There's something about Ireland that just makes people wish they were there. It might be the beautiful scenery, the culture, or the Irish reputation for reckless beer swallowing and superior liquor holding. After some deliberation, the powers that be realized it was the imbibing, and the American Irish pub was born. What better way to give us Floridians a little luck of the Irish without the expensive plane ride?
I grabbed my good friend Beard, a ruddy-complexioned, hot-tempered chap of Irish descent himself, and we embarked on a beer-swigging pub tour of the finest Irish bars in Fort Lauderdale. I'm no Irish lassie, but I can hold my liquor with the best of them.
Waxy O'Connor's: In a world where Irish pubs are a dime a dozen, Waxy's is a low-lit, homey bar right out of The Dubliners. The air crackled with genuine accents, and the compartmentalized booths and tables gave the place a burrowish feel. Waxy's was neat and clean, with a wooden, warm-toned color scheme, curio cabinets filled with Irish trinkets, and a fully stocked bar. The walls boasted the typical Guinness ads, plus yellowed sheet music, interesting storefront-style signs ("O'Reilly's Magical Medicine," "MacBride's Soap Flakes," "O'Neill's Golden Syrup"), a green, 1995 Irish soccer jersey, and plenty of neatly lined-up liquor bottles. We chose a table under a flat-screen TV and a shelf with an antique sewing machine sitting on top and ordered garlic/onion potato chips (they were delicious) and a Harp beer from our blond, Irish waitress.
She was from Dublin, she told us, and had been in the United States for four years.
"Do you guys get a fair bit of Irish folk here?" I asked.
"We get all kinds," she said. "But yes, Irish people come in a lot, and we get a decent amount of yachties." There also was an ensuing pub quiz; I asked a man with stark blue eyes and thinning hair if his team was going to win. He looked across the table at one of his teammates, a young man in a Texas Longhorns hat.
"Probably...," he said. "Not." Well, the luck of the Irish can't be with us all.
McSorley's: McSorley's, on A1A facing tempestuous Mother Ocean, is always a bit crowded on Saturday nights. But with my good friend Blondie, a radiant dive-bar queen and McSorley's regular, celebrating her birthday (the exact numerical value will remained undisclosed) on the premises, the beachfront pub was positively packed. In my first few minutes, I passed hot girls in party hats playing pool, a Hawaiian-shirt-clad man lying on his back across a pool table, and people taking shots between bites of cupcakes. Also, Blondie was inexplicably wearing a false mustache. More disturbing was that I found it strangely attractive.
The Irish dive consists of two rooms: one dedicated to a large bar with little walking space and a life-sized standup of the Dos Equis "most interesting man in the world," the other a game room of sorts, with arcade machines, pool tables, and a permanently erected beer pong table. The walls were adorned with ceramic fish, seafaring paraphernalia, pictures of lighthouses, and a giant photo of some other venue called McSorley's. The bar area had random signs, an original Mickey Clean crayon drawing (if you don't know who Mickey is, you don't hang out in A1A bars enough), and several flat-screen TVs.
I got myself a vodka tonic before I bothered to wish my buddy a happy b-day, but as soon as I did, she stuck a fake 'stache to my upper lip and scurried back over to the beer pong table, among her other party-hat-wearing friends.
"Hey, Luigi, shouldn't you be making pizzas somewhere?" asked my friend Beard, generally not amused by posers of the furry-faced elite. He then proceeded to make copious "mustache-ride" jokes at Blondie, who was distracted by the birthday gift of a slick-looking vibrator.
"I'm inhaling synthetic fibers," I said. This was going to require another drink. Meanwhile, someone else was wailing out the words to a karaoke version of "Don't Speak," and I was distracted by an older man at the bar (with a strong Irish accent) and his well-behaved white standard poodle. The man was very respectful and didn't mention my maestro-style facial hair, so I petted Jo-Jo the poodle for a minute before hopping up to a barstool. A guy with large, blue eyes and wearing a ball cap, seated directly across the bar, caught my attention.
"Where can I get one of those?" he yelled at me.
"Grow one," I said, twisting the ends of my mustache in a cartoon-villain sort of way.
"But I want one tonight," he whined. "Can I have yours?"
"This is three weeks' growth," I said indignantly.
Blondie, still in her fake mustache, walked up and fed the broad-shouldered Irish bartender a cupcake, which he ate in one bite.
"It's time for shots!" She quickly procured Jäger shots for herself, me, and two others — a slim girl with a mustache stuck just above her breasts and a dark-haired girl in a paper pirate hat. We clinked glasses and swigged. Refusing to drink it slow, both Blondie and I soaked our fake 'staches with Jäger.
"Some for later," I said, moving toward the bar to order a chaser. Before I could get another vodka, I noticed a moon-faced gentleman with wild eyes staring at me.
"What?" I asked irritably.
He gestured to my upper lip. "I guess you're not interested in picking up any guys tonight."
Damned right. I was in the biz of picking up drinks.
Maguires Hill 16: In the spirit of Irish pubs, we checked out Maguires, a comfortable and recently renovated Irish bar and New Times staffers' favorite. It boasts outdoor benches, indoor tables and booths, a large, oval-shaped bar, and a second, smaller room with extra seating. Wine glasses hang from wooden slats over the bar; chandeliers, stained-glass lamps, and general Irish paraphernalia (Notre Dame stuff; photos of Irish writers, Irish towns, and Irish people drinking beer; four-leaf-clover cutouts, etc.) decorate the walls. A sign by the door greets patrons: "The Leprechauns made me do it."
I ordered a Newcastle from the redheaded waitress and gazed over the spigots, listening as she talked to other patrons about "them Dolphins." Willing to entertain just so much football talk, I abandoned Beard and approached a couple on the opposite side of the bar who had been posing together and taking camera-phone pictures of themselves.
Lindsey had wavy, dark-blond hair and wore a nose ring; Sean had dark hair, pulled into a ponytail, and a well-trimmed beard.
"I'm a regular; I come in a couple of times a week," Lindsey said. "Sean isn't a regular yet, but he will be." She grinned at him. Ugh. Young love. Makes me want to simultaneously say "awww" and barf.
"What's the best thing about this place?" I asked.
"It's friendly, a good mix of people — also the live music," Lindsey said. "They had a band called Celtic Mayhem last week — they were amazing."
"Good stuff," I said. "What do y'all do?"
"I'm an actor," Lindsey sighed.
"How's that working out for you?" I asked.
She looked at her beer. "Well, I have a day job."
"As long as acting makes you happy," I said.
"Well, you can have money and be miserable, or do something you enjoy," said Sean.
"Yeah, I chose to be poor too," I said. "But my job consists of drinking, and drinking makes me feel better about not having money."