In a time of such economic strife, I say screw the beef! Instead of dinner out on the town, I suggest one blow their shrinking wads of indulgence-flow on the savory, sweet nectar of catastrophe -- booze. Yet, New Times doesn’t want you to waste your hard-earned cash on crap, so we’re combing bars, from Homestead to Aventura, in search of the best buzzes for your buck.
My first stop? Jake’s Bar & Grill (6901 SW 57th Avenue, 305-662-8632) in South Miami, a swanky spot nestled on Red Road that serves a deliciously massive Middle Eastern Platter ($15), which includes a triangular chunk of marinated feta, falafel, and a chunkier version of baba ganoush called “eggplant salad.” But it’s not food I’m interested in, so I ask RJ, a bartender with a shaved head, goatee, and a quick wit, what is his favorite libation to whip up for customers?
“Beer” he says.
Great for a growling gut, but with Don Q as their well rum, we’re figuring there’s something a little bit fancier to be had at Jake’s.
RJ then claims to make one badass mojito. We’re game.
With exerted flare, RJ tosses a highball into his hand, smashes lime and mint into the bottom of the glass, and adds in some ice, a simple syrup , rum, and soda water. He shakes it all about, and viola! -- we’ve got ourselves a pretty standard mojito.
“It’s not my first rodeo,” he says with a smile as he slides the drink our way. Apparently not, RJ made the drink with the kind of mindless expertise usually reserved for factory laborers.
After a few sips, I deem the drink, uhm, good -- due to a serious lack of sweetness as a result of swapping guarapo (fresh, squeezed sugar cane juice) for the simple syrup (i.e. sugar water) the drink was slightly underwhelming. Yet, after two mojitos (at $10 a pop) I’m feeling pretty happy, but a little dissatisfied, making it difficult to avert my eyes from something on the menu called “duck nachos” ($12).
Feeling generous, I decide to give RJ another chance, but this time, I’m calling the shots by asking him to make me a dirty martini. His first version is a little on the virginal side, so we politely ask him to introduce the drink to a porn. His second version came back like he had shown our little martini 2 Girls, 1 Cup, Clockwork Orange-style – brimming with liquor and olive juice. Fantastic! To this, I applaud RJ and Jake’s.
In comparison to food, RJ’s mojito is equivalent to the chain Chili’s Grill & Bar -- decent but not memorable, with a slight chance of heartburn in the morning. But the dirty martini was like Snickers on a diet - indulgent, appropriate and complete with a small pang of guilt that comes, not from the calories, but from the bill after you realize you just blew $14 on a drink.