This is a story about a little discovery I made on my way from Orlando to Miami called Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and 5 awesome bars that I went to, each with a distinct and exciting flare. A seaside village that might have otherwise been overlooked as just another sub-section of Fort Lauderdale, I visited a good friend, in town on a family vacation. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of awesome and unique bars we stumbled across, and with a little bit of careful research we settled on patronizing the bars that follow.
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is widely regarded as one of the top U.S. destinations for divers, attracting visitors from around the country on the hunt for that perfect shot or a unique diving tour of the USS Copenhagen that crashed less than a mile off the coast over a century ago in the year 1900.
Its seaside allure is the bait but for me, the hook was its outstanding nightlife, vibrant personality, and culinary variety, all of which are represented by even just the second stop on this list alone, of which I visited 3 times in a 48-hour period. That might seem excessive, so if you’re pressed for time, I recommend showing up around 10 PM, before the night becomes exhausting but after the fun begins.
With its first two locations opening in Virginia and its fourth location recently opening in Charlotte, South Carolina, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is Billy Jack’s third official location with another one soon to open in Davie, FL. Opened by a best-friend duo in 2009, the original concept, called Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, was a bridge over which the friends forged a path to Billy Jack’s Shack, and expanded the concept in 2013 to what locals and tourists know and love today.
And the major driving force behind that expansion was the team’s desire to double down on their love for craft beer, providing more options for guests who share their passion for the elixir with many faces that speaks to the masses.
With an eclectic design, they really stay true to their name, and they delivered on their promise to provide a greater beer menu, with a rotating draft selection and bottles and cans ranging from Funky Buddha’s Floridian Hefeweizen to Cigar City’s Maduro Brown Ale and everything in between.
Infamous to my little circle on my two-day stay in this highly walkable seaside town, Vinnie’s was in the 99th percentile in quite a few categories. With music that stretched for blocks around, Vinnie’s was a stromboli of laughter and dancing wrapped in a house-made Neapolitan crust and served fresh until the wee hours of the morning. It was the most lively place on the little Commercial Boulevard strip, but its real claim to fame was of course, the pizza.
True Neapolitan style pizza that was akin to my experiences in Florence, Italy, this was some of the best pizza I’ve had in Florida, the U.S., even the world (I know everybody says stuff like that but I’m a connoisseur of only two things: pizza and beer, and I don’t make these claims lightly). I ordered the margherita on my first visit (as this is the only true way to judge a pizza) but I later tried the hot pepper pie which was delicious, albeit the spiciest pizza I’ve ever had.
And although they didn’t have much in the way of craft beer, Brooklyn Lager is always a great go-to option and I was delighted to wash down those hot peppers with a couple of Brooklyn’s finest on my second visit.
Bar Red Beard is the type of local bar that every town needs. It has a laid-back vibe; a homemade menu of small bites and sandwiches, recipes passed down from generations of family members; and a rotating draft list that is updated daily on their website with Untapped reviews to help you understand the beers as well as better assist you in choosing the right ones for your taste.
With co-owner Mike sporting his own red beard, giving the business its name and attractive logo design, the team at Red Beard are among the most helpful and enthusiastic in the area and although I didn’t really need any direction in terms of which beer I should try, I appreciated their willingness to go that extra mile.
So at this point, it’s towards the end of my night of day two of two in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and a quick Google search informs me that I’m only a few miles from Funky Buddha Brewing (and as any beer enthusiast knows, this is way too close not pop in for a visit). And on my way, I discovered Tenth Level Tavern, a video game bar with the largest selection of games that I’ve ever seen in my limited experience.
They had everything from Pac-Man to Call of Duty and everything in between and even beyond those two borders. Very much alive with countless patrons, I elected to carouse a bit before settling down for a nice game of NBA Jam, which has always been, for lack of a better word, my jam. I made the costly mistake of resting my beer a bit too close to the screen—an excuse that my opponent wasn’t buying—and was subsequently dethroned as the momentary king of the game that always favored he was “on fire.” And without an ounce of dignity left, I headed for one of Florida’s most famous brewing companies.
And so I walked across the street to one of the most glorious brewing companies in the country that could easily be called “Eleventh Level” because it’s not just next door but next level for sure.
I mean, what is there to say about Funky Buddha that hasn’t been said already? I could tell you that along with J. Wakefield and Cigar City, it’s one of the breweries to grace the top 25 list on Beer Advocate’s list of Florida beers the most. I could also tell you that the brewery has one of the largest barrooms I’ve ever seen in a brewing company and with its rustic, boho design it's very fitting to find out that Funky Buddha plays host for wedding receptions.
But I think their best attribute is their humility, not letting their meteoric success after just six years in the business get to their head. With only enough time and stomach space for one beer I opted in on one of my all-time favorites, Last Snow, but I’ll definitely be coming back to expand my beer index a little more on my next drive south.
So if you’re goal is to hit as many Florida breweries as possible then you should definitely make a special trip to Oakland Park for one of Florida’s best. And if you find yourself—much like I did—in the quaint, yet happening little seaside town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, then I hope you give a few of these places a try, as I’m sure you’ll feel the same way about them as I do! I know these aren’t all technically in town, but adventure doesn’t sit in just one place on a map.