Best Underground Club 2012 | Stoop House | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

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.

Courtesy of Bardot

On May 10, 2012, Laura Sutnick closed a chapter of her life. Besides matriculating at the University of Miami, she's been the iconic on-air DJ Laura (of Miami) on WVUM for the past four years. Her show, Vamos a la Playa, quickly became a Miami staple — a two-hour feature of the best in college radio. Sutnick also took her keen ear to the nightclubs, spinning regularly at places such as the Electric Pickle and Bardot. But she wasn't content to be only a DJ. With Patrick Walsh, she developed the nightlife collective and blog Nightdrive, which has attracted some of the best indie-rock and electronic acts to area venues. And it's that love of introducing the city to new music, either from behind the decks or behind the scenes, that has made Sutnick Miami's top DJ. At a time when most of our DJs are content to spoon-feed crowds the stuff they expect to hear, Laura (of Miami) has us reaching for Shazam, hoping we can figure out the name of that awesome track she's spinning. And for Vamos a la Playa fans, the show lives on at Mondays from 2 to 4 p.m.

Julio Mejia is young, talented, local, and seemingly unstoppable. Just old enough to drink, the 21-year-old has already merked the decks onstage with great names such as Diplo, Dave Nada, Klever, and last year's best Miami DJ, Craze. Whether he's working on solo projects or with his partner Matthew Toth as half of electro duo GTA, Mejia has penned tunes that have attracted the attention of bloggers, EDM enthusiasts, and superstar DJs alike. His big break came when Dave Nada, founder of the genre, began playing his moombahton track "Move." Around the same time, GTA started working with Laidback Luke, and ever since, the requests and scene support have come in droves. He has officially remixed artists including Flosstradamus and Buraka Som Sistema. He's working on a few EPs, both as JWLS and GTA, as well as a series of rap instrumentals to be titled JWLS Is Bored. Keep an eye out for JWLS and GTA. Miami's moombah kid is doing big things.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®