Best Of :: Food & Drink
If a person from a Third-World country saw a platter of fried zucchini, a platter of bruschetta topped with ripe red tomatoes, and a rock-size chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, he or she would likely exclaim, "My good Lord, a banquet!" Guests dining at Il Gabbiano are more likely to say, "Gee, that was a nice complimentary snack; let's order dinner now." That's reality for Luigi Tullio and brothers Gino and Fernando Masci, who came to Miami with a sense of abundance and hospitality learned growing up in Abruzzi, Italy (with a 26-year stopover as owners of Greenwich Village's renowned Il Mulino). Dinner plates here overflow with authentic Italian flavors — and the pastas are made in-house, sautéed to order, and boast simple but compelling tastes — exemplified by the orecchiette with broccoli di rape and bucatini alla matriciana (all pastas are $27.75; it isn't as though we didn't tell you this is the best expensive Italian). Risottos are $36.75, but you get what you pay for — textbook preparations of creamy, al dente rice with meticulously prepared garnishes. All of your favorite veal scaloppine dishes are here ($27.75 to $45.75), as are thick steaks ($34.75 to $48.75) and obligatory shrimp scampi ($39.75). It's all an embarrassment of riches, to be sure, but for those who can afford it, Il Gabbiano is a treasure.
Nothing is more exciting than seeing the clock strike 5 p.m. when you're at work. You and your fellow employees dash to the front door of the office, elbow anyone who gets in your way, and head out in search of libation. We suggest Sandbar Sports Grill. Not only do the weekday happy hours offer half-priced drinks and appetizers from 4 to 7 p.m., but you can also catch almost any game on one of 26 TV sets. Sure, you might run into some UM frat bros on Thursday college nights, but the $3 bottled beer specials are worth it. The home of the fish taco also offers specials on the weekends. Grab a few $3.75 bloody marys on Saturdays and Sundays, or bring your paycheck stub in on Sundays to get 50 percent off your tab.
Though the Wynwood Arts District has evolved greatly in the past few years, its main strip has always been devoid of one key feature of any worthwhile neighborhood: a decent, no-nonsense, old-fashioned bar. Not to disrespect the venues serving drinks in the artsy area, but sometimes you just want to walk into a place with a 20-dollar bill in your pocket and leave with a few drinks in your gut. Thankfully, there's Wood Tavern. And tavern indeed is the perfect descriptor for this place, with wooden, brick, and plaid walls. There's also a buffalo head, a leprechaun statuette, and a profusion of comfy, vintage couches. Although it only opened this past December, the place has an air of familiarity. Of course, the sanely priced drinks including a pleasing selection of craft beers and signature cocktails, made us want to stick around. Forget familiarity, Wood is basically now our new best friend in Wynwood.
When you're looking for the velvet-rope experience without the South Beach parking hassle, Justin's Bar & Lounge has you covered. Promoted on Power 96 and El Zol 95, the club celebrates house, salsa, merengue, bachata, Top 40, hip-hop, and sports. The place offers ice-cold mojitos, a burning-hot dance floor, and VIP tables for very special bottle service (with $150 Grey Goose and Johnny Walker Black bottles). On weeknights, you can shoot a game of stick at the pool table, enjoy two-for-one drinks from 7 to 10 p.m., and get in with no cover charge. On Fridays and Saturdays, ladies enter free till midnight, dudes get in for $10 to $20, and the joint is packed with sexy Latinas, exotic Russian beauties, hombres, and Israeli playboys. Whether it's DJ Dudu, Berdugo, Empire, or E-Feezy on the decks, the music bangs, the people dance, and the liquor flows. Now that's what we call boozin'.
From the moment you buy your first brew, you half expect the other beer guzzlers to start chanting, "Chug, chug, chug, chug!" Owned by former Miami Hurricanes quarterback Craig Erickson, Hole in the Wall is a no-frills joint reminiscent of a college fraternity house's rec room. The décor consists of wood stools, benches, flat-screen TV sets, and a Galaga arcade game. There are also a couple of tables outside the entrance. Hole in the Wall is the spot to drink beer — and not any of those fancy microbrews either. Here, it's a steady stream of PBR, Budweiser, Miller Lite, and Yuengling. But connoisseurs can still get Guinness or Grolsch. The prices are hard to beat. Domestics run from $1.50 to $4 a glass, while imports go for $3.50 to $6. And you're gonna need a lot of cold lagers or ales to wash down the scrumptious chicken wings doused in Frank's RedHot sauce. A ten-wing platter costs $9. Or pig out on a 50-wing platter for $45 while watching the game with your friends. Hole in the Wall is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
It was after midnight on a recent Saturday when we found ourselves playing some eight ball and knocking back shots of Jägermeister as White Snake's "Here I Go Again" bumped through the loudspeakers. Cigarette smoke wafted through the Billiard Club, a strip-mall bar and sports lounge that has been happily serving the hard-working, hard-drinking middle-class residents of Miami Lakes, west Hialeah, and Hialeah Gardens for the past 13 years. The vibe is so chill you won't be surprised when you strike up a friendly conversation with owner Peter Tesser and he rewards you and your party with a round of drinks. He's the type of guy who wants all of his customers to feel like they are visiting a relative's house to watch the big game or fight. Flat-screens hanging at the main bar and over the pool tables show pay-per-view sporting events every weekend with little or no cover charge. Drinks are moderately priced. A glass or bottle of beer won't cost you more than $6, and a stiff drink will set you back no more than $10. A full-service kitchen cooks up popular bar food items plus burgers, chicken wings, and a New York strip steak that'll melt in your mouth. The Billiard Club opens at 4 p.m. daily. Last call is at 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends.