It started in 1946 as a bait shack. Then it began serving fish sandwiches. Then the menu expanded. Then the bait was phased out and a bar added. Today the bar is still there. So is the food. And so is the Old Cracker spirit of the original establishment launched by Anne Gordon. Her late son Mike didn't change much in the many years he ran the place, and his offspring decided to leave well enough alone. Smart. So there it endures, a long memory hunkered down hard by the Intracoastal on the north side of the 79th Street Causeway. To walk inside is to step back in time. The walls of knotty pine. The old photos here and there. The views out over the water. The feeling that you're always welcome here, no matter who you are, what your age, what time of day, what day of the week. Amble up to the bar in the front room, grab a stool, and ponder the possibilities. Martini? Manhattan? Whiskey neat? You could while away hours here watching the sky go from blue to black. People have been doing it for more than half a century.
Tuna's has been described as North Miami-Dade's best-kept secret. Its bar certainly is underappreciated, a neighborhood tavern in a community forced to gather on the neon strip of Biscayne Boulevard. By opening outward onto Maule Lake Marina, Tuna's waterfront views manage to convey some of the beauty that brought so many of us down here in the first place. Tuna's hops to a lively happy hour while the sun sets on boats sailing up the Intracoastal. Late into the night live music inspires dancing both inside and outside on the patio. Couples canoodle in quiet spaces tucked here and there. The restaurant serves fresh fish and stone crabs (in season) to those in search of a good meal. Best of all, the bar stays open until 2:00 a.m., which, in this neck of the woods, is way late. Let the secret escape.
A big, sturdy mahogany bar, handsome wood interiors, and Diana Krall on the sound system lends Jake's a New York ambiance. Or the wide-open space of the place, the booths along one wall, and a pool table can make you think Old Florida. Whatever. Local restaurateur Patrick Gleber -- he also owns Tobacco Road and Fishbone Grille -- says he has tried to create a place where you might stop in for a drink and stay for dinner. The menu offers reasonably priced comfort food -- meat loaf, for example, or a sixteen-ounce strip steak for $11.99. On tap: Bass, Guinness, and Sierra Nevada for about $3.50 a pint, or a dollar less than that during daily happy hour, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. On Thursdays a DJ spins jazz, and brunch is served on Sundays.
The Bohemian barrio of Wynwood keeps burgeoning, thanks to the efforts of people like Mario Irusta, who has brought a kind of noir whimsy to the neighborhood with this place. He derived the seemingly random name from an old shopping mall called Ten Last Shoes he happened upon years ago in a one-street town in Nevada. Irusta, who hails from Bolivia, has drawn an eclectic crowd to this popular Honduran hangout by presenting karaoke on Tuesdays and hip instrumental DJ sounds on Fridays. On other days it's a laid-back neo-cantina where the clack of pool balls mixes with the strains of crooner Luis Miguel, salsera Olga Tañon, and rockers Pearl Jam emanating from the jukebox.
This big, often teeming room is a popular oasis for Doral area denizens and has the community feel of a European beer hall. Watch televised sports, play pool and foosball, or heck, talk to your Doralian neighbors (or new acquaintances, since this part of town is ever-more packed with newcomers from South and Central America). The U-shaped bar seems half a kilometer long, which is good because that means ample points of access even during the hustle and bustle of happy hour. The bartenders will rattle off more domestic and import draft beers than you can shake a stick at. And the liquor choices are abundant, right down to the single-malt Scotches. Order from the quality raw bar and you just might make some new friends. Last call is 1:30 a.m. every night.
This veteran steak house may look stiff and formal, and the patrons may appear stuffy and overfed. But if you think that's all there is to this place, then you haven't been downstairs and outside, where an oceanfront bar serves a group of regulars who arrive in shorts and, well, usually leave in them, too. A big destination for South Beach restaurant-industry personnel, here many of the patrons and staff are on a first-name, first-serve basis. Indeed in the best of traditions, this is the kind of neighborhood bar where everybody really does know your name -- and your business -- at least until the third round or so, that is.
It would have been easy to go to South Beach or the Grove with this category, two areas filthy with gin joints and beer halls, all staffed by popular, and always busy, pourers and shakers. But because those who sit and wait also serve, we've decided instead to acknowledge the grunts, those bartenders who are the backbone of South Florida's -- and America's -- saloon industry. Bartenders like Maria Lara, who, day after day, flicks the lights on at the Roof Top Lounge, an eighth-floor hotel bar with a spectacular wraparound view of the Miami and Miami Beach skylines, a pretty little island bar in the middle of the room, and empty chairs. Lots and lots of empty chairs. It's not Maria's fault. The Howard Johnson Hotel in which the bar is located just isn't the kind of place people off the street wander into. Guests are mostly families on vacation or conventioneers with busy schedules. Get the picture? Not exactly the New York City subway at rush hour. But Maria opens the doors most every day at 3:00 p.m. and leaves them open till about 11:00 p.m., later if anybody has a hankering to keep drinking or talking. She mixes a mean Manhattan and, if you ask real nice, she might even let you pop a cassette from your pocket into the house stereo. So to her and to all others like her, we say: Thanks for always leaving a light on.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®