🕺 People are measuring Miami’s maturation as a city by counting cranes and Michelin stars. I think a diversifying nightlife is yet one more measure. Though I still enjoy the very occasional night out that at some point includes me and the entire room belting out “ELLA ES CALLAÍTA” at the top of our lungs, I don’t bounce back from late nights and well drinks like I used to, and I enjoy treating my ears to a more varied set of tunes. If I’m going to subject myself to a tired Saturday and the death of my checking account by a thousand $25 drinks, I’m going to be selective about where that happens. And when I look down the row of faces taking a break from the dance floor to belly up to the bar and see nary a crease nor fine line… it’s time to find a new dance floor.
Below are some of the new (and new-ish) spots that I’m actually eager to put on the makeup and the not-so-high heels for. Places that had me immediately texting my group chat to say they had to come check this place out. Places where the music’s truly groovy, the drinks are carefully crafted, and where you can get your fill of fun by midnight if that’s all you can muster the energy for.
🎧 Coming up on its second birthday in September, Dante’s Hi-Fi is the “oldest” of the bunch. Opened by a crew of music and hospitality professionals and vinyl collectors (“old heads,” if you will, and I say this with every bit of deference and admiration), the Wynwood joint was inspired by Japanese listening bars. Many were curious of whether this would “work” in Miami when they first opened, but Dante’s has done more than survive, they’ve thrived, even opening a second location in Austin, TX. This proof of concept no doubt also inspired Miami Sound Bar, a new spot downtown that, while I’ve not yet been, positions itself as cut from the same vinyl and hi-fi audio cloth.
The bar’s table reservations are just about having a place to sit, not about signaling that you are a Very Important Person. The line that forms outside in the later hours of the night is not because of typical Miami doorman dynamics, but because it’s a venue on the smaller side that fills up quick. That’s even more of a reason to come on the earlier end of the night to enjoy yourself — that, and to do a bit more of the actual listening that was initially intended.
Admittedly, the Miami crowd has adapted Dante’s listening bar concept to our penchant for dancing, but the fact remains that Dante’s is cultivating Miami’s analog audiophile music culture and introducing it to a new audience, with memberships for the most enthusiastic of listeners and by experimenting with ever-expanding programming that includes Rum & Coke, a vintage Afro-Caribbean dance residency; live music in their adjacent courtyard; the occasional celebrity DJ spinning vinyl; film screenings and more.
As co-founder and music director Rich Medina told me during last year’s one year anniversary celebration, Dante’s strives to “continu[e] to lead the way with regard to how to program a hi-fi, with a performance sensibility and educational rigor that is one of the few opportunities that we as a venue have to bring more people into the fold — because the fold is the place to be.”
🍸 Medium Cool is cooler than its tongue-in-cheek name and defies all my expectations for a Miami Beach cocktail lounge. The velvet rope at the top of a short set of stairs had me thinking otherwise on my first visit, but what’s found in the space beneath the Gale Hotel is a largely local crowd that skews more 30- or 40-something than 20-something.
As Alex Ferzan, one of Medium Cool’s co-founders, shared with me, “in Miami Beach, locals and tourists rarely interact. Locals usually base their free time around avoiding the traffic, lines and prices, while people visiting plan their every moment in Miami for months. But locals and tourists do want the same thing: quality service, fair prices, and a comfortable environment. Medium Cool is specifically designed to provide just that.”
Both the cozy-yet-chic vintage-inspired interior — disco ball and all — and the crowd it attracts create a convivial atmosphere that manages to strike a balance between elevated and relaxed. “We felt there was a unique opportunity on the Beach to provide a really welcoming environment for locals and tourists alike, driven by a lot of attention to detail,” Ferzan added. Mission accomplished, as far as I’m concerned.
With only a few months on the scene, Medium Cool is rapidly expanding their programming. Open from 6:00 p.m. onwards Wednesdays through Sundays, there’s a happy hour that includes drinks and bites, with evenings that transition into bossa nova on Thursdays, jazz on Fridays, and free pizza dished out to a vinyl soundtrack on Sundays. That’s before the lights dim and the music begins to ramp up into an eclectic but well-blended feel-good assortment — you might hear your favorite New Wave track one minute, something samba-inspired the next, all before the lyrics fade into plain ol’ beats worth boogieing to.
🎶 Beneath Julia & Henry’s with an entrance just down the block is Jolene Soundroom, a Miami outpost of a Brooklyn venue by the same name. And yes, that name is drawn from Dolly Parton’s hit song. A caveat before we go any further: I’ve only been once during their very publicly advertised opening weekend towards the end of May, and yet despite that I was met at the door with “Yeah we’re open… to friends and family only” 🤨 Thank you to the gal at the door who heard me out — an Instagram post about your opening weekend is not a good way to advertise what is actually a “friends and family” night — and lifted the velvet rope for me. I say all this to warn that I don’t know what the door’s like on the average night, whereas I can assure you I’ve not had any unreasonable issues getting into the aforementioned venues.
Once you get downstairs, you’re walking into what is thought to be a Prohibition-era hidden stash space used by Al Capone (I was told there’s even an underground passage that crosses the street and connects to the Olympia Theater). The setting itself is decidedly disco, with plush surfaces and wood paneling on everything from the walls to the furniture. The surfaces were clearly chosen not just for aesthetics, but with practical reasons in mind. As the name suggests, delivering high-quality sound is the goal; the team behind Jolene calls the space a “sound box.” Disco doesn’t stop with the decor — it extends to the soundtrack (and for that matter, the cocktail menu). The ceiling is decked out with an expanse of square multi-color lights that flash and dim along with the music. I very much imagined that my evening must’ve been not too different from those of dancing Miamians of decades past.