You're driving deep into the underbelly of West Kendall and everything seems perfectly normal. A gigantic Walmart, duh. Rows of identical townhouses with manicured lawns, yep. A strip mall across the street, of course. A parking lot sectioned off with police tape and packing 20 motorcycles... Wait, what? Behind the super-dark-tinted windows of the sports bar in this shopping complex: leather-clad bikers, bros in polo shirts, indie-music-heads who are friends with the rotating bands that play on a tiny stage, secret gamblers glued to the videogame machines, cheapskates who love $2 drink specials, and football addicts transfixed by individual TV screens in booths. Go ahead — order a drink, kick back, and soak up the wilds of suburbia.
Rumors Restaurant and Bar
True story. The parking lot in front of Rumors Neighborhood Bistro and Bar in the Old Cutler Towne Center is like an experiment in societal and cultural interaction. Some nights you'll see patrons parking pickup trucks decorated with Confederate flags. Other nights, hoopties will roll up with spinning rims (they're a bit behind the times in South Dade). Still, other nights the parking lot will teem with young emo chicks who, let's face it, don't drive as much as they get rides. There's a lot going on here on a weekly basis. But exactly what is highly dependent on the night. Rumors hosts country and western, hip-hop, hard rock, comedy, and other uniquely themed nights. And you know what? It works. Different tastes can share the same venue. After all, down south isn't South Beach, where every storefront caters to a unique niche of debauchery. No, in Cutler Bay, it's one-stop clubbing for all.
Mansion
Seven years. That's how long the title of "Best Dance Club" has eluded one of Miami-Dade's most iconic nightclubs. Seven years. That's a lifetime in club years. Mansion was basically the Susan Lucci of this category, so this is long overdue. Seven years ago, it filled the void left by Level, another legendary nightclub. Since then, superstar DJs such as Deadmau5, Bob Sinclar, David Guetta, Paul van Dyk, Laidback Luke, Benny Benassi, Justice, Calvin Harris, and others have given its sound system a proper workout. Let's not forget the live performances too. Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Crystal Castles, Peaches, La Roux, Mickey Avalon, and hell, even the Chongalicious Girls (remember them?) have performed at this beautiful joint. Even through all the usual criticism — door policy, drink prices, tourist clientele — leveled at this place, how can you argue with a seven-year history of this magnitude?
Skybar at the Shore Club
With so many new and refurbished hotels popping up in Miami Beach, it's easy to forget those that pioneered the A-list lounge concept. SkyBar did it before the current crop of D-list reality stars were being paid to plop their butts at a table for a couple grand. And while some prefer the intimacy and VIP status of the RedRoom lounge, our favorite area is next to the pool and close to the Rumbar — which gets it name thanks to an extensive rum selection. We also like RedRoom Gardens, pairing lush landscaping with Asian furnishings. This is where you come to understand why the expansive indoor-outdoor area at the Shore Club is called SkyBar. Many presume it's a misnomer, but when you are outside gazing up, there is nothing to see but beautiful Miami sky. And while there is no gorgeous skyline to marvel at and the pool is pretty standard, SkyBar still attracts throngs of European tourists, gorgeous locals, and perhaps a sugar daddy or two ready to spend big bucks on a perfect view of the clouds. A standard drink starts around $15, which makes this a pricey but well-worth-it pool vista.
Bar 721
In South Beach's hetero-dominated nightlife scene, the choices are almost endless and hot spots change more often than a straight guy switches his plaid boxers. But gay nightlife on the island has become rather staid over the past decade. Score and Twist are still the rage, but sometimes you have to go 721. Thankfully, after more than a year in business, this place seems to have some staying power. Filling the former Laundry Bar space, it's chic without trying too hard. Unless it's supercrowded, it usually feels intimate but not claustrophobic. It also boasts a pool table, an anomaly among gay bars in Miami. Sometimes the Gaga-dancing hordes come out in full force, while other times it feels more like a bar that just happens to attract a gay clientele. It's a nice change of pace and another recent addition to Miami Beach that reasserts the town as a gay-friendly place to live, play, and visit.
Grand Central
Miami needed a midsize venue. After Studio A's closure in 2008, it was evident. The city lacked an adequate place to host midlevel national acts that dare to trek to the farthest reaches of the Florida peninsula. The only alternative was Fort Lauderdale's Revolution Live or Culture Room, but it was unfathomable to think that a major metropolitan city like Miami couldn't have its own music venue of similar size. So it was with much joy that everyone welcomed Grand Central into the fold when it debuted during Winter Music Conference 2010. Nite Jewel of Italians Do It Better and Brooklyn's Tanlines popped the venue's live-music cherry, and since then, acts such as Major Lazer, Kid Sister, Nitzer Ebb, Surfer Blood, the Drums, Crystal Castles, Sleigh Bells, and Golden Filter have performed in front of the venue's signature LED curtain. Local acts have performed too — among them Afrobeta, Jacuzzi Boys, Modernage, Little Beard, and Old Wives Tale. Getting tanked ain't cheap, though. Well drinks cost $9. But the price includes auto-gratuity — that's right, you don't have to leave extra dollars for a tip. Also, check into Foursquare for regular drink specials.
The Stage
Known the world over as a dance capital — what with Winter Music Conference and all — Miami sometimes gets a bad rap for being a tough town in which to produce live music. But anybody making this claim fails to consider the ever-growing wellspring of musical talent, and new venues that blossom to support our artists — venues such as the Stage in the Design District, which opened this past February and has since been home to more than its share of both local and out-of-town performers. This isn't your run-of-the-mill bar. The stylishly decorated and comfortably appointed space seems to sprawl around a center stage that's surrounded by works from local artists. And the lush back patio with a clear view of the stage is not too shabby either. The Stage claims its goal is to "fuse the long-running traditions of live music, laid-back coffeehouse cool, and the present-moment awareness of a live theatrical venue." It's off to a hell of a start.

Best Endangered Venue to Beat the Extinct List

Transit Lounge

It was a scary moment when we heard this most hallowed of live music and boozing institutions was closing its doors after ten years of serving up some of South Florida's most memorable performances. Then came the news that owner Will Edwards had saved the day by purchasing the land so he could keep the spot open. Thank Dios. Some of SoFla's favorite acts have graced either the corner stage or the fairly recent outdoor patio stage. Or both. From Locos por Juana to Spam Allstars to ArtOfficial, and Lanzallamas to Conjunto Progreso to Suenalo, Transit has been a home to music in Miami. And that's to say nothing of the many out-of-town bands that have visited the space, including Pinker Tones, all the way from Spain, and Palenke Soultribe from the West Coast. New Times and its readers raise a glass to you, Transit Lounge. We're glad you dodged the bullet.
A hip-hop group might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think Best Band. But why the hell not? ArtOfficial is nothing if not that — both a full-fledged band and some of the best musicians the 305 has to offer. Keyboardist Danny Perez, bassist Ralf Valencia, and saxophonist Keith Cooper lay down the live instrumentation: supple and seductive grooves that bob and weave among styles ranging from jazz to funk to rock. Meanwhile, MCs Logics and Newsense deliver deft and swift vocals, giving those jazzy rhythms their finely honed hip-hop edge. The five-piece has been earning well-deserved acclaim both locally and beyond ever since the release of its 2007 debut EP, Stranger, drawing comparisons to the Roots, and dropping music as far as Japan (2008's Fist Fights & Foot Races, which was released stateside in January). The time has come to crown ArtOfficial Best Band right here in its hometown.
Plains isn't one of the most prolific bands on the local circuit. Rather than flood the blogosphere with a million throwaway tracks, they drop a few at a time and prefer to release physical product on seven-inch vinyl. And rather than slog through the same five clubs weekend after weekend, they spread out their shows, but make each one memorable. Part of that, though, is because the members have plenty going on outside the band. Frontman Michael McGinnis, the heart of the group, is an engineer and stable artist at Honor Roll Music. Guitarist Jorge Graupera is an axe man for hire who has played in other lauded local acts such as the Brand. Bassist Jared McKay is half of the duo behind underwater artists Coral Morphologic. And finally, drummer Michael-John Hancock hails from ANR. When any of them can't make it, others in the band's extended family have subbed in, such as Jorge Rubiera of Animal Tropical and Can't Stop. When the core lineup manages to get together in the same place, it's worth it. Plains' shambling blend of distorted guitar pop harks back to the college-rock radio days of old, when indie meant rock and the Big Muff was the pedal du jour. It's something not heard much around these parts, but when it is, it's welcome — quality over quantity, folks.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®