MIAMI NEW TIMES
Ball & Chain hasn’t opened yet, but the Calle Ocho bar and lounge already has quite an interesting history.
The bar, which originally opened in 1935, back when the area now known as Little Havana was a mostly Jewish neighborhood known as Shenandoah, was a well-known jazz palace where the likes of Billie Holiday and Count Basie jammed until the sun came up. The original Ball & Chain closed in 1957 and the neighborhood changed around it.
Now, nearly 60 years later, Ball & Chain is poised to reopen as a music venue and cocktail lounge. Partners Bill Fuller, Zack Bush, and Ben Bush will reopen Ball & Chain tonight, planning to stay true to the original concept — with a few nods to the 21st Century.
For one, the food, drink, and music will be updated to reflect modern-day Miami and the influences of Little Havana.
Jessie Gilmartin, Ball & Chain’s director of marketing, describes the lounge’s mesh of classic and new. “In everything we do, we want to pay respect to what Ball & Chain was. The indoor lounge encompasses that old vintage Florida feel, and we have the tropical courtyard to represent Calle Ocho. We want to showcase the energy of Miami, so we won’t be strictly Latin or jazz. We want to honor the greats that played here before. Ball & Chain is a very special place.”
Gilmartin describes the tapas menu as marrying classic Cuban flavors with modern sensibilities. All eight tapas are $8 each. Take, for instance, the Cuban sandwich, transformed into a spring roll.
Chicharrones — house-made pork rinds — are upgraded with sides of spicy mayo, smoked paprika, and fresh lime. Other items include an elote-inspired roasted corn and queso frito, and congri fritters served with a creamy mustard aioli.
Of course, a classic lounge must have an inspired cocktail program. Ball & Chain has tapped cantineros Julio Cabrera and Danny Valdez to create an extra-special menu of classic cocktails and new creations.
In addition to classic mojitos and banana daiquiris, there is a pastelito daiquiri — made with pastelito-infused aged rum and served with a side of the Cuban pastry — and an old-fashioned takes inspiration from its surroundings with tobacco bitters and tobacco leaves to become a Calle Ocho old-fashioned.
Doors open tonight at 6. Ball & Chain will be open Thursday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., with live jazz from 6 to 8 p.m. and late-night music beginning at 10 p.m. The ghost of Count Basie must be proud.