've got a masochistic bone in your body -- and, come on, we all do -- you'll love the challenge of staying in their good graces.
Amsterdam. Just hearing the name of the Netherlands' famed capital city elicits images of people lounging in a marijuana café, happily toking away the hours. But we live in America, where antiquated marijuana laws treat pot-smokers as if they're violent criminals. For the grass-loving Yank, the only chance of getting a legal dose of doobage is to get hospitalized or contract glaucoma. But there are other ways to lawfully mellow out, such as drinking kava, a plant from the South Pacific popular for its mellowing effects. While you can find kava products in supermarkets -- most commonly as processed capsules or in iced teas -- the Nakamal serves only pure kava juice. Servings range from single shot ($3.75) up to a one-kilogram home kit ($63.60). For those who dig the relaxing atmosphere but would rather stay alert, the Nakamal's menu includes dozens of flavorful teas ($1.25) and juices ($1.75), as well as sodas and cocoa. And for the aspiring poet, the Nakamal hosts an open-mic night every Wednesday. Either way, it's the right environment to peacefully meditate while your body loses coordination. Call it Zen and the Art of Motorskill Malfunction. The Nakamal opens every day at 5 p.m.

Like we'd imagine heaven's very own dive bar to be, Curly Sue's Hideout is directly across the street from a McDonald's. Why it's located only feet from a middle school, well, we don't know. Here's what we do know from a recent reconnaissance mission to the Hideout: Ol' Curly Sue herself sees us dawdling outside and says, "What's the matter, you fuckin' scared to come in?" Her tattered T-shirt reads "Fuck You, You Fuckin' Fuck." That's a friendly enough invite in this part of town, so we grab a well-worn stool in the dark, narrow room. You will not be using your debit card here, Mr. Yuppie, so bring cash. Or a roll of quarters. And it's beer and wine only, but you'll look like a complete doofus if you don't choose a ($2.25) Bud longneck. Handwritten signs everywhere insist "No Tabs," but they're followed by more hastily scrawled lists of patrons who either have tabs running or have skipped 'em. Whatever you do, don't miss the tear-inducing memorial to a dead biker named Scumbag. As a romantic backdrop for that special occasion, the barbed-wire back patio faces a water-treatment plant's massive tank. Hey, kid, run across the street and fetch me a Quarter Pounder, will ya? Readers' Choice: Le Tub
It's early afternoon on a Saturday, and there aren't any posers here. These bikers are the real deal, the long goatees, the black vests, the black halter tops. Twenty-odd men and women with faces as lined as floodplains. The hogs are out back, not far from the barbeque grill made from 50-gallon drums. This two-wheel haunt's in a backwash of a neighborhood, an aging industrial ghetto just west of I-95. Near the door stands an enlarged photo of a long-haired blond, model-pretty, dressed in black leathers, smiling like an open road. Kimber is her name. Was her name. She died not long ago astride her machine, up in Pensacola. Beside her picture is a flier: a memorial service at a nearby chapel later this afternoon for the 39-year-old. Party at Mickey's afterward. These are real bikers. How'd it happen? a bartender asks a brooding man at the end of the horseshoe bar. She made a mistake, he says, thought a four-way was a two-way, went down the wrong way. Hit a car head-on. "She probably never knew what hit her," the bartender offers. She turns to walk away, then stops and calls back, "I hope so, anyway."

This small, hidden gem off East Sunrise Boulevard sits in the shadow of the newly erected mammoth condos on Seminole Drive. The narrow, dimly lit bar packs in an assortment of interesting characters on a nightly basis. Imagine being at a family reunion, but a really surreal one; the soundtrack is Foghat's greatest hits, and everyone in attendance -- crazy Uncle Charlie with the wooden leg, your grandma, and your keg-tapping cousins home from college -- all put aside their differences for the love of the drink.

Ex-pats can be the most refreshing people to come across in South Florida's suburbs, reminding us, with the very tones of their saucy accents, that there is a world beyond marathon satellite television consumption in our 60-mile spread of four-bedroom cement blocks. There is no more intimate environment west of I-95 to mesh with the Brits than this master bedroom-sized pub and eatery. The menu of pub fare, which notes, "We pride ourselves on bland food, warm beer, and bad service," declares the take-us-as-we-come charm that makes unwinding at the King's Head a reality check in a culture run amok. Stuff your gut with some fish and chips ($8.95) or chicken curry with spices on a bed of white rice ($9.50). Down a pint of Fullers ESB, throw some darts, or just sit on the plastic chairs outside, puff a fag, and watch the crazy Yanks roll past in those cars that they can't afford. Readers' Choice: Bru's Room

Gary Santis' antiquity-themed, multilevel brainchild, the Coliseum, consistently draws world-class DJs and performers to entertain music-savvy clubgoers. Unlike most local dance clubs who don't give a shit about anything but selling drinks, Coliseum has spent the past three years setting a new standard for nightlife sophistication in the area. Jet-setting DJs like Victor Calderone and Manny Lehman don't just pop in to Fort Lauderdale without serious wooing. The club is hugely popular because it's a venue with theme-threaded, moody beats and hot crowds worth talking about. Coli is a needle aimed right at the local straight clubs that are still untz-untzing in their bubble of recycled pop-culture hangover barf. When is it going to pop? Cover ranges from $10 to $20 depending upon who's spinning and the time of your arrival. Readers' Choice: Voodoo Lounge

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