Photo courtesy of Mango’s Tropical Cafe
The tropical Florida sun shines all day on Miami’s beaches, but the city really heats up after dark. This is when swimsuits were abandoned in favor of alluring club fashion, as Miami was famous not only for its powdery beaches, but also for its sultry nightlife, especially the Latin-themed variety. .
On a recent getaway, my friend Erin and I were interested in experiencing the nightlife, but we’re not singles in our twenties looking to drink shots until the room spins like a wheel. Luckily, we’ve found a few chic hotspots that cater to all ages.
Mango’s tropical coffee
Miami is a predominantly Latino city, and dance is deeply rooted in many Latino cultures. It can be daunting for visitors to step out onto the dance floor in a city where the average local seems capable of winning the disco ball trophy from ‘Dancing with the Stars’, but Mango’s Tropical Café in the heart of South Beach reinforces my confidence. in no time.
The Salsa Mia experience includes a two-hour dance class upstairs in the Mojito Room, an introduction to this alluring dance that originated in Cuba.
Instructor Alex Ruiz says the lessons help foreigners integrate into the club scene.
“They might not know anyone there,” he said, “but they’re going to get to know at least 50 people over the course, so by the time the club starts they might have already danced with 10 When they come downstairs, they’re comfortable asking someone to book a few dances for them.
Ruiz walks everyone through the basics, without music. Proceed left. One, two, three, pause. Walk back right. Five, six, seven, pause.
Salsa is a social dance and Ruiz asks everyone to switch partners every five minutes or so.
My years of Zumba – a Latin dance-based workout – helps, but in Zumba you don’t have a partner.
When Ruiz deems his fledgling dancers ready to set footsteps to music, everyone relaxes. They smile. They talk with their partner. They remember they have hips and start moving them.
It’s a diverse crowd. Middle aged couples at a salsa party with singles ready to party. Sporadic laughter erupts from young women wearing clingy dresses and sashes, indicating they are with a bachelorette party.
Ruiz demonstrates how to spin with a partner, slowly at first, then faster. Soon, colorful skirts are swirling around the room.
Eventually, Erin and I head to the stage downstairs to watch the non-stop Latin dance performance. Professional dancers, sporting Las Vegas-style feathered headdresses and just enough strategically placed bangs to cover the bare minimum, perform conga, samba and, of course, salsa.
When the dancers take a break, we discuss some of the bizarre murals that cover every square inch of the club. Does this woman have tree branches for arms? Why does his companion have flames coming out of her head?
If you are celebrating a special occasion, order the bottle service. It’s a major production where “bottle girls” adorned in layers of pink pearls and little else deliver champagne in a burst of flaming sparklers.
Anyone who’s watched the 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy” knows there was a time when Havana-inspired cabaret shows were prevalent. Cuban-born Desi Arnaz, who played Ricky Ricardo, sang “Babalu,” banging the Afro beat on a conga drum as diners in tuxedos and fancy dresses swayed to the beat.
El Tucan offers a bit of that old-school glamor in an eye-catching modern setting.
A key design detail is the intricate murals of the Amazon jungle that lend a primitive vibe to the hip scene. A jaguar crouches, ready to leap off the wall and into the dining room, while a monkey watches from a grove of colorful flora.
Part of the appeal here is the element of surprise.
As Erin cuts a wagyu beef tomahawk steak over a wood fire, an outfielder descends from the ceiling like an exotic bird. Later, a singer bursts onto the stage, singing a Cuban song once popular in Havana nightclubs.
El Tucan goes above and beyond, not just with the ambiance and entertainment, but the cuisine, bringing a “wow” factor to virtually any dish.
My sushi and sashimi platter is cleverly presented on an illuminated bowl that glows in the dark. The Imperial El Tucan Experience, a sculpture-like dessert with an assortment of exotic fruits and ice cream, is prepared to impress.
The cocktails are also top notch. The best-selling passionata, a divine elixir of tequila, passion fruit, pineapple juice and ginger, is served in a martini glass set in a coconut-shaped vessel filled with ice.
To add spice to the evening, head to “Tryst — a Lover’s Rendezvous,” a contemporary burlesque-style cabaret show at the Faena Theater in the Faena Hotel.
Havana’s pre-Castro golden age as a nightlife hotspot may be a thing of the past, but just across the Florida Straits is Miami, Havana’s kindred spirit that keeps the mystique and glamor alive.
When you go
Mango’s tropical coffee
900 Ocean Drive.
1111 SW First St.
Faena Hotel Miami Beach,
3201 Collins Ave.