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Monty's

Kokomo might not be real, but Monty's (2550 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove; 305-858-1431) surely captures the touristy quality of that fictional vacation paradise. At this bar and restaurant situated on the Coconut Grove marina, couples sip fruity frozen cocktails while families congregate under the tiki huts, their children darting among tables. The DJ plays Latin songs, and almost everyone in the vicinity sings along. A cool bay breeze ruffles the picturesque scene. At times patrons might wonder if they've unwittingly made their way onto a cruise ship or a Miami Vice set.

Welcome to the fantasy Miami, the one conjured in the minds of those who have never actually walked down Calle Ocho or played on our man-made beaches. At this emulation of a tropical hideaway, the crowd's enthusiasm is surreal. All kinds of people you could stereotype (chongas, MILFs, Abercrombie-model types) salsa-dance until they sweat. Even children boogie in groups as the matriarchs watch them with a hawk's eye from nearby tables.

"I'm sure if I knew how to dance, I could pick up some girls here, but I can't dance for shit," said a Miami native, Nick, on a recent Saturday night. "This place makes me want to snort coke," he added as he eyed attractive women in Brazilian jeans.

At the edge of the floor, a father drank a Corona as his children hung onto him. Two freshly pubescent girls with braces posed and giggled as one of their dads snapped pictures. The scene was alive with family fun and island kitsch until Rakim's "Addictive" cleared the floor. A reggae cover band took the stage under the deserted tiki and played a cover of a cover: Shaggy's "Angel," the Sixties ballad "Angel of the Morning" redux. Now the only semblance of dancing came in the form of a wobbly toddler who hobbled his way toward the band.

 
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