You've got to love Fort Lauderdale, where stilletoed women drink directly from the beer tap, where "happy hours" last eight hours, and where the geriatrics can put 'em away with the best of them. During a single outing, I can rest my happy bar-hopping self at a classy hotel bar, then walk across the street to an old-as-dirt raw bar, and finish out the night a few blocks away at an immaculate Irish pub. The point is, in Fort Lauderdale, it's never hard to find a place that rocks, although finding the best might take a bit of stumbling around.
E Spot: The E-spot bar is a little-known perfect chill spot nestled deep in the heart of Fort Lauderdale.
"The E is for erogenous, obviously," said one of my friends, whom I shall call "Fancy" because he is.
"Um, more like egalitarian," corrected my ever-present companion Beard. He arched an eyebrow and slapped the brown pleather couch as if to emphasize his point.
I decided not tell them that the "E" probably stood for Embassy Suites, which is where the E-spot is located—inside the lemonade-colored hotel best known for its pink, atrium-like interior and amazing free breakfasts.
The marble bar and its surrounding high tables hosted scores of vacationing couples. Green and blue lights flashed overhead, and a glass display case built directly into the bar showed off scrumptious desserts scooped inside miniature martini glasses. Two more rooms — a dining room, and a living room of sorts — were connected to the bar but sectioned off via spaced glass panels. The surrounding area was decorated with fake plants, earth-toned abstract art, and slate-gray tile. Generic and slightly outdated pop music — specifically, J-Lo's "Waiting for Tonight" and Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes" — played subtly in the background.
"Who comes in here? Tourists?" I asked the bartender. He had a loud, pleasant laugh, a beard, and his shiny nametag read "Mike."
"Oh, we get everyone," he said. It seemed true. On my way to the bar, I'd spotted a couple of white-haired ladies with a stoop-shouldered gentleman, all smiles as they enjoyed tropical cocktails.
"It's a good blend of tourists and locals," Mike continued. "We even get people staying at other hotels who come here just for the bar." I grabbed a bourbon and Coke from Mike and sprawled on the couch in the living room area, full of couches, flat screen TVs, and even ottomans upon which to rest one's weary barhopping feet. I joined Fancy and Beard, who were joking about Tim Tebow's virginity (which is apparently still intact).
"It's good to be on vacation, boys," I said to the guys, who were sharing the couch with enough difference between them that they couldn't be accused of snuggling.
"The drinks are still too expensive," Beard complained.
"There were some girls over here before you got here," Fancy said. "But they left."
"Yeah, two guys watching football, periodically yelling at the TV didn't seem to turn them on," said Beard.
Suffice it to say, the E-Spot is meant for folks just slightly classier than us.
Southport Raw Bar: This place is a 1960s-style, let-it-all-hang-out kinda place, and the sign by the door reads: "Eat clams, last longer; eat fish, live longer; eat oysters, love longer." Inside were booths with fish-patterned upholstery, two bars, and a host of browned-with-age ceiling tiles that had been written upon over the years ("Bonnie's Yacht Service," read one; "Happy Birthday, Dana, 6-19-88," read another). Old-timey beer ads, small wooden surfboards, and ocean seascapes garnished the walls; the floor was covered with a worn green carpet. Spread above the booths were a dozen or so caricatures of hot females. For example, windsurfing Pattie was illustrated with long, Cher-circa-1965-style hair and a golden complexion; clearly betrothed Kay had a blond bob and was drawn with her body wrapped around a big-ass diamond; Becky was blond with ginormous tits; don't ask me what she'd been drawn doing.
"Who are these hotties?" I asked a blond, leggy waitress, gesturing at the cartoons.
"They're the original staff of this place," she said. "From, like, 35 years ago."
"Ah. So they don't look like that any more," I said. I imagined age pulling Becky's caricatured cleavage down to her knees.
"No," she said. "At least, I hope not."
We ventured outside to the deck area, located right along the water and in plain view of a host of white boats. Corona umbrellas covered the tables; white plastic chairs were scattered around them. We took a seat at a table next to a punk-rock couple.
"You think it's a first date?" my buddy, Fancy, whispered. "The body language implies there's a little discomfort."
"It doesn't matter," I said. "They're going to be perfect for each other." He had a killer Mohawk; she was all leather wristbands and tattoos.
We ordered a round of beers, speculated on life and death, gazed at the half moon, and I wondered if I'd ever own a yacht. (No.) It was pretty peaceful—at least for a moment. But suddenly, the silence was shattered by a blond in a short gold dress (we'll call her Goldie) and a dark-haired woman in a green dress with killer stilettos (so let's call her Spikes). I didn't have a ruler, but it's safe to speculate that her high-heels were at least four inches. Spikes was standing on top of the bar, bent over backward, drinking beer directly from the tap. Goldie was on top of the bar too and holding Spikes' hand—either for moral support or to share in the spotlight. People jumped from their dates and beers to witness this spectacle of sexy swallowing. Once Spikes finished, she casually jumped off the bar to review the camera-phone pictures that had been taken of her gulping (Goldie just seemed glad to be documented alongside her very thirsty friend). Beard casually suggested that I satiate my liquor-craving liver in a similar fashion, but I declined. Some of us are content drinking from a bottle, thanks very much.
Village Well: The sign for the Village Well glowed through the darkened shopping plaza like a beckoning blue promise of beer and all that is good and pure in the world. The smoky, rectangular room was homey but still classy; the place was all wood, with the bar stretching along one side, a high shelf (packed with books, clocks, miniature lighthouses, model ships, and other trinkets) along the other, and pool tables, dart boards, and seating all somewhere in between. The age range was remarkable — truly, it is the kind of relaxed venue in which 20-somethings can go get shitfaced with not just Mom and Dad but also Granny and Gramps. We hopped up to the bar, which was bronze and covered in leaf-imprints, and took a gander at the host of Irish beer and cider spigots. The bloke seating next to us was downing an Irish car bomb.
Terry, the bartender, had a strong Irish accent and served up cocktails without wait — whether you were a pretty young blond or an 80-year-old chain smoker. He ID'd us, and when Beard laughed, he sharply told him that he could be hiding a little boy "under all that facial hair."
He also plainly laid out the high points of Village Well: "It's a good blend of people. We get Irish folks, and a good deal of yachties," he told me. "Oh, our happy hour lasts 11 AM to 7 PM."
"Happy hour?" I asked.
"Well, yes," he gave a slight smile. "It's a long hour."
Next I approached Francois, who wore a ball cap and had stark blue eyes, and Sarah, who had long brown hair and the kind of Victorian-style beauty that all the plastic surgeons in South Florida could never mimic. They looked cozy, and since I specialize in disrupting happy couples, I popped a few questions.
"What do you guys think of the Village Well?"
"This is my first time here," Sarah said politely. "He's been here a few times though."
"Have not," Francois said in a strong Irish accent, ducking slightly.
"That's not true," she told me. "They knew his drink as soon as he walked in."
"Ah, yeah, it's true," he said. "I'm a regular fixture — like a piece of furniture."
"A true regular," I said. "Are you trying to make her one too?"
"Actually, we have our laundry going across the street," Sarah said.
Any excuse to pop into a kick-ass booze room.