Best New Bar 2017 | Sugar | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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

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

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Best Of Miami®