All gay. All the time. Believe it or not, in an area that some call the new gay mecca, surprisingly few bars or nightspots cater exclusively to the gay market. Recently renovated, this club now boasts three spacious spaces, including an outdoor patio, so there's plenty of room to move around. Bartenders and clientele that are among the nicest on South Beach and music that always pumps ensures you'll have a gay old time.
Añoranzas (which means "longing" in Spanish) is the perfect place to lose yourself in yearning for a loved one. The décor is ripe for nostalgia, done up with rough-hewn wooden tables and a thatched ceiling, just like a cantina in the Medellín, Colombia, countryside. An actual chiva -- a brightly painted country bus -- is built into one wall, its narrow seats converted into booths perfect for cuddling. The pungent national liquor, aguardiente, flows copiously, warming even the coolest hearts. Romantic oldies from Colombia's big bands of the Forties and Fifties alternate with heartbreaking tangos and mournful vallenatos. People say of the contemplative genre from the Colombian coast: "The vallenato is not for dancing." And they're right. It's for swaying on the dance floor in an embrace so close that the sound of your lover's breath seems like an accompaniment to the accordion.

Tom's has two British-made dart boards, located in a carpeted corner, a comfortable distance from pool tables, TVs, and those tipsy folks over by the bar. That distance is important, because darting mishaps can ruin an otherwise fabulous outing and prompt an awkward conversation.

Tipsy man to another tipsy man: "Hey, good buddy, you've got the biggest weirdest mosquito sucking on the side of your head."

Dart player with British accent, removing the projectile: "Sorry, mate."

You know Tom's takes darting seriously, because two little green chalkboards for scorekeeping hang on the wall. They are sometimes used by local heavies of the dart world, members of the Miami-Dade Darting Association. If you're not a dart shark yourself, ask for a set at the bar. While there you'll also find an array of draft beer and wines, along with mixed drinks. The menu pierces expectations of humdrum bar-and-grill fare with items such as smoked tomato soup ($3.50), barbecue chicken pizza ($7.95), sesame seared tuna ($7.95), fresh fish-of-the-day sandwiches ($7.95), and a portobello mushroom burger ($6.95).

If the creators of the TV series Cheers had lived in Miami Springs instead of Boston, the dimly lit bar at Holleman's might have been immortalized by now. This 25-year-old establishment is so down-home its proprietors print a monthly newsletter listing customers' birthdays and wedding anniversaries. It's the kind of place where an old bearded codger sitting on one side of the bar teases a middle-age guy in a shirt and tie sitting on the other side.

"Hey, I used to baby-sit you."

"Yeah, I've been meaning to talk to you about that."

Younger citizens also feel at home here as well (as long as they respect their elders). Not only is the Holleman clientele multigenerational, it's also somewhat multicultural, as the Springs sheds its Anglo-enclave identity. On weekend nights the crowd often is multitudinous (that means packed, good buddy). The microbrew insurrection has yet to touch Holleman's. Here the seasoned bartenders serve draft beers for $1.75 per glass, mixed drinks for $2.75.

It's a tiny cubbyhole at the tippy-top of one of the coolest clubs in town. And it's exclusive. Not "exclusive" like other nightspots, where anyone with $300 to plunk down for a bottle of scotch is admitted. Entry into Level 6 is by invitation only. And isn't that what a VIP room is really about? Level 6 also has its own bathrooms -- another distinction it claims -- though it's a dubious one: They're rarely in service.

Does paying $20 to enter a South Beach club where you have the privilege of plunking down $9 per drink have your bank account a bit barren? Don't worry -- if it's a low-dough night you're looking for, then stumble no further than Loco Thursday at Iguana Cantina. Be forewarned that scores of college drinkers and cheap alcohol go hand in hand, but when the cover charge is a hefty $1, and 50-cent margaritas and draft beers are available until 5:00 a.m., chances are eventually you won't care who you're drinking with.
With all due respect to Club Deuce, Zeke's, and the Abbey Pub, sometimes even those establishments aren't powerful enough to shield you from attitude-heavy South Beach. When such ennui strikes, try Norman's. It's just far enough away to be unfashionable, which for the rest of us means relaxed, not subject to the supercilious gaze of the fashionista. "This is very much a locals' bar," explains owner Xavier Cervera. "People who grew up around here, versus South Beach, which is very transient." All of which makes it a very friendly hangout. Three professional-size pool tables and a selection of 35 beers add to the ambiance. Norman's is open seven days a week from 11:00 until 5:00 a.m.
From the jukebox at the 1800 Club on the Miami side of the bay, Mick Jagger laments, "You can't always get what you want...." At the dimly lit bar, surrounded by a square copper countertop, 44-year-old Debra Douglas doles out Budweisers the way a saint manufactures minor miracles. A kiss on the cheek for the regulars, full regard for the passing stranger. Douglas, all caramel skin, dark wavy hair, wide mahogany eyes, and full, chocolate-color lips, surprisingly was born on Long Island to parents who hail from Trinidad. She is part Chinese, Scottish, and Cherokee Indian, a wild mixture that has resulted in a serene exotic beauty. During 23 years in the hospitality industry, she just might have heard it all. "You have to have a sense of humor in this kind of work," she allows in her smoky alto voice. Like the statue of the African fertility goddess that sits near her cash register, there is something resolute and eternal about Douglas on the job. Despite the quiet storm of emotional activity that surrounds her, she emanates a steady, generous warmth. Watching her serve a stable of locals, one is reminded how much giving there is in listening. She leans far out from behind her fortress to be embraced by the outstretched arms of a patron, a routine ritual of greeting and farewell. Absorbing and deflecting excesses of affection with an easy charm, she moves on to take in the daily snippet of life's long tale from yet another customer. In the background that Stone's ode to acceptance plays on: "But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."

So-called progress dislodged Eddie's from the corner of SW Eighth Street and 126th Avenue in the early Nineties to make way for a god-dang restaurant, parking lot, and minor strip mall. So this cocktail lounge with an Anglo-Alabaman aura was chased into in a narrow mall storefront only 50 feet away from its original location. Damn straight it was. As a result of this little modern-day Reconstruction (whupped up, no doubt, by some pissant latter-day carpetbaggers), this dim room is now stuck between a pharmacy and a dry cleaner. Cheap beer and mixed drinks, a decent pool table, two well-lit dart boards, and plenty of Billy Rays and Billy Joes on the jukebox keep a small community of regulars happy. Don't let the big Confederate flag on the plywood wall scare you, because right next to it hangs the Star-Spangled Banner. And almost everybody here knows what in hell the Stars and Stripes stand for: Your freedom to kick someone else's ass ends where his liberty to boot your butt begins. The doors are open until 3:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m. on weekends, unless business is slow and the bartender decides to kick everyone's asses out.

Does paying $20 to enter a South Beach club where you have the privilege of plunking down $9 per drink leave your bank account a bit barren? Don't worry -- if it's a low-dough night you're looking for, then stumble no further than Loco Thursday at Iguana Cantina. Be forewarned that scores of college drinkers and cheap alcohol go hand in hand, but when the cover charge is a hefty $1, and 50-cent margaritas and draft beers are available until 5:00 a.m., chances are eventually you won't care who you're drinking with.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®