The bar in Chris Blackwell's hotel has been a consistent standout for nine years. It hasn't had to reinvent itself to grab attention, like a plastic-surgeried Palm Beach matron. Instead it has remained confident in its own cool. The lounge's brushed-steel interior provides a refined platform in which to sit and sip a drink. The bartenders are swift and attentive. But if you're with friends, you may prefer the more intimate setting down in the so-called opium den, a cozy little enclave decorated with Middle Eastern drapes, couches, and cushions. Most nights the den offers live music (a mix of salsa, jazz, and R&B). Beverage prices vary from four to nine dollars, and whether it's an old standby like a martini or a house specialty such as the blue marlin -- a blend of light rum, blue curaçao, lemon juice -- it's always served in a copious goblet.
Great ambiance can only make a cocktail taste better. Not that the Strand's bloody mary needs much help. The house recipe -- fashioned with hearty tomato juice and a masterful blend of vodka, horseradish, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, Worcestershire, and Tabasco sauce -- is a winning combination. Complement the eye-popping beverage with a clear view of the Atlantic from the Strand's outdoor deck and the fresh sea air, and you have a concoction that will not only help you shake any of the previous evening's evils, but also put an energetic first step in your day.
The dim lighting, the cramped, blood-red faux-leather booths, the dark wood paneling. Even though the place is clean, somehow when you're here, you feel ... dirty. Like, if you're not already having an affair or planning a bank robbery, you oughta be. Funny how the place also manages to feel welcoming, in a seedy sort of way. Must be that two-for-one happy hour (9:00 to 11:00 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays) on already-inexpensive drinks, or that deelicious menu. All the usual bar food suspects are here: burgers, chicken fingers, fries. And the French dip? It's the French dippiest. Slink on in for some clandestine fun. Use a fake name, and for God's sake, don't use your credit card. No one must know.

Strange how the beautiful people flock together. Even stranger is the number of places in which they choose to converge that close. Bar Room, for instance. The club converted an upstairs space into the Moon Bar, a watering hole especially for the modeling industry. The fabulati came in droves. Unfortunately for owner Chris Paciello, so did the feds. (We all know the story.) Recently sold, Bar Room is shuttered until the fall. On a lighter note was Monday's at Brandt's Break. The quarter beers and live music made it a must-stop for every set of high cheekbones on the Beach. Even though the place closed its doors, the party stayed alive and moved to Señor Frog's, but it's not quite the same. Enter the Living Room, a virtual magnet for every comely person who ever posed in front of a camera. Who knows if it's the Euro trash oozing cash, the distinctive bordello-chic décor, or the intimate back area dubbed the Joy Room that attracts the genetically (and cosmetically) blessed? Whatever the reason the beautiful people keep coming. Whether it's to attend the legendary Wednesday-evening party; the recently imported, hip Sunday-night soirée, Hercules; or one of many bashes hosted by magazines or modeling agencies, the bevy of beauties gliding through the door never seems to end.

What distinguishes a truly sophisticated sports bar from the run-of-the-mill? The intelligent details, coach. For instance clever television placement, such as a stack of two TVs on a cigarette machine. Large wooden tables that provide excellent acoustics by softening brash television sound waves. An extensive collection of old beer taps hanging upside down from some rafters to help you ponder the meaning of life during commercials. Bartenders with a knowing glint in their eyes offering a selection of twenty draft beers. Weekly two-dollar pint specials. A rack of Sports Illustrated magazines to keep you abreast of important cultural developments. And delicious smoked fish, of course.
Long a glittery weekend salsa pit, Club Millennium now offers a welcome respite to Latin rockers who complain they get no respect in Miami. The Doral-area disco caters to the South American kids of the city's western suburbs with a Thursday-night series of the best Latin rock acts from Tijuana to Buenos Aires. Heavy on the frenzied sounds of the Southern Cone, the new era of Rock en Español began in January 2000 with Argentine underground institution Los Pericos. In March fellow porteño Fito Paez drew the biggest crowd to date. The fanatic exuberance of Fito-starved fans pissed off the formerly radical rocker as he tried to play a toned-down set of his best-loved tunes on piano with nothing but a bass accompaniment. Flapping his arms like a Muppet, Paez implored the crowd to shut the doors, indulge in an orgy, then listen quietly to his music in the postclimactic calm. Somebody set off the sprinkler system by waving his lighter in the air instead. One way or the other, Club Millennium is letting Miami get its Spanish-language rock off like never before.

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.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®