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.
Since opening in April 2000 in downtown Miami, Club Space has lured throngs of South Beach regulars across the causeway. Created from four warehouses, Space, true to its name, offers more than 9000 square feet of dance floor. The door staff -- firm, polite, and unhindered by the essential Beach ego -- remains as cool as the cavernous joint, which stays chilled even when fully packed, thanks to a powerful air-conditioning unit. Developing a reputation for importing internationally known DJ talent for special events, the club hosted the URB magazine/Giant Step party during this year's Winter Music Conference, where Roni Size, the undisputed King of Jungle, kicked his dirty beats for a capacity crowd. A 24-hour liquor license ensures never-ending festivities. This March Space's first neighborhood competitor, Fuel, debuted. Time will tell if downtown has space enough for two.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®