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Coeds and Cocktails

For those of you who are like me and wish you could remember your college days better but all the alcohol-poisoned brain cells make that next to impossible, several SoFla bars will help you recapture those memories of empty wine coolers, trash-can punch, and walks of shame (and hopefully a degree). On my last venture out, I discovered some of the best local places for college kids (and ex-college kids) to hang out and meet sexy folks.

Kahuna 'Awa Kava Bar: "Ethnobotanists agree, Vanauta is where kava originated from," said the kinky-haired, wide-smiled bartender. "That's what we have here. It's the best."

"Oh, goody, the best mud water," I said.

"Believe him," one of the regulars said. "He's, like, the PhD of kava."

"Yeah? So what's the effect of the stuff?" I said. "I've had it before and never experienced a buzz."

"Your muscles relax and you achieve a kind of euphoria," the bartender said.

"Relaxed... like with weed?" I asked.

"Um, actually? More like Xanax," he said.

Four-year-old Kahuna 'Awa Kava Bar is an amazing chill spot located right by the beach. Amid a bunch of pounding, throbbing, alcohol-soaked bars in the near vicinity, Kahuna 'Awa was lined with a good pack of people but still managed to be mellow. Regulars crowded around a TV quietly playing the movie 13 while chill, New Age music played blissfully in the background. The bar is small, with various accents atop it — Christmas lights, a Zen fountain, a Mancala board game, and small cups of pineapple. I hopped up to a seat beside a bookshelf crammed with astrology books. Frilly curtains separated the place into two rooms — the bar area and a small, private oasis with a fountain, tapestries, low tables, and cozy couches.

"This place is cool because you don't get the usual drunks," noted Lawrence, a dark-haired, wiry dude. "It's for people who like it a little quieter."

"It's a good college spot because you don't have to be 21 to drink kava," the bartender said. "We get a lot of kids from the Art Institute. They come up here and drink all night. We've been here till, like, 5 in the morning." College night — Thursday night — boasts an all-you-can-drink special for only $15.

That's a pretty good deal if you're into the stuff. Though the color of kava somewhat resembles a watery chocolate milk, it basically tastes like what'd you get on your tongue if you put a straw in the bottom of a murky creek and sucked.

"Another cool thing we do is, at Sunrise Boulevard and A1A, we do a drum circle on Sundays — at sunset," the bartender said. "Then we come back here and drink kava all night."  

"Bula!" said a nearby regular in agreement, raising his half-coconut glass and taking a hearty swig. "Ughhhh." He dragged the back of his hand across his mouth, dropped his cup, popped a piece of pineapple into his mouth (it works like a chaser), and chewed it viciously. "That taste never gets better. But the effects are always nice."

Tarpon Bend: Tarpon Bend is really one of the only acceptable places on Himmarshee to take someone if you're not just trying to get into their pants. They serve food, have a somewhat respectable ambiance, and host fun bar games (there's no ice breaker like a healthy round of beer pong!).

Wednesday nights, though, are the jackpot. On Wednesday, better-known as College Night, the Bend boasts amazing specials — $6 pitchers of beer, $3 Three Olive vodka drinks, $3 tequila shots and margaritas — and if none of those things captures your fancy, there's a huge selection of beer and bubbly; enough fruity martinis to satisfy a slew of sorority girls; and more liquors, liqueurs, and citronges than you could shake a history professor at. We wandered in, grabbed a table near the bar, and took a look around. The place is large, with high ceilings, wooden floors, giant decorative propellers, big fake fish (strung menacingly from the ceiling), booths, and a tiny second-story balcony. The waitress was a bit detached, and the menu was more than a little fishy (not my thing).

"I told my mom I wanted a guy who'd buy me a ring," I overheard a dark-haired girl in eyeliner telling a friend. "She told me to have my dad do it."

"I just want a guy who'll buy me a $3 tequila shot," I said to my friend Beard, batting my eyes.

 Crabby Jacks: Crabby Jacks will give you flashbacks of every debauched frat party you've ever passed out at. You know: girls wearing next to nothing, cheesy tunes ("Rapper's Delight") pumping from the stereo, guys screaming and toasting, the pungent cling of cigarette smoke. The patio area is boardwalk-style, with flashing lights and glowing beer signs; the inside includes a large designated dining room. Glass lights and oversized faux fish hang from the low ceiling. A strawberry-blond, boy-shorts-clad bartender hopped back and forth behind the rectangular bar.

Billed as the home of the 99-cent pint, the place can't really get any better for the destitute college kid.

I eyed the fishy menu; chatted up Heather, a pretty, dark-haired waitress; and watched scores of patrons — old people, sexy people, people in white dress shirts... actually, a lot of people in white dress shirts — bang back bottles of booze and groove with the DJ, who pumped out rap tune after catchy rap tune.

Heather described the usual crowd: "Mostly 20- to 25-year-olds," she said. "The Latino crowd is big too. We have all kinds of amazing fish specials, so we get a lot of fish lovers."

I decided to investigate the mystery of the ubiquitous white shirts.

"Hey! What's with outfits?" I asked one of the guys. Mike was dark-haired and stocky with an air of confidence that afforded him to ask for my phone number within seconds of knowing me.

"We all work at Brandsmart," he said. "We just got off. You know, it's just up the street... and we need the beer. It's been busy these days."

Mystery solved, I left Mike and made my way to the bar. The bartender, freckled and scantily clad, spun with dizzying intensity and looked hot while doing it.

"I have only two questions," I told her. "With all these specials, do you guys get a lot of college kids?"

"Decent amount," she said. "They come north from FAU. Second question?"

"How do you look so hot in that outfit?"

Her little black boy shorts revealed a sliver of her perfectly toned ass; her camisole showed just a slight hint of perky cleavage. She laughed. "All I can say is, I hit the gym a lot. It sucks, but you gotta do it."

"Aw, there's no easier way?" I pouted.

"I just had a baby too," she said with a hint of pride.

"Hot damn," I said.

Well, that's it. If a hot MILF and 99-cent specials can't convince you to get your happy college-going ass out of the library and straight to Crabby Jacks or one of these other boozetastic bars, nothing can.

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Tara Nieuwesteeg