Best Gay Bar 2009 | Club Azucar | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

On the road to equality, it's important to stop at fabulous dance clubs. All of that droppin'-it-like-it's-hot can only be good for morale. And sure, the Beach is still the best place for stylish gay boys and their stylish gay martinis. But for a grittier, more authentically Miami experience, leave your fancy clothes behind (someone will spill on them) and head to this sprawling, smoky drag performance club-meets-Cubana salsa disco. The warehouse-style venue is full of hip-shaking, mostly Spanish-speaking men and a generally intimate posse of women from the neighborhood. On Drag Wars Thursdays — a campy, cabaret-style show — gay and straight folks alike gather for a beer and a laugh. Parking is a breeze in the less-than-bustling part of town off Coral Way, and there's no cover before 11:30 p.m. Afterward, it's five to ten bucks.

It's well documented that people from Milwaukee and other Midwestern locales enjoy an escape to Miami. Less known, though, is that Miamians sometimes want a taste of the laid-back, unpretentious, and inexpensive Milwaukee-esque lifestyle. But we don't really wanna, you know, buy a plane ticket. Thank God for the Point Lounge, which is the Midwest encapsulated into tavern form. The price for domestic beers hovers around $3.50, the jukebox hasn't been updated since the Reagan era, and the bartenders' usual cantankerousness-to-chirpiness ratio is approximately 28:1. At the pool table, don't hold your cue like a pussy, but do use the women's bathroom — the men's looks like Chernobyl.

Kendallites love their chains. There are the figurative ones that seem to lock them to their red-tiled roofs and peach-colored walls. And they adore the literal ones as well — the Targets, Best Buys, Denny's, and... honestly, did Don Carter's and one of the last strawberry fields in the area really need to get demolished for another Staples and a Costco? But the most interesting thing about Kendall is that although it looks homogenous, it is in Miami-Dade and therefore is filled with tons of interesting characters. There's the dude who drives around in a station wagon adorned with a weather vane, a wooden toilet seat, and dolls (Kendall people, you know you've seen him); he might be among those packed on the wooden patio of Bahama Breeze, a chain restaurant, one Friday night. He'll be sipping a mojito made from freshly squeezed guarapo ($5.50). And if you can't find him, you might bump into one of the many scantily dressed mistresses freely flopping their back rolls to calypso music as their married lovers leer and sip Black Label on the rocks.

Once you've tired of this scene and finished scarfing down a plate of tostones with chicken ($8.29), head over to Gatsby's, a chain bar, for a slightly classier, mahogany wood experience. It's a swanky spot decked out in cartoonish murals, dim lounge areas with leather seating, and pool tables galore. Sit down at the large, circular main bar and try one of the delicious oversize martinis; there's the Jolly Rancher and the key lime martini ($11 each). Strike up a conversation with a tired Macaroni Grill employee and bet the person next to you five bucks you can guess which of the waitresses in insanely tight bustiers has real breasts. Or maybe watch a UFC match and fight off an Egyptian businessman who's trying to get your number by swiping your cell phone and calling himself.

When the lights flicker on at 2 or 3 a.m., sample the underbelly of Kendalia at Kendall Village Diner. Formerly Starlite Diner, this joint serves up booze until 4 a.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday. Friday and Saturday the service continues until 5 a.m., so the place attracts only the most sophisticated individuals. Swing by for the popular Thursday karaoke night and listen to myriad butchered versions of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Here, if you're lucky, you'll be served by an androgynous waiter with the voice of Michael Jackson, meet a drunken clown who makes anatomically correct balloon animals, or possibly make out with a dominatrix who'll take you home and show you all of her whips.

Or, in true Kendall fashion, her chains.

It seems like Mark Soyka's 55th Street Station can do no wrong when it comes to providing urban dwellers with a one-stop gastronomic oasis. Soyka and Andiamo! have long been local favorites, and now the News Lounge is quickly becoming a preferred watering hole. The 1-year-old spot offers indoor and outdoor ambiance complete with a saloon-style bar, comfy couches, and porch swings. The drink menu features a wide selection of signature cocktails priced at $12, including a "deconstructed mojito," made with 10 Cane Rum, as well as a concoction of Belvedere vodka, grapefruit juice, basil, and lime called the MiMotini. And if hunger pangs emerge, nibble on appetizers such as juicy beef sliders topped with grilled onions, bacon, cheddar cheese, and chipotle ketchup. The place is anything but boring; come sundown, there is usually a DJ or live act performing in the courtyard.

Aging cover band? Check. Blue-collar Betties dancing to "Hit Me with Your Best Shot?" Check. Dudes in Hawaiian shirts chugging Bud Light? Check, check. Said dudes in Hawaiian shirts hitting on blue-collar Betties? Check again. Spicy chicken wings on a table somewhere? Check. Sports game flickering on a flat-screen? Double-check. Two-for-one drink specials? Check, hiccup, check. Three-dollar margarita? Buuuurp, check. Drunk construction worker making awkward advances? Check, um, yourself. Overworked waitress with uncanny stripper-like qualities? Check, please. Sixty-ounce pitcher of beer for nine bucks? Nice check.

Photo courtesy of Fontainebleau Miami Beach

In most parts of the world, the term neighborhood bar brings to mind those smoky holes-in-the-wall where you can comfortably wile away afternoons drinking with the regulars — a place where everybody knows your name. Well, this is Miami Beach, baby. And our neighborhood bar, like our hood itself, is ridiculously over-the-top, probably overpriced, yet worth every damn dollar.

Bleau Bar is the centerpiece of the recent two-year, $1 billion renovation of the landmark Fontainebleau Hotel. And in this case, a cool billion bought a glass floor and gently curved ceiling that glow irridescent blue like a Star Trek set piece. A towering glass pillar in the middle of the circular bar is pink, like a huge flamingo lightsaber. The bar is lined with high-end tequilas, rums, and vodkas, and the bartenders whip up cocktails conceived by master mixologist Michael MacDonnell.

In this neighborhood, we'll take it any day over some chump who knows our name.

In the Boom Boom Room's former digs, with the help of Cocaine Cowboys producer Alfred Spellman and tastemaker Keith Paciello, a unique lounge has blossomed. What keeps this Rose from wilting are reasonable drink prices and no shortage of debauchery. Bella Rose welcomes everyone. There's no door drama. Yet it has attracted the likes of Calvin Klein, Josh Hartnett, Kirsten Dunst, and Mary-Kate Olsen. And to top it off, local scenesters Alexis Mincolla, Nick D'Annunzio, and Jochy Ortiz have given the bar's patrons further reason to visit with the Saturday party Bella Donna and the end-of-the-weekend massacre, Black Sunday.

The Viceroy wants to make sure you never have a cocktail near or below sea level again. As part of the ten-acre Icon Brickell compound and one of the newest (and most fab) buildings to spring up on the Miami skyline, this place is chic defined. The 15th-floor pool deck is outfitted with a life-size chess game, scores of cabanas, and the most breathtaking feature of all — the magnificent view of Biscayne Bay and the surrounding areas. Since no dip in the pool is complete without a cocktail, Café Icon has more brews, grapes, and elixirs than you've ever imagined. With decidedly un-Brickell drink prices — only $12 for a mojito or bloody mary — you can spend an entire afternoon tanning and bellying up to the bar. Oh, and this casual eatery offers healthful Mediterranean food poolside to soak up all of that tequila in your tummy.

It's the kind of joint you'd see in Fight Club or a snuff film. It's hard to believe the place could actually exist. Smack in the middle of South Beach is a grimy, real-life dive bar you've never heard of.

So you check it out. You head to the Floridian, a towering condo on West Avenue located a stone's throw from the usual SoBe traffic pouring from the MacArthur Causeway onto Alton Road.

There's no sign of any kind of bar, but with a wink, the security guard out front points you toward a locked side door. You press a buzzer and gaze into a security camera on the ceiling. You're lucky. The guys inside decide you belong, the door buzzes, and you walk up a staircase and down the rabbit hole.

You immediately realize it's everything you could have hoped for but didn't dare to dream: ribbons of hazy cigarette smoke around a simple bar lined with loudly guffawing old men in white T-shirts and VFW trucker hats; yellowed murals of bald eagles and soldiers in Vietnam and WWII trenches; a jukebox spewing ' 70s rock; a tattered pool table in the corner; and Buds for $2.25 and Coronas for $2.75.

So dive in.

Have you ever had an old boyfriend for whom you always had a soft spot, despite the fact that he was, well, a little lacking in certain important places? Then a few years later, you run into him randomly, hit the sack for nostalgia's sake, and it's like, "Whoa! Where did that elephant's tail come from?" And it turns out he was the product of a top-secret government experiment to create a centaur, but only one out of three legs responded to the treatment, and the only cogent response you can come up with is, "Will you marry me?"

Well, that's kind of what it's like going back to Bird Bowl since the owners recovered all 16 of their billiard tables with fresh new felt. The place has always been pure Miami — way out on Bird Road, wedged into a shopping center that reeks of failure, with a gigantic red sign that no small business these days would dare invest in — but they've committed themselves the past few years to updating things. Besides the all-important felt, in the past two years alone, they've expanded the game room, made over the restaurant, jazzed up the screens for bowlers, and added wireless Internet access, all while retaining that hollow plasticity that makes bowling alleys so acutely nostalgic.

The billiards room is comfortably sectioned off, with its own bar and a lighting scheme that makes the tables seem to glow. The sticks are in good shape too, and the $9.99 price per hour isn't too bad. (FYI: That goes up to $14.99 on weekends.)

The exterior is in a state of partial demolition, which, honestly, they should just leave half-completed and flawed, disguising the monstrous, throbbing wad of entertainment indoors.

Bird Bowl, will you marry me?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®