Sick as a dog on a Thursday evening? Try the Irish whiskey cure. Maybe it's not just what the doctor ordered, but it sure doctors the pain when you don't feel good. That's what I've heard from the experts, anyway. I headed to Biddy Early's Irish Bar (3419 N. Andrews Ave., Oakland Park) which, if the name could be trusted, sounded like a great place for an early evening of therapeutic drinking before going home to Benadryl and bed.
Ambiance: At first glance, the place is a predictable pub — dim, smoky lighting, dark furniture, and a steady crowd of 9-to-5ers calming their frayed nerves with strong Irish brew.
But the bar — that's impressive. It's so long that I practically had to squint to make out the folks at the other end. The building is longer than it is wide, and the dark-wood counter stretches from the front door back to the pool table and dartboards. Even after just throwing a lazy gaze around the pub, its old-world Irish décor came out fightin'. Prints of old-style artwork decorate the walls, the backs of chairs boast mysterious copper engravings, and part of the ceiling has been painted with a big, circular, Celtic-looking decoration. I don't know if the skeletal Mona Lisa portrait hanging behind the bar had a damned thing to do with Ireland, but it was right creepy.
Before finding a spot to park myself for the evening, I took a peek into the green-walled dining room. Like the barroom, its dark wooden tables looked like antiques; its booths were tucked snugly into the walls, situated in comfortable little alcoves. Compared to the bar, the dining room, partially in shadows, was sparsely populated. I ducked back into the barroom and grabbed a booth.
Drinking Early: A lady in a red ball cap and a mustached, grizzly gentleman were talking and laughing raucously together — clearly a case of being drunk early at Biddy Early's. Maybe they could give me a quick lesson on how to make a Thursday night so much drunken fun.
The spidery-eyelashed, bleached-blond woman — who bore such a strong resemblance to an intimidating former boss that I nearly wet myself — laughed and gave a mean, insinuating Sarah Palin-style wink.
"I was a TV reporter for 13 years," Carolyn said, swatting my shoulder (affectionately, I think). "I know what you're looking for. You want the scoopy-doop-doop." Mental note to myself: Look that one up in my Merriam-Webster.
"You remind me of me at your age; you're just like a little mini-me," Carolyn continued. "I did all kinds of stories; I talked to guys in prisons and spent time digging prostitutes out of the snow."
"Er... I just talk and drink," I said. "So... what brings you guys out tonight?"
"I'm trying to bed this guy," Carolyn said. The guy, whose name was Chuck, looked confused.
"I've been coming here for five years," Chuck said. "It's owned by an Irish guy and managed by a British guy, which makes it a perfect atmosphere."
"Yeah, it's great," interrupted Carolyn. "We got married in the bathroom here."
"What?" Chuck blinked in bewilderment.
"I'm kidding," Carolyn said, dissolving into a devious witch cackle. "I'd need a ring on my finger" — she pointed to one of her modest-sized rings — "at least three times the size of this one!"
Chuck shrugged, took off his watch, and folded it as if he were going to place it on Carolyn's finger. She withdrew her hands with a look of mock offense, then exploded right back into ear-splitting laughter.
Carolyn suddenly switched gears, like a sports car hitting a speed trap. "I brought my friend out here with me," she said, looking around the bar. "Her husband died of pancreatic cancer a year ago, and she's still depressed."
I scanned the area, spotting no bereaved widows. Nothing better as a remedy for grief, I thought, than being dragged to a bar, liquored up, and ditched. Carolyn must have recognized this too, because she hopped up and stalked off to search for her friend.
"How ya doin, buddy?" she said as she walked past my male companion, who'd been watching everything over the rim of his bourbon and Coke. She balled her fist and delivered a feisty punch to his left arm.
"She has a lot of energy," I said to Chuck, ignoring the abuse she'd just delivered to my buddy.
"I just met her tonight," he said.
Voting Early: Chuck introduced me to Gary, a slight, older gentleman with light-blue eyes and a gruff demeanor.
"Have you early-voted yet?" I asked, eager to make sure that SoFla's drinkers weren't passing up the polls for the pubs.
"Can't," Gary said shortly. "I'm British. Not an American citizen. Been here since I was a kid; put in for my citizenship a few years ago but withdrew it when Bush got elected."