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.
Finnegan's on the River
What's great about the Finnegan's jukebox is that it's a flat-panel touchscreen inside a fire engine-red telephone booth, the same type you'd find outside a real Irish pub. So when someone is lurking behind you, breathing down your neck to hurry up your music selection, you can just slide the door closed and stick your tongue out at them. Most of the playlist is a predictable blend of rap (50 Cent and Ludacris), country (Trace Adkins and Willie Nelson), and rock and roll (Lynyrd Skynyrd and Marilyn Manson). But we did find some unexpected gems from Spanish boy-band pioneers Menudo and the great Maná. We were also pleasantly surprised to find tracks by the Oak Ridge Boys, and our all-time favorite hair band: Ratt!
Miami is a playground for the gay male community — from downtown to South Beach, the boys have plenty of places to romp. Unfortunately Miami doesn't offer as many options for lesbians. What's a girl (who loves girls) to do when she just wants to have fun? For starters, look hard. Anam's, an exclusive women's club, is easy to miss. The clandestine bar is located on the second floor of a building tucked between the Little Cuban Museum and a HEARx store on Coral Way. Hidden from the street, the only hint of Anam's existence is its name etched into a glass door in swirling cursive. Stairs are visible from the other side of the door, but what they lead to is a mystery for those not in the know. Inside, dimly lit, stained-glass chandeliers shroud the bar in ambiguity, and faces are hard to distinguish among the shadows. For the most part men aren't allowed in, and the crowd is usually Latin women anywhere from their late twenties to early fifties. Owner Olga Sanchez serves the drinks while her partner, Ana Pou, plays the bongos to the DJ's mix of salsa, bachata, and other Latin beats. The club has a dancing room and a quiet room, where women can retreat to for a more intimate setting. One of Anam's unusual features is an old freight elevator that's been used as a showcase for a belly dancer. There's also an art space that will be put to use for future events.
Mac's Club Deuce
Photo courtesy of Mac's Club Deuce
Twelve years ago Melissa Burley was an overworked and underpaid teacher in Miami-Dade's public school system. She supplemented that income with a job at late-night taco institution San Loco, located within stumbling distance of Mac's Club Deuce, Miami Beach's most venerably liquor-soaked bar. Within no time Ms. Burley found a new hangout and a family of fun regulars. She spent a lot of time on the customer side of the bar. "I used to always ask Mac, 'When are you gonna hire meç'" she recalls. "One day it was raining and I asked him again. And he replied, 'What're you doing tomorrowç'" As they say, the rest is history. Burley's friends, the regulars, helped her learn the ropes — "because the customers know the bar better than the new bartenders," she laughs. In the decade that Melissa has been tending the Deuce, Miami Beach has been through bouts of popularity with Eurotrash, model types, ravers, and the hip-hop glitterati, and she's been slinging cocktails through it all. She may not be the most instantly chummy bartender you've ever had, and to hell with all of that Tom Cruise Cocktail bottle-flipping bullshit. She's a no-nonsense blond who serves her drinks strong and fast. Along the way she's adopted some basic bar rules for both tender and customer. Rule number one: "The bartender should never be drunker than the customers." Rule number two: "You always want to befriend your bartender. Cause we know a lot of things about a lot of people." Melissa is also keeper of the Deuce's legacy. She created the bar's MySpace page (www.myspace.com/deucebar) and updates the Deuce Screen of Fame, a photographic retrospective of debauchery and nudity that takes place in the darkened, historic establishment. If you're lucky (or acting the fool enough), you'll get your picture snapped as well. The scrolling images feature regulars and newbies, and it's heavy on locals and light on famous faces. "We only put famous people in it if they're into it," she says. "We've got Johnny Knoxville in there, I think. Often we just leave them alone. The slide show is funny whether you know the people or not. It's about the crazy people and the stories that take place. Like when Tara threw the iguana." Normally an evening in which a live iguana is flung across the bar would be one of those you-just-had-to-be-there stories. Thanks to Melissa's quickness with the camera, the moment was captured for posterity. And she needs to be quick, because who knows what can happen nextç

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®