Your Guide: SFGN’s Best of Gay-Friendly South Florida 2012

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And the winners are...

In November we asked you, our readers, to vote for your favorite restaurants, hangouts, and charities – from your favorite Gay Friendly Social Network and favorite Barber to who you think serves the best pizza in town. We received hundreds of votes. These are your opinions – not ours. Don’t agree with the winners? Well then make sure you vote in next year’s contest. Check out the winners of this year’s SFGN’s “Best of Gay Friendly South Florida” below.

Written by J.W. Arnold, Dylan Bouscher, Regina Kaza, Lore Khazem, Jesse Monteagudo, and Lulu Ramadan.

Photo by Pompano Bill and submitted photos.

Best Restaurant

J. Mark’s Restaurant
1490 NE 23rd Street,
Pompano Beach 954-782-7000
1245 N. Federal Hwy,
Fort Lauderdale 954-390-0770
www.jmarksrestaurant.com

For the second year in a row, J. Mark’s is the best restaurant in gay-friendly South Florida.

“We’re very honored,” Michael Hobbs, the service manager at the Pompano Beach location, said. “We try to treat everyone like their special.”

But that mantra applies to more than just J. Mark’s customers.

“We certainly try and hire people who have that care factor,” Hobbs said.

And to rival the restaurant’s outstanding customer service, of course, is the food served at its two locations in Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The slow roasted prime rib sliders remain one of the most popular menu items, according to Hobbs.

The restaurant is no stranger to winning awards though. When the Jack and Jill Children’s Center, a non-profit organization benefiting children of low-income families, invited local “slider specialists” to pick the best in town, J. Mark’s took first place.

But the restaurant is known for more than just its sliders.

“Bam bam shrimp is also very, very popular,” Hobbs said. He also listed the weekend brunches as one of the restaurants highlights. “The brunch is made to order, we certainly run drink specials for brunch… The $3 Bloody Mary or Mimosa seems to draw people in when it’s early on a Saturday or Sunday.”

J. Mark’s in Pompano Beach celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, while the Fort Lauderdale location celebrates its third.

“We have great food,” he said.

To try their award-winning sliders, stop by J. Mark’s between 11:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Friday, 11:00 a.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday, and 11:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Sunday. Brunch is served on weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Best Social Network

Mack Planet
954-779-6197
www.mackplanet.com

Mack Planet is no stranger to the South Florida business community.

For more than eight years, Mack has united the straight and gay and lesbian business communities through hosting sold out luncheons and mixers across Broward and Palm Beach counties. The group coined the term “Gay Owned, Straight Friendly.”

And that’s why Mack won the SFGN award for Best Social Network for the second year in a row. But anyone expecting to repeat, “Hi my name is…” many times throughout one of Mack’s famous “Power Lunches” is in for a surprise — the group doesn’t do that.

Attendees have the first 30 minutes to introduce themselves, and then a speaker takes over for a brief presentation. The rest of the event is dedicated to enjoying lunch and developing professional friendships.

But the lunches Mack hosts monthly are only one of the networking opportunities the company offers local businesses. There are also monthly cocktail parties, or “Mack Mixers,” hosted across Broward County and the Boca/Delray area. When the Boca/Delray mixers started selling out, Mack Planet launched another monthly mixer for the northern parts of Palm Beach County.

The next Mack Planet Power Lunch will be Tuesday, January 8 at the China Grill in the Fort Lauderdale Marina Hilton. Advanced registration is $33; the door price will be $40. Attendees are encouraged to bring plenty of business cards.

Best Barber

Mojo’s

2348 Wilton Drive Wilton Manors
954-566-2348

20437 State Road 7 # B4, Boca Raton
561-218-8700

The best haircut and hot shave in gay-friendly South Florida is only available at Mojo’s barbershop. Located on the Drive, Mojo’s also offers color treatment, manicures and pedicures.

There is usually house music playing in the background, and Mojo’s even has a setup for DJ’s to spin for waiting customers. The $18 men’s haircut deal painted on the store’s window remains a highlight for most of the customers who reviewed the shop on Yelp.com. The barbershop is currently rated 4 / 5 stars on the site out of 7 reviews.

Nick Raineri, one of the barbers and cousin of the store’s owner Joe, thinks the barbershop won for a few reasons.

“Well I mean, it’s not only the locals, or who we are, but the service we provide,” Raineri said. Most reviews of the barbershop agreed. “It’s a fun place to be, get haircuts, all the guys are shooting the shit.”

Mojo’s is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Best Pizza

Humpys Pizza
2244 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
954-566-2722
www.HumpysPizza.com

A slice at Humpy’s Pizza will leave you wanting more. With its affordable prices and fresh, delicious ingredients, Humpy’s success has been high rising this year.

Steve DeJong, co-owner of Humpys Pizza, believes Humpys’ fresh ingredients are what make their most unique pizzas the tastiest.

“We do really interesting pizzas like bacon chicken with ranch, and spinach and walnut,” DeJong said. “We try to make all of our ingredients here, we make the dough here fresh everyday.”

So take your dough to Humpys and try some of theirs. It’s fresh.

But they offer a whole lot more than pizza. They have pasta, sandwiches, and about sixteen flavors of cupcakes to choose from. That’s right, cupcakes. From pumpkin spice to chocolate peanut butter, Humpys Pizza sells these pastries just as quick as the pizza!

Stop by today to try their $4.99 lunch special, which includes a slice, salad and soda.  

They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Best Happy Hour

The Village Pub

2283 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
754-200-5244
www.villagepubwm.com

Nothing says happy hour like ten-hour drink specials at the Village Pub.

Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., you can look forward to 2 for 1 on all drinks served to you by an incredible staff of bartenders. Usually most packed after 7 p.m., you have a wide variety of drinks and shots to choose from all day long.

“Normal happy hour is pretty busy. People come in after work and relax and enjoy themselves,” said part-owner Jim Kessinger.

Most recommended drink?

“A lot of people like our Angry Orchid cocktails. They mix it with different things and seem to like it a lot,” said Kessinger.

Even after happy hour ends, the drink specials sure don’t. Each night, the Village Pub has excellent specials after 9 p.m. to keep your night going. Enjoy a $4 cocktail on Monday nights, $2 domestic beers on Tuesday and Thursday nights, $4 Angry Orchid cocktails on Wednesday nights, $6 martinis on Friday nights, or even a $4 special recipe sangria on Saturdays.

Whatever you’re drinking, you’re sure to enjoy it even more at the Village Pub.

Best Brunch

Tropics Restaurant and Piano Bar

2000 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
954-537-6000

www.tropicsofwiltonmanors.com

After a long Saturday night out, a quiet Sunday brunch is exactly what you’ll find at Tropics.

While this restaurant in Wilton Manors offers a dinner menu every night, brunch is only served on Sundays. The buffet is lined with breakfast and lunch options, along with a full service bar. Brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m and reservations are recommended.

The buffet features breakfast and lunch traditions like eggs benedict, quiches, and the usual eggs and bacon. There are omelet stations and even a seasonal carving table including prime rib. Plastic island flowers and booths decked with palm leaf designs give the place an old school look. The restaurant and piano bar has four main dining areas along with three full-service bars. The Sunday brunch special offers two complimentary mimosas or Bloody Marys with the breakfast buffet all for $18.

Out of the 13 reviews on Yelp.com, 9 loved the Sunday brunch. Louis B. from Rose Valley, Pa wrote, “Brunch at Tropics seems to be a de rigueur experience for the GLBT visitor to Fort Lauderdale.”

Best Business Group

Gay & Lesbian Business Exchange (GLBX)
954-243-4535

www.ftlchamber.com

The Gay & Lesbian Business Exchange (GLBX) celebrated its fourth year of LGBT-friendly business on Dec. 13. GLBX, which is a council in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, meets the first and third Tuesday of every month in different venues across the city.

Michael Faerber, the GLBX Chair, knows why his council won the award for Best Business Group this year. “I think it has something to do with value,” Faerber said. “The network events we do are not so much socially-oriented as much as they’re focused on business. And that’s what people look for.”

But GLBX is not like other LGBT-friendly business groups. Where other major cities, like Miami, create a gay business group separate from their local Chamber of Commerce, GLBX is partnered with its city’s chamber.

“Normally gay businesses create standalone groups,” Faerber said. “I personally do think, there shouldn’t be any kind of difference. Like I’m only doing business with the best business owner. Whoever offers the best service and the best product, should win.”

Faerber has incorporated that view into the GLBX’s goals too.

“As a chamber our goal is to help businesses grow and install specific educational programs for gay businesses next year,” Faerber said. “To break down the barrier, of the gay businesses and straight businesses.”

And not just in Fort Lauderdale or Wilton Manors either.

“We are not locally owned, we’re all over...The strength of the gay community is certainly not limited to Wilton Manors. We have a lot of members living in Sunrise, Hollywood, even Weston,” he said.

But the GLBX is always looking for new members.

“We do appreciate the support absolutely; we’re constantly looking for new members,” Faerber said.

Best Large Gym

L.A. Fitness
Multiple Locations
www.lafitness.com

Unlike gyms that are super centers, small clubs or franchises, L.A. Fitness is the gym that will satisfy your needs, no matter who you are and what your goal.

“We offer a full body of amenities for any type of fitness need whatsoever, throughout all of our locations,” says Chris Cousineau, general manager of the L.A. Fitness location in Boca Raton. “No matter what you’re interested in, for losing weight or being healthy, we have for you a pool, sauna, jacuzzi, free weights, and sixty group fitness classes a week.”

L.A. Fitness has a highly trained staff that can make any workout effective while having fun doing it. They also offer full locker facilities and a babysitting zone called the Kids Klub if you can’t find someone to watch your kids during your workout.

Check each club’s hours, but generally they are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays.

This is the second year in a row L.A. Fitness has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Thrift Store

Out of the Closet

2097 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
954-358-5580
www.outofthecloset.org

On January 25, the best thrift store in gay-friendly South Florida will celebrate its fifth year of doing business and donating profits to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Out of the Closet, located on the Drive and next to the best pharmacy in gay-friendly South Florida, was also the chain’s first location on the east coast. It originated in California, but just recently opened its first European location in Amsterdam.

Ricky Rizzuto, the store’s manager, thinks the store being located on the Drive contributes to its success. “We get a lot of business, we’re probably the busiest of the 22 or 23 ‘Out of the Closets’ that we have,” Rizzuto said.

Don’t let the store’s name fool you though, Out of the Closet sells much more than clothing. “Whatever people are donating is what we’re selling,” Rizzuto said. And although clothing must be dropped off at the store, furniture and old appliances can be picked up.

“Everything in our store has been donated,” Rizzuto said. “We have a truck that picks up furniture and large items everyday except Sundays and Mondays.”

Aside from selling old clothes, furniture and appliances, Out of the Closet offers free HIV testing everyday, as well as STD testing Fridays and Saturdays. But Rizzuto thinks the store won for more than its services.

“Probably because of the wonderful atmosphere and hospitality,” Rizzuto said. “We give to everyone who comes in here, neatness, organization and prices.”

Out of the Closet is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Best Take Out

Chopstix

2601 N Dixie Hwy, Wilton Manors
954-563-9902

When you call Chopstix to order the best takeout in gay-friendly South Florida, you won’t finish ordering before breaking your English a few times. But even if the staff knows little English, the cooks know how to prepare incredible lo mein.

If you walk in to the restaurant to place your order, you’ll be staring at faded pictures of the popular General Tso’s chicken.

“Everything is fresh, everything is clean,” the restaurant’s order taker Yaqin “Samantha” Li said.

Most of the reviews on Yelp.comagree with Li too. Chopstix holds four stars out of five on the website, based on 21 reviews.

One reviewer noted Chopstix had replaced Lotus Kitchen in their book. The same goes for SFGN’s readers, who awarded Lotus Kitchen Best Takeout last year.

Chopstix is at the corner of North Dixie Highway and North East 26th Street, next to Estrella Insurance and across the road from the Barton and Miller Cleaners.

Best Pet Groomer

Wilton’s Manor Doggie Daycare Resort and Spa
2155 N. Dixie Highway
754-223-4776
www.WiltonsManor.com

When you step inside Wilton’s Manor Doggie Daycare Resort and Spa, you’ll see all of the spoiled, joyful puppies chasing each other around an obstacle course.

The daycare is an environment conducive for all dogs to play. The doggie daycare has indoor and outdoor sections for the big and small dogs. There is 900 square feet of indoor doggie play area for the smaller dogs, and 1,200 square feet of outdoor doggie play area for the larger dogs.

Although puppies may get a bit muddy in the outdoor play area, owner Alan Aghazadian believes the daycare’s clean, state-of-the-art equipment play areas contribute to its success.

“The most important thing is that we keep it very clean. Customers come in and tell us it smells clean, looks clean, and the dogs come home clean.”

As for dog owners, at Wilton’s Manor, you can sit in the park’s special shady area and enjoy watching your dog train or play with others, while using the doggie daycare’s complimentary Wi-Fi.

The daycare services are worth every dollar you pay. “We don’t undercharge but we don’t overcharge,” Aghazadian said. “We provide a greater service for comparable prices that you would find in your neighborhood.”

Best Tanning Salon

Boca Tanning Club
Multiple Locations
www.bocatanningclub.com/

Expect a great tanning experience every time at Boca Tanning Club. With their top-of-the-line equipment and highest level of convenience, your skin will have that golden glow that will keep all eyes on you.

Boca Tanning Club is home to state-of- the-art tanning booths and the most technologically advanced beds in the tanning industry — Super Beds. So, get your tan on four times as fast as you would at other salons. These beds give clients the strongest and fastest vertical tan on the planet.

And wait, there’s more. Boca Tanning Club is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This unique concept of tanning at any hour of the day or night has drawn in clients from other cities because of its level of convenience when compared to other salons. In fact, “Jersey Shore” star and semi-professional tanner, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, is a Boca Tanning Club partner.

With sixteen locations in south Florida, it’s easy to see why Boca Tanning Club was chosen as the Best Tanning Salon.

Best Bath House

The Club Fort Lauderdale
110 NW 5th Ave
954-525-3344
www.theclubs.com

Whether it’s to unwind and relieve that stress or meet new people and have a good time, the Club Fort Lauderdale is the place to be.

Open 24 hours a day, you can spend your time relaxing by their outdoor heated pool by day or enjoy a midnight swim under the stars by night. A steam room and saunas are waiting just inside— the key to relaxation. For those of you who can’t break from your exercise routine, Club Fort Lauderdale includes a gym full of state-of-the-art exercise equipment. With an outdoor whirlpool and private cabanas, you’re sure to find just what you’re looking for at this bathhouse.

While still retaining that sex appeal that all bathhouses should have, Club Fort Lauderdale strives to keep everything clean.

“Our biggest thing is our attention to detail,” manager David McKeel said. “We’re very clean.”

Besides being as spotless as possible, Club Fort Lauderdale separates itself from most bathhouses by hosting events and bringing DJs on a regular basis to keep the place alive and happening.

“It’s always new, it’s always clean, and it’s always open,” McKeel said.

This is the second year Club Fort Lauderdale has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Adult Store

Pride Factory

850 Northeast 13th Street, Fort Lauderdale
954-463-6600
PrideFactory.MyShopify.com

One side of Pride Factory has racks stacked with gay adult DVDs and sex toys. The other end is a full clothing store with apparel from brands like Ruff Riders and Android watches. For the second year in a row, Pride Factory is the number one stop for all your fetish gear and novelties.

"It’s very exciting to be recognized,” said vice president Lori Deak. “We appreciate the customers getting us there and voting for us."

The store features Fort Lauderdale’s largest lube selection and also sells rainbow pride trinkets like necklace tags, flags, and stickers as well as novelty and gag gifts.

Out of its 4 reviews on yelp.com, three were positive feedback. Marqus R. from Fort Lauderdale wrote, “For the tourist, it's well worth the stop since it is bigger and has a wider selection than most any other place in the state or, for that matter, in the south or along Coast.”

Pride Factory offers a movie rental membership for their selection of adult and mainstream DVDs. Members can rent as often as they like and receive half price discounts for movies on Wednesdays.

Best City

Wilton Manors

www.wiltonmanors.com

Wilton Manors continues to be the center of LGBT life in South Florida. During 2012 several new, LGBT-owned businesses opened along Wilton Drive, only adding to that thoroughfare’s status as the gay Las Olas Blvd. or Worth Avenue. And not even the recession could keep LGBT people from buying property and moving into the Island City.

South Florida’s most famous gayborhood combines a small-town atmosphere with all the amenities of urban life. The second city to elect an openly gay majority to its city government -- West Hollywood, California was the first city to do so -- Wilton Manors is the city with the second-highest proportion of same-sex couples (Provincetown, Massachusetts is number 1). The LGBT community continued to exercise its political clout in the November, 2012 municipal elections, electing openly gay city commissioners Julie Carson and Tom Green for another term. They join Mayor Gary Resnick to maintain the Island City’s LGBT majority.

SFGN is proud to be part of Wilton Manors’s LGBT community. In addition to our weekly newspaper and quarterly Mirror, SFGN published a handy-dandy Guide to the Drive (http://bit.ly/ZjWjYx) “Wilton Manors has become the soul, hub, and the epicenter of gay life in South Florida,” SFGN publisher Norm Kent wrote in the Guide. “What was once a farming community is now, in 2012, a growing urban village, driven and powered by many LGBT entrepreneurs. . . Our community has bite, kick, and a bark. We are here, and we are heard.”

This is the second year Wilton Manors has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Beach

Sebastian Beach

Intersection of A1A and Sebastian Street
Fort Lauderdale Beach

The recent wave of beach erosion that damaged parts of Fort Lauderdale Beach left “Sebastian Beach” unscathed. In fact, throughout 2012 the “gay” section of Fort Lauderdale Beach across from the intersection of A1A and Sebastian Street has retained its popularity and its unique quality as a beach full of adult men (many of them clad in scanty bathing attire) with hardly a woman or a child in sight. Sometimes a clueless straight couple might drop a towel on Sebastian Beach, only to discover to their dismay the Beach’s unique demographics.

Compared to other beaches popular with gay men, Sebastian Beach is a relative newcomer. Old timers might remember Miami Beach at 21st Street, or even Fort Lauderdale’s first “gay beach” across the legendary Marlin Beach Hotel. When the “Marlin” was torn down to make room for the touristy Beach Place, the center of gay seaside action moved a couple of blocks north, to Sebastian Beach. It didn’t hurt that gay guesthouses and resorts began to open nearby, which only added to Sebastian’s popularity with gay men from around the world.  Long-term couples, groups of friends and tourists alike frequent Sebastian for its combination of sub-tropical climate, sandy beaches, warm waters and (of course) hot men. Though Mother Nature and climate change have placed the future of Fort Lauderdale Beach in jeopardy, there is no doubt that Sebastian Beach will remain popular with gay and bisexual men for years to come.

This is the second year Sebastian Beach has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Theatre

(3-way tie)

Mosaic Theatre

12200 West Broward Blvd., Plantation
954-577-8243

For 12 seasons, Richard Jay Simon’s Mosaic Theatre has pushed the theatrical envelope in Broward County. Tucked away in the intimate black box theatre at American Heritage School in Plantation, Mosaic, under the adept leadership of Simon, brought outstanding productions to Broward County. Audiences—and critical acclaim—flocked to many productions, including A Shayna Maidel, Side Effects, The Seafarer, The Irish Curse, and Collected Stories.

The South Florida theatre community was shocked to learn, just a week ago after the closing the thriller The Birds, that Simon had resigned his position as Producing Artistic Director and the company’s board decided to close mid-season. Over the past two seasons, several other esteemed companies also suddenly shut their doors (Florida Stage, Caldwell Theatre, Promethean), some facing ongoing financial difficulties, but Mosaic wasn’t on anybody’s radar screen.

In an email to supporters, Simon explained he and his wife were expecting their first child and he just could not balance the demands of running a theatre company with his those of being a parent. Despite his board’s plea, he held steadfast and the board decided it would be better to end the season prematurely.

Mosaic will be—and already is—missed by many in the theatre company, but it certainly deserves to be named “Best of” 2012.

Slow Burn Theatre

SlowBurnTheatre.org

954-323-7884

In just three seasons, Slow Burn Theatre has put South Florida audiences—and critics alike—on notice: this company knows how to do musicals. And we’re not talking the usual fare like South Pacific, The Sound of Music, and The Music Man, but challenging, gritty shows that don’t usually appeal to the blue-haired crowd. Shows like Urinetown, Assassins, Blood Brothers and Into the Woods.

Despite insanely tight budgets, Artistic Directors Matthew Korinko and Patrick Fitzwater manage to create magic on the stage at the West Boca High School performing arts center.

“A lot of people raised eyebrows,” said Korinko. “We took the gamble and we won. We were picking lesser-known shows, shows that were a little darker at times. These are the shows nobody else will do because they won’t be successful.”

To the contrary, these shows have been hugely successful for Slow Burn. Korinko credits his audiences for sitting outside their comfort zones and embracing the company. Critics also responded and last year Slow Burn was awarded a prestigious Silver Palm Award as one of the outstanding new companies producing in South Florida.

Island City Stage

www.islandcitystage.org

954-678-1496

In its first production this summer, Island City Stage caught notice with The 20th Century Way, a thought-provoking drama about the entrapment of homosexuals in turn-of-the-century California.

“One of the things we’re trying to do as we select plays is to explore themes that are relevant,” explained Artistic Director Andy Rogow. “That play was about an important chapter in LGBT history, but never relied on clichés. It worked on so many levels.”

Rogow also aims to offer his audiences a wide variety of works, including comedies. The next production, opening on Jan. 5 at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage, is Pig Tale, a farcical look at relationships when one partner in a couple is transformed into a pig. The remaining man must learn to love and care for the pig, an equally transformative experience.

“It’s a light comedy, but there are definitely serious undertones about relationships and what it takes to make them work,” Rogow said.

As Island City Stage continues to grow, Rogow envisions a company that will continue to serve its traditionally LGBT audiences, but also reach out to new audiences to become the major regional theatre in eastern Broward County, especially after the recent closing of Mosaic Theatre.

Best Movie Theatre

Classic Gateway Theatre

1820 East Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

The Gateway Theatre has long been a favorite with LGBT audiences, screening an eclectic mix of new releases, art films and indies. Located at the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Federal Highway, the Gateway has also long been a landmark, with its mid-century modern architecture and retro styling, harkening back to the glamour of the golden age of Hollywood.

“It really is a throwback,” said owner Arthur Friedman, a movie producer and theatre owner who purchased the Gateway last year. Friedman feels the film industry has “strayed” with the introduction of computerized special effects and “big ticket stars.”

“Ever since I was a kid, I learned that the theatrical experience cannot be duplicated on television, video or any other new technology," Friedman explained. “There’s something about being in a theatre with an audience watching a great movie that is magical and cannot be replicated. Having an emotional experience—laughing or crying, being thrilled— together with family, friends, neighbors and the rest of the audience....is a feeling beyond words.”

Audiences got a taste of classic Hollywood this fall, when Freidman presented the first Classic Film Festival at the Gateway, including the most beloved films of all time: Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz and North by Northwest.

This is the second year in a row Gateway Theatre has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Boutique Gym

Island City Health and Fitness

2270 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manners
954-318-3900
www.islandcityfitness.com

A little extra money can go a long way with a gym experience like the one offered at Island City Health and Fitness.

With memberships starting at just $24.99, Island City Fitness caters to your body, mind and spirit with an experienced staff and state-of-the-art equipment to fulfill all of your exercise needs.

The boutique gym offers a wide range of amenities like fitness classes, personal trainers, a spa, and even a café so you can indulge in a delicious smoothie following your workout. Not to mention, they offer customer service that you can’t find at most gyms.

“We get to know our customers. They’re really like an extended family,” owner Reece Darham said.

If you’re looking for a clean, supportive environment to build that bodacious bod, look no further. “Our cleanliness sets us apart. We have cleaning staff on site 80 hours a week and we really do strive to make our members feel welcome,” Darham said.

The gym is currently undergoing a $1 million exterior and interior renovation so the gym you know and love will now sport a fresh, modern look this coming February. The gym will remain open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and new members will receive a free personal training session.

This is the second year Island City Fitness has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Diner

Peter Pan

1216 East Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
954-565-7177
www.mypeterpandiner.com

At Peter Pan’s you can order breakfast, a margarita, and follow it up with some Greek food. And if you want something not on the menu, they’ll try and make it — just as long as it’s not a hotdog.

“We don’t do hotdogs here,” said manager’s secretary Lisa Roberts.

But they do almost everything else. They make about 60 different breakfast items along with a lunch and dinner menu filled with steaks, Greek food, and low calorie specials. The full liquor bar carries imported brews, cocktails, and wines. The diner is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and even holidays.

Peter Pan’s has also been baking fresh pastries and crafting deserts for more than 30 years. The Wilton Manors diner has been around since 1979 and still has that old school 80s décor mixed with a classic New York diner style. With mostly a local crowd, the staff knows its customers like they’re old friends giving this family owned diner the ultimate home style feel.

“We embrace the community,” Roberts said. “Everyone here is family.”

Best Clothing

The Outlet

2031 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
954-369-3883

The Outlet is the only place on Wilton Drive where you’ll find a $90 Bespoke that’s $180 down the road, according to the store’s staff.

Shoppers can expect to be surrounded by deals on Dormafi imports, and other clothing similar to what is sold at the high-end shops in Boca, Galleria, and Las Olas, at 50 percent off retail.

This is the second year SFGN’s readers have rated The Outlet Best Clothing Store in gay-friendly South Florida, for its full range selection, according to the staff.

The store also boasts a 7.6 out of 10 rating on foursquare.com, with photos and tips loaded by 90 visitors who have checked in more than 377 times.

Wiltondriveonline.com reported The Outlet was in no danger of closing, when it also announced Bottom and Tops, a similar clothing store, had closed last April. The same is true today.

Best Guest House

The Royal Palms Resort and Spa
717 Breakers Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
954-564-6444 
www.royalpalms.com

Chic. Sexy. Masculine. The best words used to describe the Royal Palms Resort and Spa.

Following its 2011 renovation, the Royal Palms now includes 50 luxurious rooms each with a sleek, urban design aimed at making you feel right at home. Nestled just a mere block from Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Royal Palms has become a go-to destination for gay guesthouses.

What can you look forward to during a vacation at the Royal Palms?

Relaxing at the poolside oasis with other gay men— clothing-optional, a full-liquor bar and poolside café with tons of menu options, a comforting spa experience, a fitness center with personal trainers on site, and lavish round-the-clock service from the staff among other things.

According to Assistant General Manager Philip Lafond, the key factor that makes the Royal Palms different from other guesthouses also makes it better.

“Our number 1 priority is our customer service,” he said. “We really go out of our way to make everyone feel welcome. We treat everyone like family and we want people to know that this is their home away from home.”

This is the second year in a row Royal Palms has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Tea Dance

Boom

2232 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
954-630-3556

Boom’s Jackhammer tea dance has been running every Sunday for nine years now and its ultimate happy hour and raging music keeps it going.

“The type of music, the high energy, the friendly bartenders that we have, it's practically everything you need to have a great time,” said owner and creator of the Jackhammer Tea Dance, Russ Johannsen.

Boom has a 50,000-watt sound system along with three bars and a multi-level dance floor with blasting disco music. One bar is best for socializing and a game of pool, while the other one leads to a dance era. Sunday drink specials include $4 well and domestic beers and $12 all you can drink draft beers. The venue moved around Fort Lauderdale three times, but the Sunday tea dance has always stayed as a regular weekly happy hour.

Recently, Boom has killed smoking at one of the bars during tea dances. “Because smoking is out around the country,” Johannsen said. Out of Boom’s two dance sections, smoking on the dance floor is now forbidden as well. But before you snatch your pack of Marlboros and run, clubbers can still smoke at the video bar.

Best Night Club

The Manor Complex

2345 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
954-626-0082
www.themanorcomplex.com

Munch on brunch and tapas by day; enjoy half priced bottle specials by night. The Manor Complex offers dance parties with special guest DJs all with no cover charge —something nearby Fort Lauderdale clubs can’t compete with.

“There are a lot of other great clubs in South Florida,” said general manager Jason Tamanini. “I would say we won because we continue to try to stay ahead in promotions and marketing at no charge to our customers.”

The lounge style club is splashed with Red Swarovski crystal chandeliers and chaise couches, but this club isn’t all elegance and class. The Manor throws wild toga parties and weekly events like Bubble Gum Wednesdays with top-notch guest DJs and South Florida’s local drag performers regularly.

The club also has events like Noche Latina Saturday and comedy shows with performers like Dana Goldberg. They have six main rooms for booking private events like weddings or parties. Not to mention there’s happy hour every week, Wednesday through Friday till 8 p.m and half priced bottle specials at certain events.

“We're very excited,” Tamanini said. “And we will continue to strive to do our best to satisfy the night club needs of all of South Florida.”

This is the second year in a row The Manor Complex has won SFGN’s Best Of competition.

Best Drag Show

Lips
1421 E Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park
954-567-0987
www.floridalips.com

There’s no shortage of big hair, high heels and good times at Lips Drag Dining.

Drag queens double as waiters serving you delectable dining options and drinks from a full-liquor bar before commanding the stage and providing you with your entertainment for the night.

Music plays and vibrant lights beam across the room as fierce female impersonators sing, dance and leave you cheering in your seat.

“We’re very popular. We’ve got a good show, good girls, good food, and a good place,” owner Mitch Albert said.

Lips is a host to celebrations of all kinds for people of all ages including bachelorette parties and birthdays where you get to engage with the drag queens hosting your party.

“It’s very intimate. There’s interaction between the waiters and the customers before they take the stage,” Albert said.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays, Lips hosts fabulous performances each night. Dine with divas like Cher and Diana Ross on Thursday nights or get a chance to win glamorous prizes at Tuesday’s Dragalicious Game Show among many other shows.

All ages are welcome to enjoy dinner and a show. A cover charge of $10 will be applied on Fridays and Saturdays and $5 on Thursdays and Sundays.

Best Drag Queen

Misty Eyez

www.facebook.com/ImaMistyEyezFan

Misty Eyez or known as “The Eyez of Florida” and “The South Florida Sweetheart” has been performing around South Florida for the past 10 years.

She’s known for hosting and singing at events like Fort Lauderdale Gay Parade and Stone Wall. When she’s not performing at special events, she hosts Bitchy Bingo at Lips in Fort Lauderdale every week and performs at other bars and clubs in the area. Performing at more than one local bar, she says, sets her apart from the other drag queens.

“I’m always giving back to the community,” she said. “Some girls only work at one bar and I'll always be up there doing as much as I can.”

Eyez makes daily YouTube video for her account “ASK MISTY” where she’ll answer questions from subscribers and post “Misty Minute” tutorials for other queens on wig styling and putting on makeup along with her tips and drag queen secrets. She also answers anonymous questions through Formspring.com on everything from coming out to her personal life as a drag queen.

She has won several awards for “Best entertainer” and “Best drag queen” from City Link and Kind of a drag.

Best Neighborhood Bar

The Village Pub
2283 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
754-200-5244
www.villagepubwm.com

From the moment the Village Pub opened in October, its friendly atmosphere and exciting night life has drawn crowds of people.

With two spacious openings and seating at the front of the place, you can kick back, relax and enjoy the fresh air and a drink from the full-liquor bar. If you’re looking for something more upbeat, a 400 square foot dance floor is waiting just inside. Maybe you’re looking for somewhere a little more intimate. A few steps will take you to the covered patio for some one-on-one time. At the Village Pub, there’s something for everyone.

The Village Pub has that neighborhood feel so everyone is comfortable. With a warm and welcoming staff, it’s no wonder the Village Pub is the place of choice for a night out.

“The employees and bartenders are cordial to everyone. People can come in and enjoy themselves with no hassle,” part-owner Jim Kessinger said. “We serve good drinks and people like it here.”

The Village Pub is open Sundays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Best Coffee Shop

Starbucks

1015 Northeast 26th Street, Wilton Manors
954-566-1304
www.starbucks.com

Commitment – connection – convenience. Three words that frame the success of Starbucks coffee shop. Starbucks has been around since 1971 and the commitment to their customers is what keeps them going. From their highest quality coffee in the world to the high level of customer service they present, Starbucks commits every cup of coffee to be a memorable experience for each customer.

Millions of Starbucks drinks are sold each week, but each interaction between a Starbucks barista and consumer becomes a connection. Starbucks partners laugh with and share loving moments with their customers.

With over 200 locations in South Florida, Starbucks has an unparalleled level of convenience for those grabbing a quick cup of coffee before work, or those sipping a drink while reading their favorite book in Starbucks’ warm, cozy environment. Their location in the heart of Wilton Manors is especially popular with the gay community with the locals hanging out from open to close. It’s a perfect spot to meet new friends or dates.

Their menu has a wide variety of options from its hot chocolate to the cold double-chocolate chip Frappuccino, to kids’ smoothies. You will always find what you’re craving.

Check each store’s hours, but they are generally open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with some open 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

Best Nonprofit

Broward House
Multiple Locations

954-522-4749
www.browardhouse.org

Broward House has been providing care and support for HIV/AIDS patients for 25 years.

They have over 15 locations in South Florida that offer services like HIV testing and counseling, mental health therapy, support groups, and more. Broward House works with over 6,000 women, children, men, and families who are living or are at risk to HIV/AIDS.

Broward House CEO Stacy Hyde prides Broward House on their staff’s passion for building up people’s spirits and building up their self-esteem.

“South Florida has a strong community of valuable, outstanding social services organizations, it is an honor to be recognized as the representative for these place of healing,” Hyde said. “We provide our services in collaboration with our community, it is in this collaboration we are most effective.”

Last November, Broward House hosted a World Aids Day event in Wilton Manors. It included a candlelit walk honoring those who lost their lives hosted by comedian Wanda Sykes and RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage.

In April 2013, they’re putting on Dining Out For Life, an event sponsored by Subaru to help promote HIV/AIDS awareness.

Best Pharmacy

AHF Pharmacy
Multiple locations from South Beach to Wilton Manors
954 318-6997

www.ahfpharmacy.org

The best local pharmacy offers free HIV testing and a 24-hour nurse hotline for its patients in the Manor. Located next to Out of the Closet on Wilton Drive and from North Miami to Fort Lauderdale, AHF Pharmacy is a non-profit that donates 96 cents of every dollar made to treating those living with HIV and AIDS.

According to the pharmacy’s Assistant Director of the Southern Region Jeremy Zellers, working at AHF is the most rewarding job of his career.

“Getting to help people, getting to make the decisions I would make if it were my pharmacy, to help the people that need the help.” Zellers gave SFGN reasons why. “I think we won because we care about the community.”

But the community AHF serves is not just local. The pharmacy currently treats more than 120,000 patients in more than 26 countries, according to Zellers.

“I want to thank the community, they’ve really come together to support AHF and it’s much appreciated,” Zellers said.

NorthPoint Pharmacy
6405 N. Federal Hwy, Ste. 205, Fort Lauderdale

954-727-2174

Fort Lauderdale Pharmacy
1785 E Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

954-462-9223

Miami Pharmacy
2900 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami
305-764-3780

North Miami Beach Pharmacy
100 NW 170th St., Ste. 208, North Miami Beach
305-758-1984

South Beach WPA Pharmacy
1613 Alton Road, Miami Beach

305-538-5914

Wilton Manors Pharmacy
2097 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
954-318-6997 (Toll Free: 800-618-6997)

South Beach Pharmacy
1510 Alton Road, Miami Beach
305-534-1294

Best Place to Pick Up Girls

New Moon
2440 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
954-563-7660

The best place to pick up girls has Happy Hours all day Wednesdays, Karaoke on Thursdays, and live music on Saturdays.

Carol Moran opened New Moon eight years ago, after owning a Kick’s sports bar before that. This bar though is anything but a sports bar.

“It’s a totally different vibe,” Moran said. “We’re a sports bar on Sunday.

Gaycities.com also rates New Moon — next to Vertigo Salon, and Island City traders on Wilton Drive — the  number 1 lesbian bar in Wilton Manors. But the bar isn’t partial to women. Men are also welcome.

“Our regulars know if someone is new,” Moran said. “They make sure they get introduced to someone.”

New Moon celebrated Moran’s birthday on Dec. 16. with a free drink for partygoers who brought unwrapped toys for the Children’s Diagnostic Treatment Center.

New Moon is open until 2 a.m., with Happy Hours also lasting from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

Best Place to Pick Up Guys

The Village Pub
2283 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors
754-200-5244
www.villagepubwm.com

The average Saturday night at the Village Pub is just the atmosphere you’re looking for to meet new people.

Always full of fresh faces, the Village Pub is the go-to bar this season. It’s the perfect place if you’re hoping to spot someone new from across the bar and strike up a conversation. Take them out on the dance floor and show them a good time. When things do get serious, lead them out to the covered patio for the ideal intimate environment.

With a variety to choose from the full-liquor bar, you can enjoy a drink with that cute guy you spotted from across the room. The lighting and the music make for a comfortable scene to relax and have fun when you do meet someone new.

According to part-owner Jim Kessinger, weekends at the bar bring in a variety of people. The odds of meeting someone you like are great.

“A lot of people come in on Friday and Saturday nights. We welcome everyone,” he said. “It’s a great place to be seen and have a good conversation.”


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