The Culinary Side of Nightlife Culture: An interview with Jimmy Carbone and Rev Ciancio

By Gamal Hennessy

Music and fashion might be the most public aspect of nightlife culture, but consumption is the most basic and integral part of the experience. What we can eat and drink in nightlife is very different than what we allow ourselves to consume in normal life. There is an escapist quality in culinary nightlife that is just as strong as the artistic passion or the sexual expression. To get a better appreciation of this side of the culture, NCI sat down with Rev Ciancio and Jimmy Carbone to get their perspective on the eve of their new event series Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: Where did the concept of Elixirs and Eats come from?

Jimmy: We've been producing events together for a couple of years now. We know what goes into a successful event and what people enjoy. We have also made connections with a lot of small businesses creating unique small batch spirits. We decided to couple our involvement in culinary culture with the up and coming spirits producers that we know to create a unique series of events.

NCI: How did each one of you get involved in the culinary aspect of nightlife culture?

Rev: I started in the music biz as an artist manager. Managing bands is essentially like as series of pop up events.  I'd set up the tour, get the band in their van or bus, promote the shows and put the band back on the road when the show was over. After doing that for a few years, my interest in music events began to ebb, but my interest in the hospitality industry overall got stronger. That's when I began to focus on more culinary productions around the city.

Jimmy: I started out on the culinary and hospitality side of the business. I own and operate a restaurant called Jimmy’s No. 43 so the food and drink side of the equation has always been important to me. It was my involvement in that business that exposed me to the spirits that we are going to be focusing on for Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: How is your event different from other tastings in the city?

Rev: We’re different for two reasons. We've found that many of the tastings in the city focus more on the cocktail and not on the complexity of each spirit. That's why we want to offer our independent spirits neat or on the rocks, so our guests can get a full appreciation of the straight bourbon and the food we pair it with.

The other thing is, a lot of liquor tastings have a stiff corporate feel about them. We want to expose people to these great spirits and we want them to be able to meet the producers of each liquor we bring it, but we also want people to have a good time. That's why we're going to have great live music and a first rate burlesque show as well. We want people to get off work, come straight over, enjoy a summer evening on a beautiful rooftop and have a good time. That's always the main focus for us.

NCI: Tell me about the entertainment that you’ll have for each event and the venues you are working with.

Jimmy: We should talk about the venue first. Hudson Terrace is an amazing spot in terms of location, style and set up. It is the perfect place to spend a summer evening. It's also a great place to create a unique New York experience. We're going to have international trumpet player Fabio Morgera and his trio playing live to add to the ambiance and the Love Show burlesque to add some spice to the night. When you combine all that with our culinary offerings you get one of the best after work experiences in the city.

NCI: What about your beverage partners? Tell me a little bit about how they got involved in Elixirs and Eats.

Jimmy: We've met many great independent distillers when we were producing our previous events. For this first show, we're bringing together Warwick Valley, Caledonia, Scorpion Mezcal, and Templeton to let our guests sample and discuss what their spirits are all about. If you have a love for well made bourbon or you want to find out more about it, this will be a great setting for that.

NCI: What is the ultimate goal of Elixirs and Eats?

Rev: We want to expose people to more of the culture of spirits and create an atmosphere where people have fun exploring new tastes, new music and new experiences. We're not planning to take over the world with Elixirs and Eats. We just want to have fun giving people what they enjoy.

Have fun.


Stonewall, Nightlife Culture and Gay Rights in America

By Gamal Hennessy

The modern era of gay rights in America can be traced back to a small bar in New York’s West Village. When a group of transvestites refused to go into the bathroom to have their genitals inspected to determine their gender, it marked a turning point in the relationship between homosexuals and heterosexuals in the US. To a large extent it also changed the perception of homosexuals about themselves. The annual Pride Parade, positive gay figures in the media, debates on gay marriage and open sexual orientation in military service are all a by-products of the first Stonewall Incident.

Nightlife culture has a social impact that goes beyond bottle service and DJs. It is an environment that pushes the envelope of American culture as a whole. Historically, it is the space where minorities and homosexuals felt accepted when they weren’t accepted anywhere else. It is where modern music and fashion trends are tested before they slip into the mainstream. It is where social protests and movements from anti-Prohibition crime to the start of the gay rights movement found their home. If more progress is going to be made, it may very well continue where it started. Even if common society’s apathy, red state mentality or tabloid media slurs continue to promote division and hate, nightlife can and should be a haven for those who need a place to get away from the negative elements of society. Natives need to protect each other.

As New York celebrates LGBT Pride in parades and parties, we should keep in mind the importance that nightlife culture has played in providing a social haven and building the communities that drive progress in America.

Have fun.

New York Nightlife: Where to Go, Where to Avoid and How to Choose

A lot of nightlife writing is a not so subtle attempt to tell you where to go with advertorial features, top 10 lists and the inside scoop on the club no one knows about yet. Some authors put a twist on this formula by trying to tell you where not to go in an apparent disdain for the status quo. Both these approaches can be useful, but I’d rather give you some advice on how to decide for yourself where to go to enjoy New York nightlife.

Because of the writing that I do for nightlife culture and Yelp, people often ask me what club they should go to. I was taught to never answer a question with a question but that’s what I always do. I’m not trying to be annoying (most of the time). I ask questions because the only real way to answer that question is to find out more about the person who is asking. Every venue can’t be everything to everyone every night. Modern New York nightlife has too many niche markets, too much segregation and too much specialization to offer up a stock answer. One size does not fit all.

The questions that I ask fall into 6 general categories.

  1. What kind of music do you want to hear? Because sending the house head to the jazz club probably won’t go over well.
  2. What do you want to do when you are there? People have different reasons for going out and the best place for dancing probably isn’t the best place for craft cocktails or comedy…
  3. Who do you want to meet or spend time with? Where you take your first date is different than where you go out with your boys, or your client, or your female cousin from North Dakota.
  4. What part of town do you want to be in? Different areas attract different types of people. Do you want to be around people like you or are you in the mood for something different? Finding an easy way back home in the middle of the night is also a concern.
  5. What night do you want to go out? Nightlife amateurs might think nightlife is about the weekends, but nightlife natives know that nightlife happens every night. You just have to pick the right night for you.
  6. How much do you want to spend? New York isn’t cheap as a general rule, but some places are more not cheap than others. Nothing messes up a night faster than realizing you just spent this month’s rent having a few drinks.

New York nightlife is huge. The answers to these questions will narrow down the hundreds of options you have every night into something a little more manageable. From there it only takes a little digging online to find the best spot for your nightlife. It might be easier to just check a top 10 list, stay home or follow the crowd. But if you spend a little time finding your own nightlife you will enjoy it more…

And if all else fails, just send post a comment with your question and I’ll help you find something…

Have fun.


New York Nightlife Is More than Just a Tough Door

A storm was created in the teacup of New York nightlife writing this week when Elite Daily posted an article lashing out at nightlife because it was becoming oversaturated. The point of the piece was that more and more exclusive venues are fighting over the same small client base to the point where no one is getting a good crowd. The article suggested that New York nightlife would die a slow sad death

There was a small but spirited reaction to the piece that generally fell into three camps:

1)      The author is right. Nightlife in New York will (and should) collapse on itself because small handfuls of people can’t sustain revenue for more than a few venues.

2)      The author is right but no one should care because people don’t need to worry about going to the nightlife they went to 10 years ago. (Chichi 212)

3)      The author is missing the point because New York nightlife is bigger than just the exclusive clubs so the expansion and contraction of one scene doesn’t define an entire industry.

I am a flag bearer for camp 3. From an economic perspective, it might be accurate to say that there are only so many people who can go to the Boom Boom Room, 1OAK, Lavo, double seven and the new incarnations of Beatrice Inn, Pink Elephant and Bungalow 8. But the idea that the only real nightlife in New York City is the exclusive tough door venues is like saying that the only real movies are the summer blockbusters. It is a statement that ignores dozens of different scenes in nightlife culture and hundreds of different venues.

To say that people should move past the type of venues they went to 10 years ago is also accurate…if you went to those places 10 years ago. If you’re just getting into nightlife now, how can you be tired of something you haven’t done yet? It’s true that the nightlife culture you enjoy evolves as you get older. Maybe at 21-25 you want to break into the exclusive scene then at 25-35 you want the lounge scene and then at 35-50 you want the live music, wine bar and cocktail scene. People's tastes and preferences change but someone will always fight to get into the tough door because someone will always be (or pretend to be) 24 years old.

But New York nightlife is a diverse environment. We do have exclusive clubs. We also have dance clubs, wine bars, beer halls, cocktail lounges, strip clubs, sex clubs, sports bars, pubs, live music spots, date spots…you get the idea. That doesn’t even take into account the specific spots we have for different races, types of sexuality, music styles, income levels and a host of other variables we choose to congregate around in what Steven Lewis refers to as the safety in numbers syndrome

New York nightlife may or may not have more exclusive venues than it needs, but that issue will be resolved by economics. Some clubs will stay open. Others will close. But the larger issue revolves around what the nightlife writers define as New York nightlife. It is bigger than the exclusive clubs that we may or may not grow out of. It is bigger than the bridge and tunnel traps that Elite Daily attempts to casually lump every non exclusive venue. There is a lot more to New York nightlife and If you only focus on one narrow, isolated segment of the experience then its not surprising that your reaction will be disdain, frustration and cynicism.

Have fun.

Pleasure Palaces: Bars and Clubs as the Cradles of Nightlife Culture

Environment plays a huge role in the way we play. You can’t look at nightlife culture without looking at the physical space that nightlife occupies. It is the spaces that influence what you can do when you are inside. It is the spaces that help create the image and the atmosphere that the patrons are looking for. It is the spaces that bars and clubs inhabit that become the frame and canvas for every other aspect of the nightlife experience.

As we were selecting venues for the first annual Nightlife Culture Expo, we were very aware of how the venue sets the tone for the experience. The history, vibe and style of each venue fit perfectly with the celebration we had in mind. 

Cielo was a natural choice for a house music party because it is a dance destination that has been home to house icons like Jellybean Benitez and Little Louie Vega as well as famous dance parties like Roots and Dance. Here. Now. 

Stonewall is synonymous with both the LGBT rights movement and queer culture serving as the launch pad for what would become Pride Weekend in cities around the US and countries around the world. 

Sutra is a beacon of East Coast hip hop that regularly offers intimate shows with some of the most well known artists in the genre like Q-Tip, the Roots and Rakim. 

Affaire is a new venue, but it continues established nightlife traditions of adopting French epicurean flair and offering a home to the art of burlesque. 

Finally, the double seven is a reinvention of the venue that anchored the development of the Meatpacking District. It established the nightlife that helped attract companies like Apple and Hugo Boss as well as public works projects like the Highline Park to a forgotten strip of Manhattan.

The operators of each one of these venues understands the importance of nightlife cultures. They have built their businesses by offering their individual groups the space to express themselves. At the same time, they have improved nightlife and the quality of life in the city.  Your choice of venue plays a huge role in the quality of your experience.  In their own way, each of the Expo venues offers New York a unique taste of what nightlife is.

For more information and tickets, visit /events/

Have fun.


How to Find Live Music in 2012 (Websites, Apps and Social Media)

By Gamal Hennessy

I hear a lot of good music when I go out. I also hear quite a few suspect DJ’s, bartender iPods and other random forms of bad music in bars and lounges. This is not a recipe for a good time. To reverse this disturbing trend, I decided to start 2012 by going to see more up and coming live musicians play.

As well intentioned as this idea was, it created a big question: How would I find music I liked without wasting time seeing bands I had no interest in? There are thousands of good musicians who play in New York every year, but I’m like you, I don’t have a lot of time to sift through a lot of white noise. I started looking for ways to focus in on the bands that sounded good to me and avoid everything else.

Like any other problem in 2012, I tried to solve it with an app* or a website. My research has led me to a few contenders that each attempt to connect you to the music you want to hear. This is by no means an extensive survey, but hopefully it will help you find your way to a decent show or two.

Live Music Apps

Gigbeat: The best thing about this app is that it only finds the concerts of artists you want to hear. When you download the app, it scans all the music on your phone, compares it to a database of artists on tour, and then gives you the listings of every musician you listen to who is currently performing. It will also give you an alert to let you know when your artist is playing in your area and allow you to buy tickets to the show.

But the reliance on your music collection is also the worst part of the app. By definition, music discovery isn’t part of the experience because it will only tell you about artists you already know. Also, there is a lot of information on this app about shows you probably can’t go to. It’s all well and good to know that your favorite singer is playing in Seoul, Sydney and Tokyo this month, but if you live in Brooklyn that’s not really helpful. Gigbeat is good, but a function that can suggest similar local artists to the ones on your phone would bridge the gap to make this app completely amazing.

Gigbox: This app has several layers that make it a good source for shows. It focuses on your location and pulls upcoming performances. When you scroll down and find something you like, you can add the event directly to your calendar, share the event with your friends, buy tickets, read the bio of the artist and see videos of them from Youtube. You can also search for specific artists and venues, but this function didn’t work as well as the location search.

As a music discovery tool, Gigbox works well. For every artist in the database, it also cross references with similar artists and the ability to see and hear them before you go to the bar is key. Once upon a time people were willing to hang out in bars and listen to new bands hoping to find something special. But this is New York in 2012. Who has time to sit through 10 bad to semi average bands to find one good one?

JamBase: JamBase is unique because it has both a website and an app, although neither one is very appealing. The website will allow you to search for artists and shows around the world and once you find something you like you can buy tickets, add it to your calendar, buy their music via iTunes, read articles about the artist, join contests and a lot of other different things. The app is a stripped down version of this. You can still add the event to your calendar and get a map to the venue but I found the rest of the interface rather clunky and annoying to use.

The major downside of both aspects of JamBase is the lack of samples. There is a lot of information to wade through on this site and when I was done I didn’t feel like I was any closer to deciding on where I wanted to go. I would avoid this site and the app until they clean up the interface and provide more solid discovery aspects.

Last FM: A lot of the apps on this list are powered by, which is surprising considering how unfriendly this app turns out to be. It has functions featured shows, recommended shows and local shows, but it looks like none of those functions work unless you pay for the service. I can’t tell you how much that service is or if it is worth it because I never checked. There are too many other free services out there to pay for a subscription. I guess that’s why has to make money licensing its system to other apps.

Live Concert: This app allows you to import information from other music services (Soundkick and and then lets you search for shows in your area. As a stand-alone app, Live Concert is redundant. It offers the barest of information about the shows, no suggestions or samples that I saw and no ability to export the show information out of the app. It also crashes sometimes, so it’s probably best to skip this one altogether.

Live & Local: This app sponsored by MTV will access your Facebook music likes and then suggest local shows based on your preferences. It sounds good in theory, but the execution was very underwhelming compared to the other apps. It took me several tries to get it to work at all and when it did analyze my preferences it only gave me two shows compared to the dozens offered up by the other services. This service needs a lot more integration and functionality before it is useful as a live music source.

Reverbnation: This might be the best website for live music discovery. Once you create a profile, you can search by artist, genre, location and date range. As you browse through the results, you can hear samples, save shows to your profile, buy tickets and reach out directly to the artist through FB, Twitter or the Reverbnation social network. As a music discovery site, this has almost everything you need to plan weeks and weeks of live music.

Unfortunately, there is a downside. Reverbnation has an app, but it is for musicians, not for fans. You can get to this website on your phone, but the experience is much better on a computer.

Technology has made live music much more rare in New York nightlife, but it can also lead you directly to the live music you want to see. If you have another site or app that belongs on this list, let me know. I’m always looking for more info.

Have fun.

* All the apps listed here are available in the Android app store. They might be available for iPhone too, but I can’t confirm or deny that.

Sutra Celebrates Seven Years as a Hip Hop Icon

By GamalHennessy

Most clubsin New York City do not last very long. Normally, a club can go from thehottest place on Earth to closed in 3-5 years. For a club to last more than 5years and still be relevant is a rare and wonderful thing.

Clubs thatstay opened the longest rely on good management and a reputation for particulartype of music. There is a club on the corner of 1st Street and 1stAvenue that is still going strong after 7 years.  Its owner has been a strong supporter ofnightlife culture who has built a haven for both underground and mainstream hiphop at a club called Sutra. I sat down with Ms. Ariel Palitz on the seventhanniversary of the space to discuss the impact that it has had on the LowerEast Side, nightlife and the culture of New York City.

GH: What was the goal when you firstopened Sutra? How close have you come to achieving that goal seven years later?

AP: I spenta lot of time in Bar 16 as a patron before I bought it and opened Sutra. Iloved spending time there because of the type of people I met and the vibe ofthe place. When I became the owner, I wanted to keep that spirit. I wanted aplace where different types of people could come and have a good time. I wantedto have different types of parties and different types of music. I wanted Sutrato represent underground New York. We had that vibe from day 1. It didn’tmatter if we did bhangra parties, soulful house sets or hip hop parties. Thegoal was to always to celebrate the diversity of New York and we were always ableto pull that off.

GH: I know you have a lot ofdifferent types of parties, but I’ve always seen Sutra as a hip hop spot. A lotof that has to do with the people who perform here. It’s a long list thatincludes Funkmaster Flex, Questlove, Mos Def, Slick Rick, DMC, Just Blaze and alot of others. When did you first realize that the hip hop industry embracedSutra?

AP: Therewas a night early on when Questlove was in the DJ Booth spinning and BlackThought and Mos Def just jumped in there and started freestyling.  We had no warning but everyone in the roomloved it. It has such a raw energy about it. It felt very natural. There was nohype, no drama no problems. Everyone was just flowing with them. I sat back atthe owners table and knew it was special.

GH: Were there a lot of nights likethat?

AP: Yes. Alot of artists come to Sutra to experiment on a live crowd. You can put outmusic on the internet, but nothing beats getting the reaction of people in theclub. Artists like Just Blaze and Tony Touchknow that. They’ll come and drop new beats and hooks and samples all the timeand then we’ll hear those same elements in top 40 songs 6 months later. Sutrahas been the birthplace for a lot of new music.

GH: What has been the most successfulparty Sutra has had over the years?

AP: We’vehad quite a few long running parties, but Toca Tuesday has to be the crownjewel. Tony is truly a professional artist and it is people like him that keeppeople coming back week after week. He is one of the reasons Sutra has been sosuccessful.

GH: What are the other things thathave helped Sutra last so long when so many other clubs don’t?

AP: We nevertried to make people feel like they didn’t belong or they couldn’t come in. Wewon’t turn your friends away because of their race or anything else. We don’ttry to force bottles on everyone. We throw parties that people enjoy. We’vealways been able to attract talent that people wanted to see. We have a goodrelationship with people on the block and in the neighborhood. All those thingshelp keep the doors opened.

GH:  So what’s next for Sutra? Do you plan to keepit opened for another 7 years?

AP: Iactually put Sutra on the market for sale this week, partially to coincide withthe anniversary. I had a goal in mind when I opened Sutra and I’ve achieved it.I love Sutra and the impact it has had on my life and the life of the communityand culture, but I have other goals, new businesses and new ideas for the Sutrabrand. Once I find the right buyer, it will be time to move on.

GH: How do you think Sutra willchange once you sell it?

AP: Ideally,the new owner would inject new energy into the place but still keep theinclusive spirit I inherited from Bar 16 and developed in Sutra. Ultimately Idon’t know what the new incarnation will be, but I will do everything in mypower to make sure that it will be a benefit to the quality of life forneighborhood, the people and New York.

GH: Do you think artists who havestrong ties to the spot might buy it? Rappers have bought venues before…

AP: Owning anightclub is a very different business than being a rapper or a DJ, but ifsomeone in the industry would want to take it over that would be great because hopefullythey would be able to infuse the same great talent and great vibe that has keptSutra alive this long

Have fun.

Tough Doors: The Most Dangerous Place in Nightlife

By GamalHennessy

Two of the majorstories floating around the nightlife press this week revolve around safety. Onone hand, NYNA and the NYPD have released the second edition of the NightlifeBest Practices. This new set of guidelines are designed to help operatorswork with police to protect us from threats ranging from sexual assaults toterrorist threats. At the same time news came out that a man named ChristopherAdames was stabbed and killed just outside of the popular Juliet Supperclub.While details about the latest crime have not fully been revealed, thisincident fits a pattern that is fairly specific to nightlife. History suggeststhat serious violence is much more likely to occur in the immediate areaoutside a venue as opposed to inside the venue itself.

There have been a numberof events over the past 20+ years that support this theory.  
  • ·        In1989, Virgil Sylvia was killedoutside Payday.
  • ·        In1990 David Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo shot bouncer Marcus Peterson outside The Palladium.
  • ·        In2001, Terrence Davis was stabbedto death outside Tunnel.
  • ·        In2003, a bouncer named Dana Blakewas stabbed to death outside Guernicaby Isaias Umali.
  • ·        In2006, bouncer Stephen Sakai shotGustavo Cuadros outside Opus 22.
  • ·        Imette St. Guillen and JenniferMoore were both killed in 2006 in separate incidents after leaving The Falls and Guest House clubs.
  • ·        Aserialrapist was allegedly targeting isolated women as they left The Box in 2007.
  • ·        LauraGarza disappeared after leaving Marquee with a mannamed Michael Mele in the last month of 2008.
  • ·        In2009, MarioOlmedo slashed several people outside Deco.

While the years and weapons usedand number of victims are different, one constant thread remains. Each attacktook place outside the venue.

The reasons behind this phenomenon aren’t hard to understandif you consider the mentality of the attackers. From a psychologicalstandpoint, there is a higher chance that the ego and self-esteem of fanaticsis lower at the door. There could be several triggers for their distress. Maybethey can’t get in. Maybe they just got kicked out. Maybe some woman rejectedthem. Maybe they spent more money than they had. Whatever the cause, the endresult is the same. Their self-respect has been lowered and their temper hasbeen raised. They lash out, either the operators, patrons or random passers-by asa way to regain their sense of power and control.

This isn’t a justification for fanatic behavior. It is also nota suggestion that nightlife is inherently dangerous. In the last twenty years,there have been an infinitesimal number of fatalities compared to the 30,000people that nightlife employs and the one billion entries that patrons have innightlife every year. The only thing I’m attempting to point out is that amajor location of potential nightlife violence is just outside the venueitself. That is one of the reasons security is stationed at the door. When yougo out, it’s a good idea to get through the door (in or out) as quickly aspossible. Give the operators at the door a chance to do their job and give yourselfa chance to get out of harm’s way in the unlikely event that a problem arises.

Have fun.

South Beach: The 6th Borough of New York Nightlife

Congratulations. You have survived another summer in New York.
You dealt with oppressive heat, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados. You lived through the Upper East Side sex predator, the Lower East Side bar closings and the Long Island serial killer. That kind of accomplishment calls for a celebration. But based on the events of the past three months, you might decide to celebrate somewhere else for a little while.
That’s ok. New York will understand, as long as you don’t stray too far away. Fortunately, there is a place only a couple hours away that will let you get out of New York nightlife without really leaving New York nightlife.
Welcome to South Beach.
The Sound and the Crowd
The first things you will notice after you drop off your bags and head out are the people, the weather and the music. There are only four types of people in South Beach; Latin expats, Europeans on holiday, crunk kids from the South and other New Yorkers. The weather fluctuates between sticky hot or comfortably cool and can change at a moment’s notice. The combination of these four groups and the temperature blends gives the crowds a unique style and feeling.
The result is something that is wild and sophisticated, stylish and slutty, exotic and banal all at the same time. Like New York, each group settles into their own nightlife niches, with cross pollination happening on the fringes of each group. Unlike New York, the percentage of buttafaces and bikinis worn off the beach is much higher there than here.
The default music genre in South Beach is house. You will hear it blasting into the streets from clothing stores, cigar shops and restaurants. You’ll hear it when you wake up for lunch, when you’re walking along Lincoln Road at night or falling asleep in a cab on the way back to your hotel. Even if you like house, the nonstop assault can be a little much. Thankfully, South Beach has variety if you know where to look. Afro Cuban bands play at places like Jazid. There is live jazz at spots like the Van Dyke. Hip hop is a mainstay at venues like Mansion and Set and is continuously blasted out of rented sports cars that the amateurs use to cruise around in. South Beach might not have the music diversity and density as New York, but it does have more than enough to set the mood and keep you moving.
Places to Go, Things to Do
When you go out in South Beach, you will find quite a few similarities between their nightlife and the one you are used to. You will also find there are some things that South Beach just pulls off better than NYC.
New York venues have sister spots here including Plunge, Living Room, Nikki Beach and the Playwrights Bar. Many operators from New York branch out to open venues here just like they do in Las Vegas or Los Angles. Rooftop bars like the Clevelander and outdoor bars like the one at the Shore Club are more inviting than many of their counterparts in New York because the beach and tropical nature of the area are better suited for outdoor drinking than the cobblestone streets of Meatpacking or our often cramped skylines.
If you are in the mood for a mojito or a caipirinha (and who isn’t?) you don’t have to go to a special cocktail lounge to get one in South Beach. The bartenders are much more willing to make them there than in New York if only because most of our bartenders don’t have time to muddle when the bar is packed four deep with bridge and tunnel kids.
Word to the Wise
There are only three warnings that a nightlife native needs when going to South Beach.
First, while the service is universally good, be prepared to pay an automatic 18% tip everywhere you go.
Second, the main area of South Beach is from 1st Street to Lincoln Road and by and large covers three avenues; Washington, Collins and Ocean Drive. Once you leave those areas you will venture into the districts of low rise apartment buildings and efficiencies of local residents. They can feel isolated and unsafe late at night, so it is a good idea to avoid that area if you can, especially when you are intoxicated.
Finally, it pays to avoid Ocean Drive. There isn’t anything wrong with a strip of bars, restaurants and hotels right across the street from a (sometimes topless) beach, but it’s similar to venues in Times Square or the Vegas strip. The competition between venues for tourists and patrons is so high that the whole experience can be draining for a native. It just might be better to go off the beaten track a little.
Let’s Get Specific
I made several stops on my last visit to South Beach and I have full reviews for all of them on my Yelp page, (gamalhennessy.yelp.combut here is a preview to wrap things up here.
Hotel Essex is a recommended place to stay. It is clean, stylish, centrally located and offers access to the member’s only rooftop of the Clevelander Hotel, so it’s like staying at the Clevelander without the price or the drama.
The Van Dyke had good music but poor service.
Skip the sports bar and the pool bar at the Clevelander and head straight for the rooftop bar which is a much better in terms of service, scenery and good looking people.
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The Shore Club is a spot you don’t want to miss, especially if you like drinking mojitos under a palm tree.
The Tides Bar has great cocktails, but it is smaller than a New York studio apartment. Take your drink outside and watch the waves of humanity walk by.
In terms of restaurants, the food at Eden was good. The food at Grazie is better. Doruku is the best place for happy hour, even if you don’t have much experience with sake. Wine Bar is definitely off the beaten track, but not really worth the trip. The Front Porch Café might have the worst service on the East Coast and the food isn’t much better.
Honorable mention has to be given to the Erotic Museum which is much better than our Museum of Sex, the Howard Feld Art Gallery for offering free wine and body painted models and I heart liquor for being one of the best liquor stores outside of Manhattan.
As the weather gets colder and memories of your New York summer begin to fade, you are going to look for a warm place to escape to. South Beach offers the right combination of unique and familiar to satisfy the New York native. Go before we get another week of hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados.

Have fun.