Best VIP Room 2009 | Skyboxes at LIV | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Courtesy of LIV

So you secured a smoking-hot date for the evening and you want to be like Bruce Wayne taking out a Russian ballerina. Flash your credit card at the nearest exotic car rental, select that gunmetal-gray Lambo, pick up your honey, and head to LIV at the Fontainebleau. Find the VIP host and request one of the six skyboxes suspended over the main dance floor. High above the thumping, bumping party, you and your date will be completely isolated from all the regular club denizens battling each other to get to the bar, where they will fork over $20 a drink. You, on the other hand, will be balling outrageous, ordering up bottles of Santana champagne and getting your date so tipsy she will give an impromptu lap dance. But try to contain your friskiness, lest you want to get thrown out by security for conducting unsanctioned acts in the skybox. LIV is open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Best Nightclub to Die in the Past 12 Months

Studio A

M.I.A., Justice, Simian Mobile Disco, Girl Talk, Bonde Do Rolê, Chromeo, Moby, Cat Power, and many others graced its stage. It hosted a slew of infamous weekly parties, including Revolver, Plastik Fantastik, SceneWolf, and Misfit. It was the city's only rock 'n' roll nightclub and its only midsize venue. Nothing hurt us more than having to say bye to Studio A in 2008. And to rub salt in the wound, Studio A's sister club, Studio B in Brooklyn, continues to thrive and book acts we only wish would stop by Miami.

A few weeks before the demise of Studio A, British electroclash quartet Ladytron kicked off its North American tour in this downtown venue. News of Studio A's closing was already public knowledge, making the night bittersweet. Ladytron put on an unforgettable show to a packed space, complete with walls of pulsating lights that made almost everyone present want to prevent the closing. We still can't decide which song was a more fitting farewell for Studio A — "Destroy Everything You Touch" or "Seventeen."

There are two kinds of acceptable sports bars. One is the dive: a hardscrabble, hole-in-the-wall with cheap drinks, bad neon, and a decidedly partisan clientele; it's the kind of place where you'd be stupid to wear the visiting team's jersey. The other kind is the upscale sports bar, which, to qualify, must be truly upscale, and thus may not even call itself a sports bar. By upscale, we mean state-of-the-art flat-screen TV sets with 1020 dpi and at least 42-inch monitors, and not a bad line of sight in the joint. We mean food that comes from an actual chef, not a glorified line cook with two felony charges. And the cuisine doesn't have to be wings and burgers only — it might even be sushi. Why not, right? In terms of professional sports, we do root for two kinds of fish here. Upscale also means multiple, fully stocked bars. Five is a good number; one can never have too many bars. And let's put leather club chairs around the bars, and gigantic leather booths along the walls — you know, the kind where you wouldn't think twice about lying down to sleep after paying six bucks for an imported bottle of beer. It's also nice to have something else to do if, say — and we're just being hypothetical here — your team was getting blown out by the Atlanta Hawks by 25 points in the seventh game of the most boring playoff series you've ever witnessed, something fun and distracting like bowling. Yes, it would be nice to turn your back on Zaza Pachulia's gloating face and go bowling. They could call the place "Splitsville."

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®