Best of Miami®

Best Of 2001

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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

Best Neighborhood Bar/West

After bartenders in Coral Gables call the last round, many of them make their way to The Bar for nightcaps. There is no better endorsement for a watering hole than one from the mixologist class. But if you need another, check out the beer selection. The Bar boasts 10 brands of brew on tap and 21 in bottles, plus a wide variety of liquor. A serviceable menu of standards features four kinds of hamburgers, a decent chicken sandwich, and mozzarella sticks that don't bathe your fingers in grease. Tunes that range from Sinatra to Kid Rock stack the jukebox. On Saturdays live music rocks the room. Above it all is an air of comfort that makes The Bar's steady clientele treat the joint like a second home.

Best Bacchanalia

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.

Best Bar Disguised As A Sailing Yacht

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.)

Best Bar Food

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.

Best Bar To Model-Watch

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.

Best Bar Wrapped Around A Banyan Tree

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!"

Best Bartender

Sarah Vaughan's soulful voice floats in the air. Behind the immaculately kept bar, a smiling sprite of a girl snaps her fingers along with the bass. Crispy, as she's known to locals, is holding court. Best known for pouring drinks at the former 821 on Lincoln Road, Crispy, at first the bar back, filled in for the absent after-hours help one New Year's Eve and never hauled ice again. Although she has shaken and stirred at many Miami establishments, she seems a perfect fit at the Raleigh, concocting cocktails with equal parts sass and class. No ordinary girl, Crispy is a paragon of style. Her graying dreadlocks sway across the middle of her back. Her dazzling grin brightens the dimly lit room. Enter her bar and you immediately are put at ease by her comfortable manner. If you become a steady customer, you may even hear about the holograms she once was fond of producing in her spare time. Perhaps she'll even invite you to one of her famous oceanside clambakes.

Best Bartender

Sarah Vaughan's soulful voice floats in the air. Behind the immaculately kept bar, a smiling sprite of a girl snaps her fingers along with the bass. Crispy, as she's known to locals, is holding court. Best known for pouring drinks at the former 821 on Lincoln Road, Crispy, at first the bar back, filled in for the absent after-hours help one New Year's Eve and never hauled ice again. Although she has shaken and stirred at many Miami establishments, she seems a perfect fit at the Raleigh, concocting cocktails with equal parts sass and class. No ordinary girl, Crispy is a paragon of style. Her graying dreadlocks sway across the middle of her back. Her dazzling grin brightens the dimly lit room. Enter her bar and you immediately are put at ease by her comfortable manner. If you become a steady customer, you may even hear about the holograms she once was fond of producing in her spare time. Perhaps she'll even invite you to one of her famous oceanside clambakes.

Best Biker Bar

Just past Mile Marker 104, this Key Largo hangout overlooking Florida Bay is a superior spot to hoist a brew with "hog" aficionados. On most weekends pot-bellied, tattooed daddies park themselves at the bar eager to talk about 'Nam, women, and the open road. Instead of wearing leather, Levi's, and boots, they shoot the breeze in shorts, tank tops, and sandals. A rather lengthy ride for a belt, the Caribbean Club extends twenty miles beyond biker strongholds Alabama Jack's and Last Chance Saloon. But motorcycling is all about the journey, right?

Best Bingo Break

Up the escalator from the flashing lights and ringing soundtrack of the gaming center, just outside the all-you-can-eat buffet, is a watering hole filled with low tables, comfy purple chairs, and a sleek fake black-marble bar. The studiedly swank, friendly bartenders and promptly replenished bowls of peanuts are not the attraction, though. What lends the spot charm is the easy intimacy shared by strangers thrown together unexpectedly. The Martini Bar is not a destination, not the reason people visit this monolith on the edge of the Everglades. It's a means of escape. Husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, and folks from the more than 100 conventions that book this location annually drop in here. Some are waiting for a pal or partner to finish a heavy bingo run. Others are taking a break from a lecture and looking to unwind. Maybe knowing that the person on the next barstool knows nothing about them, or maybe looking to kill time, strangers strike up conversations. On a long-distance bus trip, people spill their life stories. Here there isn't time, so the conversation and emotion are kept to a minimum. Also missing: exhaust fumes and grimy rest stops. You can disembark anytime you're ready.

Best Cigar Bar

The cigar craze is over. So what's a cigar bar to do? Become part of the nightclub scene, of course. Havana Cigar Emporium and Lounge boasts disco dancing, hot salsa, DJ nights, and even live music. Just as an aside, a cigar store is stocked with 20,000 stogies. (None from Cuba though, as the establishment's name implies.) More fun can be had at blackjack and pool tables and at the two smoker-friendly full liquor bars. Actually the entire place is smoker-friendly, thanks in part to state-of-the-art air filter systems that keep patrons' heads clear of noxious clouds. "We are the new millennium in cigar bars," notes general manager Vito Viscito. As Jim Carrey's character in The Mask would say, the place is literally "smokin'!"

Best Club To Close In The Past Twelve Months

With co-owner/manager Eric Omores at the helm, Bash ushered in a short-lived era of relatively un-self-conscious enjoyment when it opened in April 1993. "I guess what made it great was the mix of people. Back then everybody just wanted to have fun," the Senegal-born, France-raised Omores recalls wistfully. "It was nothing pretentious." The space expanded the VIP-room concept and initiated many theme nights. Omores and his partners (including Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall and, in the early years, actor Sean Penn and nightlife impresario Alexis Ogurik) sold the club this year. He already had moved on to open Nikki Beach Club and then Pearl with Tommy Pooch. But, says Omores, Bash will always be special to him: "It did leave a print in the history of nightclubs on South Beach."

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Best Neighborhood Bar/West: The Bar

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