Best Gay Bar 2012 | Swinging Richards | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Yes, the prudish goofs who run North Miami Beach are totally grossed out by a gay bar with a "sexually explicit" name such as Swinging Richards — not to mention the icky idea of full, frontal male nudity. But that's no excuse for uptight residents and overzealous city officials to go trampling on a homosexual man's right to pay another dude to rip off his G-string, shake that manly junk, and perform nonstop ball drops all night. In November 2011, this local outpost of an identically named Atlanta gay male strip club took over a neon-lit box building at 17450 Biscayne Blvd. that had been occupied by hetero nudie bar Queen of Diamonds. The club quickly hired a supersexy stable of bartenders, waiters, shooter boys, and 75 strippers; adopted a strict "no-clothes policy," and opened for business. Unfortunately, this combination of gayness, nudity, and drunkenness irked certain members of the North Miami Beach community. And latching onto a generally unenforced law banning nudity and booze in the same establishment, these people insisted that Swinging Richards be shuttered. So far, the club hasn't quit shaking its junk. But the struggle to save Miami's best gay bar still isn't over. So help stop NMB officials from shutting down this "all-male, all-nude, all-night" nudie spot, sign the club's petition, and swing your Richard for equality.

Photo courtesy of Mac's Club Deuce

In the land of million-dollar megaclubs, endless bottle service, boob-job giveaways, bleached beaches, and cosmetically enhanced asses, everybody needs a drunk-and-dirty dive-bar reality check. And Mac's Club Deuce is so real that it's unreal. So hide your bloodshot eyes behind smashed shades. Escape the merciless subtropical sun. And enter the cool, lurid darkness of this 90-year-old South Beach boozing spot. The neon flickers. The beer gets spilled. The barflies fight. The jukebox doesn't stop. And happy hour almost never ends. Every day from 8 a.m. till 7 p.m., suck a bottleneck (Rolling Rock, High Life, Corona) and slug shots (Bushmills, Jim Beam, Tres Sombreros) at two-for-one prices. In exchange for six crumpled singles, the bartender will slide a cold drink into your hands and slap a casino chip down as credit for the next round. And here, there's no shame in drinking till dusk or beyond. Watch tales of murder, drug busts, and home invasions on the 6 p.m. Action News, and ogle the pink naked lady on the wall kicking her high heels and waiting on a mate while lying face-down, ass up. Bark at the old fat dog as he licks the floor, weaves between the barstools, pokes his nose in the trash, and sniffs the toes of a sexy 50-something amputee with perfect platinum-blond hair and a dirty martini in her remaining hand. Steal a casino chip from the ancient eye-patched and tatted gangster who just staggered across the street for a taco break. And count down the seconds as a crooked hand crawls across the dirty face of Mac's glowing toxic-green clock.

Welcome to Stoop House, where the only rule is "Stoop hard, get stoopid." It's a newish party spot that belongs to Miami's long, great, and generally undocumented tradition of totally off-the-radar music venues, such as the short-lived all-ages spot Goo. Or remember last year's ill-fated Chum Bucket collective? Or how about the now-dead La Cueva, a Little Haiti music venue above a liquor store? We're talking tiny, no-budget, DIY spaces where punks, skaters, street kids, scene freaks, folkies, metalheads, swag rappers, radical activists, and their friends can get together for house shows, events, food, booze, and good times. Of course, party plans are pretty sporadic. So any wannabe Stooper will need to keep it locked to the Interwebs for updates. But when it's finally time for "some crazy super group togetherness," expect loud music, pesticide-free potlucks, homemade T-shirts, stapled zines, demos on cassette, lectures about sexism in the media, and hours upon hours of crowd surfing with your 16 new BFFs.

When out-of-towners want to shake to the rhythm of Latin music, we throw on a guayabera, linen pants, and loafers and escort the visitors to the American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami. Located behind the Miami Heat's home court, Bongos Cuban Cafe boasts a sweeping vista of Biscayne Bay, which is the perfect backdrop for the thumping beat of salsa, merengue, and reggaeton that fills the 16,000-square-foot supper club Friday and Saturday till 5 a.m. Owned by Miami icons Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Bongos has established itself as the spot for the city's Latin music industry. With its Havana nightspot décor, the place has hosted afterparties for the Latin Grammys, the Billboard Latin Music Awards, and Premio Lo Nuestro, to name a few. Bongos features a large ballroom where hundreds of people show off their salsa and merengue dancing skills every weekend. Just remember to yell, "Azúcar!" every time a Celia Cruz tune plays.

If you're gonna murder a popular song, might as well do it on the fringes of the Everglades. Since 2009, Fat Monkey has been hosting karaoke parties six days a week. Trust us — the trek to deep South Miami-Dade is worth it. Lube up your vocal cords with $5 frozen daiquiris or four bottles of domestic beer for $10. Ladies drink free Friday nights. And once you've built up enough liquid courage, you can have your way with a playlist featuring more than a thousand songs. Located in the heart of historic downtown Homestead, Fat Monkey is tucked inside an unadorned storefront with pane-glass windows. Hours are 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

Alexander Oliva

On the first day, that great guitar god in the sky made a skull-shattering noise and called it rock 'n' roll. On the second, he smashed his axe, lit the splintered instrument on fire, and watched it burn. On the third day, he destroyed a four-star hotel room. On the fourth, he signed a major-label record deal, transformed himself into a swan, and lay down with a famous groupie. On the fifth, he OD'ed. On the sixth day, he rose again. And on the seventh, he said, "Screw rest. I need someplace to party." And thus, Churchill's Pub was created.

Set back about a hundred steps from SW Eighth Street, a black, boxy building hides in the shadow of I-95. This is the Performing Arts Exchange, also known as PAX Miami. Just more than a year ago, owner and art buyer Roxanne Scalia completed renovations on the former Miami Herald distribution center. She quickly booked a bunch of bands, including Miami jam stars Suénalo, local Latin fusion legends Locos por Juana, and Magic City alt-rockers Minimal. In the intervening 13 months, Scalia's place has become a clubhouse for Brickell and the rest of Miami's best- and least-known Afro-Cuban, compas, indie rock, reggae, and jazz musicians — not to mention touring acts from foreign lands like Haiti, Chile, Argentina, France, and Puerto Rico. A laid-back cultural hub that describes itself as "a progressive independent performing and cinema arts center in a sustainable format, with a local focus and a global reach," PAX is all about promoting Miami's artists and musicians. And that's exactly why the locals hang out here, scenesters sip java and beer at the bar, and the small, low-slung stage is almost never empty.

Courtesy of Bardot

From the outside, there's no sign of life. Long curtains hinder any attempt to spy through the windows of midtown's ever-expanding strip mall on North Miami Avenue. In fact, there's really nothing — aside from the packed parking lot — to indicate you have arrived at your destination in an otherwise desolate area. Late at night, there is only this bar and Gigi's, both owned by Amir Ben-Zion, who is building a local empire. Bardot reminds us of a cross between the coolest music venue in NYC's East Village and your best friend's basement. There's good booze, plenty of beer, and programming that ranges from local performers to more established names. The lineup is impossibly diverse, from sonic jazz to Latin fusion, classic hip-hop, vintage funk, electronic trance, reggae, alternative rock, and more. Bardot curates an amazing rotating selection that definitely has something for every taste. Plus there's a fantastic sound system in this rectangular, railroad-style space. Music fills the bar without speaker backlash, delivering the lyrical voice of whoever is at the microphone. There are plenty of couches in dark corners and new friends making out like crazy. Bardot manages to be a bar where both community and privacy are respected. But in the end, it's all about the music.

How do you build a killer tree house? Step 1: Pick the perfect crotch, a space between boughs that's ideally suited for supporting a couple of rooms, a few friends, and a full premium bar. Step 2: Lay the dance floor, install the VIP tables, and unfurl the rope ladder. Step 3: Hire a bouncer-slash-model to work the door. Step 4: Charge a modest $10 cover. Step 5: Book the raddest house, techno, and indie-dance acts of any club in Miami Beach. Sure, your favorite elevated party place used to be that secret leafy spot where you kept a stash of stolen porn, smuggled cigarettes, and watered-down vodka. But ever since construction wrapped in January 2011, you've switched to the Treehouse on 23rd Street at Park Avenue, a smallish nightlife hideout and music venue that's been ceaselessly presenting Beach clubbers with EDM legends such as M.A.N.D.Y., Mr. C, and Steve Bug — plus live crossover crews including Miami's own Krisp. So whether it's Winter Music Conference or just another Sunday, climb up, shoot some vodka, and come play.

If you're a musician, performance artist, poet, or spoken-wordsmith, follow the map in the sky to Luna Star Cafe in North Miami, now in its 16th year of awesomeness. There you can display your talent in an open-minded open format, with a supporting cast of more than 100 cosmopolitan beers (including a Florida brew called Holy Mackerel and a Belgian one called Kwak; Coors, Heineken, and Amstel Light did not make the cut). There is also a menu that includes duck wings, crabcakes served with a key lime tartar sauce, pizzas, pastas, and Mediterranean plates. For those looking to activate sleepy corners of their creative minds before taking the stage, an espresso or gourmet coffee is a peppy choice. The open jam on Tuesdays is a laid-back event that often features local musicians playing original acoustic folk or rock, but comedians, storytellers, and others with a creative seed to sew are welcome to do so too. Not ready to strum in public? No worries. There's enough graphic art on the walls, live entertainment, fresh food, and stimulating conversation to make even wallflowers emerge from their shells. Call to make sure the schedule hasn't changed — things at Luna Star Cafe rotate like the planets.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®