Best Bar in Miami Beach 2017 | Employees Only Miami | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Courtesy Employees Only

When Employees Only opened in New York City in 2004, it was an instant hit. A dozen years later, thirsty patrons queue up outside for a spot at the intimate bar where jacketed bartenders create near-perfect cocktails. Named one of the world's best bars at the annual Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Employees Only still keeps its cool without pretense. Now comes Employees Only Miami, opened by one of the bar's original partners, Billy Gilroy. Walk inside a 1929 coral house on the grounds of the Washington Park Hotel and pass a fortuneteller to enter this dark lair of libation. Grab a seat at the bar, adorned with industrial art deco touches, and order a drink. Cocktails are divided into four categories: "Apéritifs," "EO Classics," "Fancy Cocktails," and "Cocktails" (most cost $16). Can't decide? Your bartender can choose for you. But if you want to be a Miami Beach baller, opt for the Billionaire, made with Bakers' bourbon, lemon juice, EO grenadine, and absinthe bitters. Be sure to order the bar's signature steak tartare, prepared to taste and served with toast and greens ($18). It's all part of a sophisticated evening — a touch of Manhattan in SoBe. The bar is open seven days a week from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Readers' choice: The Broken Shaker

Entrepreneur Cesar Morales some years ago turned Wood Tavern into one of Wynwood's most popular bars. With Las Rosas, which he opened this year, he's struck gold a second time. The Wood Tavern crew brands Las Rosas "a rebellious dive bar in Allapattah." Indeed, while Wood attracts the Everyman Wynwood happy-hour crowd, Las Rosas aims for an underground, rock 'n' roll-dive-bar vibe. The bar's Instagram page (@lasrosasmiami) and walls are packed with black-and-white pictures of rock-star misfits such as Kurt Cobain, who would've likely preferred some downtime at a low-key spot like this. For the unwinding introvert, Las Rosas offers pool and vintage arcade games to play while loosening up with a jalapeño margarita. And like any proper rock 'n' roll bar, Las Rosas also hosts bands. Acts such as Pavlov's Bell, Analog, and Xotic Yeyo have played here already, and Miami's heaviest band, Deaf Poets, chose this place for the release of its latest record, Lost in Magic City.

Readers' choice: Wood Tavern

When you want a club, you think of celebrity appearances and partying till dawn; when you want a cocktail bar, you think of house-made syrups and specialty liquors; but when you want a regular old bar, you think of no-frills drinks and no judgment, and you like it that way. Sunset Tavern is the kind of place you go to watch a guy with a neck tattoo and a cowboy hat dominate the pool table, the sort of place you can sit outside on a weeknight safe under a dozen umbrellas in a torrential downpour, a place where industry folks drink next to college stoners whether there's karaoke or live music on the roster. Sunset Tavern serves food from the Deli Lane kitchen and has the same staying power as its sister café, if only because it doesn't care to be South Miami's latest hot spot — a rarity in a neighborhood packed with every new restaurant concept. Grab brunch here; grab lunch here; grab some late-night fuel whether you're pregaming, sticking around, or heading home. Well drinks cost $5.75 during happy hour six days a week, and the chicken salad quesadillas ($11) go well with any of the 20 beers on tap. Come here for the neighborhood bar you didn't know you needed. It's open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Readers' choice: Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern

There isn't much you need in a bar that Flanigan's doesn't offer. You probably have a stack of those iconic green plastic cups in your cupboard at home to prove your dedication over the years. The Hialeah location is a comfortable spot that offers arguably the best wings ($16.99 and up) and ribs ($13.99 to $16.99) anywhere in South Florida. You can totally take your family on a night you're not downing stiff drinks while watching the Dolphins game. You won't find South Beach frills, just a good old-fashioned bar that has your favorite alcohol, the best food, and a friendly neighborhood staff that doesn't charge you $15 for a beer. It's open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Readers' choice: Barú Latin Bar

Courtesy of Riverside Market

Getting to the Riverside requires a trip across one of Florida's few remaining swing bridges and through the quiet residential neighborhoods of Sailboat Bend and Riverside. Far from the tourist-packed dives of A1A and the bumping bars of Himmarshee Village, this craft beer mecca is the quintessential locals hangout. You walk in, grab a beer from the hundreds stocked in the self-serve coolers along the wall, and settle in at one of the long tables, where you're sure to strike up a conversation with your neighbors. Pair your Bell's Two-Hearted or Cigar City Jai Alai with pizza, wings, or jalapeño poppers fresh from the kitchen; then pay on the honor system on your way out. Now that you know where Riverside Market is, you're sure to be back.

Readers' choice: American Social

Wilton Manors, just north of Fort Lauderdale, is a premier destination for South Florida's LGBT community. Because Miami and South Beach are often overrun by tourists, this Broward city is a haven for locals (though visitors are heartily welcomed). The area of just less than two square miles is home to a sparkling variety of options for a lunch, a night out, or general all-day shenanigans. Hunters, the Manor, Ramrod, and Scandals Saloon all offer something special, but one place stands out from the rest: Georgie's Alibi Monkey Bar. At 19 years old, Georgie's Alibi is one of the longest-running, most reliable establishments in town. Between the indoor lounge and the outdoor patio, a multitude of happy-hour specials every day, weekend brunch drag shows starring some of the best queens in the state, and DJs and live music acts throughout the week, it's impossible not to be entertained here. And with all that drinking and dancing and partying, people are bound to work up a hunger. For those brief moments of respite, Georgie's Alibi serves a full menu that blows away the notion of the typical bar, including tapas, wings, pizza, salads, and award-winning burgers. The prices are affordable even compared with some of its neighbors only a few doors away. Better yet, many times there's no cover for any of the shows, and with a friendly waitstaff bringing whatever is needed to the table, Georgie's lets guests kick back, have fun, and do a little people-watching.

Readers' choice: Twist

Cucu's Nest defies expectations by absentmindedly remaining a dive bar while surrounded by a growing city. It's like a beautiful yet incomprehensible time capsule. The couches, the walls, the pool table, the jukebox, the dance floor, the four TV sets — it's all so weird but somehow feels so right. As the northern end of South Beach has become hugely popular, the nightclub types have pinned Cucu's Nest as a place to stop off between more polished venues. And why not? There's a long happy hour seven days a week from 2 to 7 p.m., and each day offers different specials, including Coronas for $5 and whiskey and Coke for $7. It's still a glorious dive of a bar where you can drink away your troubles and remain real. It doesn't seem possible that Cucu's Nest will ever change.

Photo courtesy of Sandbar Sports Grill

Sandbar Grill has no sand, no beach, and no water. The only grilling happening is on a standard kitchen flat-top. It also has no pretension. This is probably one of the last spots in the city that has no desire to call itself a gastropub. There are a bunch of TVs, tables that double as playing surfaces for beer pong, and a Golden Tee Golf arcade game near the second bar in the rear. Though the rebirth of Coconut Grove has been a welcome boon to the neighborhood, this is one spot that doesn't need to be rebranded or remodeled. College kids, sports fanatics, and locals can enjoy happy-hour drinks and maybe even a smoke (egads!) outside on the sidewalk patio. Happy hour lasts from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, when most liquor and draft beers are half off. The awesome tacos cost only $3.75 and are half off all day Tuesday. There's also live music from one-man bands that play reggae and other genres. Sandbar Grill is open till 3 a.m. most days but sometimes closes early if it's quiet.

Readers' choice: Duffy's Sports Grill

Courtesy of Bar Alter

The Wynwood restaurant Alter is known for serving some of Miami's most innovative meals, so when chef Brad Kilgore decided to open a patio lounge, he knew his drinks had to be as interesting and visually stunning as his food. Enter Gustavo Martinez, the creative force behind Bar Alter. The bartender takes a culinary approach to cocktail preparation, using Alter's kitchen as a starting point to make infusions and potions. Martinez, usually found behind the bar, might suggest a drink that sounds unfamiliar. Maybe it will be a libation made with grappa, amaro, tangerine shrub, black lava salt, and smoke. In this barkeep's hands, the unfamiliar combination is transformed into the gorgeous and savory La Familia. Of course, you could always go with a classic martini or old-fashioned, but why not let Martinez assess your preferences and make a bespoke cocktail for you? For around $14 a drink, this might be Wynwood's best investment in a work of art. Bar Alter is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and is closed Monday.

Readers' choice: The Broken Shaker

Photo by Juan Fernando Ayora

For some reason, rooftops and cocktails make a winning combination. There's nothing more romantic that a drink with a view. Downtown Miami's Pawn Broker has it all: a gorgeous vista, plenty of seating areas, and classic black-and-white movies projected onto a neighboring building. Add that Pawn Broker has an impeccable pedigree as part of the Pubbelly Restaurant Group and you have a winner. The drinks are both classic and original. The showstopper is the Giggle Water ($16), a Prohibition-era dream of gin, champagne syrup, and lavender bubbles served in a mini bathtub. As you sip, Bogie and Bacall say their final goodbyes on the building across the way as Rick tells Captain Renault: "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." It most certainly is. The bar is open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m.

Readers' choice: Sugar

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®