Barceloneta Miami
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As South Florida — and the world — attempts to come out of its social hibernation, it's time again for the mating dance of alcohol, tobacco, and bad decisions. Fewer places in South Florida are as accommodating to the ritual as Barceloneta, with its ready supply of out-of-this-world gin and tonics, a United Nations-like array of patrons (many seeming to favor harsh European smokes), and an outdoor seating area that practically begs folks to interact with one another. The food — sensuously plated and meant to be shared — offers another opportunity for mingling, but the drinks are the true stars here (try the Farmer's G&T). The very air in this Sunset Harbour restaurant seems seductive. So shoot your shot, friends: There's no time like the present.

Mama Tried
Photo by Karli Evans

You enter beneath the neon sign and through the heavy doors into a space that's dark and velvety but somehow warm and inviting. The lights are dim and good music is playing. Some dweebs are hogging the pool table, but that's OK because you aren't here for idle games. You make your way to the bar. When you order a serious cocktail from the list of serious cocktails, you take note that the bartender makes actual eye contact with you. No, you're not in the Twilight Zone, you're at Mama Tried. At one end, classic leather booths are there for the taking, or you might opt for a high-top adjacent to the area for dancing at the other. But for now you hang at the bar and peruse the menu. After a bit of liquid courage, you scope out the place. If it's a weeknight, you spot the clusters of coworkers who stopped by for drinks and to bitch about work. If it's a Friday night, the crowd looks ready to jump until 3 a.m. In either case, there's like a 97 percent probability that a reasonably sober dude will catch your eye and ask you what you're drinking. And if he doesn't, remember you can do whatever the hell you please and ask him what he's drinking. (Every year, we employ a rule that no business may be honored with more than one Best of Miami award from the editorial department. But at heart, we're a bunch of rule breakers; see "Best Happy Hour.")

Helmed by cofounder and creative director Akia Dorsainvil, cofounder Ashley Solage, and art director Terrell Villiers, Masisi is Miami's black queer Caribbean party. The fourth member, says Dorsainvil, is the community that has made Masisi what it is. A Haitian Creole word that translates to "faggot," the collective's name is a reclamation of the term and relates to the unification of the masculine and feminine. The party was born from the flames of the radical queer feminist activist group (F)empower, where the founding members met. Their mission is rooted in political activism and the need for a safe space and nightlife event for queer and trans people of color, to, as Dorsainvil puts it, "come together and share mind, thoughts, theory and body and soul. This is a party that is geared towards and prioritizes black and queer pleasure." Fed up with being discriminated against by bars and clubs with exclusionary dress codes and door covers, the creators sought to make a space for their community that's both iconic and intentional — and that's precisely what they did. Springing up in warehouses and other venues around Miami, Masisi serves the community by holding space for black artists and revelers alike.

Honestly, who knew it was even remotely possible to have a night out in Miami Beach for $25 — and during a Pride event, no less? The 2021 Miami Beach Pride Bar Crawl, which was presented by Miami Beach Pride organizers on June 16, made that happen. Twenty-five bucks got you a drink at five of the area's most-frequented LGBTQ watering holes: Gaythering, Axel, Nathan's, Palace, and Twist. For plenty of folks, the month of June marked the first time in more than a year (thanks, COVID!) that people felt comfortable enough to venture back out socially into the bar scene. Attendees drank, danced, and drank some more at each of the five bars. The well-attended crawl attracted a diverse crowd from across the LGBTQ community, making for a refreshing deviation from a usual night out surrounded by mostly cisgender white gay dudes. Simply put, the Miami Beach Pride Bar Crawl is one hell of a party.

Best Comedian
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 Gastropub Miami
Courtesy of Batch Gastropub

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

Best Drag Performer to Retire in the Past Year
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.

Best Play
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®