Here are SFGN's "Best of 2019" winners in Miami Dade.
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 told SFGN last year when they won for Best Restaurant as well.
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 last year.
Make sure to visit on a Sunday for what they call, the “Best Drag Brunch in Town.”
Kept Secret & Hotel & LGBT Bar & Business & Activist
Hôtel Gaythering & Owner Alex Guerra
1409 Lincoln Rd.
How can the same place be the Best Bar and Best Business and still be a secret? Your guess is as good as ours, but Hôtel Gathering somehow pulled it off winning 6 Best Of awards — Best Bar, Best Business, Best Kept Secret, plus three of its staff won for Best Drag Queen, Best Bartender and Best Activist.
Hôtel Gaythering is nestled at the end of Lincoln Road in a quiet residential neighborhood in Miami Beach.
This eclectic gathering spot is a boutique hotel, bar and men’s sauna. It’s an adults only playground for locals and visitors alike. The bar is the anchor of activity at this thriving Miami Beach hotel. Each day is programmed with themed nights and activities to keep the fun flowing. With spacious rooms, an onsite clothing optional sauna and a free shuttle to the famous Haulover nude beach, it is unsurprising that Hôtel Gaythering continues to be a premiere hotel destination for LGBT vacation goers visiting Miami Beach.
“Hôtel Gaythering is a special place to our patrons and especially to me. I like to call our bar/hotel our community center because, it is a safe space where you can come to be yourself and just enjoy the company of others,” said Zach R., winner of the Best Bartender award. “It’s also pretty neat to watch how our hotel guests blend in with our locals and by the end of their stay, built strong friendships and relationships that last a lifetime.”
The Hôtel Gaythering has a space for every kind of patron. Whether you’re there for Trivia Wednesday’s or enjoying a day pass to the clothing optional Sauna, this friendly and inviting boutique Hotel provides a safe space for LGBT locals and travelers to enjoy some fun in the sun.
The bar brings to Miami Beach the comfortability of a local small-town gay bar. Void of the thundering sounds of Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, this cozy watering hole provides an environment for more than just gyrating glitter-soaked bodies. There is always something to do like karaoke, boozie bingo, and Bear’s & Hare’s each week.
“We have theme nights almost every night, community outreach events, access to free and private STI screenings, and much more, so there is always something to do,” Zach said.
Maybe you will connect with love of your life or maybe you’ll connect with the love of your night, either way you’re sure to enjoy your time at the Hôtel Gaythering and all of its wonders.
In addition owner Alex Guerra won for Best Activist. He’s also the founder the annual art show, Art Gaysel, a five day event that runs during Art Basel, the international art fair that takes place in Miami Beach every year.
12101 Biscayne Blvd.
Steve’s Pizza’s tagline is simple but bold: “Real New York Style Pizza.”
If you ever talk to a New Yorker you know what we’re talking about: no pizza ever compares to New York City.
“I travelled from Nashville to Miami and got a taste of home - Brooklyn NY is home,” wrote one reviewer on Yelp. “This place smells like a delicious Brooklyn pizza shop.They have Sicilians and pizza by the slice! The pizza has grease! SOLD The sauce is delicious, the pepperoni is divine and the crust ahhhh real pizza crust.”
This joint has everything you’d expect a pizza restaurant to have – nothing too crazy. They do have a shrimp pizza, which you won’t find in most places though.
But it appears it’s the sauce that really makes the pizzas at Steve’s standout.
“The sauce is like nothing I've ever tasted before it's amazing!,” another review on Yelp wrote. While yet another commented wrote: “Something about some pizza chains that keep you coming back and Steve's pizza's that sauce tho … Hot diggity dam. It melts with its tomato goodness.”
If you’re a pizza fan, but your partner isn’t, don’t worry Steve’s has got you covered. They’ve a full menu of Italian specialities, wraps, appetizers, and salads.
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.
1409 Lincoln Rd.
For 4 and half years Zach has been serving up drinks (and facial expressions) for locals at the Hotel Gaythering in Miami Beach. This year he wins SFGN’s award for Best Bartender.
“I truly give 100 percent when I am behind the bar and care about consistency, quality and efficiency. Every time you come to get a drink from me it should and will taste the same as the last,” Zach said. “I will also add, my facial expressions while interacting with guests can be quite entertaining from what I have been told.”
Zach loves bartending. For him it’s not all about the drink though.
“Bartending for me is not only about the craft alone but about the relationships you build with your guests and coworkers,” he said.
“I love the flexibility it gives me to travel the world and it allows me to share these experiences with my patrons.”
If you happen to catch Zach bartending make sure you order an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.
“I always tell my guests who are trying one of my cocktails for the first time that the key to getting a good Old Fashioned is to order from an Old Fashioned drinker,” Zach said.
For Zach the Gaythering isn’t just a job it’s truly a home away from home.
“It’s a special place to our patrons and especially to me,” he said. “On nights I am not working you will probably see me here anyways catching up with friends or just interacting with our guests.”
Make sure you stop by the Gaythering Wednesdays through Saturdays to catch Zach working. The hotel offers happy hour from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every single day with daily drink specials that run all night long.
LGBT Event of Year & Non-Profit
Miami Beach Pride is a show stopping annual social event of the South Florida LGBT community. Each year the festival welcomes droves of travelers and locals to the sun and sand filled beaches to enjoy the now nine-day festival of fun and celebration.
Kicked off with a Pride Flag raising ceremony, the parade and festival have continued to grow, including 90-plus parade contingencies, 30-plus floats and over 3,000 participants. With the expansion of the festival from a week-long event to a nine-day celebration, Miami Beach Pride 2020 is slated to be an even larger and more vibrant event than before.
Saturday and Sunday feature two stages with world-class DJs, entertainers, and celebrity entertainers along with 125-plus vendor booths, food and cocktail options. The festival also includes the Pridelines Youth District and Safe Zone, Lambda Living Lounge, BB&T Food Pavilion, “The Garden of Eve” Women’s tent, and many family friendly activities.
Now in its twelfth year, the hugely successful event has grown from 15,000 attendees in 2009, to a staggering 145,000 people.
It all began in 2008, spearheaded by then Mayor of Miami Beach, Matti Bower as an initiative of the Miami Beach Gay Business Development Council. This annual event has earned the distinction of “Top 100 Events of the Year” for the fifth year in a row by BizBash Magazine.
The organization also recently named a new Executive Director, Rich Walczak.
“Miami Beach Pride breaks attendance records every year,” said, Bruce Horwich, chairman of the board. “As our community grows and becomes more diverse, it’s our duty to develop programming celebrating all facets of our LGBTQ+ community here in Miami Beach and beyond. Rich Walczak brings the LGBTQ+ and international event management experience we need to achieve our goals in providing more inclusive and educational programming.”
Drag Queen & Theme Night
Blamie Forret might be new to the drag scene, but she sure has already made a splash and quite a name for herself.
“I still can’t believe I was nominated and won these awards with only doing drag for a year,” she said. “I have to give so many thanks to Rome Frost, Alex Guerra, the staff at Gaythering, and all the people that come to my Bingo night/events and support me.”
Blamie had quite the resume before becoming a drag queen.
“I’ve worked about 47 different jobs,” she said. “I’ve been a dog trainer, soccer coach, account executive, waiter, and pool boy. I currently work full time at Gaythering doing the front desk, weekend supervisor, and various other things here.”
But she’s always had an inner queen inside and said she’s always wanted to do drag as long as she can remember.
“I played around with makeup and watched hundreds of YouTube videos to teach myself how to do makeup,” she said.
But it wasn’t until she saw a job posting to drive a shuttle at Hotel Gaythering that her drag career took off.
“Other bars and clubs in Miami told me ‘you don’t wanna do drag, don’t bother,’” she said. “Gaythering was the only place that didn’t automatically shut me down. So in the application I said ‘hey you want an amateur drag queen as well as a shuttle driver?”
They said yes — obviously.
Blamie also won for her weekly drag bingo, Blamie's Boozie Bingo, for Best Theme Night at Hotel Gaythering.
She said doesn’t focus on “death drops” and “splits” to impress people at the bar.
Instead she said, “I spend hours hosting, talking to people, getting to know each individual at an event, cracking jokes, and after events I go out with the people I met, which creates a very intimate, unique, and fun experience.”
Her drag bingo night was suggested to her by the hotel’s owner, Alex Guerra. It started just 8 months ago.
“Because of the unique ‘comedy queen’ I have grown to be, it has become a huge success,” Blamie said. “Almost every night is packed.”
Make sure you catch Blamie on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. for drag bingo at Hotel Gaythering.
Activity For Tourists
Palace Drag Brunch
1052 Ocean Dr.
If you’re not from Florida, the first thing that might come to mind when thinking of South Beach is the movie Birdcage.
This year’s ‘Best Activity for Tourists’ is the closest thing to reality as it comes. Palace has been serving up its legendary drag, direct from Ocean Drive for the past 31 years.
They offer nightly shows that start at 7 p.m., with brunch on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Unlimited Mimosas or happy hour specials that Palace offers is sure to make your ‘South Beach Experience’ one that you will remember for a lifetime.
Palace routinely attracts LGBT headliners such as Pam Ann, TP Lords, and Miami’s own Latrice Royale, direct from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Next time you have friends in town, make sure Palace is on your to do list.
176 NW 24 St.
Last year Villain Theater won SFGN’s award for Best Comedy Club — This year for Best Live Theater.
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.
"Villain Theater is a true home for LGBTQ+ performers. We have Queer members in many leadership positions as well as our own dedicated weekly comedy show Yas! and every company member works to make this a safe and accepting theater for all who enter,” said Josh Hamilton, Community Outreach Liaison. "If you want to laugh hard or feel the drama, watch a show or take a class and jump into exploring a different side of yourself, I can personally say after going 3 years strong, this was one of the best decisions I've made in my life."
The Travel Channel even took notice of the theater, naming it as a must see place for LGBT travelers to Miami.
Singer song writer Robbie Elias has built an impressive Grammy Award winning career within the music industry as an emerging singer song writer and backup vocalist for some of the biggest names in Latin Pop music.
Throughout a now robust and growing career, Robbie has pulled from his Latin roots but says his sound has evolved over the years into a blend of many genres’ representative of the cultural melting pot he grew up in as South Florida native.
Born in Miami to a Cuban guitarist/songwriter father and a professional vocalist mother, Robbie said he has always been fortunate to have supportive parents. Whether it was the dreams he pursued or the gender of his heart’s attraction, his parents were always front row as his number one fans.
As a proud gay artist, Robbie said he hopes his representation in the Latin Pop industry will inspire young fans to “take the risk and reach for their dream, no matter how big.” Currently on tour with Puerto Rican super star Daddy Yankee, Robbie’s professional life continues to climb to new heights.
With new music on the way and a busy touring schedule ahead, Robbie has cemented his place in Latin Pop Music for years to come.
“It was my first visit to Alaska,” he said. “I had such a fantastic time this past year. I was honored to DJ at Miami Beach Pride, and Wynwood Pride.”
You can catch Hottpants at Gramps in Wynwood every Thursday night for Double Stubble.
“Being active in the queer community and helping connect people to the amazing non-profits and other organizations doing great work in South Florida is such a gift,” he said. “Most of all, thanks for shaking your booty with me... in front of, or behind, the decks.”
Check out all of SFGN's 2019 Best Of's @
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