Love Hate Lounge

When Miami Ink's celebrity tattoo artists Ami James and Chris Nuñez opened a lounge, we figured we would either love it or hate it. Which is kind of the idea at Love/Hate. There's certainly no indifference toward the tattoo-inspired art lurking in every shadow, the leatherette banquettes, the stripper pole in the corner of the room, or the homage to motorcycle culture. Indeed, this tiny lounge feels like a motorcycle dive bar that suddenly came into an inheritance. Like a relationship that alternates between extremes, Love/Hate changes during the night. In the evenings, the atmosphere is laid-back with tastefully inked men and women drinking bourbons and beer. As the night progresses toward dawn, the vibe turns club-like, with local DJs spinning hip-hop and house music. Because there's no cover or velvet rope, the atmosphere reeks of easygoing fun. We're not sure, but Love/Hate might have an invisible force field that repels the douchier element of SoBe nightlife.

We have two words for you: alcohol and alligators. Sounds like a recipe for a good time, doesn't it? This corner joint in historic downtown Homestead is the most happening spot in the city, and with good reason. First, there's cheap alcohol. We don't remember much from the few (um, maybe several) times we've been to Stick & Stein Sports Rock Cafe, but we do recall picking up a couple of shots and beers for less than $15 and a pitcher of domestic beer for only $8.50. Second, there's a tank of live alligators watching your every move. OK, maybe not watching as much as floating around looking awesome. Third, the varied jukebox selection reflects the diversified clientele; choose from tunes by the likes of Lil Wayne, Pink, Santana, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Fourth, play some pool on regulation-size tables, or stroll through the connecting passageway to the Fat Monkey Bar for some karaoke. Fifth, there's no dress code and no cover charge, plus there's free parking. And finally, if you get a bit sloshed, sober up with some pretty decent bar food, served late. After visiting Stick & Stein, you might start thinking there's no place like Homestead.

Broken Shaker
Karli Evans

Like a cocktail, there's a recipe for making the perfect bartender: Mix one part mad scientist, one part psychiatrist, and one part artist and serve with a side of humor. Gabriel Orta fits the recipe exactly. One-half of the team that started the recently closed pop-up, Broken Shaker (the other half is Elad Zvi), Orta doesn't just make cocktails. He lives them. Like Willy Wonka in the chocolate factory, Orta has a sense of wonderment and glee in his eyes when he mixes a drink. Every ingredient is a potential component of the next perfect libation — fresh rosemary, apples, bourbon. When you're at Orta's bar, there's a feeling you're about to be handed something you've never tasted before, something new. Even an old-fashioned gets jazzed up with custom-made ice, fresh herbs snipped straight from his garden, and a slice of fragrant orange peeled before your eyes. The result is a drink that's crafted, not simply mixed. We believe him when he tells us not to order our usual rum and Coke or that he's made our margarita with jalapeño-infused tequila. He doesn't just make the drink; he is the drink. Orta is summering in New York City but plans to open a permanent bar in Miami Beach this fall.

The Grill on the Alley

Buying pants is such a mission, you guys. Dios mío, ayúdame. It's like we find one pair and they're a really chic color that we just totally saw in Vogue, but then they make our butt look big, and not even in a good, Jennifer Lopez kind of way. Then we find a pair that makes our legs look like they've achieved supermodel status, but they have these ridiculously outdated cargo pockets. It's a nightmare, which is why we don't understand why more people don't drink at malls. Of course, then we realize that the bar selection at most malls stinks. Thank heaven Aventura Mall is home to Grill on the Alley. We mean, yeah, yeah, it's a good restaurant, but we can barely fit into the pants we're trying on anyway. Just take us straight to the bar. It's classy with an old Hollywood décor and has a damn good happy hour. We'll take an Ohrangarita followed by a vodka açaí lemonade. Then we'll try to decide on some pants.

Abbey Brewing Co.

Living in Miami sometimes feels like fighting a failing battle against collective amnesia. Every couple of months, nightclubs shut down and reopen under new names. Politicians come and go with the tide, leaving the city a bit dirtier each time. Hell, even our baseball team has a new name, stadium, and uniform. But if there's one place that we go to remember, it's the neighborhood bar. That's why there is nothing scarier to a barfly than the word renovation. Countless watering holes have closed for "renovation" only to never reopen or, worse, transmogrify into cocktail lounges full of black lights but with no draft beer. So imagine our terror when the Abbey Brewing Co. — one of the only good bars in Miami Beach — announced it would shut down for several months beginning last September. Thank Bacchus that when the place finally reopened this February, it was still recognizably the Abbey. In fact, owner Raymond Rigazio simply expanded the place. It's still a comfortable wood-lined cave where you can chat up a stranger or sip away your sorrows, but new ventilation and lighting mean it's a bit brighter and less smoky. The same laid-back bartenders still pour 13 different beers on tap, including the aptly named Immaculate IPA. But now you can actually find a place to sit. Plus there's room to throw darts without grazing customers as they pass through the doorway. So sidle up to the trusty old bar — made out of a shuffleboard table — or the new 14-foot bench put together with recycled Miami Dade pine, and have a drink. Each pint is a Pyrrhic victory over the powers of forgetfulness.

The Corner
Photo by Karli Evans

In the not-yet-gentrified neighborhood that the Corner calls home, you might mistake the dark bar for a place to get some five-buck hooch or a PBR and call it a night. But this little place deceives the eye and casts a spell. "Step inside, my pretty, and taste my delicious cocktails," this siren of a bar calls to you, and you obey. What? A bar is speaking? Of course! Haven't you heard of the term speakeasy? Once inside, you're teleported to a dimension where bartenders wear vests and make classic cocktails using spirits such as moonshine, white whiskey, and absinthe. You're not in Miami; you're in the "Cocktail Zone." Since you're here, you might as well have a drink, so you peruse the menus pasted on cedar planks. There are two listings — one for classic post-Prohibition cocktails and another for new inventions. Each libation sets a mood. There's the Death in the Afternoon, a fragrant but potentially lethal blend of absinthe and champagne invented by the brilliant (and suicidal) Ernest Hemingway. Or try the Whitey on the Moon, a newly made-up fantasy of Death's Door White Whisky, cloves, milk, and lemon zest. Only here can a cocktail made with "death" taste like heaven. Looking for something a little more festive? How about the Cham Wow, a mix of champagne, muddled raspberries, vodka, and lemon juice? It's what bartender Chris Funk calls a "panty dropper" because of its deceptively innocent pink color. The Corner is whispering to you to try another of its wonderful drinks. Around $13 per crafted cocktail, it's a safe bet you'll be back.

Broken Shaker
Karli Evans

This past year gave birth to the "pop-up" in Miami, the temporary-restaurant phenomenon that began in larger culinary communities such as New York, Los Angeles, and London. (Even Thomas Keller got into the spirit with his ten-day pop-up version of French Laundry inside Harrods department store). First came Phuc Yea!, next the Broken Shaker, and then Eating House. Plus there were a bunch of pop-up dinners featuring an assortment of chef swapping and special-tasting menus. Although there is an increasing trend toward thoughtful cocktail consumption, the Broken Shaker boys did it better, making their own ginger beer — swirling cucumbers, fennel, and gin to become punch-ified — and perfecting classics like the Manhattan. Cofounders Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta have a true passion for mixology that reinvents the cocktail wheel. They built everything at the Broken Shaker — which closed May 24 — with their own hands. The interior space was homey, and the garden offered comfy couches and twinkling lights under starry skies. No guest list, no attitude, no lines. The place was much like a lover you might meet during aimless summertime travels. It's difficult to give your heart to someone (or something) that you know in advance will leave. Yet this place claimed our love, and thus we memorialize our favorite pop-up, the Broken Shaker.

The Local Craft Food & Drink
courtesy of Local Craft

The Local is not only a great little neighborhood bar (it has 24 beers on tap) but also a damn good place to grab a bite. This is not the standard parade of chicken wings and sliders. The menu instead offers a well-thought-out mix of globally influenced dishes dressed in gastropub garb. Seasonal specials are updated daily, and chef de cuisine Vince Tien prefers that the food be procured locally whenever possible. Florida grouper is deep-fried for a traditional take on fish 'n' chips ($14) and then served with hand-cut thick fries and a dill tartar sauce for dipping. A bowl of steamed mussels ($13) is packed with chunks of cured pork belly and surrounded by a pool of "mushroom miso beurre fondue." We love the sticky gochujan glazed ribs ($14) topped with "chopped kimchee nuts" and scallions, and the glazed doughnut bread pudding ($8) with salted caramel and a brown butter crème anglaise. We can't say enough about the Local's love of pleasing patrons. On a recent visit, a dish that we ordered failed to arrive. Executive sous-chef Paul Cantrell appeared from the kitchen to apologize profusely when it showed up on our bill, and then he raced to follow us outside as we left, with free drink tickets in hand for our next visit. We can't remember another white coat ever following us into the street.

The Lido Bayside Grill
Adrian Gaut/The Standard Spa

The Standard Hotel's Sunset Cocktails happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill. It's a dockside respite from what would otherwise be considered a yoga- and health-centric hotel. There is a wide-scope view of the water where you can enjoy happy hour as the sky gently shifts from day to evening. Although the shots here usually involve wheatgrass and ginger, we like to load up on limoncello, lychee martinis, and the Arnold Palmer of frozen drinks — Lido's layered mix of a strawberry daiquiri and piña colada (just ask for it!). Everything by the glass (including wine and beer) is offered at half-price, and for some strange reason, the French fries are addictive. This past April marked the first anniversary of Gold Dust Lounge's weekly sunset gig at Lido on Friday nights, when there's jazzy surf music to sway by. The best part: The Standard is a bit off the beaten trail, so you'll see local patrons rather than tourists gathered around long tables shielded under a canopy of umbrellas. It's an ideal spot to casually enjoy the moment. Come happy hour, we'll be at the Standard, waterside. No, you can't sit at our table. Get your own.

Finnegan's on the River

Easily the largest outpost of the local mini-empire, Finnegan's River doesn't resemble sister locations Finnegan's Too and Finnegan's Way or any other sports bar we've visited. The draw here isn't the game but the massive patio, which boasts 400 feet of Miami River frontage and one of the most dynamic views of downtown you can get without condo access. Yet rare is the night that ample seating isn't available at the patio's four-sided central bar (which easily seats 50-plus) or that there's anyone occupying its attractive heated pool. The beer, liquor, and food are solid, and you're virtually guaranteed spectacular views, quick refills of that pint, and your own public yet oddly private pool party. Come at dusk, when police boats and commercial trawlers head home and the Miami Tower's hues illuminate the horizon. You'll imagine melodramatic Jan Hammer synthesizers scoring your own personal episode of Miami Vice.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®