Photography: Gene Maitland.
Photography: Gene Maitland.
It’s that time of year – check out what’s hot in Fort Lauderdale. All this research wasn’t easy – these fancy cocktails don’t drink themselves, folks – but we think you’ll find something you like in our picks for what’s the manatee’s knees in Fort Lauderdale.

Dining

Best Fancy Use of a Biscuit: The Royal Pig’s free-range buffalo chicken fingers with biscuit
The whole do-downhome-food-but-fancy-it-up-a-bit thing isn’t exactly new anymore, but the Pig does it so well. A bit spicy, a bit country and the perfect thing to enjoy while watching literally whichever sport you want at one of their roughly 2700 televisions.

Best Happy Hour: Sky Thai Sushi
Moët Monday. Clicquot Wednesday. Unfiltered & Sparkling Friday. And that’s before we even get into the Saturday Sake specials – or Sunday’s all-day happy hour. We’d love Sky Thai’s modern, pan-Asian take on sushi anyway, but we love it more when we get to enjoy some bubbly, a lovely cocktail, some sake shots or whatever else is on offer during the themed happy hours that happen between 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday. Small plates, two-for-one drinks – oh, and don’t forget the chance to sit at the counter and watch the sushi masters at work.

Best Late-night Pizza: Vito’s Gourmet Pizza
At Vito’s two Fort Lauderdale locations (they’ve also got a couple in western Broward), you get lovely traditional pizza, wings, subs, massive traditional Italian dinners – and crucially here people, you get them on the weekends until 3:30 a.m. (On weeknights, all the carbs are available until 2.) We don’t always make the best decisions in the early hours but honestly, devouring an entire Meat Supreme at 2:47 a.m. is never wrong.

Best European Experience: Sapido Restaurant and Café
This little Italian place tucked into the ground floor of the Venezia Las Olas condo is owned and run by actual Italians, from Italy. The décor is industrial chic, the menu isn’t any longer than it needs to be, the coffee is amazing and the food … mmm, the food. OK, did we mention they’re actually from Italy? The experience is also aided by the fact that in the European style, your table is yours – you’re not hustled out, but instead given time after your meal to talk and, oh what the heck, maybe check that wine menu one more time.


Nightlife

Best Oceanside Luxury: The Living Room
Lauderdalians of a certain vintage will remember when “dressing nicely” and “going to the beach” meant attending a wedding at the Bonnet House and literally nothing else. Now though, we’ve got options when it comes to swanky nights out where you can smell the ocean. The Living Room, the W Hotel’s second-floor, beach-and-A1A-overlooking bar, is a go-to for date nights, first dates, proposals, etc. Chic and modern with special DJ or theme nights on most nights, it’s got a killer cocktail menu that can be enjoyed on a sweeping, ocean-facing outdoor deck.

Coolest Small Venue: Beer Punx
The MASS District has gone from a place you visit once a month for ArtWalk to a place that’s got things happening all the time. Many of those things happen at Beer Punx.
The venue, which also fills its walls with cool art and its bar with an excellent selection of beers, is one where local and smaller touring acts can find a home. As you might guess from the name, the music isn’t always for the faint of heart. Hint: They don’t do very many smooth jazz nights. But if you don’t have a problem with amps and you want to support a proper local, this is a winner.

Best New Music Venue: NYSW Jazz Lounge
This swinging joint offers a good bar menu including wings and sliders, jazz-appropriate cocktails and weekly special nights – if cigars are your thing, for example, turn up on Thursday for Smokes and Sounds, where you can bring your own or have one rolled. NYSW sits on SW Sixth Street, in an area that’s becoming known for a fun, diverse selection of local spots. This is the sort of interesting, creative music and social space that makes a community better.

Best Bar Concept: 27 Bar & Lounge
Granted, it’s kinda dark – the “27” in the name is a reference to legendary musicians who died at 27. And yet, when you’ve got a bar that does music in what’s rapidly becoming a popular nightlife destination (next to Laser Wolf, across the tracks from the MASS District), it’s good to be able to celebrate Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse etc.


Lifestyle & Family

Best Condo Reinvention Concept: 30 Thirty North Ocean
In recent years, we’ve seen the condo concept turned on its head. Big, hermetically sealed boxes are out – smaller, walkable, amenity-filled abodes are in. 30 Thirty is among the best, most recent examples of this new concept at work; it looks to be an architecturally interesting, integrated, walkable space of the sort that will modernize our beachfront areas and make them into better communities. It’s a role model for good, thoughtful design.

Least Stressful Day Out: Brightline
We’ll admit, we’ve fallen for South Florida’s new train. Good amenities, beautiful stations and downtown Miami in not much more than half an hour. Oh, and that’s the downtown Miami where the new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is now open a short walk or Metromover ride away from the Brightline station. And it’s right next to the Pérez Art Museum Miami! Not that we’re ignoring our chums up in West Palm – heck, the Brightline station there drops you off just about in the heart of the action on Clematis. Point being, we’re loving a bit of this car-free lifestyle.

Best New Family Fun Spot: Museum of Discovery and Science Science Park
MODS was great already. But earlier this year when the children’s science museum opened its long-anticipated outdoor science-themed playpark, it got that much cooler. The park – which, if we’re being totally honest, adults will find really fun as well – offers games that teach science while offering active fun. Sure you can learn about force and trajectory in a book – or you can learn about it by shooting balls out of a nozzle. Want to learn about mass, speed and momentum? Wait ‘til you see the Wheel Roll.


Sports & Outdoors

Best New Sporting Tradition: Florida Panthers’ Heroes Among Us
After years of meh, our NHL team is giving long-suffering local hockey fans something to get excited about. But in addition to more wins on the ice, we really appreciate the attitude the team brings to its off-the-ice community outreach. Our favorite program: Heroes Among Us. If you’ve been to a Panthers’ game, you’ve seen it. At every home game, someone is recognized for their military service. Men and women, recent soldiers and World War II vets, it’s a broad group, There’s a short interview on the big screen, followed by a live shot of the hero in the arena and, inevitably, one of the biggest cheers of the night. Gets us every time.

Best Rivalry: Cardinal Gibbons vs. American Heritage
American Heritage is the two-time defending state 5A champion. In 2016 and 2017, Cardinal Gibbons was undefeated against every school not named “American Heritage” – and 0-4 against their district rival Patriots. Those two losses – two in the regular season, two in the playoffs – include a 58-57 triple-overtime playoff game that ended the Chiefs’ 2017 season. This year, both teams began the season nationally ranked, with at least one national poll putting Gibbons and its talented senior class ahead of Heritage. This year’s game is October 12 at Heritage so, depending on when you’re reading this, you might already have an answer to who’s ascendant in this year’s installment of Broward’s premier rivalry.

Best Dock: Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
For years, Birch State Park has been a great untapped resource for boaters with no dock, just a crumbling seawall. Now though, that’s changed. The park and organization Friends of Birch State Park have been working through an ambitious project of improvement projects, and one biggie is a new public dock. Fort Lauderdale’s slice of undeveloped sub-tropical Old Florida is now accessible from the Intracoastal.

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