Best of Miami®

Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

BEST KARAOKE

Eclectic. That's the adjective to describe the type of people who frequent Starlite Diner, and to describe the perfect crowd for this fad that will not die. There's "Roxy," age fifteen. Hidden inside the Kendall Village Plaza, under the mask of night, she and some of her fellow Narcotics Anonymous group members are huddled, pounding cheap drinks and perusing the long list of songs. On the stage, four gay frat boys eat it up as the large audience goes crazy over their performance. (Suggested name for this group should it seek stardom: The Four Gay Frat Boys.) In the bathroom -- beyond the Fifties-style décor that reminds one of a more innocent time -- a waiter from the restaurant across the way is being arrested (bench warrant). He was holed up in a stall with two girls snorting coke. An angry boyfriend of one of the girls has called the cops, and in a few moments they're taking Powder Nose away in cuffs -- just as Karaoke Ben, the emcee, is calling for the jailbird to perform a rendition of Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby." Now that's karaoke.

BEST HANGOUT FOR YOUNG TURKS

A Mediterranean restaurant by day is transformed by night, becoming party central for the Young Turks among Miami's people from Turkey, who, for those keeping tabs, are giving the Russians a run for their rubles as the area's most exotic party animals from the Old World. An eclectic mix of dance beats, including the increasingly popular Arab house music, keeps the floor teeming with recent arrivals not only from Turkey but most of Eastern Europe looking for a club of their own on the edge of a strip mall, away from South Beach. The café-cum-nightclub also draws more commonplace minglers from Spain, France, and South America. They dance and dream of apprenticeships with Donald Trump, whose new luxury high-rise project looms right across the avenue, casting the shadow of raw American capitalism across the entire affair.

BEST HANGOUT FOR YOUNG TURKS

A Mediterranean restaurant by day is transformed by night, becoming party central for the Young Turks among Miami's people from Turkey, who, for those keeping tabs, are giving the Russians a run for their rubles as the area's most exotic party animals from the Old World. An eclectic mix of dance beats, including the increasingly popular Arab house music, keeps the floor teeming with recent arrivals not only from Turkey but most of Eastern Europe looking for a club of their own on the edge of a strip mall, away from South Beach. The café-cum-nightclub also draws more commonplace minglers from Spain, France, and South America. They dance and dream of apprenticeships with Donald Trump, whose new luxury high-rise project looms right across the avenue, casting the shadow of raw American capitalism across the entire affair.

BEST NEW BAR

Favela Chic, which we might quite liberally translate as "ghetto fabulous," takes its name from a Brazilian nightlife trend in which the hip, educated, and employed plunge into Rio shantytowns, where the downtrodden, streetwise, and dirt poor know how to party away woes. If you're looking for a quiet, candle-lighted ambiance, slip into this place before 11:00 p.m., especially on Fridays and Saturdays. After that the restaurant/lounge tends to start imitating the high-spirited, caipirinha-fueled, arm-waving, butt-wiggling displays of revelry that lured the well-heeled across the tracks and into the fabled favelas to find a girl from Ipanema, at least figuratively. There is no charge to enter this elegant North Beach shanty either, but those inside will have an easy time taking five of your (date's) hard-earned dollars for a beer or eight bucks for a caipirinha (a lime-flavored cocktail made in Brazil with cachaça, in North Beach with vodka). Owner and DJ Roberto Costa, who has rocked dance floors from Saint-Tropez on the Mediterranean to Jimmy'z on Arthur Godfrey Drive, provides musical mixes of house, samba, salsa, and Arabic. Yes, Arabic.

BEST NEW BAR

Favela Chic, which we might quite liberally translate as "ghetto fabulous," takes its name from a Brazilian nightlife trend in which the hip, educated, and employed plunge into Rio shantytowns, where the downtrodden, streetwise, and dirt poor know how to party away woes. If you're looking for a quiet, candle-lighted ambiance, slip into this place before 11:00 p.m., especially on Fridays and Saturdays. After that the restaurant/lounge tends to start imitating the high-spirited, caipirinha-fueled, arm-waving, butt-wiggling displays of revelry that lured the well-heeled across the tracks and into the fabled favelas to find a girl from Ipanema, at least figuratively. There is no charge to enter this elegant North Beach shanty either, but those inside will have an easy time taking five of your (date's) hard-earned dollars for a beer or eight bucks for a caipirinha (a lime-flavored cocktail made in Brazil with cachaça, in North Beach with vodka). Owner and DJ Roberto Costa, who has rocked dance floors from Saint-Tropez on the Mediterranean to Jimmy'z on Arthur Godfrey Drive, provides musical mixes of house, samba, salsa, and Arabic. Yes, Arabic.

BEST REGGAE CLUB

A decade ago Miami was the reggae gateway to the United States. On any given weekend major acts like Third World, Inner Circle, or the Kinsey Report could be found playing in a park or at a club. Even Africa-based reggae stars (e.g. Alpha Blondy) came to play at the old Cameo on South Beach. Today there is not one club in Miami devoted to staging high-grade (or even mediocre) reggae acts. The spiritual, danceable, durable genre is dead to this town. Fortunately, right at the county line the Empire recently conducted a sort of three-beat charrette (with the Caribbean Association and reps from local universities) to improve and expand its already established mix of reggae and hip-hop weekends (mostly featuring DJs, though some bands have played the 400-capacity club). After the meeting, and following policy (any promoters are welcome to offer their product to the club, and many are accepted), the Empire plans to book more and more live reggae. Besides the joy that news brings to many hearts and minds (and ears), it should make the owners rich considering the sickening lack of competition. Robert Nesta must be spinning as he looks down on the city where he died and sees (or hears, really) -- not much.

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BEST KARAOKE: Starlite Diner

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