Best Bar Food 2021 | Pilo's Tequila Garden | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo courtesy of Pilo's Tequila Garden

Pilo's Tequila Garden is a newcomer to Wynwood, but that doesn't mean they don't know what they're doing here. Pilo's first location, Pilo's Street Tacos, has served authentic Mexican street food in Brickell since 2017. Pilo's Tequila Garden opened in February as a new concept from owner Derek Gonzalez. The restaurant's tequila garden was inspired by Gonzalez's childhood in Mexico City, where the concept of the jardín is ingrained in the culture. "It's very well known in Mexico City. You go and have coffee, beer, drinks, dinner, or lunch in a garden," Gonzalez says. The booze part comes in thanks to his family's longtime involvement in the tequila business. This being Wynwood, the nightlife aspect plays a starring role but the bar food still stands out, and not only because there's a captive audience in need of something substantial to soak up the tequila. Pilo's menu includes various tacos like El Costeñito (grilled or beer-battered shrimp with pickled red onion, pineapple, and avo-crema on flour tortillas), appetizers like elote and chips and guac; and entrées like quesadillas, burrito bowls and alambres. The main kitchen shuts down at 10 p.m., but Pilo's continues to offer a limited late-night menu until 11:50 p.m.

Alexander Guerra

Come for the reasonably priced happy hour, stay (the night) for the MiMo gay-centric hotel. Nestled snugly in a South Beach district teeming with a LGBTQ+ community and businesses, Gaythering is a bar unlike any other in the region. The smaller, more intimate setting offers a little somethin'-somethin' for everyone Monday through Saturday (though the bar is open Sundays as well): karaoke with the hilariously sardonic Karla Croqueta on Monday, half-off well booze on Tuesday, trivia on Wednesday, bingo on Thursday ("better than a rubber glove hand job!" the event flier boasts), and "Bears and Hares" on Fridays for the scruffier and hare-ier among us. If you stop in outside of peak business hours, spend some time in the adjoining lounge (equipped with a separate bar) that's just as cozy with its invitingly plushy armchairs and couches as it is titillating, with framed vintage photos of peen and compelling homophile-movement literature and art. Gaythering is in a class of its own.

Photo by Chris Carter

Over the past few years, The Wilder has become the foremost spot for destination drinking in Broward County. South Florida hospitality veteran David Cardaci and his wife, Vanessa, used their travels as inspiration for the unique watering hole, carving the club into three sophisticated spaces: a hotel lobby-like front bar, perfect for sipping a classic cocktail while chatting up the bartender; a sun-dappled, grotto-esque outdoor patio that evokes European elegance; and a dimly lit lounge space that hosts a variety of weekly events from burlesque shows to live music, including a popular jazz night. There are plenty of nooks and crannies here for cozying up or grab a seat at the long back bar. The libations roster mixes OG cocktails like the rum-forward tiki-style West Indian Handshake with a rotating selection of seasonal picks filed under "Adventurous." Drinks are smartly paired with upscale bar bites such as goat-cheese croquettes and dayboat fish ceviche.

Karli Evans

Spending the afternoon or evening at the Broken Shaker is akin to going to a backyard pool party — but with craft cocktails instead of cheap beer and White Claw. Located on the grounds of the Freehand Hotel on Indian Creek Drive, the bar is an ideal spot to take cocktail-inclined friends or out-of-towners in search of a quintessential Miami hideaway. All the specialty cocktails featured on the menu are priced at $14 and delectable, but the bartenders here won't hesitate to shake you the drink of your choice. So stake out a sun chair around the pool, sip a cocktail or three — and don't forget to peek at the menu. If you're in the mood for poolside bites, the shawarma fries are not to be missed. This Miami Beach must-visit is a far cry from the typical mosh-pit atmosphere that dominates the entertainment district.

Photo courtesy of Happy Stork Lounge

The qualities of a good dive bar run counter to evolution. The best ones refuse to adapt to gimmicky trends like Tulum-inspired décor, liquid-nitrogen mocktails, and regular mopping protocols. Perhaps no dive bar has stayed more the same over the years — defying survival in a town of rising seas, rents, and cocktail prices — than Happy's Stork Lounge, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bar attached to a liquor store in a nondescript strip mall on the 79th Street Causeway. It's dark and smoky inside, with wood paneling from the Reagan administration and a silver-hued cash register rumored to have once held dollar bills bearing Frank Sinatra's fingerprints (when Ol' Blue Eyes played at the former piano bar next door). Happy-hour prices likewise hark back to the previous millennium: $4 well drinks and domestic beers from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Require more bona fides? Happy's boasts the only liquor store open until 5 a.m. for miles around, and the bar side regularly fills with late-working industry folks until close. The only clues that you have not accidentally stepped into an awesome, boozy time machine and unfortunately remain fixed in the 21st Century: the digital jukebox and flat-screen TV that's broadcasting Heat games or NASCAR races.

Photo by Karli Evans

Let's be real: Happy hours that end at 6 p.m. are worthless in a town that has its own informal time zone, AKA "Miami Time." So when five o'clock strikes, head to Mama Tried, where happy hour extends until a humane 8 p.m. At the retro-styled watering hole run by a group of people who love bars, patrons can imbibe $7 craft cocktails like daquiris, French 75s, and old-fashioneds from a list that rotates daily. Well drinks and the "whiskey of the day" are poured at $5 a pop, alongside beer and wine specials that range in price from $3 to $7. Pro tip: Mama's daily happy hour is offered daily —as in seven days a week. So get happy, already.

Photo courtesy of Esotico Miami
Tiki drinks are Esotico's specialty.

Esotico partner Daniele Dalla Pola loves tiki, from the movement's storied past to its bevy of beverages infused with exotic juices and served in their very own style of glassware. And what other cocktail canon blends multiple rums in a single libation? Dalla Pola has traveled the world in search of tiki inspiration, and his Miami bar and restaurant — decorated in glowing pink neon and plenty of greenery and bamboo — delivers Polynesian pop in spades. Traditional tiki recipes are painstakingly re-created, prepared with fresh-squeezed juices, specialty rums, and house-made mixes, and served in custom glasses designed by Dalla Pola himself. Sure, you could order Esotico's twists on the mai tai or piña colada, but you'd be missing out on the real stars of the show, like the Missionary's Downfall, a wildly herbaceous drink that blends brandy and rum with fresh mint, or Dan's Special, a daiquiri from Don the Beachcomber that combines passion fruit, lime, and the house-blend spiced rum. A line of limited-edition mugs lets you take the tiki to go: Try the Elvis-themed chalice with Esotico's King Ta Moko, a blend of gin, passion fruit, ginger orgeat, and fresh citrus.

At Bacon Bitch, the word "bitch" isn't just part of the name. It's also scattered throughout the menu — an ode to all the badass women out there who use the word as a source of empowerment. But whether you're a bad bitch or just a hungry and thirsty one, there's a B-word menu item for you. The Main Bitches are massive breakfast sandwiches served on fresh-baked croissants topped with eggs and bacon from Niman Ranch, while Naked Bitches comprise plates like chicken and waffles or steak and eggs. Amid a number of aptly named signature drinks, the 24-ounce Hangover Bitch stands out: At $30, the massive Bloody Mary is a meal in itself, a combination of vodka and the house Bloody Bitch mix that balances a fried egg-topped cheddar cheese-stuffed hash brown with Niman Ranch bacon, olives, and a lemon wedge. If that doesn't permanently remove your hangover — and resting bitch face — nothing will.

Photo by Laine Doss

Into adventurous eating? Head to Wynwood eatery Bakan, where taco toppings and proteins come in the form of crispy grasshoppers, pan-fried agave worms, and butter-sautéed ant eggs. For some, the caviar of edible insects is a delicacy, but the more squeamish among us will demand a top-notch margarita to wash it all down with. From its cacti-lined outdoor patio and bar to the open kitchen where you can watch tortillas being hand-pressed, Bakan has a way of spiriting you to Mexico. And with a selection of 500-plus mezcals and tequilas on the menu, the margaritas can be equally transportive. Keep it basic with the Clasica, your choice of mezcal or tequila shaken with a simple combination of orange liqueur and fresh lime juice, or choose a fruitier option, like the Sera Melon, Sera Sandia, a mezcal margarita with fresh lime juice, sweetened with nothing but watermelon and served in a goblet-sized glass. But if you're feeling fancy, splurge on the signature La Ambiciosa, a combination of tequila, Grand Marnier, and lime juice spiked with a homemade lemon verbena simple syrup.

It takes a lot of confidence for a bar stationed on Little Havana's historic Calle Ocho to proclaim itself "La Casa del Mojito." At Old's Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina, that chutzpah is justified. The quintessential Cuban highball would be nothing without its freshly muddled mint and high-quality rum, and that's what Old's Havana is more than prepared to offer its patrons each day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (midnight on weekends). If you're in the mood for the authentic old-school flavor, consider asking that your mojito be prepared with an aged rum. Old's Havana stocks 29 options of aged rum at the bar. Or if you're the sort who likes to go rogue, you can try your luck with one of six flavored mojitos, which range from raspberry to coconut to passionfruit.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®