Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
If you have any notion of paying a couple hundred bucks for your garage band to cut a demo here, quickly dispense with it. The Hit Factory is for the big boys. And to get here — just like Carnegie Hall — you'll have to practice, practice, practice. In the '60s and '70s, the nondescript North Miami converted warehouse complex was a musical oasis for rock and soul musicians. It had amazing acoustics and a serious stockpile of equipment. This was the studio, after all, that cranked out James Brown's "I Feel Good," Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors," and even Black Sabbath's "Heaven & Hell." The studio bustled steadily until it was purchased in 1999 by New York's Hit Factory, officially becoming Hit Factory Criteria. Things only went up from there. While digital setups and updated facilities came in, so too did a new generation of producers and artists of a broader range of genres. These days, the Hit Factory is the local ground zero for high-chart hip-hop, pop, and R&B. The most anointed producers usually take up long-term residence. Scott Storch, for instance, had his own reserved parking space in the golden days. Moving up to the Hit Factory is a coronation of sorts, with the crown this year belonging to hungry young industry stars such as Usher- and Beyoncé-hit-maker Rico Love. No matter who's there, though, the studio remains the star, its storied history and great acoustics imbuing every track with a bit of rub-off magic.
This local watering hole has a nocturnal name, but it does a fantastic job catering to early-morning boozers. Nite Cap opens at 7 a.m. six days a week. The first happy hour runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. So if you're in the mood for a beer or a Jameson on the rocks for breakfast, head to this 30-year-old wonder. There you will run into easygoing locals from North Dade and maybe even Southeast Broward who enjoy a low-key party vibe and low prices. The joint's walls, bar, and tables are decorated in ancient Miami Dolphins regalia, commemorating the team's glory years. Stop by and get to know bar wench Kelly, a peach of a lady who knows all the regulars. The place officially closes at 2 a.m. but — shhh, don't tell the Man — has been known to operate extended hours. On the Lord's Day, however, Nite Cap gives patrons a chance to go to church services and repent by opening at 12:30 p.m. During NFL season, the bar offers free hot dogs, kielbasa, and sliders all afternoon on game days.
Brickell Irish Pub gives Miami's scene stealers a fresh new place to get gritty. Opened last year, it's a place where cosmos and Cuba libre's are traded for Guinness and Jameson. The place is regularly slammed with a crowd that overflows onto the bar's outside terrace. Inside, it might take you a minute or two to reach the bar, but kilt-clad waiters and waitresses keep the $12 drinks coming. Live bands frequent the 6,000-square-foot warehouse-style bar at least six nights a week and play on a stage that resembles an antique library. The pub also keeps the clean and sober occupied and content with a pool table, darts, and 20 plasma TV screens. The crowd is mixed, and while the music selections vary, the tunes are those best sung by an entire bar full of drunks — i.e., anything by the Police, Sublime, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Nightly themes span the week, including Monday poker night, Wednesday rock night, and Sunday dedicated to all things sports. The bar is open Sunday through Wednesday noon to 2 a.m. and Thursday through Saturday noon to 3 a.m.
Miami has so much natural beauty that it's unfortunate most of our bars and clubs revel in synthetic aesthetics: the intricate design, the electronic beats blaring through speakers, the surgically altered bodies of the people let past the polyester velvet rope. Luckily, there are a few places that still put nature's beauty on display. One of them is Wetlab on the University of Miami campus on Virginia Key. The patio affords an unobstructed view of undeveloped Biscayne Bay in all its glory, while the bar offers a full selection of sanely priced drinks in all their different but equally breathtaking glory. Yes, Wetlab is on a college campus, but it's open to the public, and the grad students here form a far different crowd from those you'll find at the Rathskeller on UM's Coral Gables campus. The only real drawback is that Wetlab is open only Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Friday from 4:30 to 11 p.m.
Chances are you've hummed the pop culture-heavy Champs tune "Tequila" before, maybe even done the Pee-wee dance while under the influence. Or you might have had a Sandlot-esque moment. Tequila is not for the faint of heart, and El Scorpion has boldly created a long, backlit bar that houses more than 120 blue agave spirits, including Patrón's golden child: Gran Patrón Burdeos. First it's aged in American and French oak for at least a year, and then it's racked in vintage Bordeaux barrels. A shot goes for $100. Don't come here expecting all of those frou-frou drinks you'll find at the chain bars. El Scorpion sticks to the basic goods. And the bar food includes five guacamoles and four salsas, so "Tequila" might be the theme for many nights to come.
A Miamian's dilemma: You want to enjoy all the great things about Lincoln Road — the unparalleled people-watching, the sidewalk-café ambiance under gently lit palms, the crackling South Beach energy. But you're a local. You're not about to fall for the ol' hot-Ukrainian-model-waving-a-menu-in-your-face ploy, and you're sure as hell not going to spend 200 bucks just to relax in the shade for a couple of hours. Who would have thought that a wine bar, of all the bourgeois haunts, would come to the rescue? Eno's Winebar Café is a slim and stylish storefront in the middle of Lincoln Road Mall, lit with an audacious red chandelier and stocked with hundreds of wines. Best of all, Eno's rotating cast of vinos is hooked to a high-tech sampling machine. You can "charge" a plastic card with as much cash as you'd like and then taste away with a splash of that Armand de Brignac or a full glass of the Leroy Bourgogne Rouge. Shady outdoor tables alongside a gently gurgling fountain are the perfect setting for finally enjoying Lincoln like a local.
It's 5 p.m. on a steamy Tuesday, and the plumbers have disappeared. So too the electricians, the produce truck driver, and the neighborhood retiree in ratty golf clothes. Intrigued, you spot Jim, the welder wiping his brow, tossing his tools in his pickup and heading along Red Road. So you follow, past Coral Way, into the heart of West Miami's main artery, where Jim parks next to a rusty blue jalopy with a surfboard strapped to the roof and buoys dangling from the tail fins. The sign is a little confusing: "Se7as Bar," it says. But when you wander in, it's all forgotten: From floor to ceiling, the perfectly dim, smoky enclave is packed with yellowed nautical doodads: naked mermaid mastheads, wooden ship effigies, diver suits. And there, drinking dirt-cheap Buds around a solid wooden bar, are every workmanlike fellow and lady in the hood. The bartender knows their names. She'd like to know yours too.
After drunkenly dipping the tip of your cue stick into a stranger's beer, you somehow sidestep a fistfight. For a moment, your luck looks good. But there's still this last shot, and it's a tricky one. The eight ball is trapped against the cushion between the three and six. You chalk up. You take your shot. You scratch. You lose. You pay out another $20. Man, it's time for more tequila. The clock says 5 p.m., and this is happy hour at your favorite pool hall. There's grit and smoke and tough old hustlers working their evening scheme. Behind the black bar, lurid red neon spells it out in a cursive scrawl: "Sharp" to the left, "Shooters" to the right. Suddenly, some boozer kicks the jukebox and Merle Haggard begins singing: "Hell, we'll wake up the roosters if we drink them real slow/Well, let's have a double and a six-pack to go." Those words make you feel like Minnesota Fats. You order a $8.10 pack of Marlboros and another round of cheap booze. A table usually costs $6.50 a person per hour, but two happy-hour drinks get you free games till 8. This reposado is your fourth. It's time to play again.
Think fast! What's the capital of Uruguay? Who won the 1982 World Series? Who in hell sang the hit 1964 song "My Girl"?! You're slamming pint after pint of frosty imported beer — such as Slovakian Golden Pheasant, Ayinger from Germany, and Belgium's Wayerbacher — and banging your head against the table in a futile effort at pummeling your brain into cooperating. There's a lot on the line here. Abraxas Lounge, a cozy converted house in the South of Fifth neighborhood jammed with low-slung couches and scarred bar stools, is packed as always on a Tuesday night. A dozen teams are squinting at the video board, desperately trying to talk their way into an obscure bit of trivia locked in the lower depths of their subconscious. To the victor: a sizable chunk of cash toward the night's bar tab. To the loser: the eternal shame of not remembering Montevideo, the '82 Cardinals, and the Temptations, you idiot! It's free every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
You got fired. Your live-in girlfriend dumped and robbed you. The rent check bounced. The car has a flat. There are ants in your cereal. Your own dog mauled you. The sun is going down, and the electricity just got cut. When fate is pressing its sharpest knife to your throat, a three-day, beer-soaked vacation from reality is the only option. Behold South Miami's bender mecca, Cervezas, a no-bullshit sanctuary from the ever-increasing absurdity of human existence. This place is cool, dark, and packed so full of brew that you could easily drink for 72 hours and never see the bottom of your bottle. There are 200 kinds of local, microbrew, import, fine, and not-so-fine suds, including Florida's Native Lager; Cooperstown's Ommegang Abbey, Canada's Labatt Blue, and Belgium's St. Bernardus Abt 12. Almost nothing costs more than $6. So get drunk and wash the curse away, if only till sobriety brings your bad luck barreling back again.
Go to the American Legion and order a goddamn drink. Yes, the American Legion. A little patriotism won't kill you, you fucking hipster. Sit your ass down and have a fucking beer. A fucking Bud Light. There's a fancy place around the corner if you want to be a pussy, OK? Take a swig of that shit and ask for Sean. He's a bartender and he's a real straight talker. He's fought in some wars. Just shut the fuck up and listen to him. The dude tells some good stories, you asshole. Also, watch the sports on the motherfucking TV set because that's what you do at a motherfucking vets' hall. Seriously, look it up. Man, sometimes I want to shoot you with my fucking hunting rifle.
Last night's hangover in dire need of a cure? Head to 660 at the Angler's Resort for brunch and choose the bottomless bloody mary bar. The red spicy concoctions are served from a rolling cart, where an attendant dispenses house-made bloody marys. The cart is stocked with clam juice, chianti-cured salami, cornichons, caper berries, celery, queen olives, and house-made fennel salt. Choose what you'd like, and the attendant will mix your cocktail — ahem, cocktails — the way you like. Really, where else does $14 get you an endless supply of good bloody marys on South Beach? Anyone? We thought so. Just don't forget to have some food with that libation. The bottomless bloody mary bar is offered Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.