Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
It can be hard keeping up with so many fulano de tals in the music biz. They show up, play a couple of local venues, and head off to more lucrative shores before you get a chance to memorize their names. Not so for the actual Fulano de Tal. The '90s rock en español band did the hometown proud when it became one of the first U.S.-based groups in the genre to sign a major-label deal. And the frontman — a New York City-bred, Miami-based Cuban-American — instantly went from fulano to Elsten Torres when he began penning songs for the likes of Julio Iglesias Jr. and Alejandra Guzmán, and then scored a Grammy nomination for an indie-distributed solo release, Individual. Nowadays, you can catch him on local stages performing bilingual folk music to the tunes of acoustic guitars and violin. The name of the group is Hey Elsten. You might want to memorize it.
The only thing more imaginative than the Wynwood Walls backdrop at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar is the cocktails. Our favorites include the Nunca ($12) — named for the Brazilian graffiti artist — a caipirinha that replaces cachaça with Japanese sake along with muddled strawberries and mint. The fresh ingredients add a delicate sweetness that doesn't overpower the sake. The Kenny Scharf ($12) pays homage to the American painter with a tequila and berry blend that starts out sweet but leaves the taste buds with a subtle kick of the spirit. For beer snobs, there are microbrews such as the North Coast Brewing Company's Old Rasputin ($7) — a Russian imperial stout — and the Full Sail Amber Ale ($5). You'll come first for the food, but you'll return for the libations.
Sunday was invented less as a day of rest and more as a time to recover from Saturday night. (That's not in the Bible, in case you were preparing to look.) As you sit at GreenStreet Café in the Grove, trying to keep your brains from oozing out of your skull, questions about the previous evening begin popping into your head, such as: Was it a good idea to mix tequila and Jägermeister? Was that a golden retriever, a French dude, Jamie Foxx, and two hookers at the bar? Just how much did the bar tab run, anyway? As you decide whether you'll be able to keep down some eggs, your server brings along the only antidote guaranteed to flush the poison out of your body and turn you into something resembling a human: a bloody mary. GreenStreet's bloody ($11) is presented in an extra-tall glass. As you lick the rim, encrusted in celery salt and cayenne pepper, shards of life start to return to your withered body. A sip of the salty, spicy elixir fills you with much-needed hair of the dog. The combination of fresh tomato juice, horseradish, pepper, and seasonings hits the spot as you lean back on a red-velvet love seat and finally notice — hey! — it's a beautiful day.
"How do I live without you? I want to know!" LeAnn Rimes's love song should be crooned into the mike and dedicated to the best karaoke spot in Miami. Studio has offered wannabe singers good and consistent karaoke for ages. You can belt out just about any song, in a group (Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun") or sad and alone (Patsy Cline's "Crazy"). Your song can be out of tune, and your white knuckles can intensely grasp the microphone to canned applause and an audience of drunken bachelorette-party attendees. Located in the basement of the beachfront hotel the Shelborne, Studio is so dark you'd never know you were on a sunny strip of tourist heaven. There's no place more open and more ready to put you onstage than this place. Not only is it open every night of the week until 5 a.m., but also every famous person, short of Barack Obama, has been spotted here, and photos on the walls prove it. The two-drink minimum sucks, but all the fancy working and just-for-show instruments beat the crap out of playing empty-handed air guitar. Even though Karaoke Nazi Ronnie is no longer there, don't worry — he was replaced with a younger dude. Note: Flirting will bump you to the front of the queue.
It's dusk and you're cruising down West Dixie Highway in a black Cadillac at 66 mph. A pair of plastic dice dangles from the rear-view mirror, a stolen pool cue leans on the passenger seat, and a cheap vinyl bowling bag full of empty beer cans and melted ice sits in the trunk. Your back pocket bulges with a thick, wet roll of $5 bills. And you're sweating like a scared pig on speed. The plan: Slide into Styx's street-side parking lot, leave the Caddy near the door, swallow some cheap brew, hustle a game on a corner table, and triple your money in two hours before splitting as fast as possible without making anybody nervous enough to knock you out, slash your tires, or something worse. An hour and a half later, the bets are laid out on the bar, pinned under your third $8 pitcher of cold, watery Budweiser. The mark is feeding the table four quarters and racking one last round. On TV, the Dolphins are losing again and time is running out. But right here and now, you're minutes from winning big, just trying to stay sober enough to clear the table, sink the eight ball without scratching, slip out the door, hop into the Caddy, and tear away at top speed with exactly the right amount of cash to get the hell out of Miami.
Real sports bars, just like true-blue fans, are usually a little rough around the edges. Think about it. When you watch the Dolphins pound the Pats at Sun Life, are the suits in the skyboxes the ones pumping the Aqua and Orange with energy? So why in hell would you expect to find real 305 passion in some slick corporate joint full of flat-screens and $9 appletinis? If there's sushi on the menu, you're not at a real sports bar. So leave immediately and head for somewhere grittier, somewhere full of the working stiffs who bleed black, silver, and teal, and the guys who save their paychecks to see D-Wade and LeBron in person. Somewhere like the Midtown Sports Bar. The bar's ethos is painted right on its adobe walls, where proudly homemade murals for the Heat, Fins, and Canes mark the spot. Just in case you're not catching the vibe, the "No Guns" sign on the front door and buzzer controlled by the bartender should clear it up. And once you're inside, you'll find a comfortable, dimly lit watering hole with plenty of TV sets and beer, including $1.75 domestic drafts every day. There are pool tables and darts for halftime. And as for the rough-looking characters crowding around the tiny tables at game time, they might not be headed for the corporate box seats anytime soon, but you can bet you're ass they'll be cheering on the MIA.