Best Artist 2017 | Antonia Wright | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Monica McGivern

First, all you see is darkness. Then, in slow motion, a figure floats into view. It's a woman, naked, her face scrunched as if bracing for impact. Seconds later, you discover why: Her body hits and smashes a pane of glass. Shards fly through the air, gliding across the screen as the woman slowly falls back into the darkness. Until she shattered the glass, you hadn't even known it was there. This is Suddenly We Jumped, Antonia Wright's 2014 short film that screened at the Borscht Film Festival this year. It's just one example of a courageous and often dangerous body of work by an artist known for taking risks — not just in the message of her art, but with her physical well-being. For a Locust Projects exhibit last fall, she submerged her body in an icy lake, reliving a childhood accident. Wright has performed tai chi while covered in bees and rolled naked down a filthy Miami alley. Her series Are You OK? features her crying openly on busy city streets from Paris to New York to Havana. She sacrifices her own comfort, and sometimes her own safety, to make bold statements, created with insidery art theories in mind but resonant with anyone with eyes and a beating heart. Is it hard to watch? Sure. Mesmerizing? Absolutely. But the word that best describes Wright's work is fearless.

Hyam Plutzik, a Pulitzer finalist, poet, and University of Rochester English professor, passed away in 1962, but his love of poetry is still bringing working writers to Ocean Drive for a room of their own. That's because his son Jonathan Plutzik owns the Betsy Hotel South Beach and offers plenty of space at this establishment for the arts. The elegant, Georgian-style hotel does a little of everything cultural to enrich the community. Plutzik's generosity presents curated soundscapes, live jazz, fine arts on exhibition, and a variety of salons with experts. The hotel also works closely with the poetry festival O, Miami to stage readings and other events. And the hotel's Writer's Room gives visiting wordsmiths studio space and a desk donated by the Hyam Plutzik Centennial Committee. Jonathan Plutzik's philanthropy has enriched the careers of 400 writers since 2012.

Courtesy of Archival Feedback

Two old friends with a passion for the kitschiness of the Sunshine State have found a way to showcase South Florida's landscape through sound art. Archival Feedback uses a peculiar variation on call-and-response to present the duo's vision: Their field recordings are the "call," while the visual artwork that goes with it is the "response." Conceived and executed by the prolific artist T. Wheeler Castillo of Turn Based Press and drummer Emile Milgrim of Sweat Records, Archival Feedback, their first project, released vinyl editions of audio recordings they collected over two years on Castillo's label, Other Electricities. Those recordings have been widely lauded and partially funded by a Knight grant. The two completed an Artist in Residence in the Everglades (AIRIE); collaborated on an O, Miami project; and are showing their sound art at the Deering Estate at Cutler.

Photo by John Caignet

For those of you in the dark about the rap crew Insane Clown Posse's intense and devoted followers, called juggalos, understand there is a lot you might never understand about this distinctly American and totally weird culture. These folks drink the Detroit soda pop called Faygo, yell "whoop" as an identifying greeting, and get together annually in the middle of nowhere for "the Gathering," a huge, mysterious concert and camp-out. South Florida is fortunate enough to have its own little podcast, Whoop Whoop Juggalo Hour, that offers a peek into this strange and audacious world. DJs Fartghost and Nutsack are actually drummer Anthony Hernandez and comedian Derek Heid, who are not actual juggalos but who feature "anything and everything related to the dark carnival" on their podcasts. Though the whole show is pretty tongue-in-cheek, the two do paint their faces and get dressed up like juggalos to present, in their words, "mad, wicked clown love" the second Wednesday every month on Jolt Radio.

Courtesy of Moon River Cabaret

What separates burlesque performances from straight-up stripping? One word: class. And Moon River Cabaret has class in all the right places. At the troupe's monthly residency at Vagabond Kitchen & Bar, performers and cofounders Rio Chavarro and his wife Sofia Luna get sexy with style, even incorporating a Mad Men theme for a touch of Don Draper suaveness. Moon River shows go beyond the feather fans and tassel twirling you imagine when you think of burlesque; this is a cabaret, after all, so performances also include comedy and singing. But Moon River can get naughty too. Consider its "Den of Vice" show, part of this year's Art Undressed festival, billed as "a dark and dangerously arousing collection of sensual burlesque performances" and featuring Franki Markstone, the "bodacious bisexual"; Miss Marina Elaine, "the sweetheart with a switchblade"; and other titillating talents. Chavarro and Luna are cozy with much of South Florida's burlesque community, so devotees of the troupe get to witness the skills of a wide range of local performers. You'll cheer; you'll gape; you'll get turned on. Just don't call them strippers.

Courtesy of Swire Properties

With each passing year, Brickell's buildings grow taller. And as more skyscrapers fill the horizon, there are fewer and fewer places to step back and see the city without a crane full of hairy construction workers obstructing your view. Luckily, Sugar, a new bar perched on the 40th-floor rooftop of the sparkling East hotel, offers a first-class view of downtown Miami. With a lush and earthy decor, Sugar truly feels like a big-city bar, one that, until recently, people might have associated with Manhattan more than Miami. But Brickell's explosive growth has earned this addition. Sugar's menu offers a selection of Asian-inspired meals, such as boneless Korean chicken wings ($16) and crispy tandoori squid ($14). And of course there are cocktails. The vodka-based lychee blossom ($12) is a staple, and the bar has no shortage of beer, wine, and champagne. But when it comes to Sugar, the appeal is clear: You come for the view, and you stay for the view.

Readers' choice: Ricky's South Beach

Photo by Tony Centeno

If your overcrowded community pool isn't far enough from the stresses of home, head to South Beach. Aqua Club Bar & Lounge inside the National Hotel offers the feel-good, tropical vibes you would expect on a Caribbean vacation. After walking through the hotel lobby, you come across a beautiful infinity pool and a path to a second pool. You also see an outdoor bar and lounge that isn't consumed by tourists. Take your level of laziness up a notch by claiming a hammock that hangs between palm trees just steps from the bar. Try signature cocktails ($15 to $16) such as the Blue Haze, made with vodka and blueberries, and El National, which contains white rum, apricot brandy, pineapple, and lime juice. If you're not feeling adventuresome, order the original Miami Vice or one of many flavors of mojito ($16). There are also delectable appetizers such as chicken wings and nachos, along with fresh salads. And there's a limited selection of seafood-based entrées, including a blackened grouper sandwich, a shrimp quesadilla, and a pricey crab burger. If it's not Miami Music Week, you probably won't find a live DJ here. However, a clever mix of electronic and island music is piped through the numerous speakers, which can make Aqua Club either a relaxing island getaway or just another reason to spend the day getting drunk by the pool. Either way is fine.

Courtesy of Electric Pickle

Before Wynwood was a gentrified mess, clubgoers flocked to the neon "Bar" sign along North Miami Avenue to listen to the best in underground and alternative dance music. That's because since 2009, Will Renuart, Tomas Ceddia, and Diego Martinelli have made it their mission to give Miami a place to dance at the Electric Pickle — bottle service be damned. While South Beach shifted toward EDM, the Pickle was booking up-and-comers and less familiar acts like Seth Troxler, Claude VonStroke, and Damian Lazarus. (Yes, they are well known now, but back then, they were relatively unfamiliar to American audiences.) Eight years later, the Wynwood mainstay continues to lead the way in showcasing new approaches to dance music that range from house and techno to experimental. And though it definitely has more competition these days on both sides of the causeway (Trade, Do Not Sit on the Furniture, and Treehouse on the Beach and Club Space and Heart in downtown), the Pickle pioneered the underground dance scene Miami enjoys today.

Readers' choice: LIV

Photo by Monica McGivern

Against Me, Bleachers, Frank Turner, Matt & Kim, St. Lucia, STRFKR. Over the past few years, Culture Room's penchant for hosting quality bands and indie street cred has surged. It continues to thrive with a no-frills setup and execution. Bands play, people rock out, and everyone drives home happy. Sure, Culture Room is small enough that music critics call it "intimate," which is code for "when things get busy, it's difficult to move/dance/breathe." But that's part of the appeal. You can get close to the bands. Lead singers can crowd-surf, and you can take selfies with the guitarists. While other rock clubs increase drink and ticket prices, Culture Room remains entrenched in the affordability of the 2000s. The sound is always great, drink lines are never long, and more often than not, visiting bands hang out in the outdoor smoking section near their merch table or even around the tour bus that has little choice but to park directly in front of the venue. Except for upgrades in the sound and lighting systems, Culture Room has hardly changed over the past two decades. It doesn't need to. It's a proper rock club with killer shows and zero snobbishness. That's everything a pure rock experience should include.

Readers' choice: Churchill's Pub

Courtesy of The Tuck Room

The title of best bar doesn't mean it's the top place to get blackout-call-me-an-Uber wasted. It doesn't translate to the most efficient place for singles to hook up. It certainly doesn't imply you should go out for dinner there or that it has a first-class atmosphere. But the Tuck Room boasts all of these traits, plus it's attached to a movie theater. It's like vaping to other bars' cigarettes. It's the perfect alternative to all of those predictable sports bars and college hangouts you're used to frequenting. The food here thrills for a bar; you just don't find ahi tuna poke bowls ($17) at every watering hole. Both the indoor and outdoor patio bars are comfortable for business meetings and nights out with the boys. It's not even out of the question that a family could grab a bite to eat before heading to the next-door iPic theater. Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, the Tuck Room is our favorite bar on the north end of the county because it's so very un-bar-like.

Readers' choice: The Anderson

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®