Blue skies, palm trees and bars are not the exclusive domain of South Beach, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale in South Florida. The huge eastern coastline is dotted with small cities and communities north of Lauderdale, each with its own cluster of activity and locals. And that means bars!
The places include Delray Beach, Deerfield Beach, West Palm Beach and even Jupiter, generally regarded as an older community but which has a couple of places that bring in the fun and much younger drink-seekers. There is even another place with socially-minded people and enough bars and restaurants to bring them out at night. It’s Boca Raton, but any local from other areas will inevitably remark, “Why go to Boca?” Why do they feel this way? They explain it’s because they don’t like the change in attitude that comes with this slight change in latitude.
Home to Jimmy Buffett and any number of lesser-known but quite accomplished businessmen, the Palm Beach area is the largest of the “north of Lauderdale” South Florida cities.
But while their beach homes are to be admired from a distance, it’s neighboring West Palm where the affluent – and not quite as affluent – gather to party.
High-rise housing, an upgraded downtown, high-end shopping and the lively Clematis Street have made West Palm a living destination and a strong alternative to Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.
Palm Beach/West Palm Beach Bars
E.R. Bradley’s Saloon is THE place to begin your West Palm nights. Actually, it’s good place to start, period, with its delicious lunches and brunches. Come on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, have a few mimosas with the meal and toss out the anchor. At night, expect it to be crowded out as this becomes a hotspot. It’s a double-deck bar and restaurant outside and inside there’s a hot and sweaty club-type environment with DJ, dance floor and three-deep bar.
The large outdoor patio is for mingling and catching the breath after dancing. The place goes off in a much more casual sense than the bars down the street, and you don’t need “club clothes” to enjoy it. Shorts, jeans and sandals are dress code enough. People here either don’t have an attitude or leave it somewhere else.
Those looking to cut loose dance-style – and who can navigate through the seemingly-endless obstructions – go to clubs around the corner on Clematis Street. These are the late-night bars, midnight ’till 4 a.m. Most of these clubs are open only Thursday-Saturday.
To release, many go to the club of that name, Release. A finely-dressed 20s crowd crowds into the 8,000-square-foot club and the big dance floor; the music is almost exclusively house and hip-hop. Thursdays has drink specials but the best deal is Fridays – there’s no cover for anyone and and ladies drink free until midnight. On any night, there is no cover before 11 p.m. Two rooms (labeled Red and Blue) have dancing while the smaller Martini Room separates the two. The velvet rope treatment can apply here, especially to newbies.
The Respectable Street Cafe is a West Palm landmark of sorts, having been here for 15+ years .It has a DJ but local bands also frequently perform,, as well. It has a dance floor with booths and couches and an outdoor patio. This is a late bar – it goes until 3 in the morning on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 4 on weekends. There’s also Flow, a narrow lounge with female employees dancing on the bar and Club Sin, which has two bars, shooters girls and pocket-easy drink prices, at least by club standards.
Downtown, a two-level upscale shopping and dining plaza called City Place has two places of interest. The Blue Martini has the look and feel of a high-quality lounge/bar. It’s not quite as hot as its cousin to the south in Ft. Lauderdale, but it’s got the same mixed drink-style presence, well-dressed groups and, despite its elegant appearance, a rather cozy attitude. City Cellar Wine Bar and Grille is a large, open bar that’s not nearly as lively but can serve is a good first or second stop. While one is there, anyway.
Delray Beach Bars
A small, upscale community, Delray Beach comes alive at night with its small but active street patio restaurants and bars on or around East Atlantic. All are within a two-block walk of one another, people are dining on patios and the mood is relaxed, a far cry from the hurried pace of, say, South Beach. Most places are bar/restaurants that start as the latter and wind up as the former.
The places are small but are are cool and provide a nice social mix between casual and classy.
Early bar-hoppers pop into City Oyster where they gather at the busy bar while diners are attempting to enjoy upscale meals. The martini-style drinkers always seem to overwhelm the diners, though the former are confined to the area in front of the long bar and not in the actual dining area. The clientele is mid-30s plus.
From there, it’s a matter of taste. Here’s what you’ll find:
Sol Kitchen is one of those small restaurants – the fare is Latin and Mexican – with a small bar that invites intimate conversations. It has a beautiful, nice setting, an ideal place for two on the town.
Elwood’s Dixie Barbecue is a biker bar in a former gas station. It’s open patio is a welcoming beacon for those seeking a cold one.
Though it doesn’t look like much from the street, the Bull Bar has great local bands. However, it’s known to lure in more bulls than cows so ladies, take note.
Delux is a dance bar/club with the Delray Beach’s youngest clubbers. The main bar area is large, at least by comparison to other Delray Beach places. It has a dance floor, couches and even beds! An outside bar area, open on weekends, provides breathing – and conversation – space.
Go ahead and laugh at the name: Huge Jorgan’s. What’s almost as funny is the fact it’s in a drug store building. The laughs coming from inside are a result of the dueling pianos entertaining the seated crowd. While there is a stand-up bar and no cover, Jorgan’s is for those on dates or group gatherings rather the heat-seeing singles.
Garage Bar, is a late-night place that’s open until 5. Of course, this means it doesn’t get going until about 2 after the other places close. It’s inland, across I-95.
It’s not a bar, but for a longtime taste of Delray Beach, Doc’s All American Grill & Dairy has been in business since 1951 and in these transitional times, that speaks volumes about its continued local popularity.
Sunday Afternoon Bars In South Florida
One of South Florida’s best attributes are the bars up and down the beaches Intercoastal waterways. At some of these, boaters can tie up to a dock and step right into a cold cocktail.
The PubClub favorite in this category is Waterway Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens. Located on the Intercoastal on PGA Blvd., it’s a large open-air restaurant that comes alive on Sundays. And we do mean alive. This is a PubClub type of place – tropical environment, lively, good for mingling, great water location and the Best Rum Runners in at least eastern Florida (trust us, we’ve had them all up and down the coast). The crowd is mingle-friendly, the age ranges from mid-20s to the 50s (with the former tending to show up later) and a reggae band making sure everyone is in the right party mood. There’s a big bar in the center that’s a key meeting place and a floating bar in the rear on the water.
Parking is very limited, even for boaters. There’s a $5 cover when the band starts at 6. And while there is also live music on Fridays and Saturdays, Sundays is the time to be wastin’ away at the Waterway, island rum-style.
Another boating stop is the Banana Boat in Boynton Beach. Actually, this was much better several years ago than today because the quality of the crowd has deteriorated like an neglected sailboat and the service can be spotty at best, but it has the location, the live music – four days a week, in fact with Sundays bringing in most of the patrons – a patio and boat dock.
Why wait to Sunday to enjoy a waterfront bar? Tis seems to be the attitude when it comes to The Cove Restaurant and Marina in Deerfield Beach because on Friday afternoons and early evenings it swells with activity. A big bar overlooks the marina and boats pull up with hungry and thirsty captains and crew eager for provisions and entertainment with other like-minded people. It rages from about 5-9 or 9:30; Happy Hour is 4-7.
Just down from The Cove, JB’s on the Beach has no pull-up dock but it’s right on the beach. JB’s is a large, open restaurant and bar with a DJ with a patio that turns into a dance floor at night. There are bars inside and out and it’s lively with a largely 30s/40s/50s age crowd. It’s fun with a group but singles seekers are best advised to dock at Waterman’s. There is live island music Saturdays and Sundays at the outdoor bar. Parking is limited – and hectic – at the valet stand ($3).
The Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach Shores requires arrival by vehicle but it’s on the water with a large fishing fleet on Singer Island, is an idyllic Saturday or Sunday afternoon lunch/brunch stop. There’s some stumbling around small kids and strollers, but the restaurant has good drinks and atmosphere-setting food. The long fishing docks make for a refreshing and relaxing stroll before or after the restaurant.
The Square Grouper in Jupiter is where Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson recorded “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere.” It’s a bit challenging to find in the Castaways Marina behind a crab restaurant but once there, you’ll won’t be tempted to “pay off the tab and pour yourself in a cab” as the song goes. This is a beer bar with some other liquid concoctions poured from a Gatorade cooler where Buffett and reggae tunes play while tables in white crushed sand help patrons waste away the day with a view of boats and the Jupiter Lighthouse. It’s open at night, of course, but it’s far better to waste away the afternoons here to take full advantage of the view. Even it it’s only half-past twelve you won’t care – it’s 5 o’clock here!
If it’s a game day, particularly football gameday, then Jupiter has another gem. It’s the Quarterdeck, a feast for sports, food – the menu is varied and huge and while the burgers are indeed good they are not quite as tasty as the menu would leave one to believe – and drink. There’s a large beer selection and Happy Hours are M-F 3-7 and after 11 p.m. It’s really half-restaurant, half-cozy bar that shows sports. If the team’s winning and you’re seated in one of the swinging porch-style picnic tables, well then, life’s just a tire swing.
South Florida Bars Addresses & Phone Numbers
|Banana Boat||739 E. Ocean Ave..
|Blue Martini||500 South Rosemary Ave.
West Palm Beach
|Bull Bar||2 East Atlantic Blvd.
|Delux||16 E. Atlantic Ave,
|City Cellar||700 South Rosemary Ave.
West Palm Beach
|City Oyster||213 E. Astlantic Ave.
|Club Sin||313 Clematis St.,
West Palm Beach
|Cove Marina||Cove Yacht Basin Hill,
|Doc’s American Grill||10 N Swinton Ave,,
|ER Bradley’s||104 Clematis St.,
West Palm Beach
|Elwood’s||301 E. Atlantic Ave
|Flow||308 Clematis St.,
West Palm Beach
|Garage Bar||600 N. Congress Ave.,
|Hugh Jorgan’s||96 NW Second Ave.
|JB’s on the Beach||300 N. Ocean Dr.,
|Quarterdeck||1096 W. Indiantown Road,
|Release||311 Clematis St..
West Palm Beach
|Respectable Street Cafe||518 Clematis St..
West Palm Beach
|Square Grouper||1111 Love St.,
|Sailfish Marina||Singer Island,
Palm Beach Shores
|Sol Kitchen||4 East Atlantic Blvd.
|Waterway Cafe||2300 PGA Blvd.,
Palm Beach Gardens