Here are SFGN's "Best of 2019" winners in Palm Beach.
Restaurant & Best Burger
4700 S Dixie Hwy
West Palm Beach
It is also the first year the restaurant took the award for Best Burger. While observing landmark dates, it should be noted that the restaurant celebrated 69 years since it was first opened by Patrick Howley in August, 1950.
Finally, fifteen years ago, the Subculture Group restored and updated the restaurant with inside and outside seating and a diner countertop with high stools for those inclined to enjoy the nostalgia of watching a short order cook prepare a number of dishes according to Howley’s original marketing pitch, “Cooked in sight… So it must be right.”
“We have an eclectic menu,” said Nicole Nichols, manager. “We try to offer something for everyone so you can have meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan meals. We also have a full bar and a variety of other beverages and desserts.”
The Howley Burger is half a pound of pure ground beef grilled to your taste and topped with “anything” on the menu, according to Nichols.
The Book Cellar
801 Lake Avenue
Lake Worth Beach
The Book Cellar is a book store, coffee shop and wine bar at the corner of Lake and J in downtown Lake Worth.
Owned by a couple in Colorado who operate a similar establishment in their home town, the Lake Worth store is run by South Florida native Todd Ketcham. Taking the lead from the owners, Ketcham has focused on making the Book Cellar a destination point for locals and visitors alike. They carry around 3,200 volumes in stock.
The coffee shop and wine bar feature a variety of finger foods, desserts and more. Ketcham runs a number of programs in conjunction with Compass, the LGBT community center. "Here at the Book Cellar,” he said. “We strive to provide a comfortable, homey space for the community to gather and share ideas. Our commitment to building community shines through in all of our programs and outreach activities. We welcome all who share a love of reading - or a love of great coffee, wine and conversation."
114 S Clematis Street
West Palm Beach
This is the fifth year that Pizza Girls have been recognized for having the best pizza in Palm Beach County.
In 1999, then partners Jennifer Morales and Phoebe Reckseit decided to break into the mostly male-dominated business of pizza.
They hoped that if they were successful it would serve as demonstration to other LGBT people, especially youth that they too can be successful in business.
Pizza Girls offers an extensive menu of both traditional slices and what they call “Gourmet Pies” with somewhat exotic toppings. Gluten-free crusts are available. A weekday lunch special offers any slice, a side salad and soft drink for $8.99.
Morales and Rickseit have been together for over 20 years. They were married in New York in 2013, two years before national legalization. In 2017 they opened a full service restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens with more space and a different clientele but the same great food.
201 N Dixie Hwy
Lake Worth Beach
Twenty years ago, Julie Seaver found Compass and Forrest Shearin’s weekly coming out group while she searched for help in understanding what was happening in her life.
She started attending the coming out group regularly and soon became a volunteer at the agency. Subsequently, she was hired to work on development and fund raising for the Center.
She held a number of positions and in 2018 she became interim executive director and then full time executive director.
“I used to think that being an activist meant you had to be angry all the time but have come to know so many activists who go calmly about their work helping others with love and passion,” Seaver said. “I am honored to receive this award and gladly share it with all the activists who help make Palm Beach a safer place for all.”
Rep. Lois Frankel
Congresswoman, 22nd District
Rep Lois Frankel has held a number of elected positions during her long career in politics. She is currently representing Florida residents in the 21st District of the U.S. House of Representatives.
She is a proud original cosponsor of the Equality Act. When she was in Palm Beach at the beginning of October, she made it a point to visit Compass’ Coffee Clatch for senior LGBT people mingling with the group of around 50 people.
She sent the following, "I'm honored to be recognized by your readers. It is truly a privilege to stand with the LGBTQ+ community and fight for equality for all in the United States Congress, especially during a time when so many wish to take us backwards."
This is the 4th time Rep. Frankel has won the Best Palm Beach Politician.
823 Belvedere Rd.
West Palm Beach
Want to meet the Best Bartender in Palm Beach County? Stop by Roosters on Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 p.m. to closing and shake hands with Phillip Parks, a Louisiana native who joined Roosters eight years ago having moved to South Florida some 16 years prior.
Roosters is involved in a number of nonprofit fundraising projects and Parks said he likes working on them. In fact, he rode in the last four Smart Rides – the 165 mile bicycle ride from Miami to Key West to raise funds for HIV/AIDS organizations.
He admits hat he is taking a “me break” this year. He will attend the event but not participate on a bike. Parks is 41 and not married although he is in a relationship. He loves working at Rooster’s.
“The customers, staff and management make it a pleasure to come to work,” he said.
Bar & Theme Night (Karaoke) & Business
H.G. Roosters & Karaoke @Rooster's
823 Belvedere Rd
West Palm Beach
With 35 years of continuous operation, H.G. Rooster’s is the oldest gay bar in Palm Beach County. A short distance from I-95 there’s easy access from north and south. The bar is well maintained and the staff is always welcoming at any time Sunday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 3 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Happy Hour runs every day from 3 to 9 and features $2.50 wells and domestics.
“There are entertainments every night from Monday Bingo to Throwback Thursday and all the nights between,” said Manager David Kazen.
This includes this year’s Best Theme Night, Rooster’s Sunday Night Karaoke with Jeremy. It’s been on Sunday nights for about 20 years and runs from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Off Key Karaoke Inc. runs the show. It’s owned by Jared Scott. Jeremy works for the company. “It’s always been a winner,” said Kazen. “That’s why it’s run for so long. It has relaxed vibe with some pretty amazing singers, locals and others touring at near by playhouses.”
This is the 6th year Rooster has won the Best of Bar. It also won for Best Business and Best of Theme Night. Additionally long time bartender Phillip won for this year’s Best Bartender.
“The Roosters family is thrilled to receive so much recognition and love from all of our customers and the Palm Beach County community. Our staff and our customers are the heart and soul of our business. This year we celebrated our 35th anniversary and we look forward to being with and being part of the community for many years to come,” added owner AJ Wasson. “A special shout out to our bartender Phillip on his best bartender win, and to our Sunday night karaoke crew. Sunday night karaoke has been a part of Roosters for 25 plus years.”
Compass Community Center
201 North Dixie
Lake Worth Beach
According to the website, Compass’ mission is “To engage, empower and enrich the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and those impacted by HIV and AIDS.”
“That’s what we do,” said Julie Seaver, Executive Director. “We’ve expanded the board with new members eager to increase our ability to fulfill our mission.”
Some of the steps Seaver has taken to extend Compass’ services since she was hired last year include: hiring three bilingual staff members to better serve our expanding diverse populations; supporting a monthly coffee clatch to encourage LGBT seniors to make use of Compass’ facilities; and developing a program for trans children ages 3 to 12 and their families called Authentically YOUth.
Seaver has 25 staff members supported by hundreds of volunteers. She increases the Center’s reach further by opening the facilities to LGBT organizations who then call Compass home. This is the sixth year Compass has won this award.
Melissa St. John
823 Belvedere Rd.
West Palm Beach
When thinking of drag queens in West Palm Beach, Melissa St. John is always top of mind.
This is the sixth consecutive year SFGN readers named her Best Drag Queen!
Her reaction was sincere, “Who-Hoo! #BreakingRecords!” But it’s how she does it that’s important.
Melissa St. John’s trailblazing influence extends way beyond the stage. She is the official host of Palm Beach County’s PrideFest, she’s the entertainment director at Rooster’s, and she is affectionately known as the First Lady of the Palm Beaches. Glamour combined with wit is Melissa St. John’s signature.
She is both a thoroughly entertaining performer and a fantastic host. Melissa draws crowds in with her expressive performances. No matter whom she’s working with, Melissa’s personality simultaneously stands out and complements others.
Around South Florida, Melissa is known as much for philanthropy as she is for performing. Throughout her career, she’s helped those in need by raising money for organizations that help fighting hunger, HIV/AIDS, and other issues that affect the LGBT community.
Melissa performs in the upcoming Divas Holiday Party on Dec. 6 at the Lake Worth Playhouse.
Place to Workout
In what is surely an upset Planet Fitness wins for Best Place to Workout in Palm Beach County, snatching the crown from the The Zoo Health Club in Lake Worth – a five time winner of the award.
While the Zoo caters to the LGBT it’s not immediately clear why Planet Fitness won this year.
From their website: “Planet Fitness is an American franchisor and operator of fitness centers based in Hampton, New Hampshire. The company reports that it has 1,859 clubs, making it one of the largest fitness club franchises by number of members and locations.”
There are several facilities in central Palm Beach and more to the north and south. While different clubs may offer different equipment and facilities, the website claims, “Tons of cardio and strength equipment. Unlimited fitness training. Super friendly staff. And the home of the Judgement Free Zone.
Planet Fitness has also created The Judgement Free Generation, a “philanthropic initiative designed to combat the judgement and bullying faced by today’s youth by creating a culture of kindness and encouragement. Our mission is to empower a generation to grow up contributing to a more judgement free planet– a place where everyone feels accepted and like they belong.”
Every Monday and Thursday night at 8 p.m., Night Runners meets up at Howard Park at 1302 Parker Avenue (Parker & Okeechobee at the parking lot next to the basketball courts).
Night Runners was founded as a MeetUp group on Dec. 1, 2016 and has grown to more than 500 members over the intervening 3 years organizing 232 events as of mid-November 2019.
Their twice weekly running events can take many different routes through downtown West Palm Beach and across the Intracoastal to Palm Beach Island.
One of the members posted the following: “A great welcoming group. I always have a lot of fun running with them. The course varies but it’s always interesting and very scenic.”
Although everyone is welcome, the group has a queer flavor with many of its members from the local LGBT community.
This is the first time Night Runners has won a Best Of.
Lake Worth Playhouse
713 Lake Ave.
Lake Worth Beach
Sister Act, Black Bird, The Altruists, and Heart of Dance by Velvet Lenore are just some examples of the many productions that The Lake Worth Playhouse has offered this year.
Lake Worth Playhouse is located in the heart of downtown Lake Worth Beach. Winning best theater in our poll is no surprise, considering they act as more than a theater. Patrons of the playhouse can experience The Black Box theater and the Stonezek Studio that remains one of the go-to areas for indie films.
In addition to sit traditional theater, they also host several Dinner Theater shows at several elegant restaurant s in Lake Worth Beach. LWPH also has been very instrumental in LGBT programming. Each year they host "Send in the Queens" which raises money for the playhouse and The Miss Palm Beach Pride Pageant.
"We are so thrilled to be recognized by such a welcoming community," said Stephanie Smith the Executive Director. "We thank the readers of SFGN and we will strive to raise the bar and continue to provide you with excellent entertainment at an affordable price.”
Fosters (West Palm), Respectables (West Palm), Revelry (Lake Worth)
This is the first year SFGN has presented the award for Best Straight Bar. The response to the award was so huge, there was a 3 way tie for the Victor. Winners include Foster's, Respectable Street, and Revelry.
Foster's is located in West Palm Beach. Several people on their Facebook page rave about their laid back atmosphere, their tasty cocktails, their weekly Karaoke shows with DJ April, not to mention their unmistakable two locations. Fosters has also received a four out of five star rating from Facebook.
"I'm super happy that Fosters was recognized as Best Straight Bar,” said karaoke regular Jasmine Dalton from West Palm Beach. "It's been one of my favorite music venues for sometime now. As a lesbian woman, it's comforting to know that I can feel comfortable in a mostly straight setting.”
Respectable Street, also in West Palm, has become one of the most sought after live music venues in America.
Admirers of the venue don't just experience the music, they also experience the artwork that grace the walls and the spacious back patio.
“Since day one has always been about inclusion and celebrating a wide variety of counter cultures. People love coming here because the vibe is warm and inviting, the music is always unique and fun and the crowd is always vibrant and interesting," said Drew Locke, General Manager. “All are welcome, but especially the unique, the different, the ‘weird,’ the quirky. To this day, 32 years later, we still embrace that feeling of openness and inclusion.”
Revelry, located in downtown Lake Worth Beach is the newest bar of the three winners. There are several elements about Revelry that stand out. Sure, one can mention the dim lighting, local artwork hanging on the wall, or the impressive selection of craft beer. One of the most unique elements is the staff. Where else can you find a bar where one of the owners is a multi-talented burlesque performer.
"For some it's an escape, others their living room, a home away from home. For most, it's quaint, cozy and a welcoming place where you can be yourself, express yourself, and meet new friends," said co-owner Zena Taratino. "It's perfect for a table of one, a first date or birthday party of 30. Sure there's over one hundred beers and countless bottles of wine options, but it's the best of South Florida because of the people you will find inside."
811 Belvedere Rd.
West Palm Beach
For the second year in a row The Box Gallery has won Best Gallery in Palm Beach County. The Box Gallery has become one of the premier galleries in West Palm Beach, not to mention, it's only been established for three years.
Their exhibitions have proven to be informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring. Although Rolando Chang Barrero is an openly gay artist, he works tirelessly to make sure his gallery is all inclusive.
This past March gallery owner Rolando Chang Barrero contributed to Palm Beach Pride in a memorable way. He created panels in recognition of influential LGBT advocates in the community, like Melissa St.John and Andy Amoroso, just to name a few.
"Im very proud to lead the way for arts advocacy and community development," said Chang Barrero, gallery curator and owner.
"The gallery has become the place where to view and engage in deeper dialogue about trends and directions of the contemporary art scene. Our success has been due to our spirit of community embracing everyone from our furry friends and radical fairies to the academics and affluent.
Northwood Village (West Palm Beach)
According to Palm Beach Illustrated, the West Palm Beach gem, Northwood Village is reminiscent of northern California or bohemian European capitals, where walking is encouraged and boutique doors are open and inviting. They also describe it as a place where hipsters, fashionistas, foodies, and designers gather.
"Northwood has a variety of small shops, restaurants, and art galleries that allow visitors and locals to enjoy a night out while also being located in a quiet historic neighborhood,” said Ernie Gonzalez Center Operations Director for Compass and Northwood resident. “It's a nice blend of old fashioned and modern which makes it accessible to all."
Some of the more notable businesses include Leo's Crab Shack, Melanies' Thrift and Things, Jai Bella Boutique Hair Salon, and The Youth Concept Gallery. One of the biggest events hosted in Northwood is the annual Northwoodstock. In addition to winning Best Neighborhood, NWV has also been voted one of the top 10 best instagrammable places in Palm Beach County.
Check out all of SFGN's 2019 Best Of's @
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