Norman's American Bar & Grill
It's almost a disservice to call Norman's steaks, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers "bar food." The term implies food for an empty stomach and churning head (or is it the other way around?), and Lord knows anything that'll soak up that last drink or two you shouldn't have had usually qualifies as good eats in the wee hours of the morning. Norman's offerings, on the other hand, are just plain delicious: caesar and caprese salads, mahi-mahi fingers (lightly battered and fried), tenderloin sandwiches, black Angus burgers, and chicken Philly cheese sandwiches, in addition to the usual bar fare. Feel like having an honest-to-goodness sit-down dinner? Try the filet mignon, porterhouse chops, or grilled fresh fish. And don't worry, you've got all night to work up an appetite -- the kitchen stays open until 2:00 a.m.

Best Club To Close In The Past Twelve Months

Bash

With co-owner/manager Eric Omores at the helm, Bash ushered in a short-lived era of relatively un-self-conscious enjoyment when it opened in April 1993. "I guess what made it great was the mix of people. Back then everybody just wanted to have fun," the Senegal-born, France-raised Omores recalls wistfully. "It was nothing pretentious." The space expanded the VIP-room concept and initiated many theme nights. Omores and his partners (including Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall and, in the early years, actor Sean Penn and nightlife impresario Alexis Ogurik) sold the club this year. He already had moved on to open Nikki Beach Club and then Pearl with Tommy Pooch. But, says Omores, Bash will always be special to him: "It did leave a print in the history of nightclubs on South Beach."

Up the escalator from the flashing lights and ringing soundtrack of the gaming center, just outside the all-you-can-eat buffet, is a watering hole filled with low tables, comfy purple chairs, and a sleek fake black-marble bar. The studiedly swank, friendly bartenders and promptly replenished bowls of peanuts are not the attraction, though. What lends the spot charm is the easy intimacy shared by strangers thrown together unexpectedly. The Martini Bar is not a destination, not the reason people visit this monolith on the edge of the Everglades. It's a means of escape. Husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, relatives, and folks from the more than 100 conventions that book this location annually drop in here. Some are waiting for a pal or partner to finish a heavy bingo run. Others are taking a break from a lecture and looking to unwind. Maybe knowing that the person on the next barstool knows nothing about them, or maybe looking to kill time, strangers strike up conversations. On a long-distance bus trip, people spill their life stories. Here there isn't time, so the conversation and emotion are kept to a minimum. Also missing: exhaust fumes and grimy rest stops. You can disembark anytime you're ready.
South Beach may be slipping as a club hot spot, but it's not Opium's fault. The Asian-theme restaurant south of Fifth Street transmogrifies late at night into the raunchy, ostentatious epicenter of superficial glitz. Opium has emerged as the very best place for middle-age men to display their topless table-dancing (and often teenage) trophy chicks. Ergo the waitstaff at street-level Café Tabac, located directly below the joint, is inured to the unusual. "On Halloween," one waitress told us, "there was a woman who came down here in a completely transparent garbage bag, wearing no underwear and no bra. She pointed to a tear in her plastic bag and asked if we had a stapler." Suitably sutured, the reveler scurried upstairs, back into the still-breathing soul of South Beach.
Shantel Lounge
They call it "old-school" at Shantel's Lounge in Liberty City, where each week a group of African-American musicians, who have played jazz, blues, oldies, and soul around Miami, gathers to jam. Other music makers and singers are welcome to join the horns, keyboards, and drums that rock the room. During a spoken-word segment, about ten poets deliver short readings, ranging from brilliant rants on the African diaspora, to rap-a-logues, to embarrassingly bad Barry White-style schlocky bedroom whisperings. On the first Sunday of the month, Shantel's offers barbecue, collard greens, pigeon peas, rice, and other fixings for three dollars. The songs, the words, and the friendly conversation are free.

La Paloma
We can't help but be enchanted each time we stroll into La Paloma, its European kitsch reminiscent of every postwar Jewish grandma's apartment. Splendid displays of owner Maria Staub's antique Baccarat crystal, Limoges china, and objects such as dolls and clocks accent the decor. Live trios and orchestras often contribute to the sedate ambiance of the plush lounge and bar areas. When you're tempted to take a spin around the room, don't forget to place your Manhattan on the bar first. Spill something down your honey's back and the spell will be broken.
Hialeah Goth diva/performance artist Viva hosts a campy night of sex and song that would make Britney Spears jealous. Belt out tunes from the hefty book of cheesy pop and ballads. Pick from Viva's collection of feather boas, wigs, and strap-on dildos and fondle them as you croon. But try to behave: She and her Gothic devotees razz sprightly singers with their antics, punishing hecklers and gagging boys and girls with duct tape onstage. Catch the show Friday nights at Churchill's and Tuesday nights at Underland Privat -- if you dare.

If not for the lighted beer signs in the windows, it would be easy to miss this low-lying roadhouse on a commercial stretch of U.S. 1 just north of sleepy Miami Shores. To say that the Uke is little more than a bar isn't a putdown; it's an accurate description of the space. The interior is taken up almost completely by a long, wood, U-shape bar. With barely enough room left over for a pool table and jukebox, the Uke is the place to go when you feel like bending an elbow and rubbing shoulders with the masses. No microbrews here: Bud on tap, half-a-dozen other big-batch brands in the cooler. All of it cold and cheap. Save my seat.
Havana Cigar Emporium and Lounge
The cigar craze is over. So what's a cigar bar to do? Become part of the nightclub scene, of course. Havana Cigar Emporium and Lounge boasts disco dancing, hot salsa, DJ nights, and even live music. Just as an aside, a cigar store is stocked with 20,000 stogies. (None from Cuba though, as the establishment's name implies.) More fun can be had at blackjack and pool tables and at the two smoker-friendly full liquor bars. Actually the entire place is smoker-friendly, thanks in part to state-of-the-art air filter systems that keep patrons' heads clear of noxious clouds. "We are the new millennium in cigar bars," notes general manager Vito Viscito. As Jim Carrey's character in The Mask would say, the place is literally "smokin'!"

Time slows at the Pelican Nest. In this old oasis disguised as a warehouse, regulars tend to sit at the end of the bar where an upside-down skiff hovers above. Long ago they noticed that because the boat is upside down, all the gear, including two big burlap bags marked "Colombian," is in various stages of falling out. No need to duck, though. Its contents are defying gravity, thanks to the talented artist who put the darn thing together. You, too, will notice these things. At the moment, though, you might be distracted by other matters. The Budweiser and black and tan arrive quickly in front of you. The pool table, on an upstairs balcony overlooking the small dining area, beckons. Your stomach growls. ("The smoked fish dip gets a lot of compliments," notes bartender Sherry.) Your ears ring, courtesy of bands like Peach Black, whose CD includes "Loosing You" [sic], "Rosa Linda," and other rock originals taking Cutler Ridge by storm. After the music ends, some joker at the bar gets up, grabs the guitarist's Stratocaster, and sings his own rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" with impunity. When the hour has gotten late, and time speeds up again, there is a way outta there: west to the turnpike (exit 13) or east to South Dixie Highway.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®