ROD STAFFORD HAGWOOD Your Gay Boyfriend BEST PLACE TO CHILL OCEANSIDE A1A and Commercial Boulevard The city of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea gave its "downtown" business district a major face-lift last year and now the enclave of restaurants, bars and shops is fabu-rocious (read: ferociously fabulous). They've added more space for sidewalk dining for eateries such as Mulligan's Beach House, the Village Grille, Azteca Fresh Mexican Grill, 101 Ocean, Aruba Beach Café and Athena by the Sea (although the best takeout is from Keeses Simply Delicious Restaurant around the corner). The city of L-B-T-S also added more parking just north of the hub, and there's more shady space under the expanded pavilion that leads to the beach. Of course, I love any place that has three dessert places on either side of the street (Kilwins, CocoYoghurt Self-Serve Frozen Yoghurt and 4D Gelateria). And just when you think it can't get any better, they will shut the street down, throw up a temporary stage and let bands jam into the night. (Photo: Todd Roller / Courtesy) BEST PLACE TO SEE A MOVIE The Classic Gateway Theatre 1820 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale (561) 495-0233 or classicgateway.com Sure, the snazzy iPic in Boca Raton's Mizner Park and the newly renovated AMC Coral Ridge 10 now have that whole reclining-seats-with-in-theater-dining thing going on. That is super sweet, I have to admit. But when you really want to see a movie, as a cinemaphile, you can't beat sitting in an audience of auteurs. Unlike the multiplexes where smart phones are watched as much as the silver screen and boorishly loud talking is de rigueur, the Gateway is about the movie, be it a summer blockbuster ("The Amazing Spider-Man 2," "X-Men: Days of Future Past") or an art film ("Boyhood," "Under the Skin"). And it is the best place by far for a midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The Gateway recently had a major makeover, from the lobby and bathrooms to the theater seats and the digital projections. And yes, the Chill Wine Lounge next door works on every level. BEST BLACK BOX THEATER Empire Stage 1149 N Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale (954) 678-1496 or empirestage.com Not only does this Fort Lauderdale performance space have a frisky season of its own, but it is the home of some of South Florida's most adventurous troupes, including Island City Stage and Thinking Cap Theatre. Setting aside the fine productions from those companies, Empire Stage has also hosted events such as a festival of short plays for middle-age audiences and an all-drag parody of "Designing Women." And when you are that close to the action onstage, actors can't lie. The whole setup has a way of immersing you in the action. BEST FASHION SHOWS Funkshion: Fashion Week Miami Beach funkshion.com Three of the best words in the English language: "free," "fashion," "show." Since 2003, Funkshion has been staging four-day catwalk capers with designer diffusion lines and lifestyle labels showing in mammoth tents set up on the sands of Collins Park in Miami Beach as well as in nearby hotels (W, Setai). From the beginning, the event's producers have given free admission to the first 100 people who RSVP online at Funkshion.com. The next fashion week will take place in October and then another one will be held in March (Funkshion often presents a swimwear week in July, as well). BEST CABARET SHOWS Club Plaza 262 S Ocean Blvd, Lantana (561) 588-1820 or theplazatheatre.net This is really an extension of the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan. The cabaret and piano bar is next door in the Plaza Del Mar shopping center in what was formerly a restaurant upstairs and a gym downstairs. The summer season is long on revues, but the winter brings a looser vibe, with the casts from the theater stage often having a late-night jam session next door after the curtain has come down. While there are restaurants in the Plaza Del Mar, just west across the East Ocean Avenue Bridge is a clutch of mom-and-pop eateries and shops in Lantana Point.
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