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. They’re good drinking options regardless if you just cut your landlord a check or are simply looking for a great cocktail on a Friday night.
The NIU Kitchen team’s latest pivot, NIU Wine, has almost immediately become our favorite spot for a low-key night out, date, or particularly exhausting Thursday that calls for a glass of wine and an excellent panna cotta. The narrow space still has the intimate dinner party energy of NIU Kitchen (which is now located a few doors down the street)—with candlelight, tables perfect for couples, and lots of natural wine. 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 wine bar appropriate 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.
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 here. 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.
Editor’s Note: Over Under is temporarily closed
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, generally have oysters, and offer a boilermaker special in case you’re trying to drink efficiently. Happy Hour is also every day from 5-7pm, and, like all great neighborhood bars, you absolutely don’t have to worry about a dress code here.
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 always a fun spot, especially if you’re in the mood for loud music and maybe a shot or two.
There just aren’t a lot of places in Brickell where your average college kid will feel comfortable alongside Miamians with a 401K, but Blackbird has long been a favorite of UM students, the Brickell working crowd, and anyone else looking for a boozy night out. It’s not necessarily a chill place to have a conversation (unless you come early), but it can be fun if you’re not quite in the mood for a club, but still might want to dance after three and a half drinks.
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 great.
Downtown’s Lost Boy used to be a denim store, but now it’s a casual pub that serves very good cocktails (get the gin and tonic), beer, and wine in a space great for small groups who actually want to have a conversation. Out-of-towners might see Lost Boy as just another cool bar - and it is. But this place not only sparked a new wave of Downtown nightlife, it’s also given the city another thing it desperately needs: a quality bar that doesn’t rely on cheap tricks to get people through the door.
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.
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 $25 on a cocktail. Or both of those things. Either way, Better Days is going to be a good option. The cozy bar 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.
Esotico is a little shinier and cleaner than what we prefer in a tiki bar, but it can still be a fun place to have a few strong rum drinks, some of which are made with a really tasty house-made spiced almond syrup. They serve food here, and some folks will be sitting down at tables and eating. But we prefer to sit at the bar, drink, and if we do get a little hungry, order one of their surprisingly good octopus hot dogs.
Tomorrowland looks like a repurposed auto garage and feels somewhere between a sports bar and a cocktail bar. It’s a little hard to wrap your head around, but this Downtown spot is a solid place to drink outside and deserves a spot on your Downtown bar hopping itinerary, if you have one of those. The drinks are good, affordable, and there’s usually a food truck serving some sort of bar food.
Melinda’s is another place where you can either come to drink, eat, or do a little of both. The space is laid out more like a restaurant, but it’s got a bar atmosphere and occasionally there’s live music too. The outdoor space is covered, with tons of hanging plants and the kind of dim lighting that makes everyone look 40% more attractive. Also, Happy Hour is Wed-Sun from 5-7pm and offers $8-10 cocktails and $4 beers.
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. 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 account 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 - is great for bar snacking. And they also serve bigger things like ramen, in case you want to come early and make this more of a dinner.