Luna Star Cafe
The what-ifs are haunting. They say you have a beautiful voice. That you can dance. That you're really funny. Are you truly an undiscovered star? Whether it's music, dance, theater, or comedy, get over the stage fright and test your material before a live audience. Miami is not, for sure, New York, but at least we have Luna Star's open mike twice a month (every second and fourth Saturday, beginning at 8:00 p.m.). "It's a free-for-all. Music, poetry, comedy. You can do whatever you want," says owner Alexis Sanfield. It's also first come, first served. Put your name on the list early -- because roughly seven to nine performers get a shot each night. Good news for newbies: The audience is very supportive. No boo birds at Luna. And even if you bomb, you can drown your sorrows in one of Luna's 100 beers. Prices range from $3 bottles of Rolling Rock to a Belgian for $17.
The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami
Tucked away inside the posh architecture of the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, you'll spy a thatched hut that's light years away from the kind of prissy sensibility one might expect from such a fancy-pants hotel. Cantina Beach feels like a different key than Biscayne. After a decadent evening of tequila shots, passion fruit margaritas, and freshly made guacamole at this oceanfront restaurant, you just might begin thinking you've crossed the Seven Mile Bridge and gone to Key West. The view of the Atlantic is breathtaking, the décor is to die for, and the menu offers 50 different tequilas. Ay, caramba! A lush could get into a world of trouble in a place as wonderful as this one.
It's almost 7:30 p.m. You've just spent the past two-and-a-half hours stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95, the Golden Glades Interchange, and the Palmetto Expressway. You're only minutes away from your two-story condo in Miami Lakes. But as you exit at Miami Lakes Drive, you find yourself driving into the Royal Oaks Plaza shopping center lot. You park your car and stroll into the Billiard Club, where James the bartender is already pouring you a tall, cold glass of your favorite pilsner. At the end of the bar, a group of lovely suburban honeys takes full advantage of ladies' night, ordering free cocktails as if drinking were going out of style. Bon Jovi, Posion, and other memorable big-hair bands blare from the jukebox. Some of your neighbors are there too, challenging you to a game of pool or darts. The loser has to mow the winner's lawn for the next two weeks.
Darts are not a mere parlor game for you. You have strong opinions about the great steel versus soft tip debate. You worship Bob "The Limestone Cowboy" Anderson and Eric Bristow. And you practice. Hence it pains you to see a bunch of chuckers throwing all over the clock. As a member of the Miami-Dade Darting Association, you need a serious dart and a serious board. Tom's NFL Club doesn't mess around: It boasts two British-made dart boards, with a proper green chalkboard for scoring. And it obeys the first two rules of the game: First, no mixing of darts with other parlor games. Darts are in a nice carpeted corner, away from TV sets and pool. Second, don't give the drunken man easy access to the darts. To get steel tips at Tom's, you need to ask. Dartspeople who use performance enhancement should take note: Tom's happy hour, 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. weeknights, offers domestic drafts for two bucks.
Glance through the glass door in the Sweetwater strip mall, and you see a couple of videogames and a bar in the background. Nothing to get excited about. But once you enter Inside Billiards, some kind of Narnian transformation occurs: You just keep walking and walking, and the back wall gets farther away, until the room opens up into a huge, high-ceiling hall ringed with television sets and filled with rows of well-kept, full-size pool tables. Rates are reasonable: Tables cost $9.90 per hour for two people, and everyone playing pool gets free beer Wednesday and Thursday nights. Inside Billiards is open daily from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
The River Seafood & Oyster Bar
You know you have found a true neighborhood spot the second all but one of the people perched on bar stools admit they live less than ten blocks away. Do these River regulars realize how lucky they are? Not just because this cozy gem is located virtually on their doorstep, but because they have the option of walking here -- and navigating the maze of one-way streets in a car is not fun. Nonetheless pull up a seat at the oversize wrap-around mahogany bar, and any incurred driving drama will soon dissipate -- a little faster if you make it in time for happy hour (Monday through Saturday from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m.). That roughly translates to $5 glasses of wine (more than twenty are offered), $5 Fris martinis, and of course an impressive selection of half-price, succulently fresh oysters (beginning at 80 cents each). If you're hungering for something more substantial, the kitchen dishes up a varied selection of reasonably priced plates to satiate even the most refined palate; our faves include steamed Mediterranean mussels in coconut milk ($14), sea scallop tiradito ($9), and whole yellowtail snapper served with pigeon pea rice and coconut spinach ($22). But at the end of the day -- when River really packs 'em in -- this is one of those places where everyone may not necessarily know your name, but tell the friendly bartender/manager/server just once, and he or she will remember. Cheers!
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
The city skyline, glowing in the late afternoon sun, seems almost within reach. It's just beyond the lip of the elegant little infinity pool here. So sit back in a lounge chair, sip your gin and tonic, and relax. For an upscale hotel, the Mandarin Oriental's poolside bar is refreshingly low-key. Children splash around, gray-haired men flip through newspapers, and various body shapes lie about. Tito, one of the bartenders here, will make you a potent litchi colada, the bar's specialty, or any of an assortment of frozen drinks. If you're craving something to eat, there's a sushi and sashimi bar as well as a full menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads. It's on the pricey side, but the splurge is worth it, especially when you discover the private beach just steps away. Take your drink down to this sandy, tree-shaded oasis full of lounge chairs and hammocks. Watch the light glitter on the bay, glance over at the city skyline, and feel a million miles away. The bar is open until 5:00 p.m. weekdays, until 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. weekends. Drinks range from $5 for a beer to $12 for a frozen drink. The hotel's M Bar, which has outdoor seating above the pool area, is open until midnight weekdays and 1:00 a.m. weekends.
WRGP, the Florida International University student radio station, broadcasts out of South Miami-Dade and has a fairly weak signal. But it's worth the extra effort to tune in (or visit it online). Along with great reggae programming, the station has the same element that makes many college stations great: music geeks. Full-time straight-up retro-Adidas-wearing, shag-haircut-sporting college kids who want nothing more than to dig through every singles bin in every secondhand store and wade through every free music Website so you don't have to.
Zeke's Roadhouse
Even as Lincoln Road began to descend into ultrahipness in the late Nineties, Zeke's was one of the places to escape the madness. The comfortable crowd, extensive beer selection, and low prices made it the place to be for those who didn't care about being in the Place To Be. Then -- suddenly -- it closed. Victor Deutsch, who owned and ran the bar along with his mother Thelma, simply shut it down. "My son closed it, and I had the intention to reopen right away, but I had to tend to a sick family member," says Thelma. Rather than sell the valuable property, Thelma held on and reopened this past November. "Now it's open again, and everybody is enjoying it," she says. "The community needed a place like this -- laid-back, low price, no pressure."
Churchill's Pub
Alexander Oliva
It's been said there is an inverse correlation between the quality of a rock club and the condition of its bathrooms. The less toilet paper present, the more bands onstage. If this theory proves correct, Churchill's has definitely earned this award. It's one of the few (if not only) venues in town where one can rock out almost every night of the week and, now that Sweat Records set up shop in the back room, one of the only places to purchase indie tunes. Every act on the bill may not sound like Led Zeppelin or the Killers, but this Miami institution has always made a conscious effort to support local musicians, whether they're playing their first gig or they've been around as long as the bar's potpies.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®