The happy hour scene at Smith & Wollensky is certainly South Beach's most popular spot for sunset cocktails and mingling. Not only is the waterfront patio and bar a rarity in town, but also the views of the departing cruise ships are breathtaking. It's like watching a floating city pass by. Another reason so many tipplers make the restaurant their first Friday-night stop is that the bartenders are generous pourers, which in turn leads to generous tipping by inebriated patrons. It's a win-win situation.
At Smith & Wollensky, any time of day is happy hour for this alcohol-soaked crowd. However, the carousing really amps up at 5 p.m. Fridays. Both the patio and main bars are elbow-to-elbow with a nice-looking clientele hoping to get soused after a long workweek. The secret to a successful Smith's happy hour is to skip out of work before 5 (that is, if you even have a real job) and snag several barstools on the west side of the bar. Ignore the dirty looks of fellow patrons until your entourage arrives.
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Another trick to navigating happy hour (or in order to stave off a killer hangover Saturday mornings) is to eat a few bar snacks. Smith & Wollensky's tasty treats include mini-burgers, beer-battered shrimp, fried calamari, and several flatbreads (go for the one with vine-ripened tomato and mozzarella).
Clearly, there are other happy hour watering holes in Miami. The bars in Mary Brickell Village, for instance, teem with young professionals Friday nights. When I moved to South Beach in 1993, Monty's was the only show in town for happy hour. Monty's still does a prolific business, although mainly for the crowd that prefers its beer in pitchers and plastic cups.
However, revelers who desire stiff drinks poured into real glasses can be found a few blocks away at Smith & Wollensky. And that's where you'll find me every Friday at 4:45 p.m., zealously guarding stools until my friends trickle in for cocktails, gossip, and calamari.