Have a ball at the Ball & Chain
Close your eyes, sip the tobacco-flavored Old Fashioned and get transported to the heyday of Little Havana, Miami’s Cuban hub.
Before it was the colorful Little Havana, this area of town was part of the small retail district of Shenandoah, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Miami might not have a ton of history, but the bit we do have is as exciting as the cocktails and fare being served at recently reopened Ball & Chain.
With an interesting 25-year run, filled with bootleggers, gamblers and outlawed felons as owners, it wound up being one of the only locales that would allow African-American jazz and blues musicians—such as Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole—to perform in the city post World War II, and it’s now reopened its doors.
The new joint feels more out of pre-revolution Cuba, paying homage to the ’50s decade and the neighborhood, which is undergoing a bit of a nightlife renaissance. You’ll know how to find the club by following the martini glass-shaped neon flashing sign on the corner of 15th and Eighth.
During our visit this past weekend, Buena Vista Social Club’s Chan Chan played in the background. The walls, painted a deep emerald green, complemented the original wooden ceiling and were decked with sepia-toned photographs and vintage promotional concert posters of some of Miami’s most notorious citizens and visitors.
We ordered the pastelito daiquiri—the traditional version of the rum classic, topped with one of the popular desserts of guava-stuffed glazed puff pastry. Dip it into the drink to add an extra dose of sweetness.
All of the cocktails, including the mojito criollo and canita—a salute to sugarcane juice—will set you back $12. The price ($8) is also right with the bar grub, which includes plantain mariquitas, crackling pork rinds or chicharrones and poached yuca.
The restored outdoor patio is an oasis. The club’s majestic stage promises good times to come. For now, those good times will have to wait until September 25. After a successful weekend trial, the bar will be closing down to work out any opening kinks, but promises live music acts when it launches full-time.
Once it does, you’ll be as attached to it as you would to, well, you know.