Drive down the iconic Calle Ocho into Little Havana and take a trip back in time. From the music playing in to the streets, the men playing dominos at the park or simply watching the scenery, and the bustling of the vibrant restaurants and families gathering to eat. It’s a little bubble that embraces culture, and reminds us of the past.
With Miami’s ever-changing nightlife it’s always exciting when you find a spot that’s unlike the rest. I present Ball & Chain.
Sure you’ve heard the name and possibly partied there a few nights, but what’s really interesting about Ball & Chain is the history behind it. When I was invited to try the new menu, I had no idea that I would end up falling in love with it’s past. The historic and world famous jazz club has been around since the mid 1930’s originally opening its doors just after the Great Depression in 1935. It was a successful club for over 30 years during which times there were performances by some of the greatest musicians in history like Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Chet Baker, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Louie Armstrong, to name just a few. (Click here for full history)
Up until 1967 Ball & Chain thrived as a mecca for music, dancing, cigar smoking and unmatched entertainment. But like all good things, they must come to an end and the space on 1513 Southwest Eighth Street went from the iconic lounge and became the Futurama furniture store which operated until the mid 1990s. Although the building and architecture remained the same including the wooden beams that span across the entire roof, you could no longer see the remnants of the social club.
When Futurama closed it’s doors, the space remained empty and alone until finally The Barlington Group decided to renovate what we now know as Calle Ocho and had full intentions to restore the club to its original glory and reopen Ball & Chain.
Now under new ownership, the historical venue was adorned in true 1950’s style with vintage wall paper resembling that of the original establishment that added a bit of Cuban flare with a modern twist and stories from the past shared through images that are spread throughout. To make it feel even more like the original venue the New owners Ben Bush, Zach Bush, and Bill Fuller restored the original roof made from authentic Dade County Pine that ties in the complete look and feel. They created an authentic and eclectic venue that has become one of Miami’s hottest places to be and when you walk inside, you feel connected to it’s history and you can’t help but be mesmerized. Just knowing I was standing in the very place where great artists performed had me bedazzled. But that wasn’t the end of it.
What makes Ball & Chain special is that it has a little something for everyone. From specialty cocktails created by renowned mixologist Julio Cabrera to an amazing Cuban inspired tapas menu complete with a ridiculous dessert section designed by Danny Valdez, and the live entertainment both inside and outside on the patio that will have everyone dancing.
To kick off the summer, chef Danny Valdez added some great new items to pleasure any palate and the new additions do not disappoint. To start, I can’t decide which is my favorite between the Fish Tacos- made with perfectly cooked fish on a warm tortilla topped with slaw and queso, the Slider Sabrosos- seasoned to perfection and served on freshly baked bread with either steak or chicken, or the Elena Ruz – their version of the famous sandwich named for a Cuban socialite who frequented an all night diner in 1930’s Havana, and made with roasted turkey, cream cheese, strawberry preserves served warm on Pan Suave…….Drops Fork.
All cravings aside, the tapas offered at Ball & Chain are a great mix of old and new inspired by Cuban heritage and great for sharing with friends. I suggest getting all three of the new menu items and splitting them and don’t forget to get an order of the Chicaronnes, these little pillows of house-made pork rinds are crunchy and zesty, sprinkled with smoked paprika, and fresh lime. I promise you can’t have just one!
And if you weren’t already sold by the new savory additions, let me just talk to you about dessert. Two of the new additions include a Dark Chocolate Tres Leches served in an individual mini mason jar which is just creamy, chocolatey goodness topped with whipped cream- worth every calorie and then some; and the Whiskey Caramel Apple Empanadas topped with a Dulce de Leche Espuma- I mean really do I even have to convince you?
To get the party started you have to try the specialty cocktails they’ve incorporated to the already great menu. The Passion Fontaine, made with Avion tequila, passion fruit puree, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, fresh basil, jalapeño is surprisingly not spicy. It has a little kick but the flavors blend together in a beautiful dance that can be dangerous. The Ava Rae’s Paloma is another one of the new drinks, features Tequila Blanco as the star with fresh red grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice and Jupiña Pineapple Soda. Also on the drink menu they have a perfect Mojito, wine selection, and a full top shelf and premium liquor bar.
Whether dining with friends, or stopping by during your lunch hour, it’s always a party at Ball & Chain. Ben, Zach, and Bill have created a beautiful lounge that’s meant to be enjoyed by tourists and locals alike and can be a place for young and old to come together, dance a little, eat a little, drink a little, and enjoy music the way it should be- live. It’s history brought to life before your eyes and when you step inside you’ll understand my bedazzlement.
Ball & Chain is open from 12PM to 8PM, Monday through Wednesday, 12PM to 3AM Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays 2pm until 10pm. Happy Hour is Monday through Saturday starting at 4PM to 7PM featuring two for one specialty cocktails daily. Stay tuned for weekly events and and live music Thursday through Saturday.