The New Flavors of Fort Lauderdale, an Insider’s Mini-Guide
|by Paul Rubio|
A sour economy has failed to push Fort
Lauderdale off the gay global map. A few boutiques have closed on
prized Las Olas Boulevard, the world’s largest boat show has
downsized, construction projects have been cancelled, and property
values have plummeted around forty percent; but, overall, the local
South Florida lifestyle and the ubiquitous gay spirit still
New Kids on the Block
Fort Lauderdale venues tend to be less flighty
than big city counterparts, openings and closings are inevitable.
Fort Lauderdale welcomed a number of new locales in 2008 and 2009
but bid farewell to some beloved favorites.
Rest In Peace: Houston’s, Mark’s on Las Olas, Storks on Las
Olas, Food Amongst the Flowers, Four Rivers, Coliseum, Jet Set,
Steel, and Sunday’s Babylon T-Dance at Voodoo, all of which entered
Fort Lauderdale’s graveyard over the last two years. On the bright
side, several new establishments made impressive debuts during the
same period, now earning well-deserved stars on the tourist map.
Truluck’s - The latest high-end restaurant to grace the entrance of the re-invented Galleria Mall showcases South Florida’s best fresh seafood, most notably the endemic and sustainable Stone Crab claws. Serving the most tender, fresh claws available, Truluck’s stymies the trip to Miami’s most famous restaurant, Joe Stone Crabs, even offering an all you can eat stone crab orgy on Monday nights.
Steak 954 – The hottest restaurant on Fort Lauderdale beach, Steak 954 fortifies a new marriage between style and succulence. Every last detail of the restaurant’s décor screams sexy: the jellyfish tank, the lime leather furniture, the verdant-clad outdoor columns, and the intricate hardwood interior panels. The presentation and sophistication of the food further champions the intended seduction, with bespoke cocktails and a handsome wait staff to match. The Sunday champagne brunch attracts a who’s-who in Fort Lauderdale crowd, generating a West Hollywood/LA vibe in the fierce Florida sun.
Diner 24 -
Much like Jay Leno, the Peter Pan 24-hour diner is no longer the
king of late night. The new Diner 24 serves up awesome diner
favorites at rock bottom prices, even cheaper than neighboring
McDonalds. With promotions nightly, a kitsch fish shack décor, and a
super welcoming environment, Diner 24 merits a large LGBT following
for the hours it is actually open (Note: Diner 24 is only 24 hours
on Friday and Saturday, until 11pm other nights).
The W Fort Lauderdale - The crown jewels of Fort Lauderdale beach, the W twin towers are the talk of the town. The freshness and innovation associated with the W brand bring a hip, young outlook to Fort Lauderdale beach with cutting-edge modernity and style. The hotel is located just seconds from the gay beach and offers inspiring panoramic views of both the ocean and the intracoastal. The contemporary elegance and charm of the rooms, the flawless pool area and club-like common spaces infuse a pioneering WOW factor into the beach’s 400 block.
The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, Hotel and Spa - Towering over Sebastian beach, the latest addition to the Ritz Carlton chain fuses understated luxury and modern beachfront elegance, a fresh approach to the traditional style of the Ritz. The hotel’s angled design and similitude to a grand ocean liner lends to private and secluded balconies with unparalleled views of the Atlantic. The hotel’s signature spa is a welcomed first class pamper palace, surprisingly the same price as cheesy spas in the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale. Seasoned professional therapists transport you to a state of utter relaxation through their magical hands in grand, meticulous treatment rooms.
Stonewall Library – More than a place for cruising bookworms, the Stonewall Library showcases the GLBT’s contribution to the world of literature and serves as a centerpiece for gay and lesbian studies. Welcoming authors and figures important in the community, the Stonewall Library reminds us of the great feats of our kind and our phenomenal impact on the arts.
Reasons to Return
Whether visiting Fort Lauderdale for the first
or the fifteenth time, some local favorites leave us wanting more,
providing the perfect excuse for returning time and time again. A
select few are mentioned below.
Coffee and Cruise @ Starbucks, Wilton Manors – This is one spot in Fort Lauderdale consistently more crowded than the bathhouse. The locally famous Starbucks draws in the masses day and night for predictable coffee, non-alcoholic socializing, and great eye candy.
Sebastian Beach -
Ready for action or relaxation, gay men swarm
a small section of this Atlantic bliss known as Sebastian Beach
(directly south of the lifeguard stand on Sebastian Street, north of
the Ritz-Carlton, A1A), where the scantily clad expose both the
latest and the outdated. Super gregarious and fun.
Tanning Your Privates @
Halouver Beach -
A quick 20-minute trip down to South Florida’s
only nude beach is a rewarding experience of tanning extra Lever
2000 parts and staring as the biggest and smallest wieners you have
ever seen. Look for Halouver Park North Lot and then the north end
of the “naturist beach.”
Healthy Mexican @ Zona Fresca - Natural and original, Zona leads the healthy Mexican fast food revolution with the best chips, salsas, and burritos in town. Their exceptionally affordable cuisine outshines all chain competitors.
Italian Sandwiches @ Gran Forno
- A piece of northern Italy situated on Las Olas Boulevard offering
six different fresh homemade sandwiches and mountains of
ever-changing baked goods made on the premises before your very
eyes. Lunch only. Closed Mondays.
E. Las Olas Boulevard, (954) 467-2244, granforno.com
Asian Rhapsody @ Galanga - A local favorite for its prime location on the gay strip in Wilton Manors and sophisticated ambience, Galanga offers the likes of both Thai and Japanese cuisine. It’s a place to see and be seen in the Fort Lauderdale gay community.
Swimming @ The International Swimming Hall of
Fame Museum and Aquatic Complex
- This is a one-of-a-kind tribute to underwater achievements and
home to many important international aquatic competitions. Both of
the 50-meter, 10-lane pools are open to the public on all days
outside of competitions, attracting a very cute crowd of aspiring
One Hall of Fame Drive, (954) 462-6536,
Riding the Water Taxi -
A boat trip through the “Venice of America” is
an essential but often overlooked experience for visitors. The best
way to experience the aqua back lot of multimillion-dollar homes,
hotels, and seafood restaurants is via Fort Lauderdale’s public
Select portions of this guide were originally published in the award
winning, The Out Traveler: South Florida, copyright Alyson Books and
Paul Rubio, available on amazon.com