Lost In My Own Backyard

It’s been awhile. I wish nothing more than to be able to travel and write about my experiences for my career. This is part of my reason for my love/hate feeling towards Anthony Bourdain.

But I’m not Anthony. And I’m not rich. Which for me means a full-time 9-5 office job and the rare chance to travel. (In full disclosure, I write this from thousands of feet in the air somewhere over the middle of the US on my way to LAX. Sometimes, work does have it’s benefits.)

However, when I don’t get the chance to travel, I try to explore my own backyard. Most would say I’m lucky to live where I do. Sunny warm weather, gorgeous water, palm trees for days. And don’t get me wrong, I do love it. But after 27 years in the same state, it’s hard to find excitement in a place that’s so excruciatingly familiar.

THANK. GOD. for the craft beer uproar. Surprisingly, South Florida is progressing in something that’s current and we’re not 10 years behind the liberal minds (cough cough, legalization for medical purposes, cough cough).

Without the growth in microbreweries and their incredible inventions of food flavored beers, I don’t know what I would do with my weekends (Although I’m sure I’d be much more in shape… Can we start figuring out how to make beer with little calories that isn’t just beer flavored water? Shame on you, Miller Light). And one of those beautiful establishments is one of the best in the country right now… Funky Buddha.

Funky_BuddhaI’ve been in love with Funky Buddha for many years. Working and managing the first craft beer bar in Boca Raton, I quickly heard about this cute little hookah place down the street that started brewing their own beer. I was hesitant. Hookah and beer? We’re flooded with hookah restaurants in South Florida and each one is scummier than the next. So beer from one? No thanks.

Running the bar, we had 24 taps that rotated bi-weekly. Luckily, this allowed me to try my fair share of craft beers that no one in the area had tried, or even heard of, before. And man, were they good. 9%, 10%, 12% beers? I was living in a fairytale for the beer guts of the world. But those barleywines? Those IPAs? I just couldn’t enjoy the flavor. After one glass, it was often too much.

Then I discovered something. One of my regulars came in and asked me if I had heard about this Funky Buddha place. I said I had but that I wasn’t interested in trying them really. Then the magic words flowed of his mouth. Coconut flavored porter. COCONUT FLAVORED PORTER. Forget the fact that I have a strong love for dark beers, but coconut? I didn’t believe it. I had to try it for myself.

I walk in this place in a tiny little plaza to a dark and grungy atmosphere and nothing more than what I would expect from a typical South Florida hookah bar. I sat down, ordered the coconut beer questionably, and fell in love. (For anyone that wants to try it, search for Last Snow. Or better yet, Last Buffalo in the Park, the imperial version. Yes, this is real life).

Most people say you know your soulmate the moment you meet them. I understood that day what they meant. With all the beer in the world that I had dated casually and liked over the years, this was the one.

Fast forward about five years.

The small grungy place is still there. Still as grungy as ever. And still making some killer beers (Note: a PBJ flavored beer and a French Toast flavored beer. That’s only the beginning).

But now that small grungy place has now turned into two, with the newest being their taproom and brewery, which is definitely not grungy and definitely awesome. The Brewery has been open for two years now and in most recent news, expanding to include a kitchen.

In regards to bar food, you know to expect nothing special. A burger. Some fries. Beer battered wings. Your typical. But since Funky Buddha never follows the rules, I couldn’t wait to try it out. While the kitchen is still under construction, the boys over at Funky were nice enough to hold a brunch. And if you know anything, you know bitches love brunch. And this bitch loves beer. Naturally, you manage to put the two together and I’m there.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 10.25.29 PM

The menu was posted for us all to see and while just reading it makes my mouth water, I wasn’t ready for what I was about to endure. And I apologize for the lack of pictures. It was just too good to take a break and pull out my phone.

I’m just going to leave this menu here and let you know, every single thing on this menu was to die for. And the ceviche? I’m pretty sure the guy at the ceviche station knew me by the end of the day. I mean, they put popcorn on their ceviche. Don’t you give me that look. It was incredible. Try it next time.

Not only was the food outstanding, but the way everything was handled from the service to the beer pours to the ease of grabbing whatever dish you were craving next was out of this world.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. Let’s just say I’m waiting to hear the date of the next one. And when their kitchen opens up, no one in South Florida or I’d say it’s safe to say even the east coast is going to be able to come close to this monster that tiny little grungy place created.

You’re killing it, Funky Buddha. Keep doing what you’re doing. Just for us locals’ sake, don’t ever sell big. You’re perfect just the way you are and I love you for it.

Advertisements

Lost In Boston

You know? The problem with writing a traveling blog about the best bars in a city is that you have to travel constantly. Now that I’m non-stop working, that unfortunately does not happen as much. That is, unless you have an awesome job that pays you to travel.

Cue Boston work trip. Oh but this was much more than a work trip for me. It was Boston: not only one of my top cities in the US but a mecca of good bars and great brews.

IMG_7734

Every time I go to Boston, I fall more and more in love. From previous posts, you know my favorite thing to do is to completely get lost. Well, in Boston, even if you get lost, you’ll always find something familiar which is actually quite refreshing. There are definitely the cities (i.e. NYC) that if I’m wandering alone, there’s always a slight fear of getting so incredibly turned around that I’ll somehow end up in a place where I’m not only the only white girl for miles, but the only blonde haired, tattooed, white girl that’s ever walked through those streets. And although I love to wander, I try to avoid that situation at all costs.

As for Boston, man, I TRIED to get lost. There was just too much to see to have a schedule, and too much to miss to not have one. While I was busy 9-5 every day I was there, that didn’t keep me from exploring this town I had come to love: food, brews, and all.

IMG_7784

I’ve said before, you’re going to get some food reviews in here as well and Boston is one of those places. Three words: THE. BARKING. CRAB. Ridiculous name, right? So ridiculous that I questioned even taking the walk there. But I did it, along pothole-filled roads behind skyscraper construction to a little patio restaurant right on the bay. And there’s one rule when I’m in that area: eat all the seafood that you can. So what did that mean? Some incredible juicy melt-in-your-mouth lobster every. single. night.

IMG_7780

But the best by far was The Barking Crab. Ignoring the construction men on their lunch break from the skyscraper across the street with the thick Boston accent that does absolutely NOTHING for me, I devoured the naked lobster roll in the least sexy way I knew how (Meanwhile, my two close girl friends decide to FaceTime me. Buttery hands, messy face, construction men hoots and hollers, and my two girl friends laughing at me. Let’s just say I’ll never forget this meal as I’m sure I just looked like a hot mess). Regardless, that was the best lobster roll I’ve ever had. So if you head to Boston, go to The Barking Crab. But try to avoid wearing long sleeves in the middle of August, even if you do find 70 degrees to be freezing. Everyone and their mother will call you a Floridian, even before knowing you’re from Florida. Hey, at least I can say my R’s, Bostonians…

So after a long day of work, I was on a mission to find a new bar every night. Now, although I could easily name at least 5-7 bars that I absolutely loved, I wanted to stick to a brief two.

The first was a bar that I would’ve never walked into on my own, nor would I even have known it existed. As a friend of mine led me toward the Gap (yes, the Gap. You read that right.), we walked down a small set of stairs into an underground bar. Under the Gap. Mind. Blown. Either way, incredible atmosphere. Incredible food. Incredible music. When you walk in to a bar with Seu Jorge playing and offering some finely crafted gin cocktails, you’ve won me over. So, to keep this brief, if you’re ever in Boston, head on over to Beat Hotel in Harvard Square. Grab a group of your friends and enjoy some live music and an amazing cocktail. You won’t be disappointed.

beathotel

The second bar I fell in love with is going to be in quite a bit more detail (one reason is because I have pictures of it and the other reason is because I wasn’t already drunk when I got there as I was when I walked into Beat Hotel. I’m not picking favorites here, people).

IMG_7744Who would’ve ever thought I’d say, “Hey. I’m going to church before the Red Sox game”? Oh but I did. And I confessed my sins by drinking them. Let me explain.IMG_7741

Welcome to Church. And the pleasant kind. Not the kind where you sit while someone preaches to you about not sinning and giving your life up to some spirit. The kind where they offer you sinfully delicious drinks. Sacrilegious? Maybe. But I loved it.

 

This bar was equipped for all types of customers: cute outside patio dining for the hippies, inside leather seating for the “adults”, and grungy music club for the punks. God, it was my heaven (pun intended). Now, good brews aren’t in rare form in Boston. It’s no surprise to find some of my favorite beers on draft regularly as these bars. But Church stepped it up a bit. And their drinks… dear god their drinks. Since my mouth is watering too much to describe them, I’ll just post their drink list for you…

IMG_7746

So if you head to Boston, go ahead and head on over to a Red Sox game at Fenway since it’s required. But be sure to stop at Church before you go. God only knows what trouble you’re about to get into in Beantown…

Lost In Vancouver

Talk about a small city with huge views. Vancouver was my most recent choice for a place to explore, both mentally and physically. Surrounded by crystal clear water and gorgeous mountains, anywhere you stood in Vancouver offered an incredible landscape.

IMG_5781

This was my chance to completely avoid a car and travel by bike or hiking. With the downtown area being a little less than 1.5 square miles, it was hard to get lost in this tiny city but easy to lose yourself. The tranquility of Stanley Park and nearby Grouse Mountain gave me the chance to completely clear my mind, breathe in the fresh Pacific Coast air, and enjoy something I don’t get often – a view that was anything but flat.

IMG_5859

Vancouver definitely kept a piece of me. It was a city that, for me, had everything I wanted – mountains, beach, trails, great food, and my kind of nightlife. I’ve always dreamed of living in a city where I can ride my bike or walk wherever I’d like to go and this was definitely that place.

IMG_5795On one of the last nights in the city, my best friend and I decided to walk down the slope from our house we were staying at to explore historic Gastown. I had heard quite a bit about the area from a few friends who had family in the area that own a coffee shop (check out Revolver if you’re ever in Van for a great coffee and an even better experience) and knew it’d be a perfect place for me to wander through the local watering holes.

We walked into quite a few small bars – some standard with normal bar food, some rowdy with the local university kids, all while knocking back a few Caesars . However, I was looking for something memorable, a bar that really stood out in this historic, beautiful section of Vancouver.

IMG_5899We got to the corner of Water and Abbott street and saw this simple yet engaging bar front – The Lamplighter Public House. With dark lighting and large wooden tables, it pulled me in as the place I wanted to end the night at. We grabbed two seats at the end of the bar and looked over the cocktail menu.

Shortly into our time there, we realized it was trivia night. I’m horrible at trivia – I mean really, really bad. My memory is just something I have never been proud of. I’m one of those people that can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, let alone a fact about something that is seemingly meaningless to me. My best friend on the other hand loves it. Now although we didn’t play along, the energy in The Lamplighter was so lively. Groups of friends sitting at long wooden tables with locally brewed beers in hand cheering and dancing filled the bar. It was such a joyful environment to be in.

8212_2012-07-16_Gastown_Lamplighter_HDR_2012-07-16_Gastown_HDR

The bartender came over to us for our order: I took their best looking gin cocktail while my best friend ordered what seemed like a good idea… We’ll get back to that later though.

While waiting for our drinks and people watching the trivia groups, I figured I’d make a few friends like I always aim to do while in a new city. The guy to my left was about 30 years old, relaxing with a drink after what seemed to be a long day at work. I introduced myself and asked if he was a native to this beautiful city I had found myself in. He was born in Vancouver but had moved around British Columbia quite a bit – yet he said he always found himself coming back to Van. After my obvious fascination with cold weather in Canada and how he managed to deal with that and laughing at my native Floridian outlook on changing seasons, he was quick to talk me into wanting to move to Vancouver, telling me the local places to go and what not to miss out on.

IMG_5909

At the same time as I was speaking with him, my best friend had sparked up a conversation with two girls from Australia. Obviously being the girl best friend, I was pushing for him to at least get their number or something. But right about this time was when we received our drinks… and the drink he ordered that we thought sounded so delicious and mouth watering happened to come in a tall pink martini glass. Needless to say, the Australian girls disappeared not long after. 😉

Regardless of this slight misconception of my very manly best friend and his pink drink, The Lamplighter showed us an amazing time. Good drinks, relaxing atmosphere, and friendly outgoing people was all I needed to fall in love with this bar. So if you ever travel to Vancouver, make sure to take a walk through Gastown, stop in The Lamplighter, and have a cocktail – just make sure you look manly while doing it.

IMG_5877

Side note: Order a Burt Reynolds shot in Vancouver and check out the Canadian door stops. You won’t regret it.

IMG_5791

Lost In San Francisco

I could go on and on about my favorite city (so far) in the United States. I mean, who wouldn’t love the rolling hills, the gorgeous greenish blue bay views, and the low lying fog just barely covering the top of the Golden Gate Bridge that rolls in every morning? But this trip was different. This was my chance to really get lost in the heart of this incredible city. I’ll keep this post brief… hopefully.

IMG_3418

Being a native and current resident of South Florida with an additional six years of living on the coast of Jacksonville Beach, a lot of my friends in the Sunshine State have come and gone. The beauty of that is the possibility of connections in every corner of the states and even reaching to places as far as Australia and Japan.

One amazing friend I met during my college years had the lucky chance of moving to San Fran to be a chef. He isn’t just any chef; he is the most incredible sushi chef that I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. Now, before you question my knowledge of sushi, let me give you some background of my travel before I started this blog. My family has traveled since I was young. It was our goal on every trip we had the advantage of going on to try the sushi in that city. My love of sushi has grown so much that I was even a server at my favorite local sushi restaurant where the free sushi meant more to me than the pay. But enough of that, his sushi was the best, the freshest, the kind that truly melted in your mouth.

IMG_3522

Now I know this blog isn’t about food, although be sure you will get some tips of great bars with good food. My friend was kind enough to take a day off of his “Iron Chef” type capabilities to guide my friend and I around the city. Being there for almost two weeks, we had seen almost everything: Muir Woods, Twin Peaks, Haight Ashbury, Lombard Street. We met up at a cute little coffee shop at the bottom of Dolores Park. Asking us what we wanted to do on our last full day in the city, my answer was simply, “I want to get lost.”

IMG_3842

The rest of the night we ran from bar to bar in the Mission district exploring the colors of the city. The people were beyond friendly. The bartenders took pride in the drinks they poured. These weren’t bars like the ones you’d experience in South Florida. It was like one big, artistic, eccentric family. And good music! This blew my mind. No radio rap, no autotune, NO KANYE. Interpol blasting in one bar, Biggie in the next.

My jaw dropped when I walked in Club Six. I guess I was lucky it was a Thursday. As I stepped in the door to a large warehouse type place, I hear ATCQ in the background, “Award Tour.” Being that this is my first post, you don’t know yet, but there are three things I truly love in life: the ocean, Bill Murray, and A Tribe Called Quest. So needless to say, I melted. But that wasn’t all. After paying no cover and picking up a $3 beer, I looked across the bar to see tables and tables of paint brushes and paint cans. Better yet, all the walls were painted black. I was definitely not in Florida anymore.

IMG_3822

I was like a little kid in a candy shop. I immediately ran over to a can, grabbed a brush, and started painting. By the end of our time there, I had paint all over me and a smile I couldn’t wipe off my glowing face. A bar… with amazing music… where I could paint while I drink? Was I in heaven? To this day, even after all my travels since then, that moment was one of the best traveling experiences I have ever had. Making friends in a bar is one thing. Making friends while collaborating on a painting on a wall in a bar.. now that’s an experience to be had.

IMG_3824

Sadly enough, since my time there, Club Six has discontinued this amazing Thursday night tradition. I’m sure they have brought about some other force of entertainment on the Mission district. But that night made me fall in love. That experience made me leave my heart in San Francisco.

So I’ll be back one day. Paint in hand. And ready to drink. Until then, on to get lost in inebriation elsewhere.