Best of Miami®

Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

Personal Best
Mitchell Kaplan

Mitchell Kaplan, a lifelong Miami-Dade County resident, founded Books & Books in 1982. Kaplan's personality, love of writers, and belief in the written word have inflamed and driven the Miami Book Fair International, a festival that is to publishing as Art Basel is to art. Books & Books, with outlets in Coral Gables and in Miami Beach, offers, well, books and books, but also periodicals for the shorter-attention-spanned. Writers -- up-and-coming and established, poets and novelists, left- and right-wingers -- stop by the store to give readings, and Miami's book lovers, nurtured by Kaplan, come out to meet them. Kaplan, a gentle, kind, and thoughtfully spoken man, would be surprised that so many people are grateful to him. But we are, and we should be.

Best local landmark
The Roney Plaza Hotel

I'm from Miami Beach originally. I grew up down here, so my best local landmark is one that doesn't exist anymore: the Roney Plaza Hotel. It lives now only in postcards. It was built around the same time as the Freedom Tower. It's the hallmark of my growing up. This was a magnificent hotel. It had a saltwater pool and freshwater pool, a casino, and a boardwalk. Imagine the Biltmore right there on the beach, and that's it. Unfortunately it was torn down in the Seventies. It would have been the crown jewel of Miami Beach. The fact that it doesn't stand anymore is an important point from a preservationist point of view.

Best sanctuary from the fast track
Sailing

When things get a little hectic it's great to be out on Biscayne Bay on a sailboat.

Best month
November

The month that I always point toward as being the pinnacle of the year is November, because that's when the Miami Book Fair International takes place.

Best not-so-cheap thrill
Stone crabs, preferably the jumbos at Joe's.

Best cheap thrill
It's not a classic cheap thrill, but I'm thinking of what is now called the Gardens of Pinecrest. It's the old Parrot Jungle. This is a space that is lush and beautiful and it still hasn't been completely discovered.

Best reason to live in Miami
The best reason to live in Miami -- and the best time to live in Miami -- is right now, because we have a remarkable, burgeoning literary community. Not only do we have some of the most talented writers on Earth here, not only do we have some of the most talented writers around, but we have incredibly generous writers as well. Generous with each other as well as generous with their talents and their readers.

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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Personal Best: Mitchell Kaplan

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