Jake's Bar
Don't be fooled by the name of this establishment. Back in 2001, it was known as Jake's Bar and Grill, a deliberately dim, plush place across the street from Sunset Place that offered a pool table and killer steak at a great price. Now they've lost the "and grill." This might give a passerby the impression that Jake's is nothing more than a typical bar, with customers lined three deep clamoring for drinks, and walls bedecked with flat-screen TV sets. But it ain't. What sounds like it should be a down-home neighborhood joint is actually an elegant, wood-floored restaurant that specializes in new American cuisine and serves fabulous drinks at reasonable prices. The happy hour specials at Jake's are so good that you could pretend that you're just going there for drinks. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can belly up for three-dollar draft brewskis and four-dollar well cocktails. Then there's dinner. Every meal begins with a basket of truly remarkable bread — a mini loaf of warm whole wheat, and four hearty triangles of show-stopping jalapeño cornbread. Each bite is a spicy-sweet revelation. Begin with an appetizer. They start at seven bucks for barbecue basil shrimp with apple-wood-smoked, bacon-roasted sweet corn relish, to $12 for the ahi poke with cucumber relish. Then you can sate your hunger with a healthy salad or satisfying burger. (The Cowboy comes piled high with apple-wood-smoked bacon, barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, and Vermont cheddar. It costs $10.) Or you can man up for Patrick's Special, a hand-cut, sixteen-ounce, dry-rubbed New York strip served with two sides. Get the spicy mac and cheese. For those who like their bar food as fancy as it gets, Jake's also offers macadamia-nut-crusted snapper, roasted Caribbean seafood stew, and duck three ways: a heaving plate of five-spice-lacquered duck breast, duck salad, and a crispy duck spring roll served with soy glaze and sesame-ginger vinaigrette.
Round Table Sports Bar & Lounge
With its castle-shape roof, the Round Table certainly lets weary Miami motorists on U.S. 441 know it's the place to quench their parched thirst for affordable libations. Located in an industrial warehouse district about ten blocks away from the 103rd Street exit of I-95, the Round Table has been in business for 40 years. From 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, this neighborhood bar offers patrons 50 cents off all drinks — not bad when you consider most drinks hover in the $3 (the ugly stuff) to $5 (the good stuff) range. You can also score Budweiser or Miller Lite drafts for a buck and a quarter. Of course there are some things you need to know before going in to the Round Table. First, you have to ring the doorbell so the barkeep will let you in. Once inside, it's like walking into an old mountain cabin in the Smokies: pinewood paneling covers the interior from floor to ceiling. Two 50-cent billiard tables and a shuffleboard table are next to the bar. Best of all, the Round Table is open seven days a week, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Some go to find love, others to drown their sorrows. The rest of us visit simply for a warped refuge from reality. They're dive bars, the true rebels among the shiny, expensive nightclubs and their overpriced cover charges. El Rincon de Quisquella is the epitome of a dive bar in all its dilapidated, seedy glory. Located just south of Opa-locka, it's frequented mostly by locals who live and work nearby and arrive by foot. If you drive, you might never find it, since it's inside an ambiguous, unmarked building. The only signs of life are a green light shining on the door and a security guard, who, on certain nights, is the only one who speaks English. There are cracks in the walls, toilets without seats, coke baggies on the floor in the bathroom, and stains on the ceiling — but that's all part of Quisquella's charm. Be sure to bring cash, since Quisquella's six-dollar cocktails can't be paid for with a credit card. And speaking of booze, the alcohol selection is as shabby as the dive itself: A few half-empty bottles of tequila and vodka sit behind the bar and appear to have come straight from the staff's own private stock. Nevertheless the majority of imbibers stick to Coronas. Around midnight on a Friday or Saturday, the regulars crowd the bar to flirt with the ladies and dance to the DJ's mix of salsa and Latin music. The women are surprisingly agreeable, usually dancing with any man who approaches them. This may be due to the bar's seemingly close-knit circle of patrons. It's hard to say, though — outsiders are watched carefully and should feel honored to catch a glimpse of this bizarro Miami bar.
Seven Seas
Photo courtesy of Karaoke by Bernie
Catching a Heat game at Seven Seas is almost like watching it at home. The small bar (max occupancy 120) could double for a living room with its tight quarters, wooden warmth, and garage-sale decorations. Some of the old items hanging from the wall and ceiling include baseball bats, football helmets, golf clubs, turtle shells, and a plastic Guinness bottle. An old organ sits next to a jukebox that plays mostly Seventies rock like the Eagles' "Tequila Sunrise." In the side lounge, men seated in chairs and recliners holler at the TV every time Shaq misses a free throw. Even the outdoor patio resembles a back yard, with a wooden deck that looks like it was assembled from driftwood and discarded lawn chairs. On special occasions the staff fires up the grill for good old-fashioned barbecue eats. That's about the only time Seven Seas serves any food — the rest of the time, the bar is strictly booze-only. Despite its homey feel, Seven Seas meets the typical sports bar requirements: dim lighting, TV sets in every corner, and a pool table. But what separates it from the chain bars is its character. Like a forgotten trunk in an attic, the faded Seven Seas interior houses a collection of dusty treasures. Old veterans tell stories of their exploits in Vietnam. Chain-smoking forty-somethings interrupt the low hum of activity with raspy cackles. Saucy gents call the bartender with a lustful twinkle in their eyes. The patrons here would rather not be blinded by a moneyed sheen. In the dusky confines of Seven Seas, they have learned to see in the dark.
With so many foreigners clinking glasses on Miami Beach, you'd think that most bars would carry an extensive line of imported beers — but truly international taps are few and crowded. Because of that, the oddly named X-Treme Cafe has become a favorite with adventurous locals who have stumbled over this hidden gem. X-treme opened a couple years ago in a former raw food restaurant in the no-man's land just south of Fifth. It began as a cafe, but found its true calling when it shifted focus to liquid delights. The large assortment of brew (the Belgian La Chouffe and Japan's Hitachino Nest Beer are good examples) is served by friendly and knowledgeable bartenders. We don't want to tell tales out of school — like that time the two hawt lesbians were getting comfortable on the luxurious couch — but the atmosphere is intimate enough for almost anything to happen. Wine is also available, and most beers and single glasses of wine run between $5 and $10. There are rumors going around (especially on the menu) that they serve grub, but food's what you buy at the supermarket. You're here because you want to drink with the locals, not eat.
MI Bohio Taverna Sport
We're pounding a $40 bottle of Aguardiente, surrounded by buxom cowgirls with some serious junk in the trunk. Their hips sway seductively and emphatically, as if their gyrations are sending sonic signals to Cartagena. The band plays a sizzling mix of vallenato and salsa that sends electric subliminal sexual messages into our grain alcohol-soaked frontal lobes. We're dressed in ten-gallon cowboy hats and dark denim outfits that blend in perfectly with the hay and wood chips sprinkled throughout Mi Bohio's ranch-theme dining room. The Eighties-inspired mirrored walls and palm-trees-in-the-sunset Scarface mural makes us want to snort lines of blow off the glass tabletop. Instead we scarf on sancocho, pargo frito, and cazuela de marisco. After all, we need something to soak up the spirits sloshing in our gullets.
Tiki Bar
The downtown tourist area just north of the Miami River looks like a ghost town once the sun sets. But life can still be found inside Tiki Bar after 6:00 p.m. Squeezed in between knockoff clothing and shoe stores, Tiki is situated on the second floor of the Flagler Station mall. If you need help locating it, look up and you'll see "Tiki Bar" spelled out in bright yellow letters on the windows. Tiki offers everything a decent neighborhood bar should: good times, cheap drinks, 14 TV sets, two pool tables, and a place to unwind. When bands aren't rocking out onstage, the jukebox plays hits by the likes of Green Day, the Gorillaz, and more. Drinks are two-for-one every day from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., and when it's not happy hour, a cocktail costs only six dollars. Due to its central location, the spacious watering hole is the ideal place to meet up with friends for postwork decompressing. A sign that reads "Margaritaville" welcomes you to the bar and hints at the dress code and overall ambiance of Tiki. The tropical vibe continues with a large saltwater fish tank, a hut area with a straw roof, and a friendly staff — which includes owner Esteban Garcia, who can sometimes be heard singing along to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" at the bar.
Aventura's neighborhood bars should reflect the city's lush landscaping, prestigious condos, and high-end malls. And Ivy Aventura certainly does. Couture and cocktails reign supreme at the restaurant/bar/club where, on weekends, well-coiffed rears occupy every seat at the bar. The crowd ranges from locals in their twenties and thirties to fifty-something Porsche owners from nearby Williams Island. Every strand of hair is either flat-ironed or gelled, and short skirts and button-up shirts comprise the dress code. The high volume of patronage requires you to be wary when maneuvering through the small dance floor, as the kinetic, rowdy revelers are usually too involved in dancing salsa to avoid bumping into the nine-dollar drink in your hand. But you can enjoy a more relaxed vibe in the outside lounge area, with its modern designer couches and chic, Asian-inspired decor. Part of what attracts people to Ivy is Aventura's lack of a nightlife scene. Aside from a few scattered sports bars, there's nothing else in the area with quite the same upscale appeal mixed with nightclub energy. Not to mention that the bartenders know how to make a damn good Scotch and soda.
South Miami is anchored by Sunset Place, an outdoor mall and headquarters for sulky teenagers. But the narrow off-roads nearby hold intriguing options for an evening of adult debauchery. For University of Miami students and hip Coral Gables residents, there's no better neighborhood bar than Sunset Tavern. Located on the corner of a cute and cobblestone street, the collegiate watering hole shares a kitchen with the ever-popular Deli Lane Cafe, thereby ensuring some of the finest bar food around. Hungry drinkers can stick to the basics and order up some meaty, messy nachos ($9.95 if you add spicy chicken, which you should), or choose to be snooty and order the pressed duck sandwich with brie, with apricot sauce on the side (at $9.95, a tasty deal). Dinner entrées top out at $15.05, and the options seem endless. The place offers a killer jukebox, stocked with classic rock, Eighties hits, and Nineties alternative (the Breeders, Red Hot Chili Peppers). Besides that, there's a pool table, weekly live music and specials that include Tuesday Karaoke night, Wednesday Wing Night (wash down those spicy bastards with a $10 beer bucket), and Thursday Ladies Night (which is less for loose drinking maneaters and more for fans of The L Word). Sunset also makes a great jumping-off point for even more drublic punkenness — it's within strolling distance of Old Florida-style tavern Bougainvillea's, expensive mall chain Dan Marino's, aspiring club Martini Bar, South Beach wannabe Town, and old man Fox's. If you bring romantic companionship, the evening could take you across the street to a fancy Italian dinner at Trattoria Sole followed by dessert at Soli Organic, or it could wind up in the back alley at BT Gentleman's Club. It all depends on how your date goes.
Free Spirits Pub
The game of darts can be quite serious and dangerous, especially when the hard liquor kicks in and you start seeing two bull's eyes. Throwing sharp needles at the dartboard takes concentration and precision, like a drunken ninja. The bartenders at Free Spirits Lounge know how to mix drinks, and they can also throw some darts. "This is one of the best dartboards I've ever played," says Mike Mirabel, as Black Flag blares in the background. He plays darts here regularly. "Trying to score triplets on this board is impossible, because of the way that the railing is embedded into the board." Darts are free. Just ask for them at the bar.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®