Miami’s night life is growing exponentially, spilling far beyond the well-known hot spots and into some unlikely places.
Take Happy Wine, a discount wine shop with locations on Calle Ocho and in Coconut Grove that also serves up food and live entertainment, radiating one vibe in the day and another at night.
Owned and operated by Juan Restrepo and his wife for nearly 14 years, Happy Wine carries more than 800 labels of wine for sale, including selections that would easily cost hundreds at a restaurant. These days, their focus is on the happy part.
“The ambiance is great and their tapas are fantastic,” said Ana Castro, who frequents with friends for happy hour.
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The menu features hot and cold Spanish tapas and Colombian staples. There is live music on most nights and Restrepo recently added Sunday brunch at the Coconut Grove location. Sometimes there is even dancing in the aisles.
The Coconut Grove store functions more like a restaurant and he plans to renovate the second floor into a sleek lounge, while still maintaining Happy Wine’s casual, funky atmosphere — such as homemade stools crafted out of upside down wooden wine crates and graffiti.
Originally from Colombia, Restrepo came to the United States 28 years ago alone and with very little money. For years he worked countless shifts in New York restaurants, where he acquired a knowledge and appreciation of wines.
He keeps the cost of his bottles down because he wants to make wine accessible for everyone.
“Ten years ago, wine was for the elite, well-educated professionals,” he said. “The blue collar guy was drinking Budweiser. You come to Happy Wine any day of the week and you will see a mix of working class people, wealthy people and now even millennials.”
In South Miami, Deli Lane/Sunset Tavern has taken the hybrid concept and ran wild with it.
Owned by Jahn Kirchoff and Mike Maler, the two establishments sit side-by-side, but have distinct personalities. By day, Deli Lane is popular for its extensive breakfast (also available all night) and lunch, catering mostly to families, students and professionals from nearby businesses.
As the sun begins to dip, Delia Lane turns in and Sunset Tavern comes to life for happy hour and dinner, though the outside patio remains open. There’s entertainment nearly every day of the week, including game night on Mondays, a live country band and line dancing on Tuesdays, live jazz on Wednesdays, and rock/pop on Fridays. No cover charges.
Kirchoff was an executive chef when he met Maler and they opened Deli Lane in 1988. In 2000 they took over the locale next door. They started out as a deli and now it’s grown to seven days a week around the clock.
“We really cover the whole gamut of demographics,” Kirchoff said. “We’re almost like Denny’s. We don’t even close on the weekends anymore, just pass the baton.”
At a more moderate pace, Ankarr Pastry Shop, nestled in a Kendall suburb, has quietly developed a double identity once a week.
Two years ago, older Cuban customers approached Ankarr’s owners — brothers Jorge and Amycal Arredondo and their wives — about staying open and having a party night on the weekend.
“They expressed an interest because in this area there’s really not much to do at night,” said Daysel Arredondo, Amycal’s wife.
Since then, every Saturday around 7:30 p.m. the beer and wine start flowing. The high tables are pushed to the sides, a karaoke machine and speaker are brought in and dancing takes over.
A bottle of house wine costs just $20 and Spanish tapas include fried garbanzos, calamari, shrimp, chorizo, cheeses, and desserts.
It’s warm and nostalgic, like being at a relative’s wedding anniversary party. Most of the songs are old Cuban guarachas, sons and boleros, as well as tango, cumbia, paso doble, and even Elvis Presley.
And the party always ends, aptly, with carnival music and a conga line.