South Beach is too far. Las Olas is too young. And Hard Rock? You’ll waste the entire night looking for a place to park.
Sound familiar? For those of us that live along the county line east of I-95, it’s a weekly mantra.
So why not downtown Hollywood? It’s only minutes from Aventura, it’s lively and it’s cheap.
When I hit Young Circle with the fair missus, we usually stop for a glass of wine at Hollywood Vine (2035 Harrison Street, 954-922-2910), take in dinner/music at Sushi Blues (2009 Harrison Street, 954-929-9560) and poke around the area’s eclectic art galleries. In all, a good date night runs us $50. Gas and parking will cost you half that much on Lincoln Road.
But Hollywood’s not just for the hoity-toity. Not by a long shot. Which is why jeans-and-T-shirt Sid was a perfect wingman for a Friday night bar crawl.
Here’s how the evening went, to the best of our recollection:
5:30ish: Are we hungry? Think Christian Bale in The Machinist. We open the evening at Sauer Apple (1814 Harrison Street, 954-929-0755). Decent crowd. Enormous cheeseburgers. Bar opens to the outside. But $2.50 Budweisers before dark? That alone takes away a star. Still, a decent place. Have fond memories of being on the periphery of a near-barroom brawl between a boxer (my friend Dave) and a biker (scary guy). Dave is no taller than 5-6, but he literally went forehead-to-forehead with Mr. H. Davidson, and then literally tried to roll up his sleeves to throw down. Funniest part: Dave was wearing a T-shirt.
6:35ish: I had never been to O’Hara’s Jazz & Blues Café (1903 Hollywood Blvd., 954-925-2555) before, but I’ve heard it’s a hot spot, with dancing and live music through the night. But at this early hour, it is only a hot spot for the toothless and the bloodied. Sid and I tripled the number of patrons the moment we walk in the door. The only other drinker was a middle-aged woman in desperate need of a good oral surgeon. Nonetheless, we sidle up to the bar and start a conversation with a waitress who holds an ice pack over her eye. Turns out, she was in a street fight – no lie – on Las Olas the night before. “I beat up the girls, but then a guy kicked me in the face.” I think Sid was in love. Sadly, the bartender had no visible scars, but she was friendly nonetheless. “Where else should we go?” we ask. “Try Coyotes Bar. They wanted me to work there, but I would have had to show off too much cleavage.”
7:13ish: So we’re at Coyotes Bar (1926 Hollywood Blvd., 954-620-7046). Suffice to say, the O’Hara’s bartender is right. Sadly, we can’t even get comfortable before Sid wants to skedaddle. He was plenty skittish about the expedition before we left home, as his former live-in girlfriend now calls Hollywood home. We run into his ex’s cousin, who was also their roommate. I love awkward conversations. This one is a classic. So, Sid forces me to pound my Yuengling (mother’s milk to a good Central Pennsylvanian) and we bail. We didn’t miss much – the three-for-1 special ended at 7 p.m.
7:27ish: Time for culture. We meander over to Trader John’s Book & Record (1907 Hollywood Blvd., 954-922-2466) and regroup. There’s no booze, but I once bought Beck’s ‘Odelay,’ R.E.M.’s ‘Automatic for the People’ and ‘Thank You for Smoking’ by Christopher Buckley, all for $15. No buried treasure this night, and I don’t think the saleslady appreciates my (true) story about sharing hot crabs and cold beers with James Michener in St. Michael’s, Md., while he was there writing ‘Chesapeake.’ Still, we part on good terms after we exchange a high-five.
Laterish: Every story needs a logical conclusion, and the logical place to end any night in Hollywood is PRL Euro Café (1904 Hollywood Blvd., 954-922-9775). Everything you need to know about PRL is written on their beer menu. They’ve got brews from places I’ve never heard of — and I was a fifth-grade Geography Bee champ. They’ve got St. Bernaardus, Belzebuth and Hefeweizens. Translation: Expensive brews. Here, we meet up with a high school pal. It’s his kind of bar: pornographic artwork, a Luger on the wall, chess game on the bar and old-school Eastern bloc propaganda everywhere. I guess news of the Iron Curtain’s collapse still hasn’t made it to some corners of Hollywood. And just when I thought the night couldn’t get any better: I get open-mouthed kissed by a dog. The details are not important.