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Las Olas: Florida Originals

By Carolyn Spencer Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 5, 1998; Page E04

It's Friday night on East Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, and every table at every sidewalk cafe is filled. A man walks down the boulevard whistling Glenn Miller's "In the Mood"; another fellow, driving a horse and buggy, pulls out of the Citgo station looking for tourists. A couple darts into Suite Suzanne (No. 717) for a post-dinner splurge on elegant lingerie, as a woman comes out of Elements (No. 1034), a home accessories store, with scented candles.

Just an ordinary evening on this olive-tree-lined boulevard, which is an anomaly in a city otherwise dominated by air-conditioned mega malls. The area, dubbed the Shops of Las Olas Boulevard, officially encompasses the blocks between East Sixth and 10th avenues (the street itself stretches from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the ocean). There are more than 50 shops, most of which are individually owned and reflect the eclectic sensibilities of their owners, and 20 restaurants.

You can't miss the Galleries of Seldom Seen (No. 817), which sells one-of-a-kind American crafts. Also under its roof is Metro, which offers urban accessories that are a bit more affordable, and the Porch Cafe. It's a darling restaurant tucked into a corner of the mammoth shop, offering contemporary American cuisine along with tasty get-off-your-feet-for-a-few-minutes soups and salads. Other great stops: Shades of Light (No. 613), with reverse painted glass lampshades; Zola Keller (No. 818), which sells cocktail gowns for beauty queens; and Dazzles (No. 1012), a boutique with funky casual apparel. Goodebodies (No. 920) has a line of pleasantly scented "natural" lotions called "dirt" and "tomato." Madomario (No. 820) sells cutting-edge European designs for men and women.

Be adventurous. Stroll beyond the eastern boundary, over the Himarshee Canal between 11th and 16th avenues, to a scruffier part of Las Olas. Here, a shop like Badjaboodi (No. 1515) is a toy store for grownups, with precious dolls, bears, jewels and crystal (note the life-size mechanical clown that waves you inside); you smell the Japanese incense wafting out of Ricke's New Age (No. 1309) before you arrive; Bodygear (No. 1239) offers minimalist workout apparel.

But I always wander back to Las Olas's core, which bustles day and night, ending up at O'Hara's Pub (No. 724) for live jazz. The beach? Who needs it?

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