History-themed bars popular in Miami

Posted April 27, 2015


Themed bars are all the craze in the U.S. and they are beginning to open in Miami.

Miami is quickly catching on to themed bars similar to the major cities of the USA such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

In New York, for example, there are numerous amounts of 1920s speakeasy bars. Some familiar ones are “The Richardson,” “Death + Company,” and “The Raines Law Room.” All throughout L.A. there are speakeasy bars. “Jackalope,” “The Writer’s Room,” and “R Bar” are just a few. In Chicago there is “Jimmy at the James,” “East Room,” and “Violet Hour”.

Historically, the goal of a themed bar is to have the customer relive the era the bar is meaning to portray. The major cities of the U.S. like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago each have a variety of themed bars built on an historical era or some characteristic of that era, such as prohibition, Cold War spies, and transportation.

Cocktails were popularized in the 1920s to give some sweetness to the Old Fashions and straight gin drinks. Since the 1920s were the time of prohibition making alcohol illegal, many bars had false entrances to disguise from law enforcement. These bars consisted of booze that was barely drinkable, filled with mobsters and sometimes the size of a small room.

While speakeasy bars are not the only themed bars in the U.S., these draw a great deal of attention. Latin themed bars gain attraction such as “La Descarga,” a Cuban themed bar in L.A. Cuban themed bars are located in other parts of the U.S but seem more at home here in South Florida.

Greater Miami-Dade is well known for its international cuisine and party lifestyle. People from all over the world come to the Miami area for the expensive clubs, warm weather and the beaches.

Miami has hundreds of bars throughout the metropolitan area, but who knew that some of these bars where themed. Just within a few miles of each other, there are three new bars in different spots of Miami that all have a 1920s to 1950s theme.

When attending a themed bar, one should feel as if they were teleported that period of time. For a 1920s themed bar, one may find jazz music, lots of booze, flappers and old style newspapers. The feeling of being rebellious, listening to good music and drinking alcohol even though it’s illegal is exactly the vibe one should get.

“Railroad Blues” is a speakeasy vintage themed bar located in downtown Miami. It opened in August 2014. Depending on the night of the week, a “password” is required to enter the bar. Normally you can get the password on their social media page. It really brings out the prohibition theme.

Leather booths and luggage piled on top of one another reminiscent of a train, make one feel as if they were traveling on America’s early railroad. A long horizontal mirror is above most of the booths, which is quite rustic and meant to look like it has been there for 100 years.

“The Rum Line,” a 1940s Cuban bar, opened in Fall 2014. Located in the patio adjacent to a very classy hotel, the bar is outside and lit up with tiki torches. While tropical music plays at this Miami Beach bar, customers can see the variety of rum offered, including Havana Club, a true Cuban rum. For larger groups, there are wooden tables and booth styled seats situated on the rest of the patio.

“Ball & Chain,” the final bar, makes the customer feel like they are in the heart of Cuba before the Cuban revolution. This 1930-50s Cuban themed bar is located on SW 8th Street in Little Havana and opened in mid September of 2014. With blasting Spanish music from salsa to merengue and bachata, all there is to do is dance. This bar has both an indoor and outdoor section.

Inside, the bar is directly in the middle, which makes for a large circular social ground. Part of the ceiling is made of wood and the walls around are dark green. On the walls, there are old time photos hanging, many of which are former jazz musicians.

Booths at Railroad Blues.

Booths at Railroad Blues.

Although the lighting is dim, the lamps hanging above the leather styled booths, similar to “Railroad Blues,” give a 20th Century feel. Most of the floors at “Ball & Chain” are wooden with a few Spanish looking tiles close to the entrance.

Outside there is another bar serving drinks but it is significantly smaller than the one inside. This venue also offers live music outside where different artists come to perform. This outdoor stage is shaped partly like a life-sized pineapple, which adds to the tropical ambience. Performances are filled with a full array of Cuban instruments such as guitars, bongos, trumpets, drums, piano, a cowbell and vocals.

All of these bars had signature drinks to offer. The menu at “Railroad Blues” was not utterly extensive but they had plenty of beers on draft and signature drinks made with Pimm liquor, ginger ale and lemon or the classic gin and tonic. The bartender was kind and prepared the drinks in a timely fashion. Overall, this bar fit the theme the best out of the three visited, but the drinks and atmosphere did not feel like the 1920s.

The front cover to the menu at The Rum Line.

The front cover to the menu at The Rum Line.

The best drinks would have to go to “The Rum Line.” To begin, its menu was wide-ranging, classy and simple.

On the outside of the menu are map coordinates, which describe the table set in the middle of patio. It is definitely something unique that none of the other bars offered.

On the menu is an Old School Section, Sharing is Caring, New School, Daiquiri Time Out, The Daily Rations, Barrel Aged, I’m Drinking Rum and … and lastly Cervezas.

The back of the menu has a short list of food items and wine.

“The Rum Line Pina Colada” is hand shaken and made with Bacardi Superior & Cana Barava & Clement Mahina Cocoa, pineapple, coconut, lime and tiki bitters. For $16, this drink is worth it and it just so happens to come in a colorful glass pineapple.

The Cargo Ship cocktail.

The Cargo Ship cocktail.

“Cargo Ship” is made with Ron Zacapa 23, Batavia Arrack, Panther Coffee Reduction, mole bitters and served in a Talisker storm rinsed glass for $13. “I Rock Ruff and Stuff” has Afro Head 7yr, Ancho Reyes, Mandrine Napoleon, cinnamon and mole bitters. For $11 this drink is tasteful and light.

The Tug Boat.

The Tug Boat.

The “Tug Boat” is Mt. Gay Black Barrel, Wray & Nephew over Proof, Allspice Dram, ginger, lemon and honey for $12. It is served in a white and purple skull glass. “Dark & Stormy” is made with Blackstrap infused Santa Teresa Anejo, fresh lime and the rum line ginger beer for $10.

The last sampled drink was the “Port of Call” an Atlántico Reserve, Anchor eyes, Solbeso, almond milk, passion fruit, lime and cinnamon served in an Indiana Jones styled green tall glass for $12.

“Ball & Chain” did not fall far behind. The “Bananita Daiquiri” is a fresh tropical drink made with Bacardi Superior Rum, crème de banana, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, coffee beans and bananita. “The Mojito” is a classic Cuban drink also made with Bacardi Superior Rum, fresh lime juice, sugar and mint sprigs. This bar also has a food menu.

The “Roasted Corn” is sprinkled with fresh cheese, cilantro, lime and a touch of chili powder on fresh crème. The “Congri Fritters” are made with flavored white rice and black beans served with a creamy mustard aioli. Both of these “tapas”, known as small savory dishes, come very well recommended. All their cocktails are $12 and tapas are $8.

Rum Line Pina Colada (hand shaken).

Rum Line Pina Colada (hand shaken).

All in all, it is great to have themed bars in any city. Miami, being home to many Hispanic people, is a great place to have two Cuban themed bars.

Both “The Rum Line” and “Ball & Chain” reflect a Cuban time period before the communist revolution and give a burst of energy to all that come to dance, drink or eat. “Railroad Blues” is very inviting as it is a prohibition themed bar with that traditional speakeasy feel.

All three venues seem to be very successful as they add an exciting twist to the bar scene.

There is no doubt that other themed bars in Miami would thrive just as these three have. It gives the customer a different form of entertainment as opposed to the typical electronic blaring music found throughout most of Miami. These bars give the customer a chance to escape today and go back in time to generations that most have never experienced.

  • Railroad Blues
  • 28 NE 14th St., Miami, Fla. 33132
  • 305-392-0687
  • Hours: Tuesdays-Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., closed Sundays and Mondays.
  • Drinks: Craft beers and cocktails
  • Price range: $$
  • Website: http://www.railroadbluesmiami.com
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Seating at The Rum Line.

Seating at The Rum Line.


  • The Rum Line
  • 1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, Fla. 33139
  • 305-695-0110
  • Hours: Thursdays-Sundays from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., closed Mondays-Wednesdays
  • Cuisine: Rum drinks and seafood snacks
  • Price Range: $$
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Cuban Cigar Box for the check.

Cuban Cigar Box for the check.


  • Ball & Chain
  • 1513 SW 8th St., Miami, Fla. 33135
  • 305-643-7820
  • Hours: Mondays-Wednesdays 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., Thursdays-Saturdays 12 p.m. to 3 a.m., Sundays 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Cuisine: Cuban inspired drinks and tapas
  • Price range: $$
  • Website: http://www.ballandchainmiami.com
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Congri Fritters, Roasted Corn and Bananita Daiquiri

Congri Fritters, Roasted Corn and Bananita Daiquiri.