Here are the winners of SFGN's "Best of 2015": Miami Dade County
Best Bartender – Ray from Palace Bar
1200 Ocean Dr.
Abs. Hair. Skin. Ray seems to be the complete package. It’s no wonder why SFGN readers voted him as SFGN’s Best Bartender in Miami.
But it’s not just his looks that keep his customers coming back for more. He knows how to pour a damn good drink too.
“I think being a good bartender is knowing and having your clients’ drink before they get to the bar, but also listening to them,” he said. Ortega says he knows how to find out just what a new customer will like by listening and asking the right questions.
If you visit make sure to try his signature drink.
“Everyone loves my gummy bear,” he said. “Come visit me at Palace on South Beach.”
Oh and don’t forget to tip.
Best Beach – 12th St. Beach (Miami-Dade)
1200 Ocean Dr.
Ripped up men in speedos? Check.
Ripped up men rollerblading in speedos? Check.
Ripped up men rollerblading in speedos while speaking Spanish? That’s a check too.
Indeed, as Hank Azaria’s character from the Birdcage put it – it’s all about the “natural heat [insert overly dramatic Spanish Accent here].’ And the good news is that come rain or come shine, 12th St. Beach is packed with men from all walks of life – many of whom happen to be Latin, buff and donning speedos – yet others who, seek simply to blend in. Be careful, though, 12th St. beach isn’t really the place to blend in. If seeking solace is your idea of the perfect LGBT beach outing, you’re likely better off somewhere else, because this place is jumpin!
Did we mention ripped, Latin men wearing speedos and playing volleyball?
Ya….when we said jumpin’ we weren’t kidding and neither were our readers, who overwhelmingly voted 12th. St. Beach the best locale to catch some rays, take a dip in the usually 75-80 degree sea water and, of course, frolic in the sands (with their choice of all kinds of men in Speedos…and not just Latinos – but definitely a lot, that’s for sure).
Beaches, clubs, restaurants, regular gay themed events and even immortalization VIA film -- The Birdcage was shot only a half block away at the Carlyle hotel – making 12th St. beach in Miami an absolutely compulsory destination for the LGBT community as a whole.
Best Burger – Burger and Beer Joint
South Beach Location
1766 Bay Road
At Burger and Beer Joint you can put ketchup on your burger. But with condiments like jalapeno relish, spicy garlic mayo, pesto tarragon remoulade and sour cream (literally just a small taste of what’s available), why would you?
But condiments are just the icing on the cake of one of South Florida’s best burger menus, now three-time winner of Best Burger in Miami-Dade.
At Burger and Beer Joint, the burgers make up the bulk of the menu – half pound bulk per most burgers. All – Hotel California, Paradise City, Dear Prudence, Freebird, The Rooster, Stairway to Heaven and more – named after classic rock tunes.
And customers, on the restaurant’s Facebook page, like calling out their favorite burger. “Mustang Sally is the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted,” wrote Travis James Graves. “I always have a Sympathy for the Devil,” Stefan Flasdick.
Customers don’t even need to like beef to enjoy a burger at Burger and Beer Joint.
The Turning Japanese is 5 ounces of seared rare ahi tuna, avocado, watercress, jalapeno relish, spicy garlic mayo, onion bun and jalapeno-cheddar sauce.
Going one-step further, meatless lovers can try the Dear Prudence, a marinated portobello cap, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, arugula, pesto, ciabatta bun, roasted garlic bulb and country ranch.
Hours: Monday to Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Best City to Live – Miami Beach
With over 80,000 residents packed into a 7 plus square mile area, the city of Miami Beach is not only jammed with people but boasts an equally robust cultural and recreational presence to its visitors and residents alike.
Defined by its trademark ‘20s and ‘30s themed architecture and immortalized as a bonafide LGBT watering hole in films like the Robin Williams/Nathan Lane classic, “The Birdcage,” Miami Beach is everything it’s “cracked up to be” and then some. It’s a place where being LGBT is to be just another face in the crowd.
On any given day, residents of this beachside haven can be seen soaking in the sun on miles of pristine, world-renowned beaches (complete with pride flags adorning the vintage lifeguard towers), indulge in a meal of nearly any ethnic derivation, and top it all off with a trip to one of the cities innumerable LGBT clubs such as Score and Twist among them.
Miami Beach is also home to the ever-growing Miami Beach Gay Pride event that’s going into its seventh year. Each year the event continues to grow, now attracting more than 80,000 people.
Best Dance Club - Score
1437 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach
For years Score has been shaking things up in Miami Beach. For years, the club was nestled in the middle of happening Lincoln Road on Miami Beach. Then three years ago, owners Luis Morera and Billy Kemp moved the club onto Washington Avenue into a larger venue space.
The move didn’t deter customers, and they’re still keeping the club packed for EDM, hip hop, live DJ sets, or Latin night, fit with drag queens and muscle boys flooding the dance floor. So it’s no wonder this place won SFGN’s Best Place to Dance this year.
Plus, it’s not unusual for celebs to be seen here – when Ricky Martin was in town for a show in October, he made a special appearance at Score.
Best Drag Queen – Tiffany Fantasia
For 12 years Tiffany Fantasia has been entertaining the LGBT community in Miami and nowadays she can be found at the iconic restaurant the Palace on South Beach three days a week.
This is Fantasia’s third year in a row being voted SFGN’s Best Drag Queen in Miami.
“Third times a charm! Thank you once again to everyone that voted for me!” she said. “It brings me great joy to be loved by my community. I think the readers chose me because I'm funny, professional, and free spirited, and will stand up against things that I believe are wrong in this community.”
While Fantasia may come across as free-spirited things haven’t always been so easy for the entertainer.
“It’s been a struggle and a journey, but it’s been well worth it,” she said. “This business is not easy at all. And I thank your readers and the audiences for being able to entertain them for so long.”
Fantasia hasn’t just made a name for herself in Miami either – last year she traveled to Curaçao in the Caribbean to host their Pride week festivities. She has also won Miami Beach Pride’s first ever “Ms. Miami Beach Gay Pride” contest in 2012.
Best LGBT Event – Miami Beach Gay Pride
Beaches. Boys. How could you not love Miami Beach Gay Pride?
Going into its eighth year MBGP has become one of the hottest events around the state. In terms of history the PrideFest is relatively new compared to Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach County. But in terms numbers the weekend event has quickly outpaced it’s northern neighbors attracting more than 125,000 people a year. And to top it off they’ve attracted big names like Gloria Estefan, Adam Lambert, and Mario Lopez to headline their festival generating a lot of buzz leading up to the event.
“After just seven short years, it’s an honor to have SFGN readers name Miami Beach Gay Pride their favorite event of the year. It takes an army of dedicated volunteers and staff, the support of the City of Miami Beach and the help of all our sponsors to produce a Pride of this magnitude and this honor is shared with all of them. Thanks to everyone who voted,” said Mark Fernandes, Chair, Miami Beach Gay Pride Board of Directors.
Next year’s event is scheduled April 8-10.
Best Bar – Twist
1057 Washington Ave.
"Never a cover - Always a groove" is the mantra of Twist - a gay nightclub that is a staple and a "must go to" for South Beach's vibrant nightlife and winner of this year's Best Bar in Miami Dade County.
With seven full bars and multiple rooms on two floors, customers can hit the dance floor, video bar, garden bar, bungalow, and enjoy the go-go dancers. DJs work the decks for different vibes throughout the complex, from hip-hop to Latin to EDM. For drinks, every day, Happy Hour is from 1 to 9 p.m. with two-for-one specials on everything, as well as two-for-one call and domestics from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursdays.
Best Non-Profit – Pridelines
9526 NE 2nd Ave.
Established in the 1982 in response to anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign, Pridelines’ founders also focused on saving children and teens – from the stigmas and social isolation imposed on them because they are part of the LGBT community.
The goal, said co-founder Dr. Marilyn Volker, is to create an environment where LGBT youth can develop friendship with similar individuals and feel safe and accepted as members of a community.
“I would love Pridelines to be that for every student to ever walk through that door. To find a place of safety and also a range of role models and acceptance that says we are a community that values our own differences,” Volker said.
To successfully complete the goal of helping LGBT youth, Pridelines offers various services.
“We often encounter youth during a moment of crisis. They’ve just come out to their parents or they become homeless. We broker services for them like mental health counseling or family counseling, stabilize their housing situation. Often, a year later, we’ve been able to rebuild their relationship with the family,” said Luigi Ferrer, director of programs and grant development.
Best Pizza – Pizza Rustica
863 Washington Ave.
The original Pizza Rustica can be found on the corner of Washington Ave. and 9th Street in the heart of South Beach. A hole-in-the-wall located within the strip plazas, Pizza Rustica is rustic—just like its name.
The original location is a casual walk-up eatery convenient for guests who want to stop by for a quick bite after the beach. On their glass display, you’ll see they carry a variety of specialty pizzas like their Smoked BBQ Rotisserie Pulled Pork and Mega Meat, alongside simple ones like cheese and pepperoni. An average cost for a slice and bottled drink ranges around $5-10, depending on specialty toppings and tip.
This award-winning pizza franchise not only serves up quality pizza, but also gives back to the community with contributions to organizations such as Pridelines Youth Services and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Winter Party Festival. It is also the second consecutive year that it has won SFGN’s Best Pizza for Miami-Dade County.
Best Ongoing Event – Wednesday Trivia Night at the Gaythering
1409 Lincoln Rd.
Tucked away on the bay end of Lincoln Road, Miami’s uber-popular shopping destination, Hotel Gaythering is just emerging on the South Beach scene.
And it’s not just a hotel anymore – it’s a part of the community.
“Trivia Night is a night of no fuss fun, where locals get together and enjoy a weekly game where they share laughs and innocent competitive banter. It was started by neighbors looking for a place to play board games and have a beer. After joining the neighbors a couple times, I decided to make the night official as ‘Gayme,’” said co-owner Alexander Guerra. “After a few Gayme nights it was evident that we needed to make the night inclusive to all bar patrons and after playing trivia at gramps (in Wynwood) we knew that was what we wanted to do.”
Originally constructed in 1958 as an art deco apartment complex, Hotel Gaythering has 25 large rooms with interiors inspired by French designer Phillipe Starck.
The ‘gaythering’ begins around the first floor bar, coffee shop and library where guests are sure to encounter friendly and cute staff while mingling with other patrons.
The hotel’s library is a great place to take a shot of espresso and scan through big picture books, including cult classics such as “Tom of Finland” and the “Big Penis Book.” It’s co-ed in the spa area, where an aroma steam room, cedar sauna, hot tub and mud lounge await.
Best Restaurant – The Palace
1200 Ocean Dr.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Ask any real estate agent — and God knows, there are plenty in South Florida — the secret to success for any business is location, location, location…..well, The Palace, South Beach’s Ocean Drive gay bar has got that!
Just across the street from the beach, The Palace offers the perfect sunny spot to see and be seen. Their Sunday brunch, dubbed Bunchic!, is one of the most popular events of the week and Breakfast Club Saturdays offer the same delicious eats if you prefer to sleep in on Sundays.
The divas of The Palace are second to none, providing gender-bending entertainment into the wee hours of the night. And, after a relaxing day on the beach, The Palace’s tea dances provide the perfect transition from sunny sojourn to midnight madness, courtesy of some of the Beach’s most popular DJs.
So it’s no surprise that The Palace has taken home the trophy for Best Restaurant. In the past the Palace has won Best Of awards for Best Drag Show, Best Weekly Event, Best Brunch and Best Tea Dance.
Also be sure to catch Tiffany Fantasia, who has won Best Drag Queen in Miami-Dade three years in a row, regularly performing there.
Now a lot of people may come for the amazing events and location but let’s not forget that the Palace is a restaurant – and a damn good one at that.