Best Of 1997

Best of Orlando-Clubs

Best night to go downtown

Within the past five years, downtown has gone from a virtual wasteland to a dense zone of bars, clubs and restaurants. Now, on weekends, a huge population descends upon Orange Avenue, crowding any place that serves up cold beer and good music. Problem: there's too many of ya. And "lots of people" doesn't always equate to "lots of fun." (Just ask China.) Examples: Just waiting to use an ATM machine can take 20 minutes, parking can be like searching for the Holy Grail, and drinking doesn't usually include specials. Solution: Thursday night. There's just enough people out, parking is plentiful, club nights are cool (try Taboom at Barbarella, 70 N. Orange Ave., or Sound Lounge at the Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza) and drink specials seem to be everywhere. See you -- but not you -- then.

Best Drink

A collection of vices that rivals the backstage area of a Marilyn Manson concert, the Corniche, a creation of Monaco Cocktail Bar (56 E. Pine St., Orlando), incorporates dark rum, brandy, Kahlua, cream and just about anything else slow to inanimate. Smooth on the way down, but takes no prisoners once it gets there. Go through three or four of these suckers, and you'll feel as if you've been mercilessly beaten around the head and shoulders with a very large, very heavy Three Musketeers bar. Monaco is the only place to go for the real deal, but in a pinch, an inferior but suitable substitute may be procured by striding into Tanqueray's (100 S. Orange Ave., Orlando) and requesting "whatever's laying around."

Best place to get a perfect pint of Guinness Stout

Pouring a pint of Guinness Stout is almost a sacred thing, almost a science. First, this Irish beer has to be at the right temperature -- not too chilled, and not at room temperature. Second, an Imperial pint glass must be used. Third, when poured from the tap, the glass is half-filled, then allowed to settle. Finally, the glass is filled to the top, allowing the famous creamy head to surface. The Bull & Bush (2408 E. Robinson St., Orlando), a British pub, does this better then anyone in town. We're not sure if that's considered sacrilege -- a British pub serving an Irish beer? -- but we'll ponder it the next time the Bull & Bush pours us a delicious pint.

Best rejected names in the "Rename Tsunami" contest

5. SoSueMe
;4. Death Valley Beach Club
;3. Hell 'N Gone
;2. Tiramisu
;1. Tsanford and Tsun

Most pretentious club (tie)

Two words: dress code. If you thought uniforms were only for Catholic school kids and IBM employees, guess again. The Blue Room (12 W. Pine St., Orlando) and Icon (20 E. Central Blvd., Orlando) seem to think pants and collars equals class. Get real. It doesn't matter how it's done in the "big city" -- we don't need to imitate their elitist habits. And if frat boys in dockers and Polo shirts equals modern sophistication, we don't want any part of it. Never mind the fact that it gets real hot here. We're in the subtropics, remember?

Best pick-up line

10. "Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?"
;9. "You look like someone I should know better."
;8. "I've just left the seminary and I have six months to live."
;7. "I thought Grace Kelly was dead!"
;6. "No wonder the skies look gray. All the blue is in your eyes."
;5. "Are you girls together as a couple?"
;4. "Nice outfit. Can I talk you out of it?"
;3. "Ever been with a pagan warrior god?"
;2. "I can lick my eyebrows."
;1. "I got the F, C and K; all I need is you."

Best band stumbled upon accidentally

There was not a microphone or guitar in sight as four sharply-dressed guys set up their gear -- upright bass, a weird drum kit, sax and trombone -- on the tiny stage upstairs at Crow Bar (23 S. Court Ave., Orlando). Deciding to sit and check out a few songs could not have been a wiser choice. Playing to all of eight people that night, Slowly Rubbings proceeded to kick ass with a noir-heavy mix of oddball jazz. Imagine Morphine writing the soundtrack for a crime thriller using horns instead of vocals. And whenever their game plan started sounding a bit narrow, they'd pull out a surprise (like the be-bopping version of the theme from "I Dream of Jeannie"). Forget grunge. Forget acid jazz. Regardless of their dumb moniker, Slowly Rubbings made the coolest sounds of any local musicians this year.

Best job of curtailing Friday and Saturday night traffic on Orange Avenue

Great job on that cruising law, ladies and gentlemen. That really did the trick, didn't it?

Best rechristening of a failed nightclub venture seeking instant popularity

Asian Nights didn't last long -- a couple of weeks at most. The nightclub that aimed in part to draw its customers from the neighboring Asian commercial district centered at Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue just never clicked. Whether it was the name, we'll never know. But in remaking the club as a restaurant, the current owners obviously went for easy familiarity. Just a block away, Wally's tavern (1001 N. Mills Ave.) is a neighborhood mainstay. Wah Lee's (921 N. Mills Ave.) is now the name of the Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant that took Asian Nights' place.

Best "no, that's not a misprint" event

Zuma Beach: your place for goth. Huh? Your eyes do not deceive you. Every Monday night the surfed-up Zuma Beach (46 N. Orange Ave., Orlando) is transformed into Anne Rice's bedroom, complete with black candles, a coffin and plenty of gothic music. They call it "Monday Night Mass." OK, so it's not all goth -- they spin plenty of Visage-era stuff -- but it is the thought that counts. What's next, Hip Hop Wednesdays at Harold & Maude's?

Best phone call when you want to know what's doing Stace Bass has her own agenda.

; ;

She promotes Michael Andrew, Orlando's irresistible king of swing, in his many musical incarnations, and she recently signed on as a publicist at the House of Blues. She's also the sister of Shayni Howen, co-owner of the Sapphire Supper Club, which gives her an interest in plugging that scene as well. All that aside, however, her voice mail -- she promotes it on flyers as the Bassline (262-1000), so we're not breaching any confidences here -- is an enticing come-on to the club scene. She lists names, dates, venues -- and all delivered spontaneously in a luxurious, smoky voice that frequently laughs at itself. And when she ends her long spiel with the invitation to leave your name and number for a call back, "or just to let me know how you've been, what you're doing, where you're going," she means it.

Best scene most likely to replace The Club

The after-hours bottle club Cyberzone (843 Lee Road, Orlando) has some interesting lineups booked, and rumors abound of other clubs that may open without pursuing the troublesome liquor license. But while Orlando's city government may think it has successfully suppressed drug use among clubgoers (we, and they, all know better) by passing the 3 a.m. "curfew" aimed at The Club at Firestone, plenty of other places cater to electronic music that operate within the city's legal hours. It's the push-it-down-and-it-pops-up-elsewhere theory: Thursday night at Barbarella -- Taboom -- now features DJ Jeffee spinning jungle on the patio and Q-Burn spinning trip-hop in the back den. It's an 18-and-up thing, and if the first week after the City Council vote was any indication (hundreds showed up), the kids are hot for it until the 3 a.m. closing. Go and keep the scene alive.

Best place to not throw a "rave"

Anywhere in Polk County, but more specifically the Polk County Fairgrounds. Anybody who attended the Aug. 31 Zen Festival would have to agree. Seems that the people who run the fairgrounds double-booked the facility and ended up with both the Zen Festival and a Polk County Deputy Sheriff Convention on the same night. It was hard to tell who looked scarier: the throngs of colorfully costumed techno junkies of the freaking ARMY of gun-toting, good-old-boy Polk County deputies wearing official issue 10-gallon cowboy hats and really big guns.

Sidebar:Readers Picks:

Best bar before midnight:

Blazing Pianos, in The Mercado, 8445 International Drive, Orlando

Best bar after midnight:

The Club, 578 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best bar for after work (tie):

Cactus Club, 1300 N. Mills Ave., Orlando
;Orlando Ale House, three area locations

Best bar when you're out of work:

Wally's, 1001 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best bar in which to network:

Sapphire Supper Club, 54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best bar at which to work:

Wills Pub, 1850 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best dive bar:

Wally's, 1001 N. Mills Ave., Orlando

Best Irish bar:

Scruffy Murphy's, 9 W. Washington St., Orlando

Best happy-hour spread:

Kate O'Brien's, 42 W. Central Blvd., Orlando

Best jukebox:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best sports bar:

Orlando Ale House, three area locations

Best gay/lesbian bar:

Southern Nights, 375 S. Bumby Ave., Orlando

Best place to play pool:

Sportstown Billiards, 2414 E. Robinson St., Orlando

Best place to hear poetry:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best dance bar:

The Club, 578 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best dance DJ:

DJ Sandy

Best new late-night use for The Club:

Return to tire service store

Best new hot spot:

Icon, 20 E. Central Blvd., Orlando

Best live music venue:

Sapphire Supper Club, 54 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Best open-mike night:

Go Lounge, 27 Wall Street Plaza, Orlando

Best pick-up bar:

Zuma Beach, 46 N. Orange Ave., Orlando

Previous Winners