There is a certain thrill that comes along with finding a hidden entrance to any place that offers something unique which otherwise could not be seen by the average guy on the street just passing by a barely marked entranceway. This past week, I was a invited to Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s newest member to join a very small group of “hidden gems” located in the Riverwalk or Himmarshee square-mile district. They are sometimes called “Speakeasies” which is a throwback to the times when the sale of alcohol was prohibited and you could only find the bar or saloon through word of mouth. According to Wikipedia, “Speakeasies largely disappeared after Prohibition was ended in 1933, and the term is now used to describe some retro style bars.” So here’s a rundown of the three I visited last Wednesday night, all within walking distance of each other:
– Opened in 2013, this place calls itself a “1920’s Drinking Den + Coffee Bar” which is immediately apparent once you see the decor inside this hidden gem. Stache consists of two bar areas on the bottom floor and a mezzanine furnished with leather chairs, antique couches, a pool table and a 3rd bar with a perfect view of the stage area below. In addition to live music by indie artists and featured DJs playing the latest in electronic and tech, Stache offers unique events on many nights including Whiskey Tastings and Charity Events. Stache shares both ownership and joining walls with neighboring venues Revolution Live and America’s Backyard. When you find your way to either venue at 100 SW 3rd Ave, walk around the side of the building around to the rear and you’ll see the entrance marked simply with a mustache painted on it.
The Apothecary 330 – Another favorite hidden gem which I discovered while being invited to a bloggers meetup has only one bar and no stage area but very well decorated and an intimate setting to meet one or more friends. I set my GPS to the address of 330 SW 2nd Street and drove around twice without being able to find a sign for The Apothecary. Finally, I parked my car and walked up to a gentleman cleaning up outside of Pizzacraft Pizzeria who told me that I had to enter via the restaurant. Boy was I relieved to find this place and amazed at how hidden away this beautiful one room bar and lounge was from street view. Since it shares the space with PizzaCraft, you can order anything offered by the restaurant which includes many unique baked items and combine your experience with handcrafted and many old fashioned beverages from the extensive collection of fine spirits you’ll find stacked from floor to ceiling at the bar. True to its’ name, drinks are prepared just the way you would see a pharmacist prepare medicine back in the 1800’s, hence the name The Apothecary. However, I can assure you that these will taste a lot better! Sit back at the bar and enjoy the show as friendly bar staff chat with customers and prepare drinks with great care and intensity.
- Cash Only – Officially opened to a VIP guest list of several hundred, this venue is probably the largest of the three hidden gems mentioned here. The name “Cash Only” can be deceiving and confusing to some, yet perfectly clear once you visit and understand that the entire venue harkens to the 1970’s just before the era of plastic overtook cash as the primary means of paying for goods and services. Ironically, you’ll have to climb to the second floor when you’ll find a lounge decorated as a 1970’s vintage Northern-State “Basement” completed with woodgrain paneled walls, an arcade video game, LP’s and 8-tracks on a bookshelf and some comfy couches. The downstairs bar features a large stage area and more vintage decor include a wall of 8-track cassettes, a giant size can of TAB cola and a huge sign hanging from the ceiling that says “Cha Ching”. You’ll find the entrance located near the Alleyway of The Tilted Kilt located along Andrews Avenue near the Riverfront shopping district.
More Pics from the “Sneak Preview” of Cash Only: