The pirates from Mixx 96 FM make merry every Friday night at the Mad House on Key Biscayne. A breeze wafts over the outdoor soca deck on the bay and boats pull right up to the dance floor. The Trini South Boys along with DJs House Arrest and Giselle "the Wassy One" make the crowd jump and wave to the latest sounds of the Caribbean. For those whose taste for island music runs closer to the ground, grinding is guaranteed with DJs Khalid, Fashion, and the marvelous Lady Terror spinning dancehall and hip-hop inside. From the moment doors open at midnight, the place is packed with people representing the Jamaican Crew, the Trinidadian Crew, the Bahamian Crew, the Virgin Islands Crew, and crews from every other Caribbean enclave. Expect even bigger crowds when big name guests like King Addis and Matterhorn fly in from New York and Kingston.
Proper preparation is the key to life. It not only applies to careers; it carries over to the social scene. One can hardly stroll sober into a South Beach nightclub and easily mingle with the depraved. Enter Blue. This intimate bar lies several paces away from the hippest spots on Washington Avenue. The cool blue tones that dominate the interior are barely discernible in the softly lit atmosphere. Techno music vibrates the walls and prepares the ears for the imminent onslaught of bass. Anyone, including VIPs, can lounge on the (what else?) blue leather couches or perch on the cone-shape stools that line the bar. Luckily this azure pit stop won't give rise to the blues by busting the budget. There is no cover charge and drinks are reasonably priced, for the Beach. Once that old tingly feeling arises, hit the strip and stride confidently up to that velvet rope. You are now ready for the revelry inside.
Macabi's began as a retail store with one of the best tobacco selections around, as well as some of the best prices. But last June, after the nationwide cigar boom began to wane, owners Henry Vilar and Arturo Sosa transformed their showroom into a smoke room, complete with high-end liquors and cordials. Now, after picking out a hefty Arturo Fuente Hemingway (at seven dollars, not a bad price) in the walk-in humidor, you can settle into a plush chair, sip a Fonseca port, and depending on the night, enjoy music (Friday is latin jazz, Saturday is often blues) or games (Tuesday night the old-school fumadores gather to play dominoes).

Twist
E.M.
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).

Duffy's Tavern
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.
Norman's American Bar & Grill
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®