Best Miami Herald Reporter 2016 | Jenny Staletovich | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

For thousands of years, South Florida was a veritable swamp, characterized by a unique breed of flora and fauna as well as a complex system of natural waterways. But in the early 1900s, developers concocted the brilliant plan to drain and pave over the swamp to carve out a massive city. Since then, South Florida has been marked by a seemingly endless barrage of environmental disasters; every business proposal seems to threaten total environmental ruin. From bleached coral and algae blooms to toxic nuclear power plant leaks, keeping up with environmental news in South Florida is a gargantuan task. Luckily, Jenny Staletovich, the Miami Herald's environmental reporter, is there to capture it all for us. She took over the beat in 2014 after working as a freelance reporter for eight years. From 1989 to 2000, Staletovich worked at the Palm Beach Post as a statewide general-assignment reporter. In Miami, her comprehensive, sweeping environmental coverage names the perpetrators of environmental decimation in our coastal towns, parks, and waterways. She explains the science in simple language and reminds readers of the importance of natural spaces as well as the complex relationship between humans and the environment. For her work at the Herald, she was named a "Woman Greening Journalism" last year by Audubon magazine. As South Florida continues to chart its future in the face of rising seas, Staletovich is the informed, impassioned, and steady voice the region needs to ensure the environment is not left out of the conversation.

Sports radio is a fickle business. You're never quite sure if your favorite hosts will be on-air the same time of day next year or even next month. Sometimes change is good, though, even when it means shaking up a thing you've grown accustomed to. In August 2015, 560 WQAM added former Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder to its popular Hochman and Krantz show, which runs weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. The results have been tremendous. Crowder — an instant hit with sports radio fans following his playing days — adjusted perfectly to the new surroundings. He plays brilliantly off Marc Hochman's humor, which at times can be, um, special. The pair is salt-and-pepper perfect, with a splash of Krantz for spice. The result is an especially entertaining sports radio show recipe with something extra.

In Miami, we're used to festivals taking up every free weekend during "season," that perfectly crisp time of year when the rest of the nation is freezing and we're finally hitting temperatures below 80 degrees. Though most of these festivals revolve around food or music, we get some pretty world-class art festivals too — like the indomitable Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Wynwood. Three years ago, a newcomer emerged on the scene, a festival that blends various art forms — movement, film, and visual art. Screen Dance Miami was created by Tigertail Productions, one of the city's oldest arts institutions. Director Mary Luft sought to work with both local and international dancers exploring new ways of capturing movement on film. Screen Dance is more than just live recording — rehearsed choreography is warped onscreen using visual tricks to guide the viewer to consider dance in a different realm.

Readers' choice: Coconut Grove Arts Festival

Though Miami is known for its bizarre style trends (namely booty shorts, neon, and face-lifts), it's difficult to find someone very fashion-forward in town. There aren't many here who live in the larger world of the well-dressed. Then you see Angeles Almuna, the immensely stylish blogger, photographer, and jewelry designer, and you're like, "Holy crap, this lady can dress!" She looks like a million-and-one bucks at all times. She has shot for Glamour and Harper's Bazaar. She makes jewelry out of blown glass, and she's collaborated with Swarovski to create crystal works. The Chilean is not only an artist but also a former flamenco dancer. Almuna inspires you to dress better but also confounds because you know you could never look as good as she does. Recently, she was left with no hair after being treated for breast cancer, and she's become an activist for awareness and research for a cure. She even hosted her own Stella & Dot trunk show last year to raise money for the Noreen Fraser Foundation, which fights cancer. And the craziest part? She looks lovelier than ever.

During a recent Miami Heat playoff game, the booming chants of "Let's go Heat!" echoed down the sidewalks of Lincoln Road. No, despite ESPN's repeated claims that the Heat plays in South Beach, the roar of the Miami crowd does not carry across the team's true home on the mainland side of Biscayne Bay to Miami Beach like the bass notes of Ultra Music Festival. This particular Heat frenzy was pumping from an enthusiastic gathering at Finnegan's Road. The bar on the corner of Lincoln Road and Michigan Avenue has long been a meeting place for sports fans. With 20 big-screen HD TVs, you can finagle an employee to put on the game of your choice — even if, God help you, you're a New York Jets or Cleveland Cavaliers fan. There's a pool table inside, but the most entertaining pastime on the premises comes from the outdoor sidewalk seating. While you've got your eyes on the game, your friends who don't know Justise Winslow from the Justice League can occupy themselves with some grade-A South Beach people-watching.

Readers' choice: Flanigan's Seafood Bar and Grill

Courtesy of El Patio Wynwood

It took this Wynwood bar all of about five seconds to become one of the neighborhood's most popular spots. The night of El Patio's official grand opening, a line stretched down the block. If you were lucky enough to get inside, you instantly understood why. El Patio is exactly what you pray your backyard looks like one day. Furnished with mismatched vintage pieces of furniture and knickknacks shipped from Colombia — the homeland of co-owner Nicolas Hoyos — El Patio is a living example of why Miami's Latin-fusion culture makes this city great. With tropical music curated by local favorite Mr. Pauer, there's no shortage of hip-shaking going down during any given happy hour, which features some pretty insane deals, such as $4 cocktails and a bucket of four beers for only $4. We'll give that a moment to sink in. It's hard to think of a place more fitting to toast to the Miami sunset than El Patio. And if you make it till the night, be prepared to dance.

Readers' choice: The Anderson

Photo courtesy of Old Tom's Sports Bar

With its carnival explosion of cultures and nonstop hustle, Miami sometimes seems like the busiest place in the universe — and also a long way from America. But drive a few miles out to the burbs, and it's a different story on both counts. Take a detour to Miami Springs, for instance. Bathed in the light of more than a dozen flat-screen TV sets, your butt comfy on the padded booths inside Tom's NFL American Sports Bar & Grill, you'll begin to feel like the western reaches of Miami-Dade are just about the best place to drink away an evening. For more than 25 years, this true-and-blue sports bar just steps from Miami International Airport has been serving people flying through town and locals who like a special on their prime rib and a cheap, cool one to wash it all down. Kick back and lick that wing sauce off your fingers while you suck down a Bud and watch some football, because you're in America, dammit, the land of the free.

Readers' choice: Finka Table & Tap

Seth Browarnik /

John Lermayer is one of bartending's elite — a world-class drink slinger known the world over for his style, his concoctions, and his bon vivant lifestyle. So it was no surprise that when he (along with dream-team partners restaurateur David Martinez and Blackbird Ordinary's Dan Binkiewicz) opened his first bar, it would offer superlative libations. What makes Sweet Liberty so good is its casual setting. Here, no hipsters look down on you because you don't know the latest small-batch whiskey, and no brusque waitresses demand $35 for a cocktail. Instead, you get solid drinks and food with no pretenses. Of course, Lermayer and his merry band of bartenders serve some unique cocktails, such as the Beast of Bourbon — a dark, potent potable made with Jim Beam, spiced rum, coffee, and spices ($13) — and the simply named Rum Drink, with rum, lime, sugar, and Campari. But if you order a beer and a shot, you're good too (remember the no-pretense rule). If you want to up your drink IQ, reserve a bartender's table experience where, for a maximum of four people, you'll sit at a special table behind the bar and be served a myriad of food and cocktails for one blissful hour. The simply decorated bar is a mix of Americana and Miami — the better to see the standout focal point, a pink neon sign urging you to "pursue happiness." After a few cocktails at Sweet Liberty, that's a goal easily achieved.

Readers' choice: The Broken Shaker

When it took over the former White Room space last year, 1306 also rose from the ashes of beloved venue Grand Central. Brad Knoefler, Aramis Lorie, and Brian Basti, who were all involved with the midsize venue, opened a space that couldn't be any more different from the club they'd closed last September. Instead of an expansive venue, 1306 is small and intimate. In fact, the bar is two venues in one. The event space is located in the outdoor area, and it's perfect for private events or small concerts. The bar takes up the smaller indoor space, with the only indication of its existence being the illuminated neon sign reading, "Bar." With the low lighting and background music playing softly enough that it allows people to have a conversation, 1306's bar has become a favorite among those looking for a late-night cocktail in a not-so-chaotic setting. Given a drink menu by former Broken Shaker alum C. Virginia King, you better believe the libations are legit. Try the Daisy de Lolita ($15), with Ilegal Mezcal reposado, Yellow Chartreuse, lime, and mint. It goes down like a grownup version of a margarita.

Readers' choice: Wood Tavern

Photo by Jessica Gibbs

While the northern part of the county is under an elaborate craft-cocktail spell, the southern half is perfectly content to down unfussy drinks at reasonable prices. For 16 years, Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern has delivered exactly that. Built in a 1940s Florida cottage, Bougie's has became a beloved local watering hole for the nearby University of Miami crowd, as well as the young-adult set looking for something a bit more authentic than the bar at T.G.I. Friday's. That makes the crowd gathered here friendlier than most places in Miami. Mix that with a healthy dose of live music — reggae Thursday and local bands Friday and Saturday — and it's the perfect bar where you can let loose without having to worry whether your scene cred will take a beating. And forget about ordering a fancy drink here. Instead, go for a Red Stripe ($4) or a well drink, and enjoy the escape. For the fairer sex, drinks are free Wednesday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Readers' choice: Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®