Best Comedian 2021 | Brittany Brave | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Courtney Armitage

You've heard it before from some New York transplant, or worse, a tourist. Miami is NYC's "sixth borough." It's patronizing, it's soul-wearying, and it minimizes how culturally significant the Magic City is in its own right. It almost makes you want to denounce all the great things we have here that got their start in New York, like the Russian & Turkish Baths, Smith & Wollensky, and Brittany Brave, the hardest-working comic on Miami's stand-up circuit. Brave has been performing, seemingly nightly, from South Beach to Boca Raton, since moving to Florida last fall. Her sets are frenzied blends of self-deprecation and feminism, with a healthy smattering of raunch intertwined throughout. Her crowd work is natural, playful, and (mostly) kindhearted, aside from instances of putting hecklers in their place every now and then, which she accomplishes with admirable tact. It may be painful to give this honor to someone who made a name for herself in the Big Rotten Apple™ — but hey, she did grow up in Kendall.

Fanatics make a point to visit jazz clubs in the South and Northeast that were revolutionary decades ago. They sit in dusty rooms, pay too much for cocktails with too little booze in them, and fight the boredom that comes with watching old cats trying to replicate the traditional sounds that they, and the rest of us, though afraid to admit it, are a little tired of hearing at this point. They ought to take themselves to Little River, where, hidden among quaint old houses and warehouse spaces is a sprawling jungle called the Center for Subtropical Affairs. A nursery and "ecological learning center" by day, this botanical serves up cutting-edge live music, original cocktails, and a plethora of Instagram-worthy backdrops by night. It feels like you discovered something when you walk into the place, which at first glance looks to be some guy's backyard. But it's not. Every Thursday is Jazz Night, which draws some of Miami's finest musicians. The place is huge: You can easily find a spot to sit and chat with friends or mack on your date without being a jerk and interrupting the performers. Or, you know, you could find a seat near the stage and have your mind melted by the crazy sounds Miami's jazz kids are concocting these days.

Batch photo

We all love a good ladies' night. But when ladies' night leads to a dreadful office hangover the following day, it's not worth it. That's why our pick is Batch Gastropub, where ladies' night falls on a Friday – a night you can responsibly get hammered with the workweek behind you. Batch's "About Last Night" party keeps the complimentary drinks flowing for ladies from 10 p.m. to 1a.m. Additionally, groups of six or more gals receive a complimentary bottle of bubbly — but make sure contact the venue in advance for the extra perk.

Miami is home to a dizzying number of fiercely talented drag performers, many of whom have gone on to cultivate nationally recognized brands —which is why it's all the more impressive when you can separate yourself from the pack. Few have done so as effectively as South Beach staple Tiffany T. Fantasia. Endearingly dubbed the "Mouth of the South," Fantasia has been performing for 18 years, 17 of them at her home bar, Palace (1052 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-531-7234). "The art of drag is the art of expression," Fantasia tells New Times. "Having the ability to express myself in this form is very healing, not only for myself but it helps people heal from whatever they are going through." You can watch Fantasia (and you better have some singles on hand ready to tip) at Palace on Wednesday and Friday nights as well as during the LGBTQ bar's storied and oft-sold-out drag brunches — she performs Friday and Sundays.

Best Drag Performer to Retire in the Past Year

Shelley Novak

Photo by Jipsy

She came, she saw, she paraded around South Beach for 30 years, she conquered. Now, she has retired. Shelley Novak, the alter ego of Massachusetts-born Tommy Strangie, has been a staple in the drag community of Miami Beach since 1992, helping to pave the way for performers who blur the lines of femininity by pairing heels and gowns with body hair and five o'clock shadows. She gave us the Shelley Novak Awards, which has hung around since 1993 to recognize well-known and up-and-coming names in South Florida's drag scene. And as she leaves Miami for what she says will be last time (there have been several false alarms), she takes a piece of drag history with her. In Shelley's wake are a growing number of avant-garde artists who proudly carry on her legacy of neither shaving nor caring about what people believe drag should look like.

Photo courtesy of Juggerknot Theatre Company

Amid the pandemic, some creatives got, well, more creative. Juggerknot Theatre Company debuted its virtual immersive theater experience, Long Distance Affair, in 2020. In 2021, the company was back for another iteration that proved even more enticing than the first. Audiences from anywhere around the globe — and we do mean anywhere — were able to join this virtual live theater show to watch performances by actors in completely different time zones. For this second installment, viewers were able to virtually visit Mumbai, Beirut, Mexico City, Lagos, Los Angeles, or Portland. In each city, a local actor staged an inspiring ten-minute performance. It's not easy to portray emotions on a physical set with audiences sitting a few feet away. Actors for Long DIstance Affair had to reach out and grab their audience through a screen. And that they did, beautifully.

Photo courtesy of Tower Theater

It's hard not to smile when you look up at the marquee at Tower Theater on Calle Ocho. The silver border, the classic white sign with black letters announcing the films, the art deco style of the building's façade — it all feels like you're traveling back in time to an age of classic cinema. The theater opened in 1926, and despite renovations to keep the space in tip-top shape, she doesn't look a day over 25. Located in the heart of Little Havana, the theater is in an ideal spot to welcome both locals and visitors for some wholesome entertainment. A bonus: The place is said to be haunted by ghosts, including that of an employee who loved the theater so much he simply never left.

Silverspot Cinemas

If you're the type of moviegoer who enjoys fully reclinable seats and in-theater dining service from a chef-driven menu, Silverspot has a spot for you. The sprawling, multilevel theater, which opened in 2018, still flies a bit under the radar, which for those in the know means most weekends are free from hordes of movie-talking teens and ridiculously long concession lines. Crucially, the theater offers a killer happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, when cinephiles can snag beat-the-clock drink specials and discounted bar bites before the lights go down and the curtain goes up.

Miami native Kareem Tabsch loves movies — so much so that the cinephile not only owns his own art-house theater (O Cinema), but he also directs and produces films himself. His acclaimed 2018 documentary The Last Resort profiled photographers Andy Sweet and Gary Monroe and the Miami Beach Jewish retiree community they photographed in the 1970s. Last year's Mucho Mucho Amor, made in collaboration with co-director Cristina Costantini and co-producer Alex Fumero, tells the story of the late Puerto Rican astrologer and Miami icon Walter Mercado. The team received various accolades for the film, including an Emmy nomination. We hear Tabsch is now at work on a documentary about the legendary Miami pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager.

Photo courtesy of HBO

Directed by Miami's own Billy Corben, 537 Votes tells the wild — and entirely factual — story of how the entire 2000 presidential election came down to a mere 537 votes cast in Miami-Dade County. The 109-minute documentary features interviews with political analyst Fernand Amandi and political consultant/presidentially pardoned felon Roger Stone, among other talking heads. With a heaping helping of archival footage, it tells a chilling story of what happens when national politics meets Miami politics. The hanging chads, the recount, the protests outside of the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown — 537 Votes has it all. The film, available for streaming on HBO, was co-produced by Alfred Spellman, Corben's longtime collaborator and cofounder of their production company, Rakontur Films. Don't be surprised if Rakontur snags this honor next year: The production company's latest documentary, a six-part miniseries titled Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, premiered in August 2021 on Netflix — and it's a hoot from start to finish.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®