From the beach to Little Havana, and even out in West Kendall, the energetic rhythms of salsa have become as ubiquitous as empanada stands and guayaberas. But what of salsa's Argentine cousin, tangoç The venues that play this sensual music are few and far between. Luckily dancer Monica Llobet is taking steps (literally) to help milongas (tango parties) flourish in Miami. Every Tuesday from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m., Llobet gives tango lessons at Amadeus for $10. After class, the lights are dimmed for the milonga, where DJ Lorena follows the tango ritual of playing songs in tandas (sets of three to four songs), followed by a curtina (a break in which a different kind of music is played). Both professional and beginner dancers step to classic tango musicians like Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Pugliese, and Anibal Troilo. Amadeus is the perfect setting for couples to dance and listen to these crackling tracks from the Forties. Decorated with bookcases, chandeliers, and a fireplace, the anachronistic bar looks more like a study in a mansion than a drinking establishment. But when the fireplace is lit and the romantic rhythms of tango begin to play, couples can't help but dance cheek to cheek.
Maxine's Bistro and Bar
The chic red-and-white motif inside the Catalina is a magnet for trendy types looking for a chill place to enjoy an $8 glass of pinot grigio. But the hotel has a secret appeal that lies in its convenient location and layout. From the outdoor patio, regular guys can stare discreetly at hot chicks in heels hobbling along Collins Avenue without being labeled as that gawking weirdo on the street. A large window adorns the front of the building, extending up to the second-floor lounge and offering a glimpse of Bentleys and limos whizzing by. Model types hang out the window or sunroof, sipping bubbly and making you wish you were the rich bastard next to them. Part of the reason there's so much eye candy near the Catalina is the number of high-end hotels nearby: The Sagamore, Delano, and Surfcomber are all a stone's throw away.
After you've done the prerequisite night at Churchill's (our CBGB), it's time to move on to Studio A. This downtown Miami nightspot is significantly larger than the lovable British pub, and has a superb sound system, so it's more appropriate for the midlevel, touring rock bands that play there. The space also looks nicer — if you like fancy chandeliers and shiny curtains. Elevated sections increase visibility throughout the club, even when the shows are sold out. There's also a full (if pricey) bar, and Studio A remains open for dancing after shows. The only real drawback is the lack of adjacent parking in this sketchy neighborhood. But what the heck. That's part of the fun.
Espirito Santo Building
During the high season between January and March, the pristine breeze that courses through the open-air pool deck of the Conrad Hotel is enough to make you forget about the $6 it costs for a Corona. Lush palm trees and chic cabanas line the perimeter of the pool. Sip your beer and stare at the rippled reflection of Brickell Avenue's construction boom in the floor-to-ceiling glass windows that encase the building. Chances are you'll run into folks like the Mexican sugar daddy we met there recently. Decked out in Lacoste poolside gear and slicked-back, jet-black hair, he stood next to three voluptuous, college-age all-American girls: a brunet, a redhead, and a blond. The ladies sported exquisite faux breasts, sultry tans, and luscious curves. Ah, the good life.
At the Fifth, you'll see celebrities, but you'll also be treated like one. That's the customary service of marketing director Gerry Kelly. Just talk to some of the club's VIPs. "You can be in a club with a thousand people and Gerry can give each person his attention," says Donna Preudhomme, a fashion model who recently celebrated her birthday there. Besides the service, this place is luxurious. "Most clubs have a dedicated VIP area," Kelly says. "But the Fifth is actually designed to be a VIP club." The bilevel club offers several VIP areas on both floors, including three private penthouse suites. One of them has a private entrance, valet parking, and a private elevator and minibar (tell Kelly what you like, and he'll stock it with your favorite goodies). It also comes with custom volume and temperature control, for those locals who are always freezing, especially in South Beach club attire. Then there are the restrooms: The upstairs ladies' room has a mini spa with a hair and makeup artist to provide free touchups on weekends. All of this attention attracts the celebs — Paris Hilton, Kate Hudson, Mickey Rourke, and Ivanka Trump. Each has his or her own seven-foot cooler with a corresponding silver nameplate on it. They coolers are stocked with the celebs' favorite bottles (up to 50) so that when visiting, they can grab from their private coolers. "I've traveled the world and have been in clubs in Greece and the Mexican Riviera," says Angela Posillico, owner of Ms. Latina International pageant and a frequent Fifth VIP and Kelly fan. "He has the best VIP area around the world. If they had an award for club owners, he'd get the Oscar."
Circa39 Hotel
Maybe the books on Circa 28's shelves aren't for reading (The Y2K Survival Guide and Richard Nixon and His America are among the titles that occupy the diamond-patterned bookshelves.) But from the vintage neon sign outside to the stylishly raw interior, Circa 28's ambitions are in sync with its Wynwood surroundings. Velvet chairs, dim lighting, and ornate chandeliers are the decor on the first floor, where the local art crowd sips cocktails and sways to an eclectic mix of music. During the course of two glasses of wine one night, the bartender/DJ played everything from Blur and the White Stripes to David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and the Cure. Upstairs is a bona fide dance floor, complete with disco ball and small stage, an intimate setting that has made Circa 28 the clandestine destination for afterparties and impromptu shows when bands like the Brazilian Girls and the Rapture are in town. Drinks should be cheaper ($10 for a Belvedere martini; $8 for a glass of Malbec) but it's in a happening neighborhood. For those who work and play among the dark warehouses and weed-choked boulevards of the area, the place is priceless.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®