Since when do people dance at a karaoke night? Patrons usually are too busy cringing from the wails of the aspiring vocalist at the mike to consider boogying. But every Wednesday evening at Hooligan's, a neighborhood crew unabashedly jumps up and cuts the rug to the sounds of a seemingly endless stream of would-be starlets gracing the stage. Of course it's possible that people are dancing because they're soused from the cheap ladies' night drinks. Who knows and, frankly, who cares? The ladies' night and karaoke combo provokes more singing and dancing than if either theme night stood on its own. It's also more fun.
Alabama Jack's
Both pipes open up on a stretch of road as long and flat as the devil's driveway, and that damn tropical sun beats down on you like a mess o' troopers on road-kill day. Your machine's growling like a hungry lion, and your ol' lady starts whining that she'd like something to drink. Problem is, nothing around. You could backtrack to some fast-food joint in a mall near Florida City, or follow that endless black ribbon south to where the mangroves muscle out the sun and you get a little shade. Screw it. You keep your knees in the breeze until you hit Alabama Jack's, a biker-friendly white-trash tiki hut with pizzazz. The hogs are lined up by the split-rail fence like horses at a hitching post. The bar is perched over the water, so a cool wind always blows. Now your baby's changed her tune: She's cooing what a good idea this was. You kick up your boots, lean back, and rub your tattooed belly as the waitress plunks down a cold one. This'll do, this'll do. Jack's, now in its 52nd year, is open seven days a week, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Off the beaten path, ensconced in the suburbs of Homestead, is the area's most musician-friendly open-mike night. Itching to play Friday evening, but don't have a guitar handy? No problem. One of the café's four owners, Laurie Oudin, will lend you her battered Ovation, if you ask. How's it sound? Pretty damn good. Want to sound better? Invite MCing regulars, keyboardist Chuck Acevedo and guitarist Scott Emmons, to perform with you. Suddenly you'll find yourself sounding like ... a band. Gotta have more? Play well enough and you will be invited back Saturday night to sit in with house band the Pathfinders. In addition to the fun, the Main Street Café also offers a wide variety of vegetarian dishes and a respectable beer selection. Those who bomb can seek consolation in the establishment's tasty cherry cobbler pie à la mode.

There's little shortage of DJs in Miami, and if you poke around town beyond the velvet ropes, you might even find a couple spinning some half-interesting music. Disc jockeys in the literal sense, however -- individuals skilled in riding high in the saddle and coaxing their treasured vinyl collections to new and transcendent feats -- are a rare find in these parts. Which makes the local outings of DJ LeSpam (Andrew Yeomanson) all the more treasured. Whatever his given venue (the opening of a new Little Havana performance space, a private birthday party, a laid-back night at Brandt's Break -- R.I.P.) or his chosen approach for the evening (vintage Sixties soul burners, sleazy funk workouts, or perhaps tweaked hip-hop and abstract breaks), LeSpam is sure to combine a joyfully cockeyed spirit of sonic adventurousness with a determination to keep the butts of his listeners in serious motion.
Tucked into the extreme south end of downtown Coral Gables, this unassuming ranch-style edifice next to the Knights of Columbus hall has been called the Crown and Garter as well as the English Crown before its current owners gave it a more prosaic moniker a couple of years back. In its latest incarnation as the Gables Pub, it attracts a youngish crowd (more platform shoes, midriffs, and chain wallets than you'd find at your usual Gables gathering place) with its low-key atmosphere, tasty food, and Bass and Guinness on tap. (It skews a little younger on Wednesday's ladies' night and a little smellier on Thursday, when the rugby players show up.) Two narrow inside rooms and the outdoor concrete courtyard filled with tables make it more of a place to hang out than to pick up or throw down -- unless someone's throwing down her last ficha in one of the pitched domino battles that have been known to break out. One oddity: Despite the fact that the gringo quotient is no higher here than anywhere else in the Gables, the jukebox features a veritable rogues' gallery of the worst and the whitest. (Styx, anyone?) Yet the pub is so otherwise inviting, the patrons don't run screaming for the exits.
There's a saying that given enough time, even the town whore becomes respectable. That adage certainly applies to Tobacco Road, rapidly closing in on a century as one of Miami's most cherished watering holes. Once a notorious den of iniquity, the Road now has a family friendly vibe, or at least the atmosphere of an all-American frat party. Sure you'll still find plenty of cops swarming the premises, but unlike the Prohibition Era, these days they're there as (hopefully off-duty) customers. In fact wander out back to the open-air patio to catch a breeze off the river, and you're likely to come across several city prosecutors settling into a beer and a burger. Of course what draws the consistently packed crowds isn't just the locale, the brew, or the pub chow (solid as it may be); it's the music, which remains both very live and thankfully little more than spit-polished. Gaze upon the walls here and you'll spy framed posters immortalizing past Road gigs by protorocker legends such as John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, and Junior Wells, even outer-space soul-jazz visionary Sun Ra, all asserting that the "disco sucks" debate is far from over, at least in this joint. Veteran barflies may grouse that the booking policy is a bit less impressive on the talent front these days, but as last November's George Clinton date here proved, heavy hitters still occasionally grace the stage. Moreover Tobacco Road ensures a steady diet of roots-oriented outfits -- local and national, up-and-coming and unknown -- and continues to be a welcome home within which to wail away, providing a solid bet for an unpretentious, relaxed night out. In a city whose nightlife milieu increasingly is given over to tense stargazing, that says something.
Even if the Haitian music scene is dominated by men, Miami's best venue for live shows is powered by women. "The girls are in charge!" declares McArthur's social director Kathy Giddarie. Since March 1999 general manager Vivian Lazarre's female bartending crew has kept crowds of up to 800 compas fans happy. Out-of-town thrillers such as System, Sweet Mickey, and King Posse alternate with local favorites Zenglen and D-Zine on Friday and Sunday nights. Oldies night on Saturdays brings back the bands of yesteryear, from Haitian memory-makers to influential black acts such as the Temptations. Weekly dance contests put the fans in the spotlight. Since all that compas can work up an appetite, the kitchen is stocked with party foods, including conch fritters and the fried pork known as griot. Vive la femme!
Most people don't know the name of this bar. They know it only by its location: south of Wolfie's, a couple of doors north of an adult bookstore, which is a couple of doors north of the Déjà Vu strip club. This is perhaps the seediest block left in South Beach. And the Champ, one of the Beach's last shabby outposts, boasts patrons who fit right in. Blue-collar Latins and gringos, occasional club kids, working girls, clueless tourists, gays, straights, strippers, transvestites, and who-knows-whats can all be spotted at the bar enjoying a belt. We're talkin' low rent, low morals, low dough, all of which raises more than a few eyebrows. You certainly won't see anything like this on Ocean Drive.

Best Sports Bar Disguised As A Pretty Darn Good Italian Restaurant

Sport Café

It's late in the second period. The Heat is staving off the Knicks 48-46. Not far from the TV, a man and a woman sit cozily. The woman, holding a glass of wine in one hand and waving the other, tries to draw her man's gaze away from the game. She has things besides hoops on her mind. "Put more of that stuff on this thing," she commands, pointing first to a bottle of olive oil and then to a little plate. She has been dipping fresh bread on the plate, which until that last dunk held an elixir of extra-virgin olive oil infused with red pepper flakes. By the time her beau snaps out of it, the alert, gregarious waiter has replenished her little pool. She no longer minds her guy's inattentiveness, though. She is too engrossed in nibbling a delicious grilled calamari appetizer. But the real excitement erupts at halftime. The zupa di giorno (tonight it's carrot) has just arrived. Shortly thereafter, swoosh, a porcini mushroom risotto (one of the special entrées tonight, under ten dollars) lands softly before her. For boyfriend it's the ravioli di giorno (crab-lobster in pink sauce, also under ten dollars). And they still have half a bottle of decent wine left! Over at another table, a Heat fan whoops. The game hasn't resumed: His spaghetti and meatballs have arrived. Bravo!
Start by scoping out the looong L-shape wood bar planted in the middle of the room. Next sidle up to one of the cushiony metal stools upholstered in green velour. Now lean up against the bar and accommodate the shoes on the foot rests below. Once in perfect drinking position, order the liver killer. Northwest Miami-Dade suburbanites have visited this watering hole, located in a strip shopping center, for more than twenty years. Most patrons call bartender Bill by name. Resident band Powerhouse plays rock and pop favorites, which also dominate the jukebox. The requisite dart board hangs on the wall near the hall of fame, which features photos of famous guests. Remember Don Shula? The low lights, tinted windows, and dark wood paneling on the wall set the laid-back atmosphere. Show up any time except Sunday. The body deserves at least one day of rest.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®