1908 Hollywood Blvd.
It's nearly impossible to walk the Hollywood strip and not be drawn in by the rhythms floating out of Ginger Bay Café. On a recent Wednesday-night outing, I walked in and heard the sounds of MaWon, a seven-man band, playing compa and zouk — popular music straight from Haiti. By 11 p.m., the group was playing to a packed house, which consisted mainly of women in their 30s. That could be attributed to the laid-back atmosphere or the playboy frontman (who looks like he could be an extra in The Young and the Restless). Either way, I wasn't mad. The jazz-bar ambiance is dressed in an industrial-meets-Caribbean veneer. Dark rattan chairs sit under eight-foot-wide mechanized awnings that fan back and forth. Under their breeze, A.J. Calloway look-alikes sport cream-colored blazers and jeans as they cross the room, eyeing the girls at the table next to me — I've eyed them too but got no returns. Damn. Everyone seems to sway ever so slightly — in unison — to the tropically jazzy groove. While you sway, order the coconut shrimp and a planter's punch, which is rum and a blend of (guava?) punch. But order early; you don't want to get caught in the 11 p.m. rush. Wednesday is Haitian night, Thursdays feature live soca music, and if you show up on Fridays and Saturdays, you'll get live reggae as things really turn intense. On these weekend nights, Ginger Bay is usually packed to capacity with traffic overflowing onto the sidewalk. The setup of the stage provides awesome acoustics, which, in combination with the sound system, makes Ginger Bay one of the best places to listen to live music that I've been to. This may be South Florida, but tonight I'm in a Caribbean state of mind.