Best Bar, North 2014 | Nite Cap Lounge | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

When a bar's front windows are plastered with Bud heavy promo posters and three American flags, you pretty much know what to expect inside. And yes, porn mustaches and bad dye jobs abound inside the Nite Cap Lounge, which doesn't serve snacks but is stocked with plenty of glorious cheese. Because the Cap is technically a sports bar, practically every square inch of its guts are covered in Dolphins regalia. But most people don't drive up to North Miami Beach to stare at the screens; they go for the other patrons. Though it looks like the old-timers know one another better than they know their own families, there's not even a bit of cliquishness. It's a true neighborhood bar where the regular drinkers prioritize making guests feel at home and welcome to come back. (And hey, maybe that's why there are so many regulars in the first place.) Turn your Dale Earnhardt hat backward, pull up a barstool, and order that $1.50 Bud heavy in a plastic mug. Miami might be our nation's most international city, but Nite Cap is as all-American as it gets.

A statue of Bruce Lee's karate-ripped body overlooks the bar. A World War II Hindenburg hub floats from the ceiling. An astronaut in a space suit hangs next to a dangling chandelier made of glass bottles. A bearded dude wearing an Hoy Polloy T-shirt scores on the Playboy pinball machine, and chicks in high-waisted black shorts show off their perfectly toned abs as they chug glass after glass of free vodka soda during ladies' night on Wednesdays. Killer riffs and catchy beats from Jean Jacket and other local indie acts captivate the crowd, and a DJ gets the party started and asses shaking with some serious electro-pop dance tunes. There are regular karaoke nights, the long-running gay party night Glitter Box Mondays, and a good selection of craft beers and well-mixed cocktails. That whole eclectic-meets-hipster vibe that Kill Your Idol's got going is what makes it a diamond in the rough of uhntz-uhntz powerhouses dominating SoBe's drinking scene.

Photo courtesy of Mike's at Venetia

In the past few years, Miami's drinking dens have started catching up with foodie meccas like New York and Chicago by offering increasingly complex craft cocktails — which, don't get us wrong, is a great trend. You won't hear us complaining about delicious concoctions made with fresh ingredients and top-shelf liquor. But sometimes our wallets are asking for a bit of a respite. Face it — there are only so many $14 old-fashioneds we can drink without dipping into our rent money. That's why we're forever grateful that Mike's at Venetia is still thriving downtown. The long-standing watering hole was once the hangout of Miami Herald staffers, whose bayfront headquarters were next door. Despite the paper's departure for Doral, the sticky bartop, outdoor poolside tables, and ornery barflies remain. Drinks are cheap — we're talking $6 for a Jack and Coke. To top it off, Mike's features a Monday-through-Friday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., which includes half-off select appetizers and $1 off already well-priced drinks. Best of all, you can down those budget drinks in a cozy den with sweeping views of Biscayne Bay while shooting pool. Next time you're tired of getting all gussied up just to get a damn drink, take the elevator up to Mike's.

Warning: It's a ten-hour walk before the next booze shack and another two straight days of stumbling to Key West. Maybe you're a drunkard without a designated driver. Or you're too broke to buy a ride in a biker's sidecar. Or you just smoked the last doobie and there isn't enough grass at the bottom of your duffle bag to pay for passage aboard a wealthy Parrothead's pleasure yacht. Whatever the reason why you've found yourself stranded, thirsty, and wandering along South Dixie Highway where it suddenly narrows into a two-lane asphalt strip that skips from tiny island to tiny island before finally reaching the southernmost point in the continental United States, this is your Last Chance, as the saloon's smiley-faced sign jeers, to get buzzed off $2.25 draught beers, play some shuffleboard, and use "inside toilets."

Photo courtesy of Karaoke by Bernie

Although it sits on the border of West Miami and Coral Gables, Seven Seas exists in an alternate universe where time stopped long ago and a cold one costs $2.50. It's hard to imagine any of its patrons existing for a second anywhere else in Miami; it's too pretentious out there for anyone who appreciates the Seas. And make no mistake: This is one of the city's few true dives. Patrons here are fiercely loyal to the establishment and one another. Although nightlife revelers in the Magic City are notoriously fickle and the places-to-be as ridiculous as anything Stefon would describe in a segment of SNL's "Weekend Update," rest assured that even when hovercrafts fill whatever futuristic concept replaces the parking lot, Seven Seas will still be filled with musty naval relics, dirt-cheap booze, and a convivial blue-collar cast of characters. One such character is Bernie Ravelo, who has hosted Thursday's karaoke night for more than a decade. His quirky cadre of regulars, like the guy who sings only Sinatra, precedes him and will probably outlast him — assuming the normal flow of time even touches life inside Seven Seas.

In Miami Beach, where too many clubs for the glamor set pretentiously serve Goose and Bulls for 20 bucks a pop, finding a bar that doesn't take itself too seriously is as relieving as snagging an ocean breeze on a muggy July afternoon. Patpong Road, brought to you by 50 Eggs, the people behind restaurants such as Yardbird, Swine, and Khong River House, is named for the notorious red-light district in Thailand and offers a cheeky play on a "naughty" night in Bangkok. As you walk up the tin steps into the tiny room, bathed in not-too-subtle red light, you step up to the bar. There, you'll find all the "retro" favorite cocktails you loved in college but are now too "grown up" to drink. Seriously, dude, when was the last time you had a kamikaze or a Long "Thailand" iced tea? The bar puts playful twists on the drinks, though, as in its version of the Sloe Screw. Renamed "A Long, Sloe, Comfortably Spicy Screw up by the Wall," it adds chili syrup, Southern Comfort, génépy, and vodka to the classic recipe. Drinks such as that make perfect sense to sip as you listen to the "latest" tracks by Prince, Culture Club, and Madonna. Patpong Road is kitschy, hilarious, and just plain fun. It's like being at a drunk Thailand pavilion at Epcot — a little bawdy, but ultimately good, delightfully fake times.

LeBron claps his hands, exploding a cloud of powder over the scorers' table. Giancarlo Stanton slides the doughnut off his bat and strides into the box. Ryan Tannehill checks the play on his wristband and jogs into the huddle. The big game is about to start. And you've got a choice to make. You didn't snag a ticket to the stadium, so you can watch at home (yawn) or head to your neighborhood chain sports bar, where you know the food will be mediocre, the staff will be overworked, and the beer will be overpriced. If only there were another way. Good news, Miami sports freaks: There is, and it's in Kendall. Rock Fish Grill is a family-owned eatery with genuine homestyle hospitality, a sinfully tempting menu, and all the games on big screens over the bar. Don't slog through another unbearably mediocre plate of wings. Watch the game with homemade Maryland-style crabcakes ($11.99), fresh steamed snow crab ($9.99), or the signature golden fried Parmigiano-Romano-crusted tilapia sandwich, AKA the "big-ass fish sandwich" ($8.99). The walls are adorned with music memorabilia hailing icons ranging from Pink Floyd to B.B. King, and happy hour Monday through Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. includes $1 off craft beer drafts, $2 selected draft beer, $4 house wines, and 50 percent off all appetizers. LeBron is ready for the game. It's time you stopped making excuses.

Sometimes a losing bet leads to a bigger bet, which leads to a very bad idea. The balls are racked. The cues are chalked. And the $100 bills are counted. Usually, an hour of midday billiards costs only six bucks at Doral's favorite strip-mall pool hall, Doral Billiards. But this next game of eight ball is worth ten grand. The other guy's fat wad of crumpled bills has been crammed into the buttoned pocket of an obese middleman. But you're broke. You're out of paper money. And you're borrowing from an acquaintance with a short temper and a remote piece of property on the edge of the Everglades. The collateral for this friendly loan is the key to a 335-horsepower family heirloom sitting in the parking lot — black, waxed, and the only thing you still own in this world. The other guy breaks, sinks six solids, then misses. You toss back the dregs of a $9 pitcher. You inhale. You exhale. You put down four stripes. You scratch. The other guy smiles, taps his last ball into a corner pocket, follows with the eight, and smiles wider. You feel the sickening, sinking feeling of losing everything. You lean against the table with an open hand on the smooth blue felt. You feel for the outline of the extra key hidden in your empty wallet. You contemplate the odds. You assess your surroundings. The ceiling is black. The walls are red. The floor is green. And it's about 20 paces at a full sprint to the front door.

Hyde Beach

Time for some real talk: It's damn difficult to mess up a poolside bar in Miami. You're beside a pool. There's a bar. You purchase cocktails, dip your feet into the water, and basically live the American dream as you sip your way to the bottom. How hard can this be, people? Yet an astonishing number of Miami hotels have conspired to ruin this simplest of good things with eye-poppingly overpriced drinks, shoddy service, and pools that are either inaccessibly hip or packed to the gills with sunburned out-of-towners. So props to Hyde Beach for getting it so right. Inside, the bar is decked out like a '70s Brady Bunch rec room, but outside there's 8,000 square feet of pool and beach fun. There are pitchers of mango mojitos ($80) and cucumber watermelon margaritas ($18), or for true backyard ballers, bottles of Moët & Chandon Ice ($475) and vases of sangria made tableside ($200).

Photo courtesy of Living Room

Usually every W Hotel has a bar dubbed Living Room, and the South Beach outpost is no different. And though we've stayed at other W locations around North America, we've yet to find one with a lobby bar scene that's as chic as our local one. Beautiful women? Check. Power players? Check. Well-versed bartenders? Check. Excellent cocktails? Check. In fact, it's hard to believe that with so many lovely things surrounding you that the cocktails are still the star here. Concocted by noted mixologist and author Scott Beattie, the drink menu features creatively crafted libations that are meant to be sipped, not chugged. Complex flavors reveal themselves as they touch your tongue and slowly make their way to the back of your throat. Some of our favorites include the Hemingway daiquiri (aged rum, agricole blanc, fresh lime and grapefruit juices, simple syrup, maraschino liqueur, and bitters) and the Miami Manhattan (whiskey, bourbon, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and old-fashioned bitters), which revamp classic cocktails with fresh flavors and give their syrupy impostors the boot. All cocktails cost $16 but are well worth the price. Plus, the W's masculine yet inviting setting means you'll never want to leave.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®