The roughly 60,000 people currently living in Delray, Florida must not know how weird their town seems to visitors. Just 20 minutes outside Fort Lauderdale, Delray is known mostly for tennis (the ATP tournament takes place here) and its truly sublime beaches. In fact, thanks to the Travel Channel, the beaches – sand chalkier than South Beach, water more turquoise – are probably what put this town on the map. There are no high-rises, so it feels residential, and, aside from the beaches, there’s one other attraction: main street. Atlantic Ave is lined with boutiques (there are no chains here), sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and galleries. People drive in golf carts. The bars are packed around the clock with locals ranging from the ages of 21 to 60, and they all seem to thrive in boozy harmony. There’s also the Seagate hotel, which opened last year, attracting curious South Beach types. Above all else, though, the nightlife in Delray is what I most remember. While I got several bar/club recommendations from friends who had lived in and around Delray, I ended up at Il Bacio. It’s apparently the “hot spot” in town, usually not my scene. Nonetheless, I was curious to see something outside of a bar that didn’t have a million flat-screen TVs playing some sports game. I got my wish, I think.
There are two entrances to Il Bacio. The side alley entrance is less douchey than the main entrance, which has actual velvet ropes (yes, the club, even its website, reminds me of Miami circa 2004) and—wait for it—a white-stretch hummer parked out front. Inside the club was outside: a courtyard with a stage and DJ and tons of locals drinking from plastic cups, fresh air and palms swaying. Not a bad set-up.
What made me stay a good thirty minutes was the music. As a DJ myself, I was impressed with DJ Bret the Hitman, who was very similar to Girl Talk. God, how I miss strong bass (virtually non-existent in New York). At a place like this, there’s always a “show.” A gypsy woman dancer came out and did her leathery/sexy gypsy dance on stage. She balanced a sword on her head as she twirled. Then she took the sword out of its sword-holder thing, at which point I thought she was warming up for a grand finale involving sticking the sword down her throat. Luckily, she just did a split with the sword on her head. As weird as the experience was, Delray turned out to be a lot quirkier than the bland retirement communities South Florida is known for. I admit it. As a jaded New Yorker, I managed to stop rolling my eyes and have fun.