When measuring a bar, I know at least one thing: It's a good sign when people are willing to get soaked just to soak up low-key ambiance and stellar drinks. And at Matty's on the Drive martini bar, I found a gaggle of good-looking gentlemen milling around outside, downing drinks, and smoking cigs — in the rain. I've never minded standing in the rain for a good martini, and I'd sure get soaked for sexy people, good music, impulsive dancing, great bartenders — and Wii bowling.
Drinks: Despite my willingness to be rained on, I began the evening in the cool, dry indoors. I threw myself at the first barstool I stumbled upon (not too different from my dating approach, actually) and leaned in until the pierced and pleasant-tempered bartender paid attention to me.
"I'm not skilled in the art of ordering martinis," I admitted. "What can you make me?"
"Oh, anything," he said. "You want a cosmo? A dirty martini? A—"
"Can I get something sweet?"
He obliged, quickly shaking me up a purple martini — the bar's signature drink. It was a pretty violet hue and tasted like a grape Popsicle. I gave him a thumbs-up as I swallowed.
Ambiance: The place was low-lit with the blue glow of candles that sporadically dotted the dark-wood, beautifully crafted bar. People played Wii bowling on a giant projected screen. Across the right wall, classy framed prints of creative artwork depicted colorful martini glasses. Also on the wall: a creepy mascot-like purple dot with arms and legs.
Banter: Eventually I met Matt, AKA Matty of Matty's. He was slender with smooth skin and an air of genial ambition, proving that such a thing exists. It so happens that he had also helped open some locations of legendary gay bar Georgie's Alibis (including the one nestled mere footsteps from my Wilton Manors apartment) and was plotting to open a Matty's in New York. Many members of his staff had moved with him from Georgie's (amicably, he noted).
"Tell me something interesting about the bar," I pressed.
"Well, my brother made all the furniture," he said, gesturing to one of the high chairs at the bar. It was dark wood, beautiful, and the Matty's martini logo — complete with olive — had been carved expertly into the back. I oohed and aahed appropriately before asking about the creepy mascot-like purple dot.
"It's a grape," Matt clarified, "since the grape martini is our signature drink. The first time I had a grape martini, they called it a 'midnight martini,' and I thought it was delicious. I found out the secret ingredient, of course, was Welch's grape juice."
"You know, I love Matty," interjected an inebriated gentleman in a tank top with a smattering of tattoos. "I loved him when he was a woman too!"
"I don't know that guy," Matt said in a low voice a few minutes later.
At that point, three of my friends showed up. Beard, my ever-present fuzzy-faced companion, and my sexy lady friend, whom I will refer to only as Blondie (she is dark-haired but enjoys Fort Lauderdale staple bar Blondie's), had met in the parking lot and were eager for drinks. My third compatriot, whom I will refer to as Biceps (he spends a bit of time at the gym), followed in tow.
"Exactly what shape is this bar?" Biceps asked after a moment.
"Diamond," Matty explained. "At square bars, everyone is sitting too far apart. A diamond had no real sharp corners for people to fall on." Which is, of course, a legitimate concern at a bar with cheap, delicious drinks.
When I turned to Beard and Blondie, they were discussing the odds of not throwing up after taking six Irish car bomb shots, back to back.
"I could do it without throwing up," she said. "I choose not to."
"I've done century club," Beard said, meaning 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes (about 13 beers in an hour and a half!).
"Me too," Blondie said.
"Twice," Beard pressed.
I wanted nothing to do with a budding drinking contest between a self-proclaimed dive-bar queen and a burly ex-frat boy, so I procured another martini and sneaked off.
Patrons: I grabbed a seat on a sleek black bench beside Chad, who wore fashionable army-print pants and studded dog tags. He was at Matty's chilling with a couple of friends, including Leah, a raven-haired beauty queen clad in all black, and Dennis, who is dark-eyed with chiseled features.
"I met Leah in Miami Beach like ten years ago," Chad said. "I was wearing practically nothing, and she was in this awesome bikini top. It was incredible."
"Hot," I said. I'd love to be friends a decade later with just one person I met while nearly naked.
Chad introduced me to Leah, who confirmed the details of their meeting and used a newfangled contraption to add me on Facebook right then and there.
"I just joined this group on Facebook for people who never had chicken pox," she said.
"I never had chicken pox," I said. It's really true. And I never want to catch it, which is at least one-fourth of the reason I avoid children at all costs.
After a small celebration of poxless sisterhood, we got onto discussing bigger things.
"This is a really great place," she told me. "Good music, good people." At that moment, a Madonna song came on, and Dennis danced over to me, writhed a little between my knees — while I did an impressive (or maybe not; I was drunk) arms-only dance.
"I'm only here for two more days and then back to Dallas," he said midwriggle.
"I'm from Dallas!" I squeaked.
"I knew there was something I liked about you," he said.
Boobs: After bidding a sweet adieu to gorgeous Leah and her handsome friends, I meandered back over to my barstool beside Blondie, and it was only about a minute before two guys walking by recognized her, and hugs and cheek kisses ensued. They cooed over my "doll" face, which they were distracted from only by Blondie's fantastic and apparently infamous knockers. One of the guys squeezed them with both hands and then proceeded to lean down and kiss right on her exposed cleavage. (Note: Had these guys been straight, they would have been kicked into next week.)
"I love breasts," he said frankly. "And in fact, anything you ladies want, put on my tab." He motioned to the bartender, who nodded in response. With that, the pair walked away.
"Holy shit," I said. "Your tits just bought us more drinks."
"Hell yes!" she said. I'd always suspected breasts were good for something.
Outside: While we enjoyed free drinks, dance diva Dennis presented me with a red rose he'd purchased from the flower peddler who'd infiltrated the bar.
"For being from Texas," he said. "And for being awesome."
While I was distracted by my own awesomeness, Mike, a tattooed guy in a wife beater and wearing rosary beads, slogged over to us, a white Russian in hand. He told us he makes $20,000 a week and offered to tattoo me for free. Behind Mike, the bartender nodded toward the door and mouthed what I think was the word run. We did.
Outside, we found Biceps, who was engaged in a passionate arm-wrestling competition with Joe, an older man in a red shirt. After a little bit of straining, puffing, and a heroic struggle from Joe, Biceps crushed the poor dude's hand down to the surface of the table.
"He beat you, eh?" I asked a few minutes later.
"Yeah, but that was left-handed," Joe said. "He's a lefty. I beat him right-handed earlier."
"And you're a bit older than he is," I observed.
"Twice his age plus some," Joe said.
"A valiant effort."
"He did give me a little wink during," Joe said, smiling at Biceps' handsome mug. "And I'd do anything for that face."
I could relate to that feeling of willing surrender — it's the way I now felt toward grape martinis.