A million-dollar renovation undertaken last August by owner Aurelio Rodriguez added a gourmet kitchen, back-yard stage, and air conditioning for VIPs, yet this rustic roadhouse retains all its long-standing open-air charm. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, La Covacha remains South Florida's best bet for classic and contemporary salsa as well as the latest in merengue and vallenato. Sunday rocks as hard as ever, with Latin alternative bands blaring for a young Latin-American crowd. And any day at La Covacha is ideal for noted visiting national acts to launch their music among the stars.
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.)
This one's a joke, right? There are no lesbian bars here. Sure a few girls' nights occur around town, but no permanent place exists for all the Sapphic sisters to gather over drinks. (Apparently the gals don't bring in as much money as the gaggles of shirtless boys, or maybe we're all just spending too much time at home -- nesting.) Girls in search of girls should support the Women's National Basketball Association. Buy season tickets to the Miami Sol home games and start cruising the Chivas Regal or the two Budweiser bars at the arena. Face it, you'll find more lesbians at the Sol games than in all of Miami's gay bars combined on any given night. Now, now, heterosexual sports fans, relax; you have nothing to fear. We are neither recruiting nor converting. Everyone really is at the arena to enjoy the game. Catching up with your friends at half-time or making some new ones? That's just a bonus.
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.

At six ounces it's not the most generous pour in town. And at eleven dollars a pop, it's certainly no bargain. But about a year ago Nemo, a first-rate restaurant with a highly creative kitchen and a lovely ambiance, changed its martini presentation in a way that deserves recognition. After complaints from customers that their martinis were losing their chill before the last drop (a common predicament in the subtropics, especially if you dine on Nemo's open-air patio), staffers sought a solution. The result: A chilled-cone glass embellished with the garnish of your choice and accompanied by a miniature ice bucket holding a small carafe. Inside the carafe is your hypothermic gin (or vodka for heathens) and hint of vermouth. Voilà! Pour at your own pace and with assurance that the gin (or vodka for heathens) can be returned to ice for prolonged cooling without dilution. A truly elegant method of preserving the delicate essence of this most sophisticated of cocktails.

They say Calle Ocho is coming back. If they spent a Saturday night at La Reina, they'd see Calle Ocho has stayed pretty much where it's been for the past 40 years, right here in funky Little Havana, the first stop on many immigrants' road to the American dream. They drift in as the night progresses: the Honduran brothers looking to down a few beers (signs all over warn in Spanish: NO BEER SERVED WITHOUT FOOD, an accommodation to a past police crackdown on bars masquerading as cafeterias -- sort of like this one), dance with a waitress, and maybe find a chica to make them forget the ones they left behind in San Pedro Sula. The ancient Cuban man in a jacket and fedora who'll spend the night guaracheando like he's back in Pinar del Río, Latin classics blaring from the jukebox. The mysterious white-haired man, who sips beer and coffee while musing to himself in a Slavic language, as though attempting to maintain proficiency in the midst of so many Latin tongues. A young couple with babies, two or three women with young children. Nothing so far to get the Honduran brothers' hopes up. But the night is young. Long past midnight everyone's dancing under the fluorescent lights. Even though the customers will straggle out when 2:00 a.m. rolls around, many will be back first thing in the morning, lounging around a sidewalk table and watching the American dream unfold before them in all its mixed-up, faded glory.
Neighborhood bars are supposed to be friendly, and nothing's friendlier than the price of a bottle of beer at Zeke's: two dollars. Not just any beer, either. Zeke's selection includes more than 100 brews, everything from Samuel Adams Summer Wheat to Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, from Dos Equis to Cerveza India. You name the country, and it's probably represented on the menu. Zeke's is especially deserving of recognition this year because it marks the reinstatement of the two-dollar-per-bottle policy. Five years ago, when Zeke's first opened, idiosyncratic owner Victor J. Deutsch garnered a reputation for his "beer garden" by charging that paltry sum. Then reality set in (the joint is on Lincoln Road, for crying out loud), and Deutsch set a still extremely reasonable price of three dollars for his bottled beers and four dollars for his pints. But last year Deutsch went off his medication again, God bless him, and down went the prices. Good cheap brew is not the only thing that makes this place convivial. Outside seating means friends passing by are likely to stop and knock one back with you. The bartenders may not be much to look at, but they sure are nice. And if you hang out there long enough, they're likely to call you if they haven't seen you in a while -- just to make sure everything's okay.
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.
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.
After bartenders in Coral Gables call the last round, many of them make their way to The Bar for nightcaps. There is no better endorsement for a watering hole than one from the mixologist class. But if you need another, check out the beer selection. The Bar boasts 10 brands of brew on tap and 21 in bottles, plus a wide variety of liquor. A serviceable menu of standards features four kinds of hamburgers, a decent chicken sandwich, and mozzarella sticks that don't bathe your fingers in grease. Tunes that range from Sinatra to Kid Rock stack the jukebox. On Saturdays live music rocks the room. Above it all is an air of comfort that makes The Bar's steady clientele treat the joint like a second home.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®