Here are SFGN's "Best of 2018" winners in Miami-Dade County.
Best Activist & Non-profit
Tony Lima and SAVE
Fighting for the LGBT community is challenging work in Florida.
“Man, these elections are kicking our ass,” said Tony Lima in a telephone call with the SFGN on Oct. 18.
Lima, the Executive Director of SAVE, wasn’t speaking literally, of course, but the message was this top executive has his hands full. Midterm elections play a large part in SAVE’s mission. Lima, the organization’s executive director, is a busy man this time of year. While his time is stretched, Lima said he would not have it any other way.
“I love what I do, it’s my life passion absolutely,” he said.
Lima received what he called the “absolute highlight of my career” on Sept. 23 when he was honored by the Miami Dolphins with the NFL’s Hispanic Leadership Award.
“What a special day,” Lima recalled.
Before the Dolphins took on the Oakland Raiders, Lima and the SAVE family took the field to be recognized for their contributions to the Hispanic and LGBT community.
“Within that realm of sports you do not get a lot of recognition for LGBT focused work,” said Lima, a second generation Cuban American. “So I think the Miami Dolphins are doing such wonderful work in trying to serve the entire community. We are very fortune because the SAVE Foundation are grantees of the Football Unites Program where the Dolphins are funding 12 different social justice organizations to do positive work in the community and we’re one of those organizations so for me it is such an honor that they are supporting us and that I was recognized in that fashion for my work in the LGBT community.”
SAVE was founded in 1993 – back when the Dolphins were quarterbacked by Dan Marino and being openly gay was hush hush. Today SAVE is a leading LGBT advocacy organization and often cited as a force behind the legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida as well its role in passing nondiscrimination ordinances in various south Florida municipalities.
For Lima, 44, accepting an award from the hometown Dolphins was one thing – having his family there to witness was another level indeed.
“I thought it was a beautiful thing,” Lima said. “It was great because I got to share with not only my staff and my board but my family was there with me also on the field - my nephews, my niece, my brother, my sister-in-law, my parents, my partner - everybody there, surrounding me, as I received this amazing award. It was a very special moment in time.”
Lima holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English from Florida State University and a Master’s of Science in Integrated Communications from Florida International University. He has worked on marketing and communications campaigns at the corporate level and is a graduate of the Miami Foundation Fellows program.
“Young people need to have role models and if the Dolphins can help uplift my story as an openly gay leader in the community and uplift the work that I do for the benefit of my community it could inspire young people who are just coming out or not sure about coming out and they see power and they see this individual doing community work, that’s a really important thing,” Lima said.
NFL teams honoring gay men and recognizing the work of organizations advocating for transgender people “didn’t happen five or 10 years ago,” Lima said.
“I am forever humbled by that moment,” he said.
Best Activity For Tourists
Wynwood Graffiti Tour
Wynwood, a neighborhood in Miami, is known for being a prominent entertainment district with restaurants, breweries, clothing stores, and dance venues. But what really separates it from other entertainment hot spots is its street art aka graffiti. In fact the district is one of the largest open-air street-art installations in the world.
What better way to get to know Wynwood’s street art than a tour?
“Easily the best street art tour I've taken and the fact that Pedro and Ryan are artists themselves makes all the difference; you'll learn about techniques, artists' backgrounds and Miami's inside stories that will leave you feeling like you're part of the Wynwood family,” said Carolina G. on Yelp.
While another Yelp reviewer Daniela A. commented, “I have gone various times to Wynwood but this tour taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Our tour guide Pedro was excellent at showing us how to view street art to be able to enjoy it at its fullest. He also taught us the history behind these masterpieces which was amazing. Definitely worth it!”
While the Best Of nomination did not name which graffiti tour to take we recommend Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide, which was also named Best Tour of Wynwood by Miami New Times.
Visit MiamisBestGraffitiGuide.com for more information.
Best LGBT Bar
176 NW 24th St.
Miami, FL 33127
Gramps isn’t an LGBT bar, but somehow the quirky eclectic bar in the trendy Miami neighborhood of Wynwood won this year’s award for Best LGBT Bar.
Maybe it’s because of their drag bingo on Wednesday nights hosted by Miss Toto, who Miami New Times described as a "gender-bending, bodybuilding drag monster from Miami."
“Love this place! Excellent service. Awesome drink menu. Yummy Pizza,” said Barbara O'Dell Bailey on Facebook. “Drag queen bingo was so much fun!”
Bingo with Miss Toto takes place Wednesday nights at 9 p.m.
Roger Lords @ Score
1437 Washington Ave. Miami Beach
Roger Lords has been bartending for 14 years, as long as he’s been able to drink – well legally that is.
He’s no stranger to winning awards for his skills including Ultimate Miami Bartender 2016, The Stoli Key West Bartender Classic Miami Champion 2017, and as a nominee for the Pink Flamingo Awards Best Bartender in 2015, 2016, 2017.
And now he adds SFGN’s Best Bartender for 2018 to his list of achievements.
Even with all of the accolades though he’s still modest.
“OMG I’m shocked, I don’t know what to say…I’m speechless,” he said when he found out he won the Best Of.
His favorite drinks to serve include his two winning cocktails: the Miami Vice and Cayo Hueso.
“My favorite thing about bartending is introducing customers to new and creative cocktails to enjoy a good buzz,” he added.
When you think of what makes a great burger, taste is probably the most important element. BurgerFi’s fresh ingredients make its variety of burgers a hit with diners because of their great taste. The meat used is free of hormones, steroids, and chemicals.
BurgerFi also has vegan and vegetarian options. Heaping side dishes include french fries and onion rings that are out of this world. Any BurgerFi experience would not be complete without trying one of their delicious shakes or custards.
That combination makes it a go-to location for people who want fast food, but in a family-friendly environment. BurgerFi calls South Florida home. It originated in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea nearly eight years ago and now has more than 100 locations nationwide.
The chain just debuted facial recognition at its self-serve kiosks in Central Florida and they could be coming to a BurgerFi in our area soon.
There are several BurgerFi locations throughout South Florida, visit their website to find the closest one to you.
Best Comedy Club
176 NW 24 St.
Last year Villain Theater won SFGN’s award for Best Live Theater. This year they took Best Comedy Club.
Along with various improv troupes, including YAS!, which is known as “Miami’s LGBTQIA+ Improv Team,” Villain Theater also offers musicals, writing classes, monologue readings, and comedy classes for those who want to get on stage.
"I have personally experienced the incredible support towards the LGBTQIA+ community. From creating a wonderful relationship with the drag community by providing a safe, creative, supportive space to performing and hosting fundraising and community events to raise awareness and help the youth in our community, Villain Theater is quickly becoming a home for us,” said Priscilla Blanco, Music Director of Villain Theater. “The owners and performers alike stand with our community, whether as members and/or allies. I have found a place where I can safely express who I am and in the current sociopolitical climate we are in, a place like Villain Theater is exactly what we need."
The Travel Channel even took notice of the theater naming, it as a must see place for LGBT travelers to Miami.
Best Drag Queen
An invitation and $10 altered the course of Henry Williams’ life, better known to fans as Tiffany Fantasia, more than 15 years ago when a friend invited Williams to join him for a drag show performance. It was in this first stage performance where the inspiration for Tiffany Fantasia began to take root in this seasoned artist’s career. Tiffany Fantasia began honing her art, booking more consistent shows throughout South Florida, building an audience and a knack for defining the unique drag experience Tiffany brings to her fans on stage.
Tiffany Fantasia made her art her career following a lay off, deciding in that moment to focus on building a career which has now spanned more than 15 years and has garnered multiple awards and accolades.
“I was laid off about three years ago as a merchandiser and I never looked back,” she said. When asked how she keeps her shows fresh and ever evolving, the South Florida staple of the drag community said, “It’s the music. Music is my foundation and the base of my expression. The music is how I interpret my art and my drag.”
Being “Best Of” is nothing new to Fantasia, who took home the honor in 2017. The reigning “Best Of” Drag Star says her fans and friends have always been there every step of her career as a consistent voice of support that has helped her in the hardest of moments to push through and keep inventing and expressing her art.
Tiffany Fantasia isn’t resting on her laurels as she continues to push forward in her career as she explores her next venture into the world of music.
Best Annual LGBT Event
Miami Beach Pride
Miami Beach Gay Pride is no more. That’s right, it’s over. But wait, don’t panic. The organization is just changing its name – dropping the “gay” and going with Miami Beach Pride. So the festival you know and love and keeps winning SFGN’s Best Annual LGBT Event will be back next year – better and more inclusive than ever.
“The new name, ‘Miami Beach Pride,’ reflects the changing landscape of the LGBTQ+ and allied communities and better mirrors the inclusiveness of the celebration,” Bruce Horwich, chair of the Miami Beach Pride Board of Directors, said in a press released.
This is the fifth time Miami Beach Pride has won this Best Of award.
"We're incredibly honored to win the ‘Best Of’ award for LGBT Event of the Year. Miami's LGBTQ community is an amazing and vibrant group of people, and it's been truly moving to see how we've grown, changed, and become bigger and better year after year so that we can continue to provide a free, fun, and inclusive experience for the LGBTQ and Allied community,” Horwich said.
The next festival will take place April 1-7.
Each year the event continues to grow. In 2009 about 15,000 attended – this year, 145,000. Many celebrities have also graced the stage at the annual celebration including Gus Kenworthy, Ross Mathews, Bebe Rexha, Mario Lopez, Elvis Duran, Jordin Sparks, Gloria Estefan and Adam Lambert.
1409 Lincoln Rd
South Beach’s Hotel Gaythering captured top honors in the hotel category for Miami-Dade.
Co-owners Alexander Guerra and Stephan Ginez opened the hotel in 2014. Guerra said it was a dream come true.
“It was always a dream to create a space with no pretense other than to be yourself, feel safe and feel at home in,” Guerra said.
Hotel Gaythering turned heads when it opened for business on the bay side of Miami Beach’s famed Lincoln Road. It was crafted out of a 60-year-old mid-century modern art deco apartment building. Hotel Gaythering became a hit with the LGBT community, hosting countless social and political groups. Its Phillipe Starck inspired interiors attracts a young and trendy cliental and vacationers seeking fun in the sand and sun.
“Gaythering has surpassed our expectations and our vision,” Guerra said. “Going on year five this February, we hope to continue to embrace, engage and entertain locals and visitors alike.”
The boutique hotel comes with a bar, library, shuttle service, dry cedar sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room. It’s a short walk to the beach, restaurants, theaters and other places of interest in South Beach. King bed studios and crate shared rooms can be booked online at Gaythering.com.
Best Kept Secret
Karaoke Circus @ Kill Your Idol
222 Española Way
Punk sub culture washes over you as you enter this time capsule throw-back social space, in the heart of busy South Beach. Opened in 2012, Kill Your Idol began as a space to provide an alternative to the local fair being served up in the tourism mecca of South Beach.
KYI is an optical immersion into a time of the emerging No Wave counter culture movement of the late 70’s and early 80’s. A space of art and music, KYI comes to life on Thursday nights with “Karaoke Circus Thursdays” hosted by the incomparable Drag Super Star, Shelly Novak.
Patrons roar with laughter as Shelly Novak hosts a night of songs and entertainment in this Brooklyn-esque intimate bar. With no cover charge, cheap drinks and great music, KYI is the quintessential Thursday haunt of locals and tourist alike.
605 Lincoln Road, Suite 240
When restaurants use buzzwords like “handcrafted” or “local” it can often be met with skepticism. The moment of truth comes when the customer votes for that authenticity with their taste buds and wallets.
Pizza Rustica has proven time and again, however, that handcrafted pizza and local ownership really does mean something real.
“We try hard every day to make the pizza better today than the day before,” owner Pino Piroso said simply.
Regulars to one of several South Florida locations say Piroso’s passion for food and pizza is evident. He’s still working seven days a week since opening his first location in 1996.
The Miami Beach location — the original — attracts an interesting and diverse community of residents and tourists.
“Our beautiful location in the sunshine and by the beach makes every day feel like vacation,” Piroso said.
No matter what location you drop into, you’ll sense a “big, happy family” environment among all the pizza options on the menu.
“We also have an open kitchen which makes all our employees participate in the experience, and we think our pizza provides a fun, colorful and artistic experience,” Piroso said.
2727 NW 2nd Ave.
Rocco Carulli is the owner and executive chef of R House, located in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. He’s run the unique drag-inspired venue with his husband and business partner Owen Bale since 2014.
If you’ve never experienced the combination of food, drink, entertainment, laughter and dancing in one spot – Carulli said R House will deliver.
“A lot of first-time visitors get swept away by the sense of joy and celebration that is often in the air,” he said.
Starting Novem17, R House is expanding its Sunday drag brunch to include Saturdays.
R House lets customers choose between bites, small plates and large plates with items like short rib tacos, sea cakes and braised lamb shank. The drink menu features beer and wine, as well as craft cocktails like the R House margarita.
Carulli said the foundation of R House is fine food delivered with impeccable service. The venue is also a thriving art gallery with a constantly evolving collection. Expect a different look and feel each time you visit.
“With our weekend drag brunches, we have elevated drag entertainment by offering it alongside fine food and drink in an environment that is highly accessible to a diverse customer base both gay and straight,” Carulli said.
Best Theme Night
Keeping it Fresh with TP Lords @ Twist
1057 Washington Ave.
Wednesdays 1:30 a.m.
Often revered as the hardest working Queen in South Florida, TP Lords has built an iconic drag persona. TP began her drag career at 16, walking balls for the House of Lords. There TP found the creative outlet that would influence her for years to come.
TP’s first show took place the defunct club, Saint. As the song “Officer” played TP was inspired to jump on stage where she stole the spotlight. As she walked off she recalls finding the manager waiting to ask if she would return the next week for an encore performance.
And so what began as a $50 a week gig has now become her full time career and passion.
“I was sitting behind a make up counter being worked like a mule, but never feeling the passion or reward, and so in that moment I decided to leave my job and do drag and make up full time. The rest is history.”
Whether she is serving club kid realness, avant-garde glamour, or your favorite pop icons, everyone knows they’re in for an exhilarating sensory experience that won’t be forgotten. So it’s no wonder her show Keeping It Fresh with TP Lords won for Best Theme night.
“Twist has been a staple in the South Florida LGBTQ community for 25 plus years. I’m just honored to be a part of such a great legacy and to bring my talents to Wednesday nights. We have other girls that do shows in our Latin room after my show. They keep the party going till 5 a.m. I want to thank them, and of course our DJ's and bartenders, for doing their best to make sure everyone has a great experience.”