The Best Bars in Downtown & Brickell
photo credit: Courtesy Miami Sound Bar
There are a lot of things that aren’t very fun in Downtown and Brickell, including but not limited to: rent prices, tow trucks, trying to find parking, and unknowingly pulling onto Biscayne Boulevard right as the crowd from a Heat game is leaving. But there are also some fun things in the two adjacent neighborhoods that won’t make you want to pull out every hair on your head. Like these bars, for example.
photo credit: Courtesy Kaona Room
Kaona Room is a speakeasy attached to its older sibling, Esotico. And while Esotico is a more mainstream interpretation of a tiki bar that occasionally plays loud pop songs, Kaona Room is more of a classic tiki experience. Inside the dim space it’s all palm fronds and bamboo. Bartenders shake flammable spices onto cocktails as fake thunder plays through the speakers. Drinks are strong (and tasty). Plus, there’s sometimes live music. This is a great spot to mix up date night drinks, or for whenever you feel like wearing a floral shirt and drinking rum. They take reservations too.
NIU Wine is the drinking equivalent of a cashmere sweater. This snug little wine bar is our favorite spot for a low-key night out, first date, or particularly exhausting Thursday that calls for a glass of wine and excellent Spanish bar snacks. The narrow space has an intimate dinner party energy with candlelight and tables perfect for couples. There’s not really a wine menu. You just chat with the owner, and she’ll bring you some bottles to try. There is a rotating food menu, though, and it’s full of tapas like bacalhau with sofrito aioli, charcuterie, and a spiced chocolate truffle you definitely want alongside a glass of that red you picked because you liked the label.
photo credit: Courtesy Miami Sound Bar
Miami Sound Bar is a cocktail bar in Downtown inspired by the Japanese listening bars that are starting to catch on in Miami with places like Dante's HiFi. But this is one trend we can get behind, because we quite enjoy sipping cocktails in dark rooms while DJs play vinyl on excellent sound systems. And that’s exactly what you can do at Miami Sound Bar. This place also takes reservations, which is a smart idea since the narrow space is a tight squeeze, and it’ll be comforting to know you have a guaranteed seat (especially if you’re coming here on a date). The cocktails are very good and they have a couple bar snacks too.
Thoughtful, modern touches are what set this Downtown cigar lounge apart from the rest of Miami's cigar bars. If you like lighting up with a soft flame, a candle and spills are provided. After you’ve finished your cigar, you get a finger bowl of aromatic oils to wash your hands and a gingery citrus shot to cleanse your palate. They have a pricey cocktail list that uses high-end liquor and a cigar selection that’ll make both cigar connoisseurs and novices happy. Plus, there are food options that go way beyond your average cigar bar menu, like caviar and poutine. The overall look of the space kind of makes you feel like you’re hanging out inside a very rare cigar box.
NW 11th Street is generally a place you go if you’re trying to go clubbing for 11 hours straight, but The Corner is a great spot for people who’d like to stay away from those loud dance floors and offensively-priced beers. This neighborhood standby works for a solid cocktail at 4am or a Happy Hour beer and hot dog as the sun sets over Downtown. But The Corner is undoubtedly a late-night spot and generally the best choice for anyone out in the middle of the night who doesn’t want to go home yet and would like to be around people who feel the same way.
Margot is a narrow natural wine bar that’s hard to describe without using the word “cozy.” And while there isn’t a ton of room in here for big groups, this place is really lovely once you do snag a seat at the bar, or one of the little tables. As the name implies, natural wine is what you’ll probably be drinking. They also have some wine-based apertivo cocktails as well as a menu of small plates like salmon crudo, parmesan drizzled with aged balsamic, and a plate of ham and potato chips. This place does feel like it was designed specifically for first, second, or third dates by a team of NASA scientists, although we’d happily come here just to drink wine and eat cheese—while possibly eavesdropping on a first date.
There are a lot of occasions that could justify going to Over Under, a small cocktail bar and restaurant in the heart of Downtown. It’s a good place to bring a date or catch up with a few friends over some strong (and delicious) cocktails. They make an awesome cheeseburger, have oysters, and have great Happy Hour specials in case you’re trying to drink efficiently. And if you're a martini person, they make an oyster shell-infused version that might be our favorite martini in town.
Mama Tried is a bar that wears a lot of hats. The little Downtown spot can, depending on the night, feel like a dive bar or a cocktail bar or a post-work Happy Hour spot. They have good weekly and monthly event programming, like a very popular emo night. It’s the kind of place you end up after midnight, sweaty and ready to dance on their red carpet, which is shockingly clean for a carpet inside a bar. It’s mostly simple well drinks and beer, especially when they get busy on the weekends. But it’s a fun spot if you’re in the mood for loud music and maybe a shot or two.
Downtown’s Lost Boy used to be a denim store, but now it’s a casual pub that serves good cocktails (get the gin and tonic), beer, wine, and sandwiches in a big space great for groups who want to have a conversation. The Happy Hour crowd here is always strong, but we like it just as much as a last stop of the night. You can meet strangers and play darts in the corner with a decapitated mannequin that looks like it's been through a lot.
Kush has teamed up with the owners of Tobacco Road (which was, at one point, the oldest bar in Miami) to bring the classic Brickell spot back—sort of. It’s not in the same location, but it does feature a lot of the bar’s old decor and a food and drink menu inspired by the original Tobacco Road. And, like all Kush establishments, the food (burgers, wings, sandwiches, and various bar snacks) is solid.
If an Irish pub closed its eyes and made a wish to be on a roof, you’d get Mike’s. This place is casual-bordering-on-dive-bar, and it’s located on the roof of an old apartment building right at the west end of the Venetian Causeway. The elevator ride up to Mike’s will be a delightfully confusing experience for any of your friends who’ve never been here before, but it’s more than just a novelty. Mike’s is a great spot to hang out during Happy Hour and take in the waterfront view, along with a few beers and some decent fried pub food.
While walking through the heart of Brickell, we often wish we could take an elevator to a secret room and hide from everything and everyone. That’s kind of exactly what Empire Social Lounge is. The second-floor cigar bar (so don't come here if you don't want to smell like smoke) isn’t visible from the street, and it’s not your average sceney Brickell spot. No, this place is usually filled with serious cigar regulars who have access to the members-only section, and normal folks seeking a cigar and a classic cocktail. Empire does both those things really well (their Manhattan is just lovely), and the space has plenty of comfortable seating and lots of TVs playing sports.
There are not a lot of casual bars in Brickell. But Better Days is a good one to have on your radar in case you find yourself in Miami’s financial district and aren’t wearing pants or don’t feel like spending $30 on a cocktail. This isn’t a fancy cocktail spot. It feels more like hanging out in a friend’s basement than a Brickell bar. It can still get a little cramped and crowded on the weekend, but, if you’re in Brickell, we assume you’ve already accepted that reality.
Casa Florida, which is sort of on the outskirts of Downtown, is a great choice when you’re in the mood to drink outside. They’ve got some seating (including inside an old bus) which is usually quiet enough to bring a date you’d actually like to hear. They also have a small food menu in case you’re hungry. But we come here to drink because the cocktails are really good (better than the food). The Old Fashiorange tastes like an Old Fashioned made out with a Creamsicle and the tangerine negroni is just wonderful.
Baby Jane is a nice in-between bar in Brickell. It’s not so casual that you have to worry about a date judging you for bringing them here, but it’s also not so fancy that you have to worry about your accountant judging you for coming here. Baby Jane is small enough to make eye contact with every guest without getting up from your seat, has some neon lights, and good cocktails. Also, the food here—like edamame, karaage chicken, and yakitori pork belly—works fine for bar snacking. They also serve bigger things like ramen, in case you want to come early and make this more of a dinner.