The happy hour scene at Smith & Wollensky is certainly South Beach's most popular spot for sunset cocktails and mingling. Not only is the waterfront patio and bar a rarity in town, but also the views of the departing cruise ships are breathtaking. It's like watching a floating city pass by. Another reason so many tipplers make the restaurant their first Friday-night stop is that the bartenders are generous pourers, which in turn leads to generous tipping by inebriated patrons. It's a win-win situation.
At Smith & Wollensky, any time of day is happy hour for this alcohol-soaked crowd. However, the carousing really amps up at 5 p.m. Fridays. Both the patio and main bars are elbow-to-elbow with a nice-looking clientele hoping to get soused after a long workweek. The secret to a successful Smith's happy hour is to skip out of work before 5 (that is, if you even have a real job) and snag several barstools on the west side of the bar. Ignore the dirty looks of fellow patrons until your entourage arrives.
Another trick to navigating happy hour (or in order to stave off a killer hangover Saturday mornings) is to eat a few bar snacks. Smith & Wollensky's tasty treats include mini-burgers, beer-battered shrimp, fried calamari, and several flatbreads (go for the one with vine-ripened tomato and mozzarella).
Clearly, there are other happy hour watering holes in Miami. The bars in Mary Brickell Village, for instance, teem with young professionals Friday nights. When I moved to South Beach in 1993, Monty's was the only show in town for happy hour. Monty's still does a prolific business, although mainly for the crowd that prefers its beer in pitchers and plastic cups.
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However, revelers who desire stiff drinks poured into real glasses can be found a few blocks away at Smith & Wollensky. And that's where you'll find me every Friday at 4:45 p.m., zealously guarding stools until my friends trickle in for cocktails, gossip, and calamari.