Best Bar Program 2013 | Tongue & Cheek | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

At most restaurants, the chef is in the back working on ambitious or classic flavor profiles for his food, leaving the bar manager to use the same recipes and possibly make a signature drink or two. Rarely does the chef leave his domain to venture out behind the bar and create a "chef-driven" cocktail program. But that's exactly what Tongue & Cheek's chef/partner Jamie DeRosa has done. Instead of hiring a beverage director, DeRosa created a collection of whimsical and classic cocktails for his restaurant. From the Bourbon for Apples, made with Buffalo Trace, green apples, and fresh thyme (with little red ice "apples" floating in the drink, $14), to the Walking Dead, a potent mixture of Death's Door gin and fresh muddled strawberries ($14), each cocktail was created to be appealing to the palate and eye. If you're looking for some razzle-dazzle (and an instant buzz), try the blackberry molecular margarita. For $22, you get a show, complete with smoky liquid nitrogen and strange glassware, that you can drink. Containing four ounces of Milagro Silver tequila, this is one potent potable that could do double duty as a dessert sorbet/nightcap or just an über-refreshing drink after the beach. Bonus: Get to the bar between 5 and 7 p.m. any day, and cocktails (except the molecular) are only $8. Good drinks, good deal.

Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil/Flickr

Lagniappe, the Big Easy-style beer-and-wine bar in midtown, has more than 100 vintages for sale. There are small-name vintners, such as Garage Wine Co.'s Chilean Cabernet Franc ($47), and more affordable selections, such as the Wishing Tree's Australian Shiraz ($25). Lagniappe does not charge a corkage fee. It does, however, include a $2 music surcharge on the bill — but that's only because this hip venue features live entertainment every night. So choose a bottle from the racks, pay at the counter, grab a few glasses, and saunter over to Lagniappe's tea-light-studded terrace. Listen to the fellow playing the cello while you swirl and sip. Lagniappe has a great wine selection. It's also a lovely spot to enjoy it all.

Photo courtesy of Genuine Hospitality Group

The story behind Michael's Genuine Home Brew (22-ounce bottle, $12) does not begin with Cicerones sniffing pours and pinpointing the optimal colors for a brew. It starts, rather, with local ingredients, crop rotations, and farmers. In his first homebrew, James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Michael Schwartz uses Seminole Chief (Sem-Chi) brown rice — a crop that Florida Crystals uses to replenish soil after cane fields are harvested. The locally grown rice is shipped to Gadsden, Alabama. There, craft brewery Back Forty Beer Co. produces a light-bodied American ale with hints of floral hops and sweet citrus. It's among the first time Sunshine State ingredients have been used for the grain bill of a beer. That explains why it pairs so wonderfully with Schwartz's farm-fresh fare. Find Michael's Genuine Home Brew at all of Schwartz's restaurants — Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Harry's Pizzeria, the Cypress Room, and Restaurant Michael Schwartz — plus World of Beer, Total Wine, Shake Shack, the Room, Pubbelly, the Broken Shaker, Wood Tavern, and a ton of other places.

Somewhere, in an alternate universe, there's a land called Beeradise. There, IPAs flow from golden taps. Rivers run with red-hued ales. Skies rain refreshing lagers. And everyone is happily buzzed, from sunup to sundown. Sadly, we don't live there. But in our own little piece of creation, World of Beer Dadeland is as close as it comes to a brew-based Shangri-la. This shiny, laid-back beer-only bar stocks a whopping 500-plus brews. From Blue Point Toasted Lager to Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, and from Woodchuck Raspberry Cider to Delirium Tremens, it's all there — cold, delicious, and awaiting your thirsty tongue. Plus, WOB now carries its own draft, C'est la Vie!, a Belgian tripel brewed exclusively for WOB by Belgium's Bavik Brewing Company. And if you're into sampling new brews (who isn't?), for $15 you can join WOB's loyalty club, score a sweet T-shirt, and earn points for every different beer you consume. A place where being a boozer finally pays off.

Max Shapovalov

Barton G. is to desserts what Dolly Parton is to country music. Dolly is big, fabulous, and over-the-top — and so are the Miami Beach restaurant's golden funnel cakes ($36). To make this carnival treat, eight enormous pieces of crisp, deep-fried swirls are paired with rich chocolate, caramel, and strawberry dipping sauces. Barton G. also offers a sweet named the Sabrina sundae ($43) — which, by the way, is served in a colossal martini glass that's practically the size of Parton's hair. The bowl is filled to the brim with Valrhona chocolate brownies and more than two and a half pints of house-made ice cream. The whole thing is crowned with Chantilly cream, sprinkles, sculpted chocolate, and maraschino cherries. Some evenings, Barton G.'s dessert service even involves props, gizmos, and sparklers. Sounds like the perfect treat to eat after workin' 9 to 5.

Photo courtesy of Azucar Ice Cream Company

Cue the swaying palm trees, cafecitos, and intro beats to Joe Arroyo's "Rebelión," because Azucar Ice Cream Company embodies Calle Ocho in sugar, cream, and waffle cones. Staffers wear shirts stamped with Cuban sayings: "Que arroz con mango," "¡El golpe avisa!" and "¡Dale!" Outside, a live band plays salsa and son directly below a huge sculpture of a loaded ice-cream cone. The shop proffers flavors such as mamey, passionfruit, plátano maduro (sweet plantain), and a trademarked Abuela María — delicious, sweet vanilla ice cream with ripe guava, chunks of cream cheese, and crushed Maria cookies ($3.50 small, $4.50 large). Azucar satisfies cravings for dancing, desserts, and ice cream varieties such as double turrón. So next time you're in Little Havana, ya tu sabes exactly where to go.

Carina Ost

Got a fever? Traditional remedies may include ibuprofen and ice baths, but there's certainly something better (and sweeter) out there. Feverish Pops, a brand of vegan-friendly frozen treats owned by ice-cream enthusiast Felecia Hatcher, began as a small-batch pops operation selling from the back of a neon-green Scion xB. Soon, vintage carts started shooting up around town. Now, Hatcher owns a boutique in midtown, where pops are sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice or agave nectar and are prepared with organic fruits. Flavors are fun: There's orange-cilantro, peanut butter and jelly, and chocolate-banana-sea salt ($3). Some are spiked with beer or booze ($4). Fighting a high body temperature? Take a bite outta Hatcher's blueberry and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer pop. That'll make the pain go away any day.

George Martinez

There are many ways to eat a cupcake from Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee in Coral Gables. You can peel away the chocolate Oreo's baking cup ($2.75 each, $33 per baker's dozen) and then devour its butter-filled frosting one nibble at a time. You can tear off the top of an orange cupcake and then lick the orange-zest-speckled buttercream bit by bit. You could try a myriad of methods with the shop's 18 other flavors, which include chocolate-peanut butter, lime, mocha, and red velvet. Those are all very good trials. But after sampling all of Buttercream's moist, fluffy cakes, you should really try this: Remove the cupcake's wrapping, pull off its spongy bottom, plop it atop the frosting, and eat. Enjoy the beauty of a self-made, sweet Buttercream cupcake sandwich.

There's a warm feeling you get when something reaches your palate and nostalgia strikes. Sometimes it makes you smirk about your childhood or laugh about all the mischief you got into. Like a familiar smell, memories come flooding in from the past. Suddenly, you're 9 years old again, sitting on your grandma's counter, salivating over a bowl of fresh peach slices dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon. The homemade crumble nearby just came out of the oven, and now it and the peaches will go back into the oven until Grandma can spoon it steaming-hot into a bowl with a cold scoop of ice cream. That's the feeling — the memory — evoked by Pride & Joy's cobbler. A piping-hot peach cobbler arrives in the bowl it was baked in — fresh from the oven — with a creamy scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream ($6.95). This sweet treat almost seems like trickery. Who at this Wynwood barbecue joint stole Gram's recipe book? But after about a half-dozen visits (just for the cobbler), you begin to accept that it's simply a coincidence. And a damn great one.

Courtesy of Cuban Guys

El Tío Loco walks around aimlessly during family gatherings. He's always mumbling something about the old days in Havana, taking deep drags off his "legal" cigarros, and carrying that aluminum flask of amazing mystery rum in his pocket. See, El Tío Loco might stumble when he walks and slur his speech when he talks, but the man knows what he's slurring about. Tío Loco takes us to only one place in Miami-Dade for flan. It's the only place he says makes a better flan than he. It's not anywhere on Calle Ocho or in Little Havana. It's not in Hialeah or in Westchester (pronounced WEH-cheh-tehr). The original Cuban Guys location stands adjacent to a Sedano's Supermarket and a Payless Shoesource in a Hialeah Gardens shopping center. "M'ija," Tío Loco says, "Los Cuban Guys tienen el mejor flan. ¿Oiste? ¡El mejor!" Consider the velvety-smooth Cuban custard a French crème caramel with an identity crisis — a damn good identity crisis. It's the creamiest flan in town, and its almíbar — dark caramel syrup — makes you wish you grew up with Tío Loco taking you on flan runs every Saturday. At $2.99 a pop, the price is unbeatable. And because this is Miami, where one option is simply unthinkable, there are also other varieties: cappuccino, guava with cheese, and dulce de leche. But nothing beats the original. Unlike wobbly Tío Loco — who probably loves it so much because it embodies everything he aspires to be — Cuban Guys' flan is smooth, creamy, and supple. Go see what you've been missing.

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