Just past Mile Marker 104, this Key Largo hangout overlooking Florida Bay is a superior spot to hoist a brew with "hog" aficionados. On most weekends pot-bellied, tattooed daddies park themselves at the bar eager to talk about 'Nam, women, and the open road. Instead of wearing leather, Levi's, and boots, they shoot the breeze in shorts, tank tops, and sandals. A rather lengthy ride for a belt, the Caribbean Club extends twenty miles beyond biker strongholds Alabama Jack's and Last Chance Saloon. But motorcycling is all about the journey, right?
Candy Caramelo, the hostess so nice she named herself twice (caramelo is Spanish for candy), zings one-liners and double-entendres from the stage of Club Tropigala Wednesday through Sunday nights. "This is not fat," she says, showing off her hefty figure, barely concealed by a teddy and feathery robe. "This is filet mignon." Then she winks and pulls some unsuspecting patron up to the stage, burying his face in her prodigious bosom to the delight of the crowd. Candy has been having fun with cabaret and nightclub audiences since the Fifties, and she doesn't mind telling you about her career in between jiggles, wiggles, and giggles. So sit back, order a mojito, and enjoy show biz the way it used to be. Just remember: Sit too close to the stage and there's a good chance you'll end up in Candy's, er, act.

Delano South Beach
The Fifties: Miami Beach was the sun-and-fun capital of the world. The postwar cocktail nation was in full swing, and Morris Lapidus was creating what he called an "architecture of joy." The Lapidus-designed Eden Roc opened in 1956 and is considered a classic example of MIMo, or Miami Modernism. It's also still the best place anywhere to enjoy an adult beverage or two. The bar and the hotel lobby in which it sits, recently restored to its midcentury splendor, are an ode to the kind of sophistication that existed only in the movies. A sculpted canopy, supported by fluted columns that rise to the ceiling, hovers above a sunken oasis filled with plump couches and chairs upholstered in regal gold and deep purple. Grecian-style statues and fleur-de-lis floor designs accent the room. Sun and moonlight filter through the sheer curtains of a curved window-wall overlooking the pool. Just when you think nothing could be more perfect, martinis and mixed drinks arrive in stately glassware while a house piano player offers a song of love from another time. God bless and comfort Morris Lapidus.

When the delicate beauties of fall and winter descend on South Beach like migrating swans, a lot of people want their attention. It can all get a little overwhelming. To relax they need a low-key atmosphere. The Monday-night party called the Beehive inside Penrod's cavernous beachside structure is just the place. After all, most working stiffs don't go out on Mondays, so the pretty pixies can cavort in relative abandon. The sand-in-your-sandals vibe also helps take the mood down a notch. It's a good night to kick back, have a beer, and forget the world is watching. So if you go, remember: Don't stare.
Bolivian transplant Mario Irusta had a look in mind when he bought a rundown bar in the rundown neighborhood known as Wynwood. He wanted to improve the place but not so much that you'd notice. Clean but not antiseptic. His plan worked. Except for the worn terrazzo dance floor, everything in the place is relatively new, yet looks as if it has been there forever. The interior décor consists of dark woods, including the water-stained paneling and the bar itself, illuminated from underneath at night. Red barstools are upholstered in vintage Sixties vinyl. The cash register appears old and battered as do some of the crusty customers. The jukebox features an odd mix of genres: Honduran dance music, country and western, Mexican rural, and standard rock and roll. Irusta says the joint's name has something to do with a romance and a dream. His dream perhaps: that customers will come in for a drink and fall in love with his comfortable little locale.

Purdy Lounge
What? A hip club to go to? Yeah, just head over to Washington Avenue. There's a slew of them. Well, yeah, you have to wait in a line for a while, but just 30, 40 minutes. An hour tops. What's that? You're on the guest list? You know Gerry? Oh, your friend knows Ken? That's nice. In that case those glamorous little security guards may only make you wait fifteen minutes at their fabulous velvet ropes. But you'll probably get in eventually, and then the cover charge is usually only about twenty bucks. Yes, sometimes even when you're on the list! Well, no, that twenty doesn't include any drinks. But they're only eight or ten bucks a pop. Have fun! Oh, you're inviting me to come along? Thanks, but nah, I'm just not in the mood. Have a great time! (Pssst. Hey, cutie. Let's get out of this nightmare. Say what? There's a cool place over on the west side of the island, down by the bay? You mean Purdy? Let's take this cab. I like Purdy because it's, like, totally mellow. But not too mellow. You're right. And it's Wednesday, which is live-music night. You know what else is cool? There's never a cover. And they, like, pride themselves on that. Oh, it's Thursday? Well, then there'll probably be some decent DJs groovin' on. I've got the first round. We can hang out on one of the couches. Maybe shake our booties a little over by the shag rug. What? You, like, always sit on the couch under the lava lamps and African masks? That's, like, totally where I always sit.)
Big Fish
Banyan tree, very pretty. And the mixed drinks are sweet. But the fruit of the banyan? You definitely do not want to eat that. You, however, have come to this tree not to eat but to quench your thirst, breathe fresh air, and marvel at our beautiful little toxic river. Were it not for the neon stripes of the elevated Metrorail line and the colorful Bank of America tower aglow in the distance, you might think you were in Baton Rouge. Enjoy this quiet postindustrial oasis on the fringes of downtown Miami while it lasts, because just across the water lies one of the preferred sites for a new baseball stadium. Which means that one day you might hear a crowd roar in the distance and a conversation at the bar much like this:

"Ouch! This here banyan tree's droppin' its fruit."

"That weren't no banyan fruit. That was a baseball!"

Best Place To Get Wasted While Getting Religion

Astor Place Bar & Grill

Sip a flute of Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut at $15 a pop. Nibble on a stack of silver-dollar wild-mushroom pancakes served with a delicate balsamic vinegar syrup. Sit back in your chair and settle into a happy sunlit Sunday groove. Under the influence of tasty food and effervescent drink, the mind kind of dilates during the Astor's gospel brunch. When Maryel Epps arrives still wearing her choir gown direct from performing at Unity on the Bay, you want her to move you, shake you, take over your spirit and make it soar. It's a decidedly decadent experience. Maryel is jazzing up "Amazing Grace," and you're downing yet another glass of bubbly. Somehow it works. You leave Astor Place feeling a little lighter, transported. Too bad you can only be saved once a week, from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Isaiah Brock, the proprietor of Club New Year's Eve, deserves some kind of medal. He already has the mettle. The self-determined Coconut Grove native has overcome a variety of hardships since opening his classy little cocktail joint in 1993, a few years after ending a 25-year career with the U.S. Air Force. For example Brock has had to deflect the mercurial passions of the area's youths, some of whom wanted the dance floor to feature less R&B and more randy rap. (They once proffered their request by kicking in the front door.) He also has had to encourage middle-age folk to step around those hanging out in front of the club, i.e., the sidewalk, and come inside. But the western stretch of Grand Avenue, which has the proud distinction of being one of the toughest strips in the county, has mellowed over the past year. It has gone from being outright hostile toward outsiders to downright mildly antagonistic. And while the area's microeconomy peps up along with the mood, Brock's little liquor-to-go window next door keeps his enterprise afloat. He also came up with another clever idea: He makes the club available for private gatherings. Ingenious. The bar is long, cocktail prices are low, and the dance floor is ripe for good old-fashioned booty-shaking.

Churchill's Pub
Alexander Oliva
It has been a long time since Miami's blood truly moved to the beat of rock and roll. Most serious touring rockers never seem to make it south of Orlando. Plenty of ink in these pages has been spilled bemoaning this sad situation. The slim pickings have led us in previous years to rightly celebrate the only two real rock and roll clubs in Miami: Tobacco Road and Churchill's Hideaway. The Road won last year, and Churchill's has walked away with the honor five times. So this year we decided to go back to the roots of rock and roll -- the blues -- to find a winner. It's a well-trodden path. There was a time in Eric Clapton's life when he wouldn't talk to people ignorant of the music of Robert Johnson. That's not a problem at Satchmo, a bar that is aware of the past and tries mightily to live up to its revered name. With live blues (and sometimes jazz) filling the room practically every day of the week, this Coral Gables eatery serves red-hot music and whimsically named meals like Hoochie Coochie Primavera in a pleasant setting. So lighten up, Miami, there is no need to sell our souls to the Devil and drive up to the crossroads of Central Florida just yet.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®