My First Drag Show or Date Night–Ybor City

Ybor City, the historic Cuban district in Tampa, is one of my favorite places to visit.  Mr. R. and I spent last St. Patrick’s Day there and we had a blast.  I know what you’re thinking, St. Patrick’s Day, Cuban district…???  But go with me on this. 

I feel the same way about hotels that I do about restaurants, which is to say, I prefer to avoid big box chains and stay in smaller, funky, boutique places.  Which brought us to the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn in Ybor City.

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Photo by Loyce Hood, from Google Images

This hotel is absolutely beautiful, inside and out.  Its sixteen guest rooms, all located on the second floor, are tastefully decorated with antique furniture and accessories, as is the lobby and the other common areas.  The inn is remarkably affordable and because there are so few rooms, the place did not feel crowded.  It is, ahem, supposedly haunted, but we can report that we had no disturbances during our stay. 

I found our corner king size room breathtaking.  We had windows on two walls, making for lots of natural light.  One of the french doors on the front of the hotel opened onto a Juliet balcony overlooking the street. 

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Our king room at the Don Vicente Photo by Mrs. R.

Again, it was St. Patrick’s Day, so we went in search of an Irish bar, and found a terrific one within staggering distance of the hotel, The James Joyce Irish Pub.  It looks just like an Irish pub should, all dark wood and bookcases, and being a holiday, it was packed, but we managed to snag a high top table right in the front window.  We parked ourselves there for the next five or six hours, enjoying live music and libations, before stumbling back to our splendid room at the Don Vicente.

The problem with the Don Vicente is that it is an extremely popular wedding venue, making it difficult to secure lodging on weekends, especially Saturday nights.  Which is why, on our recent trip to Tampa Bay Comic Con, we ended up at the Hampton Inn in Ybor City (eyeroll, whatever).  There was nothing at all wrong with the hotel, it was just crowded and corporate. 

On Saturday night, Mr. R. and I had planned to attend Comic Con after party at The Castle, a dance club in Ybor City.  The party started at 10:00 and required costumes.  Alas, after a somewhat strenuous day, I was not feeling it.  So instead, we set out to find a bit of dinner.

burger marysWe ended up at a place called Hamburger Mary’s, because after a long day, doesn’t a hamburger sound great?  Who knew they had a drag show?  Certainly not the family with small children that abruptly got up and left the restaurant.  I had to switch to Mr. R.’s side of the table to watch the show and I ended up digging all the singles out of my purse so he could give some to the performers.  We had a blast!

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The James Joyce Irish Pub, Ybor City, FL Photo by Mrs. R.

After the show, I made Mr. R. take me back to the James Joyce one more time so we could catch Kirk, the guy who plays there on Fridays and Saturdays.  Interestingly enough, we got the same table we’d had on St. Patrick’s Day (or maybe they just keep that table for us, that’s probably it) and settled in to enjoy.  Kirk plays all kinds of songs on his acoustic guitar, but after he played Galway Girl, Mr. R. used some of my singles to request Dirty Old Town, my love’s favorite Irish song (you can find it on YouTube by The Pogues or The Prodigals). 

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Ybor City, FL Photo by Mr. R.

It was before 10:00 when we staggered back to the Hampton (eyeroll, whatever) and we knew we’d made the right decision about skipping the party.  Ybor City is a really cool town.  Next time you head to Tampa, try this little district. 

Yet Another Reason I Love Him

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Behold, the new hand painted wine glass Mr. R. bought me to replace the one that was broken. We got it Friday night at the Art & Wine Promenade in Northwood Village.

Artist Nicke Barefoot (I swear, she goes by that name) has a booth there every month and she sells the beautiful one-of-a-kind  glasses. Each one is an original piece of art and she paints a signature bare foot on the base of each one. In addition to wine glasses, she has martini and pilsner glasses as well. Her flier says that she accepts commissions for special projects. I’m thinking this could make for a fabulous wedding gift.

At any rate, I’m thrilled with my new wine glass. A toast to my sweet Mr. R. Thanks, babe.

A Miss, A Miss, and Three Hits

Oh, the adventures of date night.  Last night was our first Friday night out in a few weeks.  Needless to say, we were excited to be out and about.  However, our first two stops were a bust. 

First, we tried Coconuts on the Beach, a tiki-type bar at the Hilton Singer Island Oceanfront.  We walked in around 6:30 and to say they were not busy would be to understate the situation.  There were a couple of occupied tables and a handful of people at the bar.  Even so, we sat for about fifteen minutes and no server or host approached us.  Mr. R. went to the bar to order some cocktails and couldn’t even get waited on there.  Why did we even try a corporate place?

We left the Hilton and headed south on Singer Island to the Sailfish Marina.  Again, it was not crowded, and by this time it was after 7:00.  On Friday night.  We inadvertently pulled into the ‘Valet Only’ parking lot which had a couple of cars parked in a sea of empty spaces.  The attendant helpfully pointed out that if we wished to self-park, we could pull back out onto the street and drive about a block down and park there.  Yet, here we were, in a virtually empty parking lot.  Here’s the thing–it’s Friday night and we just want to have a nice time together. 

Instead, we did what we should have done from the beginning, and that is we headed to Northwood Village for the Art and Wine Promenade.  Parking at the west end of Northwood Road, we strolled along the closed down street stopping now and then to look at various wares offered by the artisans and vendors set up there. There was supposed to be a tropical mango theme for the evening, but the only mango I saw was on one table giving samples of sangria.  There was lots of live music; I’m reasonably certain that Sweet Home Alabama doesn’t qualify as tropical, but I’ll let that go because it’s one of my favorites.

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O-BO–Northwood Village, West Palm Beach

 Eventually, we ended up at O-BO, taking a table in the street, the better to people watch.  I ordered a sauvignon blanc and Mr. R. had a soft drink while we considered the menu.  Owner Jeff Thompson greeted us like old friends (take that, Coconuts) as did our server.  A lady at another table graciously offered to take a picture of Mr. R. and me together.  Live music was provided at the restaurant by O-BO regular Micheal Boone.  He used the wireless mic to move effortlessly back and forth between inside and outside.  His version of John Legend’s All of Me was spot-on and enjoyable.  The evening was exceedingly warm and muggy, a fact that cut down on my appetite, but we ordered the exquisite truffle waffle fries anyway.  Great service and amazing food are the reasons we keep going back to O-BO. 

On our way back west on Northwood, we stopped at a vendor’s table and Mr. R. thoughtfully replaced my hand painted wine glass that was broken a couple of months ago.  More about that in a future post.  Back to date night.

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Rocco’s Tacos–Clematis Street, West Palm Beach

Leaving Northwood Village, we headed further south to downtown West Palm Beach and Clematis Street.  Walking west, we passed one of our favorite hang outs, Bar Louie, to go further up the street to Rocco’s Tacos.  Mr. R. is not often in the mood for Mexican food so when he offers, I readily accept.  Rocco’s was busy and there were several people waiting for seating, in spite of the fact that there were one or two tables available on the sidewalk.  Many people don’t prefer the small sidewalk tables because they’re right next to the street.  Mr. R. went inside to ask about the wait.  He mouthed to me that the wait was 25 minutes and I said no, let’s just go back to Bar Louie.  However, the manager, Ryan, witnessed this exchange and seated us immediately at the outside table that we wanted in the first place (take that, Coconuts).  Outdoor seating on Clematis Street is the best.  It’s fun to watch people walking up and down the street: couples on dates, groups of dudes (or chicks) on the prowl, the trolleys full of tourists that ride past, looking afraid to get out and experience the ‘real’ West Palm Beach. 

Our server Price was friendly and helpful, explaining the menu and the evening’s specials.  Ultimately, we ordered a pitcher of pamaritas and Rocco’s homemade tortilla chips and salsa which we enjoyed while we watched the crowds and listened to the music pouring from inside the restaurant.  I’m certain I heard Jesse’s Girl at one point.  After a couple glasses of pamarita, I made my way inside and found that the movie Napoleon Dynamite was inexplicably playing in the loo.  But I’m a fan of quirky.

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Respectable Street–Clematis Street, West Palm Beach

After we settled up with Price, Mr. R. agreed to take me a few blocks further west to Respectable Street, a club he introduced me to when we first started dating.  One day I want to write a whole piece about Respectables.  The place has changed a great deal over the years, but one thing that remains the same is the friendliness of the bartenders there (take that, Coconuts), a fact which Mr. R. wanted to emphasize.  It was only 10 o’clock, very early for the Respectables crowd, and the place was nearly empty.  We ordered our drinks and sat on a banquette to watch the action.  We noticed the lonely guy sitting at the bar taking selfies, which seemed a little sad.  There was the skeevy guy standing where he could look into the ladies’ room, a fact I noted as I washed my hands and looked into the mirror, finding him looking at me.  One other guy was sitting down the banquette from us, but he finished his drink and left.  Thumping retro new wave music was playing to the empty dance floor.  I love to dance but I prefer when the floor is packed, when you know no one is looking.  Slowly, people began to trickle in, some heading directly out to the back courtyard to set up music outside.  Eventually, some girls started dancing and I let Mr. R. take us out on the floor for a bit.  A few songs later, we’d had enough and we were ready begin making our way back home. 

Despite the rough start, we had an excellent date night.  We visited some superb establishments, met some nice people, and witnessed some interesting scenes.  The beginning was a little rocky, but don’t we need the bad to appreciate the good?

Mangoes and Hazelnut and Wine! Oh My!

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Northwood Village in West Palm Beach hosts their monthly Art & Wine Promenade tomorrow night.  It’s the Tropical Mango Celebration so in addition to the usual artists and vendors,  they’re promising mango themed menus and beverages backed by ‘island music”. 

Friday night, the shops and galleries along Northwood Road will remain open and the owners are happy for you to browse.  Usually, I’m a bit intimidated to enter frou-frou art galleries and antique shops but during the Promenade the business owners go out of their way to make you feel welcome. And nothing says ‘welcome’ like a complimentary glass of wine.

On our first visit to the Promenade, Mr. R. and I stumbled across Bistro Bistro, a French bistro and bakery.  Mon Dieu!  While sipping our wine, we pored lustfully over contents of the bakery case.  Pointing to a chocolatey looking confection, Mr. R. inquired as to what it was. 

“Eet ees ahhh-zuuul-nuuut,” the woman replied. 

Mr. R. looked to me, bewildered. 

“Hazelnut, babe,” I translated from Frenglish. 

To say Mr. R. was in is a massive understatement. 

If you’re local or just visiting the area tomorrow, you won’t want to miss this fun celebration of art, wine, and small business.  Toss in mangoes and island music, it’ll be like you’re in the Caribbean.  And if you play your cards right, maybe you can even get your “ahhh-zuuul-nuuut” on.

It’s finally Friday

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Date night! It’s the last Friday of June, time for the Art & Wine Promenade at Northwood Village.

If you’re anywhere near West Palm Beach tonight we highly recommend this free event. Where else can you sip wine and stroll with your sweet as you explore the galleries, shops, and cafes. Vendors will also be set up along the street.

Which reminds me…during one outing at the Promenade Mr. R. bought me a beautiful hand-painted wine glass which unfortunately got broken recently (not pointing fingers, but let’s just say I didn’t do it). Tonight could be the night it gets replaced. Just saying…

Looking for a funky, affordable date night for tonight? Try the Art & Wine Promenade.

Rare Date Night Thursday

Rare Date Night Thursday

Mr. R. and I had a rare Date Night on Thursday at O-BO Restaurant Wine Bar, located at 422 Northwood Road in Northwood Village, West Palm Beach.  We cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough.  

First of all, consider their Happy Hour menu.  Wine, beer, cocktails, and small plates are $5 each.  If you ever wanted to sample their delicious food without making the commitment of ordering a whole entree, this is your opportunity.  We started with the crab cake and the truffle waffle fries, both of which were amazing, and we actually ordered a second crab cake.  

For dinner, Mr. R. had the braised short ribs with asiago potato mash and asparagus while I had salmon with wild rice and asparagus.  Paired with a very nice sauvignon blanc, this was the best dinner out we’d had in a long time.  As he took his first bite, Mr. R. commented that he’d “died and gone to heaven.”  

Service at O-BO is spectacular, unlike other high end places I could mention but won’t at this time.  Owner Jeff Thompson is usually on hand to greet diners and chat in a friendly, unobtrusive way, and chef Bob Reilly stopped by our table to talk about how he plans the menu based on what is fresh and available.  

And if you aren’t yet convinced that O-BO is a place for you to try, you should know about the Northwood Village Art & Wine Promenade which takes place on the last Friday of every month.  Shops and businesses are open late for the event, each offering a taste of a different wine for patrons to sample as they explore Northwood Road and all the shops, galleries, and other businesses located there.  Bands are set up on several corners and I’ve seen local radio personalities serving wine along the street.

So, this Friday, why not pop in to O-BO for a little of their Happy Hour, then stroll along the street and enjoy the Art & Wine Promenade.  Northwood Village is a funky, enjoyable place to visit.