Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Neighborhood bars are supposed to be friendly, and nothing's friendlier than the price of a bottle of beer at Zeke's: two dollars. Not just any beer, either. Zeke's selection includes more than 100 brews, everything from Samuel Adams Summer Wheat to Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, from Dos Equis to Cerveza India. You name the country, and it's probably represented on the menu. Zeke's is especially deserving of recognition this year because it marks the reinstatement of the two-dollar-per-bottle policy. Five years ago, when Zeke's first opened, idiosyncratic owner Victor J. Deutsch garnered a reputation for his "beer garden" by charging that paltry sum. Then reality set in (the joint is on Lincoln Road, for crying out loud), and Deutsch set a still extremely reasonable price of three dollars for his bottled beers and four dollars for his pints. But last year Deutsch went off his medication again, God bless him, and down went the prices. Good cheap brew is not the only thing that makes this place convivial. Outside seating means friends passing by are likely to stop and knock one back with you. The bartenders may not be much to look at, but they sure are nice. And if you hang out there long enough, they're likely to call you if they haven't seen you in a while -- just to make sure everything's okay.
South Beach may be slipping as a club hot spot, but it's not Opium's fault. The Asian-theme restaurant south of Fifth Street transmogrifies late at night into the raunchy, ostentatious epicenter of superficial glitz. Opium has emerged as the very best place for middle-age men to display their topless table-dancing (and often teenage) trophy chicks. Ergo the waitstaff at street-level Café Tabac, located directly below the joint, is inured to the unusual. "On Halloween," one waitress told us, "there was a woman who came down here in a completely transparent garbage bag, wearing no underwear and no bra. She pointed to a tear in her plastic bag and asked if we had a stapler." Suitably sutured, the reveler scurried upstairs, back into the still-breathing soul of South Beach.
Lola, light of my night, fire of my martinis. My gin, my elbow. How your bar resembles the beautiful hull of a little wooden ship. How we sail, suspended from the gunwales through the mists that come from the hidden swirls of the DJ-magicians. There is water, water, everywhere, but everyone prefers alcoholic beverages. O Captain! My Captain! We need another round! Exult O pool table and rack O balls! Where lies the land to which yon ship must go? One with no cover charges or attitude from velvet-rope power-trippers. (And these are not the only martinis that we may share, my Lola.)
It's almost a disservice to call Norman's steaks, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers "bar food." The term implies food for an empty stomach and churning head (or is it the other way around?), and Lord knows anything that'll soak up that last drink or two you shouldn't have had usually qualifies as good eats in the wee hours of the morning. Norman's offerings, on the other hand, are just plain delicious: caesar and caprese salads, mahi-mahi fingers (lightly battered and fried), tenderloin sandwiches, black Angus burgers, and chicken Philly cheese sandwiches, in addition to the usual bar fare. Feel like having an honest-to-goodness sit-down dinner? Try the filet mignon, porterhouse chops, or grilled fresh fish. And don't worry, you've got all night to work up an appetite -- the kitchen stays open until 2:00 a.m.
When the delicate beauties of fall and winter descend on South Beach like migrating swans, a lot of people want their attention. It can all get a little overwhelming. To relax they need a low-key atmosphere. The Monday-night party called the Beehive inside Penrod's cavernous beachside structure is just the place. After all, most working stiffs don't go out on Mondays, so the pretty pixies can cavort in relative abandon. The sand-in-your-sandals vibe also helps take the mood down a notch. It's a good night to kick back, have a beer, and forget the world is watching. So if you go, remember: Don't stare.
Banyan tree, very pretty. And the mixed drinks are sweet. But the fruit of the banyan? You definitely do not want to eat that. You, however, have come to this tree not to eat but to quench your thirst, breathe fresh air, and marvel at our beautiful little toxic river. Were it not for the neon stripes of the elevated Metrorail line and the colorful Bank of America tower aglow in the distance, you might think you were in Baton Rouge. Enjoy this quiet postindustrial oasis on the fringes of downtown Miami while it lasts, because just across the water lies one of the preferred sites for a new baseball stadium. Which means that one day you might hear a crowd roar in the distance and a conversation at the bar much like this:
"Ouch! This here banyan tree's droppin' its fruit."
"That weren't no banyan fruit. That was a baseball!"