Best Waterfront Bar 2022 | The Cleat | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

The old adage rings true: "Things in life worth having don't come easy." Finding the Cleat takes a little perseverance. You need to get to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne and walk a few meters past the nearest parking lot, at Boater's Grill. But the trek is worth it. The Cleat is a quaint oceanside bar located at a virtual oasis near the tip of Cape Florida. The views of Biscayne Bay alone are enough to sell the experience, with beach-style lounge chairs and picnic tables in the sand set up to provide you with a relaxing, resort-style setting while you sip your cocktails. Speaking of which, the mojitos here are among the tastiest (and strongest) you'll find in the Magic City — or anywhere, for that matter.

Photo courtesy of Mac's Club Deuce

A dive bar isn't merely a place to drink in the middle of the day. You should also get a story — and maybe even a bit of history — with your glass. You'll find all of that and more at Mac's Club Deuce. The bar opened in 1926, many decades before South Beach became a haven for craft cocktails and frozen blender drinks. Of course, you still can't get a smoked rosemary old-fashioned or a pink flamingo surprise (or whatever it is they're pouring these days on Ocean Drive) at Mac's Club Deuce. The Deuce serves up unadorned drinks in a low-key setting. Two of the bar's most famous characters, owner Mac Klein and former frequenter Anthony Bourdain, have since gone to the last call in the sky, and South Beach continues to overdevelop, but the Deuce endures.

Nathan’s Beach Club photo

Opening a bar in the midst of a global pandemic is a risky move — but it's one that has paid off for Nathan Paul Smith. Part of Smith's decision to open Nathan's bar emerged from a desire for community after a period of isolation; the other part stems from Nathan's delightfully kitschy concept. A veteran of Twist, Miami's longest-lived gay bar, Smith infused Nathan's with his love of popular culture, like seating sections devoted to TV programs like Friends, The Brady Bunch, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. That kind of shared nostalgia and sense of fun creates the perfect party atmosphere. In a nightlife scene fueled by spectacle and grandeur, Nathan's homey, casual feel is a welcome addition to Miami Beach — and all of South Florida, for that matter. As it nears its second anniversary, Nathan's Bar is a testament to the uniting power of pop culture, and it's a home away from home for Miami's queer community.

Photo courtesy of Mila Restaurant

If you thought a rooftop experience on a Lincoln Road side street, where you have to take an elevator up, would go unnoticed — well, you'd be wrong. Going on its second year, Mila offers stunning views of South Beach from an outdoor deck that's popular with the newbie tech crowd and longtime locals alike. Interior designer Olya Volkova's minimalist Japanese-inspired aesthetic combines "imperfect" materials like natural stones and reclaimed woods with handmade fabrics and ceramics, accented by lush tropical plantings. It's a lovely and calm space, made lively by the folks who enjoy sipping expertly mixed cocktails en plein air — even when said plein air is our sticky, humid summertime stuff.

Photo courtesy of Blue Shell Media

The Taurus opened in 1926 as a neighborhood bar serving basic drinks and grub. It closed in the early 2000s, but thank the boozy angels that hover above our Magic City for reviving it in '09. The 21st-century version of the Taurus is a laid-back bar with a great whiskey selection, 50 or so beer selections, and great eats concocted by Ariete's Michael Beltran and Taurus chef Justin Flit. The food menu isn't long, but it's exactly what you want: pizza, wood-fired wings, and a burger to die for. Don't sleep on the daily happy hour from 5 till 8 p.m., which offers $8 cocktails in a dog-friendly environment.

Seth Browarnik /

South Beach is chock-full of bars, but you'll rarely catch locals in most of them. Sweet Liberty is one of the few exceptions, and it's no surprise given its pedigree: Founder John Lermayer was a legendary bartender and a pioneer of the Miami cocktail scene. Along with Miami veteran restaurateur David Martinez and veteran bar owner Dan Binkiewicz, Lermayer opened Sweet Liberty in 2015 to immediate acclaim, offering innovative cocktails and a food menu by James Beard-winning chef Michelle Bernstein that can't be ignored. Lermayer died suddenly in 2018, and the bar remains a testament to his creativity and positivity. Inside, a giant, pink neon sign reminds us to Pursue Happiness. That has become the motto of the bar and a reminder that, while life is short, enjoying cocktails with friends can last all night.

Photo by Nicole Danna

Every bar requires three things, minimum: booze, enough finger food to soak up said booze, and good music to set the mood. Holding it down in Fort Lauderdale's Himmarshee Village since 2003, Original Fat Cats has stood the test of time for a reason. Its dark, Americana-littered walls and deep, dim space offer respite for those who seek something other than the suits-and-heels scene on Las Olas. Locals flock here for the eclectic mix of live music that draws a late-night crowd. And behind the bar, a formidable, constantly rotating selection of about two dozen craft beers. The best part just might be the solid menu of eats, available until 3 a.m. — everything from cheesesteak egg rolls to a Cuban sandwich to cheese-topped smash burgers to a grilled PB&J sandwich or a chicken and arugula salad. All of it, made just for you, well into the wee hours of the morning. If that's not your idea of bar goals, we cannot fathom what is.

Photo courtesy of Grails

A sports bar requires two things: plenty of large-screen TVs and an endless supply of beer. But a great sports bar takes that basic concept and runs with it. That's what sets Grails apart from your dad's favorite dive. Yes, there are more than 60 TV screens, allowing you to catch everything from NFL to Premier League matches. But don't sleep on the menu. On the cocktail front, try the "Grails Juice," a souvenir squeeze bottle filled with whiskey, fresh ginger, ginger beer, and lime juice. Perhaps "Miami's Best Piña Colada" — their words, not ours — is more your speed; it's made from scratch. Counter the alcohol with cheeseburger dumplings, beer-brined wings, and/or poke nachos.

Photo courtesy of Tripping Animals Brewing Co.

When Tripping Animals Brewing Co. came on the scene in 2018, no one could have guessed the Doral-based brewery — known nationwide for its whimsical animal-themed can art and fanciful fruited sours — would also become the steward of Miami's growing craft beer community. Over the past few years, the Venezualan-born and -reared team of brewers and owners (Daniel Chocron, Ignacio Montenegro, Iker Elorriaga, and Juan Manuel Torres) have banded together to become a living embodiment of all things South Florida beer. They host annual beer festivals like Irie Jungle that attract guest breweries from across the nation and they're the official sponsors of Miami's first official craft beer week, and they're ground zero for some of South Florida's best brews. The bustling taproom is typically packed with thirsty patrons ready to throw back a few lagers or sample their latest in a continual experimentation of hazy, hop-infused IPAs, boldly fruited sours, and dessert-themed stouts. It's easy to spend hours in Tripping Animals' cozy, lounge-like spaces, or the in-house restaurant from Meat & Bone, or the a large game room in the back of the brewhouse where you can shoot pool or hoops, throw darts, or even play video games.

Época Brewing photo

North Miami's newest nanobrewery, Época Brewing, isn't your average beer bar. Instead, think of a visit here as a way to escape to another place and time. The ethos: Take people on a journey to a different era — or epoch — telling stories of the past through the lens of craft beer. While most South Florida breweries have hopped on the local hype train delivering smoothie-inspired fruited ales and dessert-infused stouts, Época cofounders Danny Gutierrez, Jeffrey Delonny, and JC Otero chart a different course. A large bar overlooking the brewhouse presents 12 taps that feature the brewery's take on small-batch IPAs, lagers, and wild-fermentation ales — among them a signature house beer known as Zenith, a fruited and dry-hopped double IPA treated with strawberry and guava. Sip it in the chic, open-air taproom or the zen-like outdoor beer garden, a cozy, space with intimate lighting that has become the focal point of the Época experience.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®