Best Latin Club (2000)

Rancho Gaspar

Snaking down the dirt roads to get to this ranch off the Florida Turnpike at Okeechobee is half the fun, especially after dark. Tires hug the earth as cars squeeze between oncoming traffic and the crops crowding the fields. Weekend party animals give way to four-footed friends during the week. Horses drink water out of troughs in the parking lot. For recent immigrants Rancho Gaspar brings memories of La Tropical, the huge open-air emporium on the outskirts of Havana that holds the world's record for the longest-lasting salsa party. The crowd looks much the same as you'd find at La Tropical, with a high spandex count and more than a few glints of gold teeth. Families abound, from babes in arms to abuelitas with walkers. Out in the barn, the four-to-eight-year-old crowd has a monopoly on the pool table. Teenagers smooch in the pasture. The fun begins at two on Sunday afternoons, with music and pony rides. One or two Sundays per month musical acts such as Cuba's Manolín and the Dominican Republic's Oro Solido play live. Saturday nights a DJ spins salsa hits from Victor Manuelle to Issac Delgado, with the latest in merengue and bachata thrown in. Who cares if owner Gaspar Olazabal is a bit gruff at the door? The bartenders and waitresses are friendly, the beer is cheap, and the food is plentiful.


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