Best of 2014: Palm Beach County

Best Pizza
Downtown Pizza
608 Lake Ave.
Lake Worth

Downtown Pizza is easy to miss. But don’t let its small size fool you. The location may be tiny, but the pizza is big and flavorful, so it’s no surprise that it won for Best Pizza in Palm Beach County.

“Downtown Pizza has to be my favorite local spot for pizza. Can I just say it has to be by far the most delicious pizza I've had in Florida,” said one reviewer on Yelp. “This is the best NY style pizza around, no question. This is coming from someone whose family was in the pizza business in NY and FL for 50 years. I'm familiar with the ingredients they use and they're the best you can get.”

Best non-profit
Compass Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Palm Beach County

201 N. Dixie Highway
Lake Worth

The votes are in, and SFGN readers have selected the Compass Gay & Lesbian Community Center as the best non-profit in Palm Beach County.

Every year, over 25,000 individuals are served by Compass, the largest gay and lesbian community center in Florida and the Southeast United States. Support includes youth, transgender, and coming out groups as well as case management for people living with HIV/ AIDS.

Compass also features the David Bohnett Cyber Center, the Joel M. Starky Library with over 2,000 books, and an LGBT-friendly business network and directory. Each December, Compass observes World AIDS Day with a presentation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the largest display in Florida. Notable events include Pridefest and the Stonewall Ball.

“Compass is honored and thrilled to be voted Best Non-Profit in Palm Beach County,” says Ryanmarie Rice, Chief of Staff. “More than twenty-six years ago, a small group of dedicated volunteers founded Compass in an effort to educate, connect, and serve the LGBT community. The commitment to Compass’ mission, not only by the staff and Board of Trustees, but by our volunteers, motivates Compass to better serve our community, year after year.”

-- Andrea Dulanto

Best Neighborhood Bar, Best Drag Show and Best Weekly Event
823 Belvedere Road
West Palm Beach

Friendly. Intimate. Cozy.

It’s a no brainer residents of Palm Beach County would choose Roosters as Best Neighborhood Bar for the second year in a row. They just celebrated their 30th anniversary and the iconic bar is a staple in Palm Beach County. They’re always hosting community events.

"In the past year, during the run up to our 30th Anniversary celebrations, we have done some significant renovations to make Roosters an even better place,” manager Arthur Vale said. “We are happy that the community has responded so enthusiastically and awarded us this honor.”

For the second year they also took home the award for Best Drag Show. And this year they won a third award for Best Weekly event for their Monday night bingo.

"You can have a great time any night of the week at Roosters. Since Daizee DuLuxx began hosting Monday Night Bingo our customers have been thrilled and this award proves it," manager David Hazen said. "With Valerie Dior headlining our Thursday night 'el Gallo Latino' and Melissa St John presenting her Saturday Night Showcase, we are excited to bring the best drag shows to Palm Beach County.”

Best Drag Queen
Melissa St. John

This year readers voted for long time iconic drag queen Melissa St. John as Best Drag Queen in Palm Beach County.

St. John has been around so long that few in the LGBT community in Palm Beach County can remember a time without her. And there are no signs of her slowing down anytime soon.

“It means a great deal to be voted in this category, I hold much respect for all those entertainers within in the Palm Beach LGBT community to uphold and represent in what we believe,” St. John said. “As a sisterhood sometimes known as ‘The Palm Beach Drag Society’ I'm honored to be recognized for the many years I've dedicated my life not only entertaining, but remaining on the forefront for equal rights and fundraising.

You can catch her at HG Roosters every Saturday night at midnight.

Best Gay Event
PrideFest of the Palm Beaches

More than 15,000 people attend Pridefest of Lake Worth and the Palm Beaches each year. Not only is it the longest running LGBT event in Palm Beach County, but it’s by far the largest. It first launched in 1992 and today showcases more than 140 gay friendly businesses.

But the real highlight is the Sunday parade that marches through downtown Lake Worth.

Next year’s event will take place March 28 and 29 from noon to 6 p.m. at Bryant Park in downtown Lake Worth.

Best Restaurant
4700 S Dixie Hwy
West Palm Beach, FL 33405

This iconic restaurant/diner has been around since 1950 so it makes sense this little gem on the corner is such a standout. This is the second year in row they’ve won for Best Restaurant.

Howley’s features an eclectic mix of food, with breakfast all day. One of the highlights, according to manager Nicole Nichols includes the Brady Burrito, a flour tortilla stuffed with brisket, cheese, mashed potatoes, tomato corn salsa, smothered with a spicy sauce, jack cheese, an over medium egg, jalapeno, sour cream and guacamole — that’s a mouthful for sure.

"All of our food is fresh and homemade,” Nichols said. She also recommends the crab cakes which she calls “amazing, definitely the best.”

One reviewer on Yelp said: “It's such a hip, cool place with local art hanging all over the walls. But this burrito they have blows my mind. It’s by far my favorite.”

But besides the food it’s the atmosphere that helps take this eatery to the next level.

“Our servers are a bit on the sassy side and fun and hopefully attentive and great,” she said.

And if there’s still room for dessert try the chocolate peanut butter pie or cupcakes.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; and they close at 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Best City
Lake Worth

While it may be many years before Lake Worth is known nationally as a hot spot for gays, it’s easily the gay friendliest city in the county. So it’s no surprise that readers voted Lake Worth as the Best City to Live — for the second year in a row.

It currently hosts Compass, the gay and lesbian center of the Palm Beaches, Lambda North, a gay 12-step recovery clubhouse, Studio 205, the only gay themed retail store in the county, and the Zoo Health Club, a gay owned gym. In addition it was the first city in Florida to fly the rainbow flag to commemorate PrideFest — and that was back in 2000.

“Recognition of Lake Worth as the Best City to Live by SFGN is not a surprise. You don't have to be gay to enjoy our municipal beach, dock, golf course and parks,” said Tony Plakas, executive director of Compass. “Our center has been in Lake Worth for nearly [six] years, and the local community has embraced us as much as we've embraced our new home.”  

— Jason Parsley

Best Gym (Palm Beach)
Zoo Health Club
Lake Worth, FL ‎

With 80 percent gay clientele it’s not hard to figure out why the Zoo Health Club in downtown Lake Worth won for Best Gym for the second year in a row.

The franchise location opened up 4 years ago by Dawn Malega and her partner.

“We’re a friendly gym. We don’t judge anybody here. People feel comfortable about their sexuality here,” Malega said. “We’re involved in everything, from gay pride to supporting Compass and hosting mixers. We try to support the community and they support us.”

One reviewer on Yelp said: “Yes, it's a small club but we love the friendly atmosphere & helpful staff!” 

The 2,700 square foot gym is 24 hours featuring state of the art equipment, personal trainers and several group classes including circuit training.

Best Live Theater
Lake Worth Playhouse
713 Lake Avenue
Lake Worth

For the second consecutive year, SFGN readers voted the Lake Worth Playhouse as the best live theater in Palm Beach County.

From Burt Reynolds to “Mame”—the Playhouse has offered the stage to a variety of actors and productions. In 2012, this nonprofit community theater celebrated sixty years of contributing to the performing arts scene. Reynolds, an actor at the Playhouse in the 1950s, was honored during this celebration.

Recently, the Lake Worth Playhouse opened its 62nd season with the Broadway classic “Mame.” The 2014-2015 season also features “The Odd Couple,” “South Pacific,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and “Cabaret.”

Other productions include the introspective Black Box Series at the Playhouse’s Stonzek Theatre as well as independent films, children’s shows, acting classes, and limited engagements such as the Divas Holiday Party.

“Our theater aims to have something for everyone. Our goal is to provide a sense of belonging and to be a place where ‘the community comes to play,’ ” says Nicole Laing, Director of Marketing, PR & Advertising. “We’re really excited to be chosen by the readers of South Florida Gay News. It means a lot to us to receive this honor.”

-- Andrea Dulanto

Best Burger
213 Clematis Street
West Palm Beach

Last year Grease ended up in a three-way tie with Relish in West Palm Beach and Shula Burger in Delray Beach. This year though there was no contest, Grease was the clear favorite for Best Burger in Palm Beach County.

At Grease its name lives up to its burgers — messy, juicy and oh so good. Some of their specialties include the Brother From Another Mother with home-made meatloaf applewood bacon, Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, BBQ sauce and red onions; the Burger From Hell with sautéed jalapenos, habanero hell sauce, queso blanco cheese, and grilled onions; and the Honey Blue-Blue with blue cheese, apple, honey, red onion, arugula, and onion jam.

“Wow. This place is heaven. Screw the diet and order up. Truffle Parmesan fries are incredible. The southern burger was fantastic. Juicy and cooked perfectly with crispy bacon, jack cheese and sweet BBQ sauce,” one reviewer on Yelp said. While another person commented “The grease beast is the best burger I have ever had. The black and bleu burger is also amazing.”