Some of my best memories have involved singing karaoke with friends. In high school, my girlfriends and I won 50 bucks singing "Don't Speak" in a local contest, and my first legal cocktail was enjoyed at a bachelorette party singing "Love Is a Battlefield."
Ever since I started watching The Voice, I've been keeping an eye out for more spots to sing. Though the Dubliner has been my go-to spot for some time, I wanted to discover more watering holes around Broward and Palm Beach counties to get my fix. More specifically: I wanted to find a different place for every night of the week. After listening to many epic performances, looking like a fool on multiple occasions, and racking up a crazy bar tab, I finally have some answers.
Shout, 109 N. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach
Karaoke times: Thursday to Sunday 5 p.m. to 4 a.m.; Monday to Wednesday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
This is where I discovered the karaoke bombing phenomenon, in which a large group of wasted kids arrives at a karaoke bar and takes it over. I waited an hour to sing my first song. It did give me a chance to have a couple of drinks and eat some munchies — which were pretty good — but I felt like I was in karaoke limbo for a long time. The mix of songs people chose included country, Disney, and hip-hop. Pat Benatar is my go-to karaoke choice, so I did "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and took advantage of the generous space to rock my air guitar. I was tempted to run upstairs and see if the mic would go that far, but I reined it in. There's no stage at Shout, so you can sing and dance with your friends on the floor. It also means that if singing on a stage makes you pee in your pants, this is the place for you.
The Dive Bar, 3233 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Times: Sunday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
I have fallen in love with this bar. I've never done karaoke on a Sunday night before, but it was relaxing and fun. This bar is bright, friendly, and best of all, it has a great stage. The bartenders were cheery and helpful, and all of the patrons encouraged the singers. I even got compliments and song requests after my performances. Unlike some other places I visited, there was no pressure to stick to one genre. An older biker dude sang "Pour Some Sugar on Me," a guy in a Hawaiian shirt did a song from Fiddler on the Roof, and a bodybuilder in tats sang "What a Wonderful World" (one of the best Louis Armstrong impressions I've ever heard). This just may become part of my Sunday-night routine.
The Dubliner, Mizner Park, 435 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
Time: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Dubliner has been my regular spot ever since I moved back to Florida. When I got to the bar on a Monday night, a woman was onstage singing The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World." I asked the bartender how often people sing that song. His response: "Every Monday" [insert eye roll]. While the crowd does seem to be the same every Monday, the singers are mostly talented. Some people even had their own backup singers.
When my friends dared me to do a rap song, I decided to do B.o.B's "Magic in Me." The karaoke DJ (AKA the KJ), Jeremy, didn't have it, but he quickly downloaded it for me. When I started doing the rap, everyone in the audience was pretty stunned. With to-die-for mac 'n' cheese, impressive karaoke performances, and a rockin' KJ, there isn't anything missing on the Dubliner's karaoke night.
O'Malley's Sports Bar, Crossroads Shopping Center, 1388 State Road 7, Margate
Time: 10 p.m. (or when the KJ decides to arrive) to 2 a.m.
Once I realized that everyone was singing either metal, punk, or Janice Joplin, I decided to stick with Benatar and go with "Heartbreaker." When I finished, a new friend I met at the bar congratulated me and then asked me to sing more angry songs. Her special request was Kelly Clarkson — the queen of angry — so I gave it a shot.
Midsong, I got really into it and kicked my foot in the air, and my slip-on shoe went flying. In a panic, I jumped off the stage, grabbed it, and ran back up, all while screaming "Since You've Been Gone." For my grand finale, I dropped my mic on the ground — by accident. I didn't get a cheer, but at least there weren't any boos. O'Malley's is one of the two bars I encountered during the week that gives you a free drink when you sing a song, whether or not you drop the mic.
Inkwell Pub, 238 Margate Court, Margate
Time: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Inkwell Pub is a tiny hole-in-the-wall hipster bar with handcrafted beer and wine. If you love microbrews, you'll love Inkwell. However, the space is so small that it's not really ideal for karaoke. I don't think many people know about it, so there isn't a huge turnout for it now either. But by the time Wednesday came around, I had karaoke fatigue, so it turned out to be the perfect spot to have a chill night and recover from the Kelly Clarkson incident the night before.
The KJ, Ariel, was very sweet and fun and sang a few songs with me and my friends. Yes, you do get a free drink for singing a song. At O'Malley's, you got a domestic draft, but at Inkwell you get a sake bomb. So if you are looking for a low-key evening and some good brews, Inkwell hits the spot.
The Black Rose, 234 S. Federal Highway, Boca Raton
Time: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Despite a few technical issues, the Black Rose is a fun place to sing karaoke. Just like the Dubliner, the KJ can download a song for you if they don't have it, and the performances are fun to watch. Sometimes you go to a karaoke bar and the singers take it very seriously, as if they are competing on American Idol. At the Black Rose, it's obvious that drinks have been had and singers are having a hard time hitting the notes, but they don't give a damn. The best show of the evening was a wasted guy singing "La Bamba" at the top of his lungs. A guy named Ken got onstage and drank his beer during the song and then burped into the mic. I wasn't sure if I could pull off Elvis, but I crushed it with "Blue Suede Shoes," and the crowd was pleased.
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The Stable, 205 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park
Time: 8 p.m. to midnight.
A few minutes after my boyfriend and I showed up at this local gay bar, we noticed that all the men had migrated to the other side of the room and our end was completely vacant. Was it something we said? I felt that Madonna would be a crowd pleaser, and I did get some excited responses while singing "Material Girl." Overall, there were great singers, and you could perform without fear of judgment, but be prepared to wait: Everyone is there to sing.