September 1, 2015
Miami is famous for its multi-faceted Latin culture. And while you’ll find yourself fully immersed in it from the moment you land – with conversations laced with dozens of different Spanish accents – one of the best ways to truly experience the variety of Hispanic ethnicities here is through the multitude of Latin clubs in Miami. Whether you enjoy dancing salsa, samba, bachata or pachanga; listening to bossa nova, bolero, merengue or Afro-Cuban jazz; or sampling classic Cuba libres and inventive tropical cocktails, Miami is the place to embrace all things Latin.
For an education in Cuban music, hit up Ball and Chain, the “World Famous Bar & Lounge” that’s been in business since 1935 (known first as the Ball and Chain Saloon). Nightly events – and afternoon ones on the weekends – include free Thursday night salsa lessons, indoor salsa parties and live salsa music on the establishment’s Pineapple Stage, including Zarabanda, Pepe Montes Quintet and Conjunto Caribe. To keep your energy up at these all-night salsa events, we’d recommend taking full advantage of the authentic food and drinks menu, from mariquitas de maduros (slivered, fried plantains) and chicharonnes (pork rinds), to mint-muddled mojitos and bananita (crme de banana) daiquiris.
Boteco Restaurant is an unassuming Brazilian establishment located on the 79th Street Causeway. What it lacks in outdoor attraction, though, it makes up for in enthusiasm. Bossa nova nights, salsa classes, and live Brazilian music on the weekends – the entertainments vary, but the endorsements don’t, and they’re all complemented by tropically flavoured caipirinhas. The large Brazilian population that lives in Miami keeps this place in business, and how: The one complaint that locals typically have is the difficulty in finding parking spots.
If you don’t own a guayabera and a fedora, you may want to update your wardrobe before hitting Hoy Como Ayer, a much-loved nightclub located in Little Havana. Decorated with photos of bygone Cuban superstars, including the beloved Celia Cruz, this sardine squeeze of a joint is considered one of the best Latin clubs in Miami and offers a range of live music, including bolero singers, balladeers and a brilliant house band, the ultra-funky Spam All Stars.
Located in Doral, west of the main part of Miami, La Covacha may be a bit out of the way for visitors but its legitimacy more than makes up for any commuting inconvenience. DJs play an enormous variety of Latin tunes, ranging from salsa to merengue to vallenato, along with disco and house music, just for a change of pace. If you’re looking to meet real Miamians – and can speak the lingo, or at least fake it with body language – this nightclub is where the natives hang.
Modern, sleek and downright chic, LILT Lounge is located in downtown’s EPIC Hotel. It’s a sophisticated, not-quite-as-crowded alternative to the club crush, featuring live Latin music Tuesday through Saturday, including local favourites such as bossa nova artists Rose Max & Ramatis and the Afro-Cuban jazz group Edil De Leon’s Insight Band. After sampling Dean Feddaoui’s cocktail menu, which features many history-inspired cocktails such as “Death in the Afternoon” and “1919 Firenze,” and snacking on chef Wolfgang Birk’s charcuterie, lobster cocktail and tuna tartare gazpacho, guests can’t help but head straight for the dance floor.
The Regent Cocktail Club, situated in the Gale South Beach hotel, celebrates Cuba and all its cultural glory every Wednesday with its weekly Havana Nights. Beginning at 7 p.m., nationally renowned mixologist and Cantinero Julio Cabrera gets the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba-themed party started with The Regent’s signature quaffs, including the Hotel Nacional and the Cuban Viejo. For the retiring crowd, a dominos tournament offers low-key competition, and an on-site cigar roller demonstrates this centuries-old technique for those who wish to complement their cocktails with a fragrant smoke. But the real attraction, of course, is the Cuban Carnival dancers, who salsa with eager volunteers.
Ocean’ Drive’s most colourful nightclub, Mango’s Tropical Café South Beach is so successful it has its own Mango-Coconut Voli Vodka, of which “Mr. Worldwide” Pitbull is both front man and stockholder. Celebrating its 25th year in business, the sidewalk café offers nightly musical entertainment from an eight-piece band (think congas, bongos and horns) and visual prowess from professional dancers demonstrating salsa and samba steps, among others. Other intriguing attractions? The waitresses conga-ing tableside – and table-top – and customers who can’t help but do likewise.
Pan-Hispanic culture comes in all forms in Miami, as Club Tipico Dominicano proves. Here, a family-owned Dominican restaurant is transformed into one of the hottest Latin clubs in Miami every weekend with live bands and DJs spinning salsa, merengue, bachata and even reggaeton until very late. This establishment is situated in Allapattah, a bit northwest of downtown, and visitors unfamiliar with the area may want to check a map – or with a concierge – before heading out after-hours on a Saturday night. Still, it’s great fun to up-end a bottle of Presidente with the big-hearted Dominican community that resides here.
While E11even Rooftop in downtown Miami is technically a 24/7 nightclub filled with LED video walls, go-go dancers, aerialists, burlesque performers and other high-tech stuff – in other words, no kids allowed – that definition doesn’t preclude a Latin night. Every Thursday offers the bilingual, high-energy Brazilian Batuke Samba Funk band that mixes it up with Afro-Samba, Brazilian Big Band Batacuda, Soul and Rhythm and Blues. If that isn’t hybrid enough for you, keep in mind that premium bottle service and an upscale food menu, not to mention a stellar view of the city, are also on offer.
For some of the hottest Latin dancing in the city, check out Moca Café and Lounge. Locals head here on Thursday nights, when DJ Puerto Rican Pete and DJ Harv play a mashup of salsa, merengue, kizomba, chacha, bachata, mambo and more. The restaurant serves until 11 p.m., when there’s no cover for ladies; after that, it’s a mere $5 for entry. Be advised that both the entrance and parking are in the rear – in front of the police station. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Miami from London Heathrow. Why not check out some of these Latin clubs on your next trip?
Written by Jen Karetnick