The Rack boasts impressive lunch, dinner, sushi, and cocktail menus at both the Hyde Park and Brandon eateries. House favorites include the Bomber ($12.95–$14.95), a specialty sushi roll of cooked and uncooked delights (snow crab, avocado, and asparagus topped with salmon, tuna, and eel sauce) served with tempura chips. Or blast through hunger with the Volcano roll’s cucumber, crab, cream cheese, avocado, eel sauce, and spicy mayo ($12.95–$13.95). Fusion appetizers, salads, sandwiches, single rolls, and chef special entrees round out The Rack's eclectic menus into a rolling billiard ball made of sticky rice.
Though the staff at The Brass Tap take beer very seriously, they've nevertheless turned drinking it into a game. Customers get a single point for each of the pub's 300 craft beers that they try. At certain milestones, they'll receive gift cards or a t-shirt with a new title, all the way from rookie to beer guru—and, if they conquer the challenge three times, they can win the coveted Repeat Offender 900 shirt.
Thankfully, the bar makes it easy to sort through its 300 beers. The menu is divided up into different beer types, which go deeper than the basic delineation of ale vs. lager vs. water that's been dyed amber. Guests can peruse listings of bottled barleywines and porters, or have a resident beer aficionado fill their mug with an imported brew on draft. Beer even permeates the food: the chipotle mustard on the house-baked pretzels is made with pale ale, just as the cheese dip is made with Samuel Adams. All of the burgers, sandwiches, and pretzel pizzas also have recommended drink pairings.
As for entertainment, each Brass Tap books a variety of local bands throughout the week. Trivia, bingo, and happy hours find regular spots on the schedule, and some locations have outdoor patios and cigars for purchase.
Though years of working as a trainer for chain restaurants taught Mike Tolley how to cook quality food efficiently, it was the slower, lower-heat cooking that he enjoyed the most. So when he decided to open his own restaurant, Uncle Mike's Smokehouse, he eschewed traditional fast-food preparation in favor of the slow smoking that gives meat a rich, complex favor. He and his chefs grill everything from pork shanks and chicken wings to St. Louis–style barbecue and steaks. They don't just specialize in savory, smoky flavors, however. They also add a sweet note to meals with slices of cornbread, vanilla maple sweet potatoes, and bourbon-laced pecan pie.
At Koozie's Sports Pub, the clack of pool balls commingles with the clink of beer mugs and the laughter of friends and neighbors. Guests sip on domestic and imported beers and snack on loaded fries or nachos before digging into entrees main dishes of Cuban sandwiches, burgers, wings, or Friday-night fish fries. Throughout the week, the bar hosts entertainments such as karaoke, pool tournaments, or TV broadcasts of Miami sports games' thrilling commercials.
Where there's smoke, there's a fiery Groupon. Fill your lungs with one night of unlimited fruity deliciousness at the plush and swanky Meridian Hookah Lounge (a $12 value). Meridian is an intimate and relaxing lounge that's open until 3 a.m. and has live music several nights a week.
Classic Italian dishes—including chicken parmigiano and gnocchi bolognese—highlight the eclectic menu at Joia Fabulous Pizza & Martini Bar. Chefs make fresh pizza dough daily, which are hand-tossed, rolled out, and then baked in a brick oven. Pizzas are topped with traditional toppings as well as exotic ingredients like Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, black olives, and eggplant.
The main dining room is adorned with a black tin-plated ceiling, exposed brick walls, and eclectic Italian-themed artwork, including noodles coiled around a giant fork. Purple velvet walls and burgundy banquettes are found in the private dining room. Painted clouds span the inset ceiling above the eatery’s bar, and spotlights illuminate red- and gold-printed curtains that flank oversized windows.