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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.
It's the bathroom tile that truly tells you the folks at Corbett's take their sports very seriously. Not that you would have to unzip your pants to figure this out. The NASCAR schedule on the front wall gives a strong hint, as do more than a dozen televisions. Logically all manner of sporting recreation is available, including foosball, pinball, pool tables, and dart boards. A glass case exhibits a variety of dart accessories for sale. Banners hanging on the walls salute local heroes of the fields, hardwood, and ice. What is decidedly un-sports bar-like is the alcohol selection, which features 23 flavors of schnapps. No average little sports joint buried in the back of an innocuous strip mall carries this varied a stock of liquor: eighteen kinds of rum, sixteen single-malt scotches, and how about a different shot of tequila each day for more than three weeks? Quality comfort food is plentiful, which is all a true sports fan experiencing hunger pangs really wants. A clear message of Corbett's priorities also can be found in the beer special. Six-dollar pitchers of domestic draft beer are available to softball teams in uniform and to anyone else during hometown-team sporting events. But if you still remain unconvinced of Corbett's sports bona fides, and all those pitchers have warranted a leak, just notice the bands of garish Miami Hurricane orange-and-green tile that the bathroom, er, sports.
Enjoyment of this charming dive bar may be aided by citizenship in a Central American nation. Or by appreciation for soccer, the sport the regulars pile in to watch on the big-screen TV, sitting on wooden benches and listening to the play-by-play on a makeshift SurroundSound system anchored by bullhorns bolted to the ceiling. Yet even someone unfamiliar with the back roads of Tegucigalpa can -- and should -- enjoy the camaraderie, the ice-cold beer, and what we assure you is the best steak sandwich anywhere on the planet.

Best Bar Disguised As A Sailing Yacht

Lola Bar

Lola, light of my night, fire of my martinis. My gin, my elbow. How your bar resembles the beautiful hull of a little wooden ship. How we sail, suspended from the gunwales through the mists that come from the hidden swirls of the DJ-magicians. There is water, water, everywhere, but everyone prefers alcoholic beverages. O Captain! My Captain! We need another round! Exult O pool table and rack O balls! Where lies the land to which yon ship must go? One with no cover charges or attitude from velvet-rope power-trippers. (And these are not the only martinis that we may share, my Lola.)

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®