Best Bar, North 2016 | Lou's Beer Garden | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
George Martinez

Your name probably isn't Lou, but whenever you visit this beer garden, it has a way of making you feel like it belongs to you anyway. Tucked away a block off North Beach's main strip, Lou's Beer Garden is a cozy little enclave beloved by locals and complete with a backyard-size swimming pool. It boasts a great patio vibe and is perfect for cooling off after a day at the beach or catching up with friends in the area. You'll get your choice of a wide selection of craft beers (many for around $10) or Lou's special craft cocktails. Meanwhile, the kitchen kicks out refined takes on comfort foods such as thin-crust pizzas (starting at $11) and a gourmet burger for $16. If it's a particularly nice night, you can enjoy it all while listening to the poolside palms rustling in the breeze — which can be a welcome change from the uhntz-uhntz beats and drunken tourist cackles that soundtrack many poolside hangouts to the south. You'll be sure to feel, well, right at home.

Readers' choice: The Anderson

Karli Evans

A humble hostel might be the last place you'd expect to find Miami's most inventive bar. But from the beginning, the Broken Shaker, helmed by Bar Lab's Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, has defied all expectations. What started as a pop-up bar in 2012 in a quiet Indian Creek Drive hotel has become a beloved creator of incredible libations celebrated by clientele and critics alike. In fact, for two years in a row, the Broken Shaker was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program. And in 2015, the Shaker was named Best American Hotel Bar at Tales of the Cocktail's Spirited Awards. Perhaps that's why when the Freehand hostel opened a Chicago outpost, the Broken Shaker tagged along. (A third Shaker location is planned for Los Angeles thanks to another Freehand in the works on the West Coast.) Still, it will be hard to match the idyllic Miami Beach poolside setting with mismatched patio furniture, uneven brick pavers, and twinkling lights. And, yes, the drinks, which constantly change according to the season and whatever local ingredients are fresh, make the Broken Shaker worthy of repeat visits if only to figure out what it'll come up with next.

Readers' choice: The Broken Shaker

When you finally find this windowless North Miami castle swollen with cheap beer and booze, Round Table Sportsbar & Lounge will make you feel like Indiana Jones unearthing the Holy Grail of dives. The exterior is gray and stately, and the roof even features a battlement detail. But once inside, you'll feel like you've stepped into another time and place. And you won't want to leave. Like every smoky watering hole, this place has games to distract you and beer that is cheaper than bottled water to keep you dehydrated. There's the requisite pool table and a fantastic tabletop shuffleboard that will hypnotize the competitive drunks in your group. While other classic dives like Fox's and Magnum have shuttered their doors forever, Round Table keeps Miami grounded and guzzling cheap beer like a good Southern city should.

Photo courtesy of Mac's Club Deuce

Mac Klein is dead. But Mac's Club Deuce will never die. The iconic 101-year-old owner of the Deuce passed away this year, but his bar — as confirmed by his wife Mary — has no plans of shutting its doors. For decades, Mac's Club Deuce, which Klein owned and operated for 51 years, has been the place to escape the artificial glamour of South Beach. There's no VIP section in the Deuce. Inside, everyone is equal. And even though celebrities often sat at Mac's curved bar, they were treated no differently from the iguana-swinging cross-dressers who sat next to them. (Just to clarify: There really is a Deuce story infamous among regulars where a cross-dresser threw an iguana across the bar. The creature survived.) Every loyal patron knew Klein wouldn't be around forever, but his passing still sent tremors through the dive-bar-loving worldwide. Thankfully, we can take comfort in knowing that his bar is here to stay, and through it, Mac will achieve the immortality he rightfully deserves.

Better Days photo

In some other parts of Miami, Better Days might not be that big a secret. But in Brickell, surrounded by glitzy towers and sumptuous nightlife options, Better Days flies under the radar, melting inconspicuously into the bourgie 500 Brickell Building. Part thrift store and part bar, Better Days came to Miami's financial district with the idea of giving the area a different sort of bar, a place where one could hide from the suit-and-tie finance bros who loudly shout about the stock market between sips of $30 martinis. And it has done just that. Better Days' interior is vintage and cozy, more like the living room of a very cool grandpa than anything else. Free popcorn is offered to patrons who enjoy tasty cocktails from a seasonal menu (which run about $10, give or take a couple of bucks). And after a few drinks, you can shop at the Dead Flamingo, a thrift store that shares space with Better Days.

Photo courtesy of the Anderson

When Bar Lab's Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi announced they were taking over the old Magnum Lounge — a retro New York-style piano bar — everyone naturally assumed the old, beloved space would serve some good cocktails. After all, Orta and Zvi are the masterminds behind the Broken Shaker, the bar that single-handedly put Miami Beach's cocktail scene on the world map. But what could the Bar Lab partners do to make a unique mark on the Anderson? Their answer was to seek inspiration from the '80s, a time when people enjoyed libations with names like WooWoo, Sex on the Beach, and Kamikaze. In the hands of Orta and Zvi (and using fresh juices, quality spirits, and handmade bitters), these drinks have been transformed into beautiful creations, much like Molly Ringwald in a John Hughes movie. The Like a Virgin ($11) is a sophisticated take on a Cosmopolitan, the drink made famous on HBO's Sex and the City, and the Let's Dance ($14) flips a dirty martini on its side with a hint of truffle and caper berries. But it's the Under Pressure ($12) that might just win your heart. Made with green-apple-infused vodka and Dolin Blanc vermouth, it's a tart and crisp tribute to the Decade of Me with just the right touch of restraint.

The large, round lights that make up the sign for Beaker & Gray are reminiscent of an old-school Broadway theater in New York City. And the bar's indoor aesthetics would fit nicely into Gangs of New York, the 2002 Leonardo DiCaprio movie about 1860s NYC. All in all, this Wynwood newcomer is a pleasing combination of rustic, country, and hipster. And unlike many über-trendy locales, it's got a killer happy hour every Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., and again at 11 p.m. until 2 a.m. for late-night wanderers (except Friday). Everything is $5. You can legit order three margaritas for $15 — the price you're used to paying for one. Or perhaps you'd prefer a Moscow mule, daiquiri, Tom Collins, or old-fashioned. Bartenders are generous with the alcohol, so there's no watered-down happy-hour mix here. When it comes to food, don't be afraid to order one of everything on the happy-hour menu. Devour those croquetas, ham-and-cheese sandwichitos, mofongo cake, seasoned olives, and unique chips 'n' dip. And because Beaker & Gray is conveniently located two blocks from the heart of Wynwood, a plethora of second stops await after you get your night started on the cheap.

Readers' choice: Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Co.

Karli Evans

Gui Jaroschy doesn't quite fit the trendy bartender mold. Instead of wearing a beard or a finely waxed ironic mustache, Jaroschy sports more of a Brady Bunch mop top and smile. Don't let that disarm you — the man means serious business when it comes to making a cocktail or running an entire operation. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Jaroschy began working in restaurants at the age of 18 while studying for an anthropology degree. He soon heard Miami's siren song, and the young barkeep got behind the stick at the Delano Hotel, working his way up to director of bars. Lightning struck when he joined Bar Lab's Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi on a little project called the Broken Shaker. Since then, Jaroschy has amassed quite the impressive resumé — opening the Broken Shaker Chicago, working at the Anderson, and consulting on cocktail menus for Ricochet Lounge, Drunken Dragon, British Airways, and Kreepy Tiki. For all of his work, Food & Wine ranked him in "The Top 10 Best New Mixologists in 2015," and he was named a Rising Star mixologist by Starchefs. Jaroschy has also won numerous mixology competitions, including top awards at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival while repping for the Shaker. With all of those kudos, the only problem is trying to catch up with this whirling dervish of a barman. In any given week, he can work at the Anderson, the Broken Shaker, or a guest bartending spot at any of the other bars in town. But once you do catch him, consider it a rare opportunity to have a truly great drink from a truly talented — and nice — guy.

Readers' choice: Gui Jaroschy

You just drove 40 minutes in Miami traffic, skirting jaywalkers and Lambo maniacs, and then you had to drop way too much money on a damn parking spot. It almost takes all the excitement out of the Heat game or the big show you trekked downtown to see, right? What you need is a drink and a moment to chill to re-collect that Zen, and Pub Urbano, technically in Brickell but still on the downtown side of the river, is ready to pour you an ice-cold brew. You suck one down fast, and you've got time for another round, but now there's a grumble in your belly. No worries, mate. Pub Urbano ain't no ordinary watering hole. This place is primed to satisfy your beer-creepin' munchies with plenty of Mexican finger-food flavor. Try a warm sandwich torta for $10 with spiced pork, breaded bistec, or huevos rojos. The tacos are delectable and range from $7 to $8 depending upon a variety of meaty or veggie fillings. There are even a few $13 pizzas, along with $8 salad options if you're looking for something light. It's so good you're gonna wanna go back the next morning for breakfast. Yeah, Pub Urbano serves that too.

Readers' choice: Batch Gastropub

High-energy rock 'n' roll and tons of fun — that's what the Magic City's Plastic Pinks bring to the stage every time they put on a show. While these guys have the gift of turning every gig into one hell of a rager, the music is where it's at. Having performed alongside indie icons such as Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Black Lips, and other garage giants of the ilk, June Summer and his "rad city sticky pop" crew released their first full-length album, Sunnyside Rabbits, on Burger Records last year. Recorded under the direction of AJ Davila of Davila 666, the Plastic Pinks' debut production was met with praise from critics and fans alike. But one of the highlights of the band thus far — not including its raucous III Points gigs, of course — was when the Miami boys rocked out at South by Southwest in Austin this spring. With a national music festival and a new single, "Kelly," released on Die Slaughterhouse Records, under their belt, the Plastic Pinks are working on their second album. Although an official release date has yet to be announced, you can always catch them wreaking rock 'n' roll havoc any given night.

Readers' choice: Afrobeta

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®