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 favorites; 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 Gramps and The Abbey.
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.
Living Room at W South Beach Hotel & Residences
One of Food & Wine Magazine's 2012 Fifty Best Bars in America, Living Room at the W South Beach features one of the most innovative cocktail programs in Miami. The funky lounge, located in the W SoBe Hotel & Residences, is operated by neighboring The Dutch proprietors, Nicola Siervo and Karim Masri of KNR Restaurant Group and Bar Concepts. 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)
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)
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)
Ball & Chain
The original Ball & Chain opened in 1935, when Calle Ocho was simply known as the Tamiami Trail, through which farmers would send oranges and other crops east to the Downtown Miami area. It has survived decades of reinvention, calling itself at one time the Ball & Chain Tavern, and serving as a venue for legendary performers like Billie Holiday and Chet Baker. These days, the Ball & Chain is once again serving as a live music and dance venue, with a full bar, a fine drink menu, and tapas for when the mood strikes. While they're still just starting out, there's no doubt that larger acts will be hitting the stage here in no time. (305-643-7820)
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)
When work is done and you're looking for someplace to play, a place where you can drink and maybe enjoy some trivia or karaoke or even the occasional lecture, Gramps is where you want to be. This more-than-just-for-hipsters enclave has it all, which explains why it's become not only one of the most popular spots in Wynwood but both the destination and default of barflies from all around Miami. Live music is commonplace on weekends, and there's also Bingo and a Ladies Night throughout the week. Drinks will run you about the same as most well-frequented spots but you can always catch drink specials during happy hour. ((305) 699-BOOZ)
Live music, album/CD release parties, DJ bashes and other activities of a musical nature await at this hip Wynwood lounge. Bardot fills a void in Miami culture by providing the venue and the menu, which includes funk, electronic, blues, singer-songwriter and more. Cocktails--at $12, less expensive than most South Beach bars and lounges (that means affordable by Miami standards) range from the signature Honey Mule (Russian Standard Vodka, Honey Syrup, Pressed Lime &
Hand Crafted Ginger Served in our Signature Copper Mug) to the Skinny Jeans Margarita (Corzo Silver Tequila, Cointreau, Organic Blue Agave & Fresh Lime Juice) to the simple Brown Sugar Mojito (Bacardi dark, Brown Sugar). Top-shelf liquors abound. Overall, even if you're not into the vibe of a particular musical guest, the experience at Bardot has come to define Miami's Wynwood and Design District nightlife. ((305) 576-5570)
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)
Bodega South Beach
Bodega is South Beach's newest taqueria bringing cheap eats and stiff drinks to locals and tourists alike. It's vibrant interior makes you hungry for those delicious pork belly tacos everyone's raving about. But it isn't just tacos. Try their Queso Frito con Salsa Ranchero for starters--it's their take on mozzarella sticks with a kick. Opt for a BBQ Carnitas Torta or maybe an Hongos Torta if you're vegetarian--torta being a Mexican-style sandwich that is hearty and delicious always. Check out their daily specials, ranging from Mahi Ceviche to Huevos Rancheros Tacos. Oh, and if you get thirsty, step through the blue door and find yourself inside the speakeasy for plenty of tequila-infused cocktails and good times! (305-704-2145)
The Broken Shaker
Just a few years ago, a hip little cocktail bar opened up inside the Freehand Hostel on Miami Beach. Today, it is one of the most well-known and sought out places to enjoy a well-crafted drink for a reasonable price. Frequented by locals, tourists, and those in-the-know, the Broken Shaker is paradise for anyone who wants a high-end cocktail without the fuss of many of SoBe's other bars and lounges.
The bar, located right off Indian Creek and on the quieter part of South Beach, is casual and cool, a total hipster joint. Weekdays are your best bet if you're looking for a chill vibe, and happy hours are best if you're looking to save a buck or two. But if you're visiting and want to meet some folks and maybe even find someone to flirt with, you'll want to come here on the weekends when the crowds are saucy. (305-531-2727)
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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