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With Manny Ramirez Next Door, Downtowner Saloon was Last Night's Destination Dive

"Manny Ramirez is in jail next door!" announced a Patriots fan who had just come from Sun Life stadium and was drinking at Fort Lauderdale's Downtowner Saloon.

Last night, news spread fast that Weston resident Manny Ramirez, the World Series MVP who's been earning himself a checkered history, had allegedly slapped his wife, causing her to hit her head on a headboard. Mid-fourth quarter, in a burst of cackles and whoops, a posse of Pats fans with Massachusetts accents descended into The Downtowner, giddy from the Pats' win and the news.

"I gotta call

my wife to tell her," said another Pats fan, pacing the room as he talked on his cell. "He was just at Fat Cat's the other night," said another. "I got the pictures here on Facebook." He opened his screen while his friends huddled around. 

It was my first time at the popular bar. I had been prompted to join a friend despite that after a weekend's worth of

hangovers, a Budweiser was as appealing as a glass of liver. To get to it, you either have to arrive by boat on the New River, or turn off of Andrews Avenue onto SW 5th Street, passing the jail. "This is the only part I don't like," my friend had said, pointing to chain-link and barbed wire outside the county jail, as she pulled into a space earlier in the night.

Everyone learns soon enough the front section is reserved for regulars. A group huddled in the coveted spots, deep in conversation. A couple of lawyers still in suit pants and dress shirts hung late after work, several deep, bucket of beers as a place setting. 

At the end third quarter, there had been a mass exodus; the handwriting was on the wall for the Dolphins. We sat at the side bar, the cozier slip. "This isn't a late-night place," said Barbara the bartender, who works this side every Monday. She's a Key West transplant and knew my friend from when they both lived down there. While they caught up, I ate a burger with bacon done well, despite that I'd asked for medium, my second dinner of the night.

Budweiser's neon logo hung over the mantle. Ship lanterns glowed like fireflies. Chalkboards lured with clam and oyster specials for 69 cents apiece. A kingfish splayed over the front entrance. Outside, on the river, boaters bobbed.

Once the Pats guys settled in, we paid our bill. Barbara turned down the lights. "You really ought to come here for lunch," said my friend, citing the specials. She pointed to the crew. "And you can't beat the mix."

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart