BEST CLUB TO DIE IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS

Liquid

The legendary fixture of South Beach clubland lore died, again, last fall. Liquid is synonymous with Washington Avenue's glam-slam heyday of the late Nineties, when it sat juxtaposed with the peasantry of a Payless shoe store and the Art Deco all-night supermarket. Back then the cavernous joint pioneered the trance-dance subculture that dominated clubs till just a couple years back. This is where the notorious and the beautiful trick-or-treated under the moonshine magic of the now witness-protected Chris Paciello, the thug-cum-club king and his partner in crime (er ... figuratively speaking) Ingrid Casares, the queen of clubland and at the time Madonna gal pal. The original location on Fourteenth and Washington closed soon after the Paciello crime syndicate debacle, then reopened across the street at Shadow Lounge's old site a year later. But the magic had disappeared, or at least headed down the avenue to Level and across the bay to Space, where the new superclubs have prospered with the image and fare Liquid introduced back in '95. The new club tried to sign heavy-hitting, cutting-edge resident DJs and sapped all the promotional flair Casares and new partners could muster, but to no avail. Liquid has finally faded into nightlife lore.

Given all of Level's recent guises -- live music venue, host to touring theater productions, boxing matches, as well as Bill Clinton and Janet Reno political rallies -- it's easy to forget this cavernous spot is also an old-fashioned nightclub. Thankfully the staff here hasn't neglected to tend to its thumping dance floor amid all this diversification, and for clubbers seeking a hands-in-the-air night out, Level remains a solid weekend bet. A top-notch sound system delivers the beats in stomach-rumbling (but still clear) audio, while the pumping air conditioning ensures you'll be just the right side of sweaty. The second-floor balconies provide for plenty of people watching down below, while the club's bounty of nooks and crannies serve up some semi-secluded spots for when you've gotten your mix 'n' mingling down to a more intimate, ahem, level. True, the six-dollar miniature bottles of water are a bit outrageous. And the egalitarian door policy has more than a few fashionistas turning up their carefully sculpted noses. But an evening of affordable drinks and snobbery-free socializing just wouldn't be very South Beach, now would it?

Readers Choice: crobar

Do not confuse this category with best happy hour. This is about the best drink served at a reduced price. The two-for-one mojitos at C&P House (a.k.a. Condal & Peñamil, Spanish tobacconists), offered from noon to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, crisply suit that definition. The drinks, expertly concocted the labor-intensive way, with all ingredients mixed in the glass, are offered for $7.50. Most notably, no premade lime juice is used. Instead chopped limes are ground with a pestle in your glass. The yerbabuena mint leaves are clipped from fresh bunches kept refrigerated. The bar rum used is the respectable Puerto Rican distillery Castillo. You could request a fancier rum, but it would be a waste given that the ingredients would obliterate the finer points of a sophisticated liquor. Sit out on Lincoln Road and ignore the tourists; take a long sip confident in the knowledge that the next one is not going to cost you a thing.

There is more to the gay party scene in South Florida than the white-centric, steroid-drenched circuit party. Trance music, electronic diva music, and drum and bass get as monotonous and obnoxious as the middle-age muscle clones who haunt the clubs looking to score a gram of Tina. Club Boi, located in the heart of black Miami, just above a ramshackle female strip club, offers a refreshing, if not grittier alternative. Here the bruthas and those who love them party all night on Fridays and Saturdays to the sounds of hip-hop, R&B, house, reggae, and old school. The macho rapper posturing is charming during hip-hop nights and the old-school/house music crowd on Saturdays is among the rockingest parties in town.

Readers Choice: Twist

There is more to the gay party scene in South Florida than the white-centric, steroid-drenched circuit party. Trance music, electronic diva music, and drum and bass get as monotonous and obnoxious as the middle-age muscle clones who haunt the clubs looking to score a gram of Tina. Club Boi, located in the heart of black Miami, just above a ramshackle female strip club, offers a refreshing, if not grittier alternative. Here the bruthas and those who love them party all night on Fridays and Saturdays to the sounds of hip-hop, R&B, house, reggae, and old school. The macho rapper posturing is charming during hip-hop nights and the old-school/house music crowd on Saturdays is among the rockingest parties in town.

Readers Choice: Twist

Tough times in Haiti seem to have spilled into Miami. After the closing of Planet Kreyol in Miami Shores, there are no more exclusively Haitian clubs. What's more, at least one of the places that used to regularly host Haitian music (last year's winner: Spirit Lounge) is now turning to salsa. Luckily the Haitian music scene is still alive and playing at other venues throughout Miami-Dade. Gusto's Bar & Grill on Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami Beach features Haitian musicians on Friday. And Gusto's on NW 79th Court in Miami Lakes presents Haitian music on Saturday. If you still have some energy on Sunday, head for Gemini Night Club in Hollywood.

When a bar racks up as many New Times Best of Miami awards as Fox's has over the years, you have to assume the owners are related to someone at the paper, or some juicehead New Times writer(s) spends a little too much time sucking down booze and basking in the cigarette haze at this South Miami gem. In any case the two-for-one happy hour at Fox's (4:00 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Tuesday and Saturday) is nothing unique; it's the seedy ambiance (more like bankrupt-businessman-drowning-his-sorrows-in-gin seedy than bikers-and-whores-and-Saturday-night-fighting seedy) that keeps you coming back. There is a timeless quality supplied by the big booths, excellent food, and jazz and big band standards on Fox's free jukebox that, combined with the permanent twilight, makes the bar its own reality, a bourbon-scented, melancholic escape pod from the pressing business of everyday life. In other words, the perfect afternoon antidote to the relentless fluorescent lighting of an office, or the rage-inducing rush hour that caps off many an unfulfilling workday. Proprietor George Andrews, who has owned the bar for 36 of its 58 years, says 60 percent of his customers are regulars from the South Miami neighborhood. "It's like a pub-style bar that they'd have up north or in England, where everybody goes to congregate at the end of the day." Because of its proximity to the University of Miami, Fox's also draws plenty of undergrads, gawking and giggling over the retro charm and slurping down happy hour drinks.

You look across the table, and the person across from you smiles. Your date is going well, you think. Take it up a notch! Take it up a level! Take it ...Upstairs at the Van Dyke. Snuggle into a cozy table, grab a martini, and sit back and soak it up. Rub shoulders with your date and the musicians who are just inches away. It's jazz, not at its best, but at its livest. You've scored. Now it's time to take it up one more level ...

As bars go, Beaches, in the dingy basement of a beachside Days Inn, is the opposite of Miami Beach glam, literally the end of the line for evening revelers on the way home (and a symbolic end for the crew of aging alky regulars who sit around the bar, sad and still as empty bottles). But the jukebox kicks ass. The juke at Beaches has everything from soul (best-of-Motown compilations, Marvin Gaye, Barry White) to blues (B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan) to elegant oldies (the Platters, Sinatra, Tony Bennett). The schlock rock (and even the hippest electronica devotee is up for a little Guns N' Roses after a night of alcoholic excess) spans the decades, covering Queen, Bob Seger, George Thorogood, and Creed, and there are classic collections from Bowie, the Stones, and Lennon. There are only a few hip-hop tracks (mostly on "Best of '99"-type compilations), but every other modern music genre is covered.

Readers Choice: Foxs Sherron Inn

This is a weirdly cool place. The dim lighting, black paint peeling off the walls, and wobbly stage decorated by guitars, horns, and drum sets sit in stark contrast to the bright and busy milieu just outside on Collins Avenue. The portraits on the wall pay homage to recording stars of yesteryear, Elvis, Dean, and Frank among others, but the spotlight glares mostly for young hipsters prodded into belting out popular tunes as recent as 50 Cent's "In Da Club." The best time to visit is in the wee hours of the morning. You'll hear the strained crooning even before you enter; that's when hopped-up club hoppers usually drop in to see if they can be an American Idol, even if it's just in front of friends and barflies. Speaking of American Idols, last year's runner-up, Justin Guarini, is a regular there. He likes to show off and without Kelly or Simon around, he's always the best in the room. The true draw, though, are the drunken buffoons who muddle the spelled-out words to "Red, Red Wine." Don't be afraid to get up onstage. You might sound as good as you do in the shower. Ronnie, the Regis look-alike at the helm of the PA system, takes requests -- but don't be pushy, he can be a little impatient with rabble-rousers.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®