Night Watch: Nan's Hideaway Lounge
803 SE Eighth Ave., Deerfield Beach.
Nan's Hideaway took me far too long to find. That's because it's located just off Federal Highway in a plaza in which the establishments encircle the parking lot; this hideaway is a modest little building with reddish-orange cursive letters that spell out the name. Inside was a long, narrow room: a jam-packed wooden bar running along one side, a few tables pressed against the wall on the other. Pam, the bartender, sported dark curly hair and a shirt that said "Life Is Good" in sparkly letters.
Most members of the crowd were hunched over the bar sipping bottles of beer; clouds of cigarette smoke hovered above. On the walls were framed photos of local faces, Heineken beer ads, a wooden sign that read "It's 5 o'clock somewhere," and another that quoted Benjamin Franklin: "Beer is proof that God loves us." A large advertisement for Pabst Blue Ribbon -- evidently now sold at Nan's -- hung nearby.
I chose the only available seat -- against the wall at the far end of the bar. Beside me was a framed picture of a hefty cartoon cat, the back half of a rat hanging limply from its smug smile. At the bottom it read: Bob Meerdo, 1941 -- 1997.
"Bob was Nan's husband," Pam explained.
"How long has this place been here?" I asked.
"Over 18 years," Pam said, before pointing at the woman to my left, Iris, to answer the rest of my questions -- she had brews to uncap. "We've had everything from weddings to wakes!"
"Wow, that's versatility," I said.
"Those two things are pretty much simultaneous," grumbled a nearby man with black hair and a green T-shirt. The women around him rolled their eyes and laughed.
"Nan's Hideaway is just... here," said Iris. She had dangly earrings and neatly painted crimson nails. "It's a family bar, and that's because the people who come in here are like a big family."
The blond woman beside her shrugged. "I'm a bartender here -- I'm off right now, but I'm in here anyway." She nodded toward her half-empty glass of booze. "I guess I miss them when I'm not working."
Next, Pam introduced me to Chris, who was slight with glasses. "The owner's son," she said as she presented him. "He's the manager."
"I'm the owner," Chris said kinda jokingly but mostly seriously. "Mom just thinks she's the owner."
Pam and Iris smiled.
"So you're Nan's son?" I asked.
"Yeah, she's normally in during the afternoons," he said. "She was here earlier; she's just not much of a night person."
"She sounds like she's going strong." I said. "With the economic downturns and such, how's the bar been doing?" "We just celebrated our 19th birthday here in January -- been here through thick and thin," he said. "Mom always calls this place 'Cheers South.' "
"It is kind of like a Cheers," agreed the woman next to me. "I never thought of that."
"What's the age range here?" I asked.
Chris paused; the man with the green shirt jumped in. "Age 30 to the grave," he quipped.
"We don't get the real young kids in here," said Iris. She sounded grateful for it.
"We've got a real friendly, neighborhood crowd," Chris said, as if to sum it all up. "Mom has done a real good job with this place." Indeed. Now, how about a Pabst?