BEST MARTINI 2002 | Joe Allen | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Restaurateur Joe Allen, who operates dining establishments in Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Miami Beach, knows his way around a bar. In January 1999, nine months after his popular local eatery opened, he told the Herald's Meg Laughlin: "Life is a cruel joke. But less cruel and more of a joke when you're in a good bar." Of course his casually sophisticated Miami Beach outpost is more than just a bar. It's a darn good restaurant too. Which is essential in our reckoning of the best places to find well-made martinis. This is axiomatic: The better the restaurant, the better the martini. In Joe Allen's case, that formula has the added advantage of specific instructions in the preparation of this most stylish and delicate of cocktails. Those instructions come from Mr. Allen's very active partner in the Beach venture, Mario Rubeo, who practically lives at the restaurant, greets every regular by name, and also knows his way around a bar. Here's the Joe Allen/Mario Rubeo secret recipe: Fill a glass shaker to the top with ice. Pour in six ounces of liquor (only heathens ask for anything but top-shelf gin) and no more than a whiff of extra-dry vermouth if requested. Take two long-handled metal spoons and begin mashing the ice, up and down. Do this with gusto for approximately ten seconds. In the process the spoons splinter off chips of ice that melt into the liquor and chill it simultaneously. After ten seconds the ice will be somewhat compacted. Top off the shaker with fresh ice, cover with a strainer, and pour into a chilled cone. The fresh ice provides a second cooling filter for the liquid without diluting it. Bits of the chipped ice will float to the top in a light, crusty sheen. Add the desired garnish and serve immediately. At Joe Allen this splendor in the glass will set you back $9.75 for premium liquor or $7.75 poured from the well.

There are two ways to survive as a tourist-town bar: specialize in one thing or cut loose and try everything. SoBe staple Twist unloads the queer-club crate when delivering its weekly party favors. Be it billiards in the lounge, a variety of DJs handling multiple dance floors, impromptu drag queens, or fresh eye candy, this watering hole is a tropical spa for locals and tourists needing the place to soothe before or after emptying their pockets at the cover-charge clubs. Often peaking around 3:00 a.m., its location is choice for those up to doing the town properly. With great drink specials, a friendly and competent bar staff, more rooms than most know about, and a variety of hired strippers at the Bungalow Bar, Twist is a great turn on the gay-circuit map.
All right, so their Sunday-night lesbian party, Purdy Girl, fizzled. That doesn't mean this funky joint lacks that estrogen-to-estrogen thing. Any Miami lesbian worth her MAC lipstick knows that if she's going to look for a chica, she's gotta deal with bi-girls. And Purdy, with its couches full of adventurous young women, screams Anne Heche. So if you're bored with nesting and want to satisfy a girl's curiosity, check out this lava-lamp lounge. Be assured, young lipstick lesbians, your main competition lies in the grown-up frat boys who don't know nearly as much about women as you do. And if you do get something going with a nice and naughty girl, Frankie and Johnny's, a friendly gay bar, is just around the corner.

Young unemployed hipster, you who've been pink-slipped from that career that promised to shoot you forever upward, there's no need to drink alone. Come to the place that promises skin and sin and delusion with the glow of its pink neon and cheerful surfer murals. The Bikini Bar beckons you into its mirthful malaise, but be aware that anything can happen within its North Beach confines. You may fall in love with one of the gorgeous barmaids who hail from Cali or Caracas. You might comfort a leathery one-eyed Cuban who cries on your shoulder, or you could just as easily duke it out with a sunburned Russian. But don't let the stone-faced macho posturing of this little joint fool you. This is just about the friendliest and most colorful place to enjoy a two-dollar Bud Light, guilt-free, after cashing that unemployment check. Located in the heart of what is known as Little Buenos Aires, you can bet you'll find a scrawny Argentine with hungry eyes to accompany you in a toast to the good old days when you had insurance. And with all the business that goes on in the bar's dark corners, you just may be on the -- ahem -- career track again.

Residents of the nearby neighborhoods hear the unmistakable sound every Thursday night. The vroom, vroom, vroom of motorcycles -- from lightning-fast Japanese models to lumbering Harley-Davidsons -- roaring their way down Bird Road toward, of all places, La Carreta Restaurant. It's there, in the parking lot, that bikers of all ages congregate from 9:00 p.m. until sometimes 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning -- not for drinking or carousing but for socializing. Anybody who rides is welcome. While it's not a club, some members of local motorcycle organizations attend. Begun with two or three enthusiasts around 1996, the group attracts scores of cycling aficionados who talk about everything from parts to politics. Lately the large number of bikes has forced them across the street to an expansive empty parking lot, but if among all the chatting, hunger or thirst happens to strike, satisfaction is just a few steps away.
It's Tuesday. Concert canceled. Need to hear some music. Need a beer. Need to park. Need to park for free. Need to dive into some fries. Need not to be alone. Tobacco Road. It doesn't matter if it's Wednesday or Friday either. There isn't another place in town you can be guaranteed all the above every night -- when that other thing falls through. Whatever the night, you'll likely bump into someone you know. You'll hear rock and Latin and folk. You'll have your choice of outdoor or indoor seating. You'll get a really good hamburger. You'll be fine.

Photo courtesy of Shuckers Bar & Grill
Let's say you've been chasing some official or politician all day and you find yourself dazed on the 79th Street Causeway, and the sun is setting, the sweat is staining your car seat gray, and you just cock your wheel onto the parking lot and crunch onto the gravel. A long, cool vista past the Best Western to a kind of ship motif on the rear wharf. Blond girls with long legs who've flunked the Hooters test but are all the friendlier for it. A thick English pub glass slick with red hot sauce, black pepper, a crunchy green celery stalk, and holy vodka. There's one waitress who'll even crack an egg in there so you won't feel you're just drinking. They won't do that on South Beach.
On Saturday nights the microphone stands open until the last poet drops. And what the street wordsmiths throw down is nothing short of a verbal pipe bomb -- homemade and packed with angst, sexual longing, and political rage. Billed as a night of poetry for the strong and conscious soul, this poetry jam often goes until 5:00 a.m., the evening suffused with the sweet smell of incense, vegetarian soul food, and a bazaar of scented oils and artwork for sale. Musicians take the stage between poets, and often improvise in the background during a reading. If you are burning with a message, this would be the place to release it to the universe.

Mary Klein, wife of Mac Klein, owner of the famed Mac's Club Deuce in South Beach, creates a social atmosphere like an English pub (Piccadilly's dark-wood, ornate interior even looks like a pub). That means you're quickly taken into the group: beauteous, hip Debra Douglas, the legendary former 1800 Club bartender; Karen Oltan, whose wicked humor and leather pants break hearts nightly; Rosie Hayes, the brilliant Kenyan hostess; and Linda Kaehler, the late-night bartender who will serve you beer and cosmopolitans and tell you about Hans Mancuse, the German former owner/cook, whose ghost still haunts the place. "No wind outside, chandelier starts swinging; pan of wrapped lasagna in the kitchen -- one neat square cut out! You switch off the lights, leave, and from outside you see a light go back on. Laugh if you will!" Soon you're part of all of this: smart women, great food, stiff drinks, and theater in a side room starting July 4.

Alexander Oliva
Churchill's has been our winner over and over and over again, and we don't care if the sound system sucks or people get jacked in the parking lot or that the worst imaginable musicians play here as often as they want to. Some of the very best musicians play here too, from psychobilly fiends Southern Culture on the Skids to the rockabilly filly Rosie Flores. They come here for the same reason we do. It's dirty. It's dicey. It's democratic (if that's the word for it). It's owner Dave Daniels. It's chicks wrestling in Jell-O. It's rock and roll.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®