A good neighborhood bar is just as appealing to folks from afar as it is to round-the-way regulars. Hooligan's is that kind of neighborhood bar. College kids from all over town converge on the sports bar on hump day, where the gals really do get wild, up onstage or up on chairs and sometimes just up on anything. Watching sporting events at this joint is second only to being at the game in person. Two theater-size screens broadcast main events, and more than fifteen smaller televisions line the walls of the entire bar/grill. There's a pool hall in the back and an arcade. Of course there are happy-hour specials, a beer stock full of imports, and the best conch fritters this side of Key West.

Readers Choice: Hooligans Pub & Oyster Bar

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.

Something always seems to be going these days at the former working-class dive once known as Two Last Shoes. Late last November a group of young guns (including one simply named Phoenix) took over, rechristened, renovated, and energized the space -- and kept the drinks at a reasonable price. The Honduran and Mexican tunes emanating from the jukebox may be a relic of the past, but an eclectic mix of music (live and from DJs) still fills the two floors. Local crews present hip-hop, open-mike, and MC battles each Thursday. During Hot Pants Fridays, DJs Seamstar and Jel-O, and occasionally Le Spam, bring in the funk while Goth nights Pitch Black and the Industrial Ball go on respectively the first and last Friday of the month. Long-time Goth party The Kitchen Club takes place upstairs on Saturdays while downstairs retro evening RealCoolTime offers a mix of Sixties soul, R&B, and garage plus the sporadic guest DJ spinning surf, exotica, Brit pop, and punk. RealCoolTime also has presented a live show or two featuring indie bands such as the Lyres and the Immortal Lee County Killers.

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

After being bounced from venue to venue for a year and a half, Revolver promoter Josh Menendez scouted out the Design District's Soho Lounge, and since last August, its two stories have provided a happy home for all manner of fresh sonic options. Serving up dance music you won't hear anywhere else in town -- from off-kilter electronica to New Wave obscurities -- to a crowd who actually loves to dance to it all, Revolver has become an obvious Friday-night destination. Add in frequent live shows from bands who never previously toured through Miami, free street parking, and one of the few scenes where gay and straight clubbers mix, and you've got a crucial new addition to local nightlife. And even with the capacity crowds now packing out his party, Menendez has kept the prices reasonable, his patrons' posing at an entertaining minimum, and the overall vibe more inspiring than anything on the Beach -- or around the rest of the city, for that matter.

Van Dyke Cafe
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 ...

"Hey, what's up? Yeah, I know the place. It's cool. Shoot some pool, chill to some funky world lounge in one of the plushy chairs or couch. No, no, there are several tables inside and outside too, and of course the bar. What kind? Usually some Argentineans, Anglos, Cubans, Haitians, blacks -- well, I guess just about every kind. Hmmm, hard to say. Artists, musicians, writers, designers -- you know. The owners? They're always milling about, like it's their party. Maybe there'll be a live band or a DJ, pretty fine stuff. No way, save your appetite, the food is awesome, or you can have an incredible cheese plate. Actually, one of the jamming parties there is the Sunday brunch. One thing, make sure you check out the bathrooms, decorated by artist Charo Oquet, they're even cooler than the décor in the main room. It's like on a neighborhood street just north of the Design District, kinda feels like you're just going to a friend's house. Don't know. Probably when the last soul decides to call it a night." Open 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. (officially) Tuesday through Thursday; till midnight (officially) Friday and Saturday.

Readers Choice: Tobacco Road

First there were the glory years in that wonderful hole in the wall on Calle Ocho, when the beautiful boys in Grupo Nostalgia used to jam till dawn with whatever master musician was in town, and Matt Dillon took to running around in a guayabera, smoking tabaco. Then there were the glamorous if not so glorious couple of years annexed to Jimmy'z at the Forge in Miami Beach, with film premieres and full-on concerts by Latin jazz greats, and really, really expensive drinks. The likes of Marc Anthony and Celia Cruz and James Olmos still stopped in, but the boys in the band began to look a little haggard. Even the unflappable Pepe Horta, proprietor and brainchild of the first two incarnations, grew tired and threatened to retire to Paris. And then there were those brief few months on the Miami River, with a boatload of investment capital breathing new life into Pepe's smile. And Yenyere, a new bunch of beautiful kids on the bandstand, breathing new life into the multimillion-dollar dance space that had earlier opened and closed under the name Rio. But by then Miami's love affair with postrevolutionary, pre-special-period Havana was over. Or maybe Miami's love affair with post-special-period Miami was over. Whatever the reason for the empty dance floor and the empty bar, our nostalgia for Nostalgia lives on.

You're cruising south on U.S. 1, just past the new Home Depot in North Miami, when you see it: a pearl-white Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, glistening under the neon beer signs of a nondescript storefront. That would be The Uke. Inside, a group of aging easy riders are knocking back cold Buds and reminiscing about their track-and-field days at North Miami Senior High School. Their ladies play a game of eight-ball on a cherry-red pool table while Hank Williams, Jr., emanates from the jukebox. Out back, two guys wearing Latin Motorcycle Club jackets roar their hogs to life and disappear into the night.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®