La Covacha is Spanish for "The Shack," which is fitting, because this Latin dance club in Doral is, well, a big-ass shack. The only difference between this oversize tiki hut and your typical shanty is that this one tends to draw hordes that are willing to stand behind a velvet rope and wait in a line to get in. Waiting to get into a shack? Velvet rope? Once you're in on a Friday night, between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., it'll all make sense. The shack is actually a huge club space, where the whole crowd dances, hot and sweaty, to the sounds of live superstars like Andrea Echeverri, local Latin rock bands, or one of the many regular DJs who spin anything Latin and danceable. Even if you move like a complete idiot, the crowd is so large and the environment so friendly you'll feel totally unselfconscious (a couple of the happy-hour drinks will help too). If you get hungry from all the booty-shaking, La Covacha's full kitchen offers traditional Cuban cuisine. The cover is $10, and you must be 21 or older.
On the Rocks Bar
Photo by Keara O'Neil
Even those blessed with an ironclad constitution will find themselves hacking from the stench of spilled booze and cigarette smoke ripening this dimly lighted joint. And that's while standing on the sidewalk before venturing inside. This seedy storefront establishment may not be much to look at, and those tarantulas and hedgehogs displayed in the pet-shop window next door do pass for kissing kin to regulars at the watering hole, but then you ask yourself: Why is it always packed? Hungry? Forget about it. Feel like dancing? Stay away. Lost the job and want to drown your sorrows with that last ten spot before hitting the skids? Cheer up -- the hooch fairy always smiles on the piss broke at this throwback paradise for the down and out. Best of all, this dive is open 21 hours a day. Day in and day out the Rock serves up three well drinks or domestic beers for five bucks a batch until 8:00 p.m. and at a cheaper-than-fuel $2.50 each after that. The place draws a mixed crowd -- from your pickled zombies, to your natty business dudes stretching the budget to make alimony payments, to the rare fading beauty scoping you out with her twitchy come-hither gaze. A half-dozen TV sets and sports fans ready to scrap over stats at the blow of a whistle keep the din deafening. An occasional raid or a panhandler cozying up for a free beer adds to the decidedly skeevy charm. It's difficult to think of anywhere else in town where you can be a good sport and buy a stranger a round with your last dime, and maybe for all the down-at-the-heels patina, that's why the Rock keeps reeling them in.
Where else in Miami can you strap on your character shoes and castanet the night away with Sevillian flair not once, not twice, but three times per week? For years the quaint Spanish tavern has put on its fabled House of Flamenco nights Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. At 8:30 and then again at 10:30 p.m. you can watch the stomping or even pound your little corazón out. But don't get up if you have two left feet; otherwise a wily dancer might rope you into the performance. To keep the good vibes going, try the knockout, not-too-sweet sangria. And to keep your strength up, choose from an array of Spanish delights -- from tender paella to juicy, garlicky shrimp. The biggest feast here, though, is a ravishing display for the eyes and ears: powerful vibratos from the singers, soulful guitar work from musicians such as Paco Fonta, and passionate, fierce footwork spilling out from under skirts' lollipop swirls. Olé!
Twist
E.M.
Girrrrrl, don't start spiraling and spilling your cosmo, because Twist won again! Have you checked out the competition recently? Seriously, give us a venue that can out-fab this legendary labyrinth of all things gay and we will happily give her a twirl. But as far as we are concerned, this South Beach staple is the reigning queen of the gay bar scene. What other place -- for the price of, well, nothing, because Twist never charges a cover -- delivers seven bars that span two floors? Not to mention a bountiful bevy of hunks. But the drama-free door policy is not what packs the fellas in night after night: Try two-for-one beverages on Thursdays; Friday's parade of sexy bods shedding their layers and flexing their assets in the Cabana Bar in back (fondly referred to as the dollar store, uh hum!); a game room complete with pool tables should you feel the urge to partake of some testosterone-induced sporting action; female impersonators, including the infamous Adora; a hip-hop room; and drinks served in real glassware (not plastic cups like some places we know whose patrons cannot be trusted with glass for fear they might cut their knees, if you know what we mean). Open seven days a week from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., Twist -- unlike many of Miami's gay bars -- also encourages something near and dear to almost every gay man's heart: the fag-hag. And in the words of Margaret Cho, we were there for you at prom and we are still here now. So order us another cosmo and meet us in the dollar store. Mama's going window shopping, sweetie!
Fritz & Franz Bierhaus
It normally strikes around October. But sometimes it happens, unexpectedly, in the summer: "Edelweiss" starts buzzing in your inner ear, an intense yearning for a juicy bratwurst, and a pint of frothy German beer. To cope with such cravings, head to Coral Gables. Okay, the Gables doesn't have even the faintest whiff of Munich or Bonn. But simply enter the cheery Fritz and Franz Bierhaus. Here German entrepreneur Harald Neuweg has created a nice little haven for expats of the Faderland. Affordable, tasty food includes: bratwurst ($4.25), stuffed cabbage ($14.95), schnitzel dinner ($16.95). Most important, though, is das bier. Dinkelbach, Paulaner, Tucher, Warsteiner -- Fritz and Franz has more than fifteen options daily. You can treat yourself and crew with the two-liter Harry's Biermaschine ($25.00), or a standard run stein of pilsner ($9.95). Or, for your designated driver, the girly stein is $3.75. Also you can watch the Bundesliga (German football league) at Fritz and Franz for maximum Deutsch-ness.
For five dollars (zilch if you're a museum member), you can drink from a well-stocked open bar, pick at tasty hors d'oeuvres (e.g., chicken satay and prosciutto-wrapped melon) proffered by roving waiters, take in live music or a DJ, and chat with artsy people. As if that weren't enough of a draw, the event, which goes down the third Thursday of the month from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m., is held on the breezy Philip Johnson-designed plaza outside the museum. It's one of the best deals in town.
Van Dyke Cafe
Although you can catch jazz at various locations around the city these days, there's only one place to hear consistently high-caliber jazz every night of the week. Upstairs at the Van Dyke, an institution since its birth along with the Van Dyke Café in 1994, continues to wow crowds with a well-rounded lineup of talented players who come from around the globe and span styles from samba to Southern roots. In addition to out-of-towners such as the legendary Slide Hampton, Eddie Henderson, Frank Wess, James Moody, and Randy Brecker, Upstairs features a rotating cast of regulars such as Sammy Figueroa and His Latin Jazz Explosion, Grammy-winning jazz violinist Federico Britos, and recent additions singers LeNard Rutledge and Beatriz Malnic. Don Wilner, former principal bassist for the Miami City Ballet and well-respected jazz man in his own right, runs the joint and sits in frequently. Wilner attributes the club's success to its "happy medium" of avant-garde and straight-ahead jazz, its location in the popular Van Dyke Café on heavily trafficked Lincoln Road, and the unfailing support of café owner Mark Soyka. Jazz aficionados can order from the café's full menu, with appetizers such as bruschetta, crabcakes, and quesadillas from $6.75 to $14; entrées such as fresh ravioli, poached salmon, and goat cheese pizza from $9.25 to $24.75; sandwiches; burgers; and a full bar. Unlike many live music venues in Miami, the cover charge is modest and there is no drink minimum. "Basically I think all we're trying to do is get the music paid for," Wilner says. Shows begin at 9:00 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and midnight. Sundays through Thursdays the cover is $6; it's $11 Fridays and Saturdays. Check the online calendar for upcoming shows and special events.
The great thing about Jazzumentary, which you can hear from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. every weekday on 88.9 FM, is that it changes format, rotating one of five different syndicated shows every day. On Mondays, it's Portraits in Blue, hosted by famed blues producer Bob Porter, who will enlighten you with his vast knowlege of lesser-known blues greats like ZZ Hill and early rock and rollers like Fats Domino. Tuesdays it's The Humble Farmer, which showcases jazz from the Twenties to the Fifties, music you might hear over the opening credits of a Woody Allen movie, like the sounds of Bob Wilber or Django Reinhardt. The witty volunteer host, Robert Skoglund, is full of observations and stories, some of which are about the music, many of which are about his trying to lose weight or something he saw on Good Morning America. Wednesdays it's JazzSet, a mix of classic and contemporary jazz, hosted by Grammy- and Tony-winning jazz vocalist Deedee Bridgewater. Bridgewater showcases greats like Count Basie and the Wynton Marsalis Septet. Thursdays is the Peabody-winning program Jazz from Lincoln Center in New York, which features exclusive live concerts from America's premier jazz performance series, as well as special guests. The Lincoln Center concerts are organized by Wynton Marsalis and are hosted for broadcast by 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley. Every Friday "Listen Here!" comes live from Chicago, with all the latest jazz releases. The hosts are Mark Ruffin, an Emmy-winning jazz correspondent for Artbeat Chicago on WTTW-TV, jazz editor for Chicago Magazine, music editor for the alternative weekly N'Digo, and a producer of jazz recordings and events; and Neil Tesser, a former adjunct professor in jazz history at Northwestern University.
The American Legion Harvey W. Seeds Post 29
Half of this CD jukebox's playlist is what you would expect in an American Legion hall, generally a venue occupied by octogenarians. Thus the juke is well stocked with crooners (Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are here) and country standards (Merle Haggard and Hank Willams make appearances). But the surprising thing is its eclecticism. Perhaps because this Legion hall is only one of two open to the public, there are some uncharacteristic choices, like R.E.M.'s greatest hits, Modest Mouse, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Pixies. There's even a Funk's Greatest Hits CD (check out the look on the geezer at the bar when "Atomic Dog" starts up).
If you are going to get up on a stage and sing Dolly Parton's "Jolene" in front of 250 people, you want it to be the right kind of environment. You want bawdy but not loud. And while a part of you wants the crowd to watch, it's something of a relief to see them distracted in a game of pool. Most of all, you want cocktails, and you want them cheap. Our Place has this and more. Its karaoke nights on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday attract one of the most diverse crowds in town, ready to belt out hits in English and Spanish. Most drinks are less than $4, and Thursday is two-for-one for the ladies. Releasing your inner Celine Dion is free.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®