If your idea of nightlife includes hitting a bar for good drinks and socializing, then our Miami guide to the 10 best bars in the area is just what you need. Capitalizing on first-hand experience and extensive research, we've located the best bars in Miami for hanging out and kicking back in. Some offer great, live entertainment for free while others open the mic to karaoke or requests for the pianist or just a simple juke box.
We've included long-lived mainstays like Mac's Club Deuce, a place that famed chef turned globe-trotter Anthony Bourdain loved so much he featured it on his show, No Reservations.
Also on our list are highly upscale joints like the Living Room inside the W Hotel, a place where cocktails and class abound.
And then of course we had to add a few neighborhood bars; down-to-earth drinking holes that are perfect for locals to wet their beak after a long work day and for tourists to quench their thirst for Miami culture: places like Scully's Tavern and the Bar in the Gables.
All of the places on this list have 10Best reader approval written all over them. Make them part of you next pub crawl, buy your drink a date at one, or just enjoy schmoozing with the locals. These bars are good for that.
This relaxed neighborhood tavern offers lots of fun and great deals that make it a hit among a diverse range of locals. With never a cover in sight, their biggest draw is the live shows on weekends, when classic rock, alternative, and country bands from around the region play to a packed house. For football games, particularly if the Dolphins are playing, this is one of the best places to be, with rowdy crowds coming in for great deals on drinks and food. Happy hour at Scully's is known for its extensive free buffet, though a full menu is also available. (305-271-7404)
Magnum Lounge Piano Bar
Billing itself as a New York style Piano Lounge, The Magnum Lounge has great music, show tunes, piano work, and delicious food all under one roof. The staff make you feel like you're a regular even if its your first go-round. There's an outdoor section, but there's not much of a point in coming unless you're going to take park in the debauchery surrounding the epic piano bar. Everything about Magnum culminates into an upscale and swanky ambiance that keeps you captivated. This LGBTQ friendly hot spot attracts people from all walks of life, making it the perfect place to meet other chill folks or simply blend in. Many come for the food, but they all stay for the music and the atmosphere. (3053435429)
Living Room at W South Beach Hotel & Residences
One of Food & Wine Magazine's 2012 Fifty Best Bars in America, the Living Room at the W South Beach features one of the most innovative cocktail programs in Miami. The funky lounge, located in the W South beach Hotel & Residences, is operated by neighboring The Dutch proprietors, Nicola Siervo and Karim Masri of KNR Restaurant Group and KNR Bar Concepts. They tapped Napa Valley's Scott Beattie to create the program. Seasonal specialty drinks, which include edible flowers, herbs and other organics from Homestead farm Verde Gardens, include the Crimson Cooler, a vodka cocktail infused with essential oils of ginger, shiso and galangal; and the Waverly Place Echo – mandarin vodka, fresh lemon, pomegranate seeds and Beattie's special Five-Spice Honey Syrup. When those open your appetite, much on an "adult" grilled cheese with American cheese, bacon, avocado and tomato, or the "Our Cuban," made with slow-cooked mojo pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. (305-938-3000)
Fox's Sherron Inn
Take a step back in time at this appealingly nostalgic bar that still looks much like it did back in 1946--at least, from the outside. The interior was gutted and renovated a few years ago, so if you haven't been there in a while, you won't find the old red vinyl booths you once sat in. Still, the bar's in the same place, and still fully stocked, and the dining areas haven't changed too much either, so there's still lots to love. Locals meet here for martinis and conversation, with classics by Sinatra and friends playing on the well-stocked jukebox. Bargain-hunting bar-lovers will appreciate the frequent two-for-one drink specials. Fox's is also known for great pub grub, from French dips to burgers. (305-666-2230)
Abbey Brewing Co.
While a good portion of the SoBe night scene is as much spectacle as it is substance, this 16th Street watering hole makes no bones about its intent. The Abbey is the type of place where you can enjoy a tall, cold pint of ale, friendly conversation, and perhaps some classic Stones or Dead playing in the background. Microbrews and hard-to-find European imports are available to quench your thirst all day and night, but the Abbey's own house brews can give any of them a run for their money. They've got a fully stocked bar if that's your thing. You'll enjoy their pub grub and even cigar smokers will find safe haven here. (305-538-8110)
Going to Churchills is an experience unlike anything else in all of Miami. Often called the CBGB's of South Florida, it's the type of place where you'll listen to dance to local punk bands one minute, drink while watching the World Cup during another, and then smoke what you got in the back patio during a folk performance for another. Offering an extensive variety of "rock and other live bands" (and by this we mean anything and everything from metalcore, ska, reggae, thrash, indie rock, shoegaze, hardcore, etc.), this British-run pub is a long-term favorite of the local Indie crowd. It's a popular spot for local and national and even international acts--literally the first stage for the majority of Miami's music scene. Jazz and acoustic shows are also held weekly during the Miami Jazz Jam and Theatre de Underground open mic night. (305-757-1807)
One of the best casual hipster-esque lounges in Miami, Blackbird Ordinary offers its patrons a fully stocked bar with expert bartenders who mix your favorite drinks to perfection. DJ's provide the music on most nights while local funk and reggae bands and other national acts set the scene on others. There's a dance floor for those with the appropriate skills set. Blackbird goes out of its way to make its visitors feel like regulars, even if its their first go-round. They have pool tables, spacious comfortable booths, and even board games to entertain you while you wait for your meal. If you enjoyed this space when it was called Transit Lounge, you'll definitely dig the Blackbird. ((305) 671-3307)
A recent renovation has left this longstanding bar in top condition, ready to offer guests an evening of revelry or relaxation. The friendly, neighborhood vibe is immediately evident. This isn't one of those bars where you walk in and have your outfit inspected by a snooty crowd of cooler-than-thou types. Just walk in, play your favorite song on the fantastic jukebox (known for its diverse selection) and then grab your favorite domestic brew or perhaps a potent cocktail. If you're hungry, grab a booth and snack on satisfying pub grub. A great place to meet locals or fellow travelers. Live music on Saturday nights. (305-442-2730)
Stride into this smooth, sultry bar dressed to kill. Order a classic drink in a highball glass and take in the smoky, atmospheric surroundings. Live music is a rarity in South Beach, but this popular outpost has earned a reputation for putting on great jazz shows, with styles ranging from classic to acid. If you aren't enjoying the experimental performances downstairs, you can always head upstairs to the tiny loft, where DJs spin dance and house. Impromptu celebrity performances are a tradition at this unpretentious, laid-back lounge. Be sure to check out the Brazilian jazz show the last Thursday of every month and Reggae nights every Sunday. (305-673-9372)
Mac's Club Deuce
Mac's is fondly known as South Beach's premier dive bar. Barflies, trendy types, and drag queens mix and mingle at this simple nightspot, where rock and roll on the jukebox provides the only entertainment – other than people-watching, which is endlessly entertaining here. Casual wear is recommended, but people show up in all manner of attire, from cutoffs to cocktail dresses. Another claim to fame at Mac's is the cheapest beer in South Beach, served to you with no frills in a basic plastic cup. The consummate seediness of the bar has made it a favorite with those from all walks of life. Smoking permitted at the bar. (305-531-6200)
About Priscilla Blossom
Pris Blossom is a freelance writer and feminist mama with a love for travel, writing, music, film, craft beer, yoga, museums, cultural anthropology, and her awesome kid.
She spent the bulk of the past decade taking trips on a whim, falling in love with and in such places as New York City, New Orleans, and a large portion of Nicaragua.
In 2011, she took off on her own and traveled around the U.S. via bus, bunking with strangers thanks to the power of CouchSurfing. She is currently writing a novel about this.
Read her words at PrisBlossom.com.
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