On any given Friday night, a handful of men in suits quietly stand near the front entrance of one of Miami's oldest and most esteemed establishments — the Forge.
For more than 40 years, the Mid-Beach eatery has lured glitz and glamour into its opulent, over-the-top dining room and bar space. Actor Richard Burton, President Richard Nixon, and director Brian De Palma were just some of the faces typically seen on an evening out.
In the '90s, the Forge's Fellini-esque Wednesday-night dinner disco was the spot where the most fashionable locals and out-of-towners would converge for an eventide of steak, bubbly, and tunes. More than 20 years later, the weekday soiree has transitioned to Fridays in the form of a lavish happy hour. Think $50 bottles of Veuve Clicqout, complimentary hors d'oeuvres, dim lights, and sultry beats.
"The Forge used to be known for its Wednesday-night party," says Miami's premier drag-queen socialite, Elaine Lancaster. "But when they renovated the restaurant, more people wanted a dining experience than a party one. Then, a couple of years ago, happy hour started to become more popular."
Lancaster DJs the venue's Friday-night happy hour once or twice a month. A longtime lover of the Forge, she says it is the place to be.
"It's an eclectic group," she says. "There's all ages and demographics who come. The girls dress up, and the guys look handsome. It's an experience."
What sets the Forge apart from other Miami Beach restaurants, bars, and hotels is its location in Mid/North Beach, which tends to be quieter and easier to access than South Beach.
"I always think to myself, How much is it going to cost to park and get there?" Lancaster says. "But here, there's ample parking everywhere, or you can valet for a few dollars. It's really stress-free."
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Happy hour begins at 6 p.m., but as the evening progresses, the vibe slowly transforms into a swank, laid-back, and club-like atmosphere.
"The music is fun," she says. "It's not too hard-core. What's really nice is people stick around for the entire evening. They have appetizers that are put out on the bar. It's just overall a really fun place. It's not somewhere where you will feel like you've been robbed the next morning."
Each party at happy hour can take advantage of the Forge's Veuve Clicqout deal, which is one bottle for $50. Aside from offering libations, the bar is also spread with various free small bites throughout the night. There's a small-plates menu too, which feature meatball sliders ($12), fried chicken dumplings ($11), mini salmon tartare tacos ($10), and a ten-ounce burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and smoked bacon ($23). The restaurant's traditional cocktail and drink menu is available as well.
"If you want to get happy," Lancaster says, "the place to go is the Forge. It's truly a butt-shaking, foot-tapping evening with champagne flowing. Everything about it is easy, even with the doorman at the door.
"It's just a gracious experience," she adds. "You can't go wrong, especially with the price."
Happy hour at the Forge begins at 6 p.m. every Friday. Seats at the bar tend to fill fast, so plan accordingly. For more information, call 305-538-8533.