Best Periodiquito 2008 | El Venezolano | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

In the world of free weeklies, believe us, it's hard to keep afloat. That's why we so admire El Venezolano for its 16 years in the muckraking business. With Hugo Chávez's daily antics to watch and a burgeoning Venezuelan community in Miami to inform, the newspaper has plenty of copy to fill its weekly editions, which are available throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties as well as Orlando. Founded and run by Venezuelan transplants since 1992, the paper boasts a staff that has earned widespread recognition, including first place from the National Association of Hispanic Publications for its six-week investigative series about how Miami Beach Police abused a Venezuelan tourist. Even more admirable — with an entertainer like Chávez in power — is editor Oswaldo Muñoz's pledge of objectivity.

There are those workdays when you just want to take your sandwich and sit peacefully, alone, in silence. Enea Garden Lounge is the perfect place to chill and relax. Designed by Swiss landscape designer Enzo Enea for Art Basel 2005, the little enclosed park is his interpretation of a rain forest. As you enter through the large bronze doors, you are transported to a tropical land: tall bamboo rustles in the wind and water lilies float delicately in tiny ponds. There are a few tables scattered about, along with some plastic sofas and chairs. On any given weekday, there will be a few folks eating lunch, grabbing a smoke, or even taking a power nap on the sofas. The best part: It's free.

Way to go, sport — you've made the initial phone call (or text message) and set up that all-important first date. It's a bad idea to set the bar too high with dinner at a chichi restaurant or too low with a stroll on the beach, but a night at the Upper Eastside Garden is just right. The urban oasis is open Thursday through Sunday, and unless you like awkward both-hands-in-the-popcorn moments, the plan should be to hit the Back 9 Putt-Putt. That way, you'll be able to play the getting-to-know-you game while checking out each other's "swing." But this isn't your typical minigolf course. The obstacles on each hole were designed by local artists, so you'll have plenty to distract from your suck-ass game. Plus each round comes with a free cocktail, so that takes you and your wallet off the hook for at least one round of jitter-destroying drinks. But you can't blame the libations or sweaty palms when you send the golf ball flying off the course. Not even the magic of a first date will make her forget you're that bad.

You can swing at a playground, even swing open a door — but you're not using the word at its fullest strength unless you mean "to engage freely in sex." You know, like when Mr. and Mrs. Jones from next door are hooking up with Mr. and Mrs. Smith from down the street for a night of fun. That's right, folks, the swinger lifestyle isn't just for the people on HBO's Real Sex; they're doing it in your cul-de-sac, and they're doing it at Miami Velvet. Trading spouses, allowing folks to watch, or accepting a third wheel — all are considered a part of the lifestyle. And whether you're an active participant or a nervous newbie, the Velvet is the place for you. This members-only club provides a safe and sexy environment with enough leering to turn you on without creeping you out. Do a seductive wiggle with your honey on the dance floor, get to know a curious couple at the B.Y.O. bar, and then meet upstairs in one of the private rooms for a more intimate meet-and-greet. What you do up there is your business, unless you choose to do it in one of the public rooms.

During segregation, D.A. Dorsey was Miami's first black millionaire and a real estate mogul with property from Fisher Island to Broward County. He contributed a lot to the community. But today, decades after his death, the old man continues to give. His two-story home in Overtown, originally built in 1914, is filled with high-quality used clothing along with new overstock and samples from brands such as Anne Klein. If discarded garments, accessories, and shoes don't meet the stringent standards of the store, nothing goes to waste: The staff sorts through everything and donates what it can't use to a nearby church. Women in job training programs receive $100 gift certificates to shop there for job interview outfits. Profits go to charity. And the fun part is that after you drop off your old stuff, you can shop for something new. Open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

There are some days when you just want to munch alone, away from computers, co-workers, and crowded eateries. Not to be goth or emo or macabre or anything, but what better place than a peaceful city cemetery, albeit a slightly run-down one? One entrance is across the street from a hardscrabble grocery store, the other on gritty North Miami Avenue. Inside, however, is a peaceful, historical haven filled with palm trees and stately grave markers that date as far back as the turn of the 20th Century. Built in 1887, one year after the city was incorporated, the cemetery holds the likes of Julia Tuttle (the mother of Miami) and Lawson Thomas (the first black judge in the South since Reconstruction). The Burdines department store family has a stately granite crypt, and the Art Deco touches on some graves are stunningly gorgeous. Park your car under a tree and enjoy this downtown oasis amid the dead — sometimes contemplating one's own mortality at lunch makes the rest of the workday seem, well, insignificant.

Have you ever eaten a piece of fruit that tastes like chocolate pudding? Or one that smells like Juicy Fruit gum? How about root beer? Thanks to South Florida's subtropical climate, the black sapote, the jackfruit, and the sapodilla — which offer these tastes — can all be sampled at a beautiful 35-acre oasis west of Krome Avenue and north of Homestead. Although you can't pick the fruit from the trees, you can eat whatever has fallen to the ground, except for the ackee, which is poisonous if you consume it before ripening. (For this reason, the ackees are fenced off.) At least once a month, the park has an interesting, usually fruit- or plant-related festival. They celebrate orchids, palms, and rare fruits, for instance. Or you can just wander around the grounds anytime, marveling at the oddities of the South Florida soil. Park admission is $6 for adults, $1.50 for children.

Photo by osseous / Flickr

Nothing says, "Get thee to a nunnery, reality!" like removing one's fig leaf in public. After all, what better escape from our escapist society than to turn to one's left and drink in the canvas of a 60-year-old man's withered equipment, marooned on his leg like some hideous snail that has lost its shell. Absent airbrushing and product placement, the human body truly is a marvel and an occasion to a meditate on the nature of a God who would outfit His people so poorly for life outside of air-conditioning. Next to a crustacean, our armor seems flimsy and riddled with extraneous holes. Our feet are too small, and more often than not, when presented with the nakedness of our species, we cringe in disgust and yell, "Cover up! Help us, Marc by Marc Jacobs!" But no such veil lurks here, and the visitors to the Naturist Beach become like Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, eyelids forced open by the bland splendor of Eden. In about 30 minutes, you'll be begging to be cast back into the wilderness of corporate brand names.

You know Card Sound Road? That cryptic stretch of asphalt on your way to the Keys? Were you ever tempted to turn your steering wheel to the left just to check it out, but because of the dirt road and lack of traffic signs felt, well, a little paranoid?

Suck it up (along with a spliff) and take a 20-minute cruise into the depths of this unknown part of upper Key Largo, passing along the way lush mangroves, snippets of sea, and rustic houseboats spotted with sunburnt fishermen. Once you hit the toll booth, you'll immediately hear the pluck of honky-tonk booming from a weathered shack of a restuarant. Park the car, let the smoke out through your windows, and walk into the 60-year-old Alabama Jack's — one of the best places in South Florida for you to simmer out after blazing.

High? No big. Most people here — an assortment of odds and ends (emphasis on odd) — won't care. Take a seat at a waterside table. Order up locally made brews such as Key West Lager and Sunset Ale and indulge your senses in the salty smell of the sea and the rowdy rumble of idling motorcycles. The sights here are priceless — fish swimming below you, tropical birds flying above you, a drunk regular spinning in circles on the dance floor at noon as a band plays "Redneck Woman."

And although Alabama Jack's has enough going on visually to amuse you, it's the king of all munchies that'll hook ya. Their conch fritters — golden, sweet, and fluffy — will keep you camped out on the wooden deck for hours ... or at least until you figure out how to concoct a bong out of all your empty cocktail sauce containers.

A playlist to describe Kendall's perfect place to keep the pace:

1. "Saturday in the Park" by Chicago: Just like the public park utopia painted in this bouncy, horn-heavy song, Hammocks Community Park has a similar vibe. In the parking lot, warm up your legs by taking a brisk stroll past a playground pumped full of tots. As brass instruments intensify, step onto a paved path that leads into a jungle of bleachers. As the smoky scent of grilling hot dogs slithers from the concession stand and into your nostrils, kick up a leg and stretch while you watch a baseball game.

2. "Rebel Yell" by Billy Idol: As you walk past the park and onto the jogging trail, note the "No Trespassing" sign, but try not to sweat it. You're in Miami. Do as Miamians do — regard the law as a mere suggestion.

3. "The Great Salt Lake" by Band of Horses: Embark on your jog as soon as this grandiose folk rock song starts to flourish. Trot past wide, green fields and pick-up soccer games. As you begin to turn a corner, you'll notice a lake, clear and blue, greeting you with spritzes of cool water.

4. "Cars" by Gary Numan: Because you won't see a single one.

5. "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen: With seven miles of road ahead of you, you'll feel like the very embodiment of this blue-collar poet's signature song.

6. "Swimmers" by Broken Social Scene: Dedicated to the man-made beaches that dot the trail every mile or so. Like this song, the small beaches are mellow, refreshing, and serene.

7. "Don't Stop" by Brazilian Girls: Simply because you won't want to. Regardless of the scorching heat, you'll be shaded by rows of royal Poincianas.

8. "Amsterdam" by Peter Bjorn and John: While jogging under bridges and around twisting canals that connect to larger lakes, you might think, if only for a moment, you're in Holland.

9. "Bougainvillea" by Great Southern: This romantic ballad is great for a cool-down, as you walk under overpasses drenched in the purple flowering vines.

10. "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell: Because unlike most former paradises in West Kendall, this one has yet to be paved and turned into a parking lot.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®