Fort Lauderdale Beach

The Weather Channel suggests you stay at B Ocean on Fort Lauderdale beach. I don’t know that I’d agree. Paying $300+ a night to stay in an old Holiday Inn (even as extensively remodeled as this one) seems crazy to me, but maybe that’s me. I also personally can’t endorse a hotel that leaves its giant blue B sign – that looks way too much like the moon to young hatchlings – on during turtle season. That said, the location is good since it’s next door to Thai on the Beach (delicious and fantastic views) and Primanti Bros. (if you need a fix of greasy, unhealthy food after a night of too much partying at nearby McSorley’s).

Just over the Sunrise bridge from (no, not the overpriced Galleria Mall) the Gateway Shoppes where you can find pizza (Big Louie’s), sushi (Heart Rock and Sasaya Market), Thai (Sukhotai), Spanish-American (Tiico Cafe), subs (Fort Lauderdale Subs and Subway), dive bar booze (Kim’s Alley Bar) and adorable little shops like Jezebel and Animal House Pet Supplies. (Yes, I know there’s sushi and Asian-fusion available on the bottom floor of B Ocean, but I can’t attest to the quality because it’s about double the cost of Heart Rock and MK Sushi & Thai over in Dania is even better than Heart Rock. No reason to pay to try Saia’s.) There’s also an old theater that, while small, is big on history (Where the Boys Are premiered there). There’s a Pizza Fusion across the intersection if you prefer your pizza organic, gluten free, or vegan, and just up Federal Highway to the north is Dapur, Sublime (awesome vegan dishes), and several places serving meat dishes, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Thing is, though, Fort Lauderdale Beach is a place with an identity crisis. Years ago, the mayor and commission wanted to discourage Spring Breakers and the loud, cheap, fun that Spring Break bred. The theory was that wine brought in a better class of tourist than beer, so they paved the way for developers to replace a lot of the old, small, and less expensive little local hotels with massive, expensive towers owned by the likes of Marriot and Westin, and Trump (until he abandoned the empty eyesore with the boxes and lobby furniture still stacked up inside). What’s left is a mix of the hoity-toity with the gaudy chains like Hooters and small old dives like the Elbo Room (you cannot go to Fort Lauderdale Beach without having a drink at this historic and cash-only bar).

The whole strip is a lower-middle class person trying too hard to be upper class. It’s a girl from the suburbs in used designer shoes she got at a consignment shop. It’s trying too hard, but it’s not completely succeeding.

Personally, my favorite part of the beach is the little side street running between Primanti Bros. and Sunwear. It’s a last little strip of old Fort Lauderdale with cheesy t-shirt shops, a place selling ice cream and popcorn, a couple of tattoo shops (including the well-regarded Tattoo Blues), the “World Famous” Parrot Lounge, and an always-different bar on the corner with a New Orleans-style balcony for people watching.s. B Ocean happened around this time with its boutique-style rooms and big price tag. Except, aside from a handful of nice places like Casablanca (adorable building, good wines, too many meats on the menu), the majority of the entertainment and restaurants along the beach that have managed to stay in business are cheap,

At the southern end of the strip you can rent watersports equipment or cookout and play volley ball with your pals on South Beach. If you want a tour of the fancy homes on the New River, I’d recommend one of the day cruises on The Jungle Queen. They’ll want to sell you the night cruise with its BBQ dinner, but you get a better view of the houses and wildlife during the day.

And finally, a bar I’ve been dying to try that’s supposedly located in the Sheraton shaped somewhat like a boat on the southern end of the strip is Wreck Bar. Word is there are mermaids. Which means, it sounds like a perfect compliment to the Mai Kai on Federal Highway in nearby Oakland Park. You’ll expect to find the Golden Girls or Rat Pack in the place and while the food isn’t so great (to me), the atmosphere, shows, grounds, and vacation drinks make up for it by a mile.

If you want quiet, head up to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and on the way, if you enjoy Greek food, stop for dinner at Greek Islands. There are other Greek restaurants in the area, but this one’s by far the best.

As for where to stay? I prefer older places, little clean motels with charm to spare. I’d rather that than the fancy resorts. If you like luxury, those places pay for enough publicity, someone will happily steer you to the perfect one.