Best of Miami®

Best Of 2012

Neighborhoods

  • + Aventura/North Miami Beach
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  • + Cooper City
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  • + Coral Gables/South Miami
  • + Coral Springs/Margate
  • + Cutler Bay/Palmetto Bay
  • + Dania Beach
  • + Davie
  • + Davie/West Hollywood
  • + Doral
  • + Downtown/Overtown
  • + East Kendall/Pinecrest
  • + Florida Keys
  • + Fort Lauderdale
  • + Hallandale Beach
  • + Hialeah
  • + Highland Beach
  • + Hollywood
  • + Homestead/Florida City
  • + Key Biscayne
  • + Lauderhill
  • + Little Haiti/Liberty City
  • + Little Havana
  • + Miami Gardens
  • + Miami Lakes
  • + Mid/North Beach
  • + Midtown/Wynwood/Design District
  • + Miramar
  • + North Dade
  • + North Miami
  • + North Palm Beach
  • + Oakland Park
  • + Out of Town
  • + Outside South Florida
  • + Palm Beach County
  • + Palm Beach Gardens
  • + Pembroke Pines
  • + Plantation
  • + Plantation/Sunrise/Tamarac
  • + Pompano Beach
  • + Pompano Beach/Deerfield Beach/Coconut Creek
  • + Riviera Beach
  • + Sea Ranch Lakes
  • + South Beach
  • + South Dade
  • + Sunrise
  • + Sunrise/Plantation
  • + Surfside/Bal Harbor/Bay Harbor Islands
  • + Sweetwater/Westchester/West Miami
  • + Tamiami
  • + Unknown
  • + Upper Eastside/Miami Shores/Biscayne Park
  • + Wellington
  • + West Dade
  • + West Kendall
  • + West Palm Beach
  • + Weston
  • + Wilton Manors
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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Mexican Restaurant
Alma Mexicana

When Mexican food gets fussy, we frown and ponder with dismay that it is considered "nouveau" cuisine. We like our Mexican cheap, easy, and cheesy, without any fusion or confusion. This is exactly what Alma Mexicana serves — casual, homestyle fare that's fast and tastes damn good. Occupying a former tattoo parlor, Alma appeals more to a clientele interested in indulging wicked cravings than to those who frequent healthful fast-casual chains. It's small but cozy; you can dine-in, or if you prefer to lick the escaped fillings of a burrito off your fingers, have it delivered and eat every last morsel in privacy. Stop in anytime for a Mex fix. There are breakfast burritos ($6) with beans, eggs, cheese, and a choice of tocino (bacon), papas (potatoes), chorizo (sausage), or bistec (steak). Then there's the notorious "smothered burrito," doused in a house-made green chili sauce and covered in melted cheese ($9.25). It's almost impossible to choose one among crusty tortas ($7.50), simple quesadillas ($6), and "super" nachos that are so overloaded with cheese and thin slices of carne that they appear to be sliding off the plate ($10.25). Or you can make your own taco combo starting with corn tortillas topped with onions and fresh sprigs of cilantro ($2.50 per taco). Try the seasoned shredded chicken, the veggie, or both pork renditions — pastór (marinated chunks) and traditional carnitas. Grab a Mexican Coke or horchata to complete the experience.

1344 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-695-0880
Best Happy Hour
Sandbar Sports Grill

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.

3064 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove, 33133
MAP
305-444-5270
Best Bar, Central
Wood Tavern
Courtesy of Wood Tavern

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.

2531 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, 33127
MAP
305-748-2828
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3250 NE 1st Ave., Miami, 33127
MAP
305-673-3873
Best Bar, North
Justin's Bar & Lounge

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'.

17813 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura, 33160
MAP
305-931-1900
Best Bar, South
Hole in the Wall Pub

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.

14421 S. Dixie Highway, Palmetto Bay, 33176
MAP
786-227-6058
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7221 SW 58th Ave., South Miami, 33143
MAP
305-669-8577
Best Bar, West

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.

15532 Northwest 77th Court, Miami Lakes, 33016-5804
MAP
305-821-8383
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900 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 33130
MAP
305-981-2583
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8405 Mills Dr., Miami, 33183
MAP
305-630-2583
Best Bar, Miami Beach
Love/Hate Lounge

When Miami Ink's celebrity tattoo artists Ami James and Chris Nuñez opened a lounge, we figured we would either love it or hate it. Which is kind of the idea at Love/Hate. There's certainly no indifference toward the tattoo-inspired art lurking in every shadow, the leatherette banquettes, the stripper pole in the corner of the room, or the homage to motorcycle culture. Indeed, this tiny lounge feels like a motorcycle dive bar that suddenly came into an inheritance. Like a relationship that alternates between extremes, Love/Hate changes during the night. In the evenings, the atmosphere is laid-back with tastefully inked men and women drinking bourbons and beer. As the night progresses toward dawn, the vibe turns club-like, with local DJs spinning hip-hop and house music. Because there's no cover or velvet rope, the atmosphere reeks of easygoing fun. We're not sure, but Love/Hate might have an invisible force field that repels the douchier element of SoBe nightlife.

423 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-695-8616
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1234 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-532-8662
Best Bar, Homestead

We have two words for you: alcohol and alligators. Sounds like a recipe for a good time, doesn't it? This corner joint in historic downtown Homestead is the most happening spot in the city, and with good reason. First, there's cheap alcohol. We don't remember much from the few (um, maybe several) times we've been to Stick & Stein Sports Rock Cafe, but we do recall picking up a couple of shots and beers for less than $15 and a pitcher of domestic beer for only $8.50. Second, there's a tank of live alligators watching your every move. OK, maybe not watching as much as floating around looking awesome. Third, the varied jukebox selection reflects the diversified clientele; choose from tunes by the likes of Lil Wayne, Pink, Santana, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Fourth, play some pool on regulation-size tables, or stroll through the connecting passageway to the Fat Monkey Bar for some karaoke. Fifth, there's no dress code and no cover charge, plus there's free parking. And finally, if you get a bit sloshed, sober up with some pretty decent bar food, served late. After visiting Stick & Stein, you might start thinking there's no place like Homestead.

28 S. Krome Ave., Homestead, 33030
MAP
305-248-1060
Best Bartender
Gabriel Orta
Karli Evans

Like a cocktail, there's a recipe for making the perfect bartender: Mix one part mad scientist, one part psychiatrist, and one part artist and serve with a side of humor. Gabriel Orta fits the recipe exactly. One-half of the team that started the recently closed pop-up, Broken Shaker (the other half is Elad Zvi), Orta doesn't just make cocktails. He lives them. Like Willy Wonka in the chocolate factory, Orta has a sense of wonderment and glee in his eyes when he mixes a drink. Every ingredient is a potential component of the next perfect libation — fresh rosemary, apples, bourbon. When you're at Orta's bar, there's a feeling you're about to be handed something you've never tasted before, something new. Even an old-fashioned gets jazzed up with custom-made ice, fresh herbs snipped straight from his garden, and a slice of fragrant orange peeled before your eyes. The result is a drink that's crafted, not simply mixed. We believe him when he tells us not to order our usual rum and Coke or that he's made our margarita with jalapeño-infused tequila. He doesn't just make the drink; he is the drink. Orta is summering in New York City but plans to open a permanent bar in Miami Beach this fall.

2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach, 33140
MAP
786-325-8974
Best Mall Bar
The Grill on the Alley

Buying pants is such a mission, you guys. Dios mío, ayúdame. It's like we find one pair and they're a really chic color that we just totally saw in Vogue, but then they make our butt look big, and not even in a good, Jennifer Lopez kind of way. Then we find a pair that makes our legs look like they've achieved supermodel status, but they have these ridiculously outdated cargo pockets. It's a nightmare, which is why we don't understand why more people don't drink at malls. Of course, then we realize that the bar selection at most malls stinks. Thank heaven Aventura Mall is home to Grill on the Alley. We mean, yeah, yeah, it's a good restaurant, but we can barely fit into the pants we're trying on anyway. Just take us straight to the bar. It's classy with an old Hollywood décor and has a damn good happy hour. We'll take an Ohrangarita followed by a vodka açaí lemonade. Then we'll try to decide on some pants.

19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura, 33180
MAP
305-466-7195
Best Bar Renovation
The Abbey Brewing Co.

Living in Miami sometimes feels like fighting a failing battle against collective amnesia. Every couple of months, nightclubs shut down and reopen under new names. Politicians come and go with the tide, leaving the city a bit dirtier each time. Hell, even our baseball team has a new name, stadium, and uniform. But if there's one place that we go to remember, it's the neighborhood bar. That's why there is nothing scarier to a barfly than the word renovation. Countless watering holes have closed for "renovation" only to never reopen or, worse, transmogrify into cocktail lounges full of black lights but with no draft beer. So imagine our terror when the Abbey Brewing Co. — one of the only good bars in Miami Beach — announced it would shut down for several months beginning last September. Thank Bacchus that when the place finally reopened this February, it was still recognizably the Abbey. In fact, owner Raymond Rigazio simply expanded the place. It's still a comfortable wood-lined cave where you can chat up a stranger or sip away your sorrows, but new ventilation and lighting mean it's a bit brighter and less smoky. The same laid-back bartenders still pour 13 different beers on tap, including the aptly named Immaculate IPA. But now you can actually find a place to sit. Plus there's room to throw darts without grazing customers as they pass through the doorway. So sidle up to the trusty old bar — made out of a shuffleboard table — or the new 14-foot bench put together with recycled Miami Dade pine, and have a drink. Each pint is a Pyrrhic victory over the powers of forgetfulness.

1115 16th St., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-538-8110
Best Cocktails
The Corner
Courtesy of the Corner

In the not-yet-gentrified neighborhood that the Corner calls home, you might mistake the dark bar for a place to get some five-buck hooch or a PBR and call it a night. But this little place deceives the eye and casts a spell. "Step inside, my pretty, and taste my delicious cocktails," this siren of a bar calls to you, and you obey. What? A bar is speaking? Of course! Haven't you heard of the term speakeasy? Once inside, you're teleported to a dimension where bartenders wear vests and make classic cocktails using spirits such as moonshine, white whiskey, and absinthe. You're not in Miami; you're in the "Cocktail Zone." Since you're here, you might as well have a drink, so you peruse the menus pasted on cedar planks. There are two listings — one for classic post-Prohibition cocktails and another for new inventions. Each libation sets a mood. There's the Death in the Afternoon, a fragrant but potentially lethal blend of absinthe and champagne invented by the brilliant (and suicidal) Ernest Hemingway. Or try the Whitey on the Moon, a newly made-up fantasy of Death's Door White Whisky, cloves, milk, and lemon zest. Only here can a cocktail made with "death" taste like heaven. Looking for something a little more festive? How about the Cham Wow, a mix of champagne, muddled raspberries, vodka, and lemon juice? It's what bartender Chris Funk calls a "panty dropper" because of its deceptively innocent pink color. The Corner is whispering to you to try another of its wonderful drinks. Around $13 per crafted cocktail, it's a safe bet you'll be back.

1035 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 33136
MAP
305-961-7887
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Best Mexican Restaurant: Alma Mexicana

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