The Historic Miami Bars Everyone Should Visit at Least Once

Including a dive that dates back to 1926 and where happy hour starts at 8 a.m.

March 7, 2023 7:12 am
Fox's Lounge in Miami, Florida
Fox's Lounge dates back to 1946.
Patrick Michael Chin

Miami is known for its glamorous, over-the-top bar culture, but hidden among the newest VIP rooms and the hippest guest-list-only rooftops are a handful of watering holes that predate QR-code cocktail menus, Instagrammable blended daiquiris and even, for that matter, blenders. And while some spots have changed hands over the years, modernizing enough to appeal to a younger crowd, others remain steadfastly stuck in their ways — a devotion to nostalgia that inspires us to pocket our phones and live in the moment. (Not least because photos are rendered impossible at one of the locations on this list: a bar that prides itself on being Miami’s darkest.)

Whether you’re looking for a nightlife locale with a conga line older than you are or a dive that’s been owned by the same couple since the ’60s, we’ve got you covered. Herein, a roundup of Miami’s historic bars.

The dance floor at Ball and Chain
The dance floor at Ball & Chain
Ball & Chain

The Dance-Till-You-Drop Haven: Ball & Chain

Ball & Chain first opened in 1935 in Calle Ocho and has since played host to the musical stylings of such stars as Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker. Today, this storied past surfaces in popular recurring evening entertainment, from BachaTuesdays to Salsero Sundays, complete with free dance classes beginning at 9 p.m. Cap it off with signature cocktails, authentic Cuban fare and a midnight conga line, and Ball & Chain is quite simply a party that never stops.

“The midnight conga line is a special tradition that originally started on weekends,” explains Zack Bush, who has co-owned the spot since 2014. “It was started by our in-house dance team, but now the regulars are always ready to lead the way as well.”

What to Drink: The mojitos are famous, but Bush also recommends the Calle Ocho Old Fashioned, made with brown sugar syrup and homemade tobacco bitters, as well as the Pastelito Daiquiri, infused with guava purée.

Interior of The Taurus
Interior of The Taurus
The Taurus

The Theme-Night Staple: The Taurus

Rich in over a century of history, this Coconut Grove fave officially became The Taurus in 1969. Today, it draws a vibrant, diverse community thanks to its myriad theme nights, ranging from vintage video game night to comedy, trivia nights to whiskey Wednesdays. “There is something for everyone here at The Taurus,” explains manager Daniel Prats, “and that’s what makes it special.”

The same variety is true on the food menu, which changes often. While the pizza is the “longest-running item,” he says, “the kitchen is always finding new ways to surprise the guests.” But that love of surprise and innovation never goes so far as to alienate long-standing patrons.

“We get ‘locals’ from the ’60s and ’70s still walking in with their wild Taurus stories,” explains Prats. “Not only do we make a killer vodka soda, but it’s a place where many things happen.”

What to Drink: Prats recommends the Moose Juice, made with vodka, gin, rum, tequila, aperitivo, citrus blend, pineapple and grapefruit soda. “It has a little bit of everything,” he says, “and it’s refreshing for this Miami weather.” 

Fox's Lounge Interior
Fox’s Lounge Interior
Patrick Michael Chin

The Darkest: Fox’s Lounge

Honestly, who wouldn’t want to try out the spot famous for being “the darkest bar in Miami”? First founded in 1946 by Hank and Betty Fox, Fox’s Lounge closed back in 2015 only to be resurrected by Lost Boy & Co. in 2022 with the same old-school spirit.

“It’s the type of establishment from a bygone era that has character, charm and a whole lot of grit,” says Randy Alonso of Lost Boy & Co. “It’s always been that consistent, trustworthy neighbor for birthdays, anniversaries, first-dates, last dates and sometimes no dates at all.”

What to Drink: Alonso recommends a “classic dirty martini served cold with the sidecar.” Enjoy it on its own or with “thumb bits”: seared beef sirloin served on garlic toast with au jus that Alonso dubs “the perfect appetizer bite.”

Interior of Mac’s Club Deuce
Interior of Mac’s Club Deuce
Mac’s Club Deuce

The Authentic Dive: Mac’s Club Deuce

With a cash-only bar and a daily two-for-one happy hour starting promptly at 8 a.m., Mac’s Club Deuce is a real-deal dive. First established in 1926, Mac’s became Mac’s when Mac Klein took over in 1964 and has been a local staple ever since. While Klein passed in 2016 at the age of 101, these days, his wife of 40 years, Mary Klein, holds down the fort.

“She’s in her early eighties,” says Christie Ashenoff, a longtime patron who met her husband — and got engaged! — at Mac’s and who helps Mrs. Klein with the bar’s social media. “She says she’s going to live until she’s 102 just to one-up him.”

The bar prides itself on remaining gritty and authentic; indeed, the house merch says it all, dubbing Mac’s “a sunny place for shady people.” “I like to refer to the bar as Shangri-La,” says Klein, “a place in the cosmos where everyone meets and it works.”

What to Drink: Dive bar classics. “Beer and a shot, we can do it,” Klein continues. “Rum and coke, no problem.”

But don’t start asking for any bells or whistles. “We don’t have a fancy cocktail menu,” explains Klein. “We’re a dive bar. We sell beer, liquor and wine.” In short: “If we know what’s in it, we’ll make it.”


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