The City of Miami Gardens has the largest black population in the state along with being the 3rd largest municipality in Miami-Dade County boasting over 115,000 residents. The 27th Ave corridor has enjoyed the company of Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, but that’s about it—until now. With hard work from the town’s Mayor and Council, the area is a beehive of activity virtually all day with new businesses and residential housing popping up everywhere. People are relocating and coming back to the city along with becoming business owners, growing the local economy. One noteworthy owner is Mr. Marcus Thomas, owner and operator of Signature Cigar Bar and Lounge located just steps from the Miami Dolphin’s stadium.
Antismoking laws passed by various states, including Florida have virtually banned smoking everywhere, especially at restaurants and bars. What options does the casual cigar smoker have now? Where can I go to enjoy a single malt scotch, an Acid kuba kuba, while surrounded by beautiful women, and great music? This place not only plays great music (R&B, Hip Hop, Soul, Slow Jams, 90’s), but has an extensive selection of cigars with popular brands ranging from Acid, Liga Privada No. 9, to Padrons. Cigars are sold as singles ranging from $6-$30 or by the box inside of a beautiful smoke free room resembling a scene from HBO’s Prohibition era drama Boardwalk Empire.
If cigars isn’t your thing, no worries, Signature Cigar Bar and Lounge has a fully stacked bar with some of the most popular wine and spirit brands. I was elated to see my “life water”—Hendricks gin ( I love Hendricks Gin. I mean really love it. It goes well with anything. I event put it in my chicken sauce I got outside the Rolex once. It gave it a nice tang, and a whole new meaning to DRUNKEN CHICKEN. I hope whoever is reading this doesn’t think Tanqueray. It can’t compete, even though it’s pictured next to the Hendricks. Tanqueray tastes like a flower had a hangover and thew up, and someone collected the vomit and made gin out of it. Don’t waste your money on garbage. I’m so sorry, back to the review…….). The bar had a wide variety of wines and spirits which was a huge plus. “It’s rewarding as a young black professional to have a place where I can enjoy a drink around the corner from my home without having to go to a strip club. It gives me and my friends’ options” said Dimitri Grayson a recent University of Miami graduate, “The vibe here is like no other. It’s like a “Black Cheers”. Everyone is nice and speaks to you, even if they don’t know you. You feel welcomed regardless of who you are.” This was the sentiment of almost all patrons TheHungryBlackMan had the pleasure of speaking with.
A “Black Cheers” is the immediate visual processed when you step into this cozy spot, with the exception of nobody knowing my damn name, but that quickly changed. People are very inviting and communal inside. So if you are a loaner, and want to avoid speaking to people, stay away. The aesthetics of the entire place is nothing short of immaculate. The exterior is clean and sophisticated with a well thought out color scheme and logo, both of which can be seen from the busy 27th Avenue corridor. The interior is a 5,000 sq. ft. space with towering glass windows, sleek, contemporary furnishings and cool, modern art work by Ariel, a young talented Hispanic artist making big statements with his thought provoking portraits.
A 15-seat semicircle bar — where beautiful bar master Ashanti Palmer mixes up her cocktails during the busy happy hour which takes place daily from 1pm-8pm, is the focal point of the interior. You heard right—the happy hour is almost a half a day! I was salivating at the mere idea of discounted quality liquor. I couldn’t resist sampling some of their house cocktails. First I tried the Lemon Drop Martini ($13) made with Bacardi Lemon, Triple Sec, simple syrup, and sour mix. It tastes like those lemon heads candies I used to eat as a kid.
Then I tried a Gummi Bear Martini ($13) made with Absolute Pear, Triple Sec, and bitter sour mix. This was a little too sweet for me, as I like cocktails strong and powerful. Seeing me look real f$%#$*% thirsty, the beautiful bar master provided me with a top shelf Long Island Ice Tea ($15). This s&%# was amazing. It totally replaced the Long Islands I enjoyed at Houston’s. Houston’s stopped serving Long Island’s at the location in Aventura, FL because people were getting too wasted. Well, at least that’s what our server told us. Moving along, the Long Islands and Mojitos are both excellent and come in a variety of flavors including: strawberry, peach, mango, and berry.
After gulping down the Long Island, I wanted to try one last drink. The lovely bartender poured up an unusual mix of strawberry puree and Hennessy. You would have to request it, as it is not on the menu. That s@%& was amazing. When she originally said what she was going to mix, I was like “This s#$@ is going to be terrible”, but then I took a sip, and fell in love. That will be my go to on my next visit. Hopefully she will remember me. Owner Marcus Thomas stated, “We are definitely looking to create a more exciting experience for the wine and spirit enthusiast. We will be placing some creative cocktails and craft cocktails on the menu very shortly.” His sentiment is definitely supported by the ever increasing variety of wines and spirits shelved conspicuously on shelves in back of the bar.
The shelving and display of wines and spirits looks like a scene from the NBC remake of the Wiz, that part when they entered the Emerald City with the rapper Common at the gate. Yeah, it looked like that (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch the stage play of the Wiz on NBC, it was great). The space is cozy, sleek, modern and warm at the same time. Floors and walls made from different exotic woods complement creative wall art, including leather padded backdrops and towering modern paintings and wall art.
NFL Great Willis McGahee, was seen enjoying his day playing spades with friends and soaking up the atmosphere. He should stick to football, because his spade game is complete garbage. Even though he’s sorry in spades, I must say it was cool for TheHungryBlackMan team to literally walk in and see a legend just sitting there relaxing. “I’ve been blessed to have gone to some of the most exclusive bars, restaurants and other establishments. I would choose Signature over them all. I can be me here. I’m just a customer enjoying time with community folk, my cigar, and good friends. You can just vibe here and listen to the music and meet new people.” Willis (a fellow member of the greatest fraternity in the world, PHI BETA SIGMA) also enjoys the extremely comfortable seating. Most of the seating in this gem are cushioned. I mean really cushioned. You don’t get that sore feeling from sitting for an extending period experienced at like 90% of the time at other Miami bars. Signature seems to actually want customers to stay and enjoy themselves.
Signature Cigar Bar and Lounge is the largest completely black owned facility of its kind in the southeastern United States, and the ONLY one in the state of Florida. It features one of the most complete and impressive humidors in any cigar bar in the U.S. with more than 100 different smokes and a bar that boasts 60 spirits, of which about 20 are whiskies, cognacs, and bourbons. The Signature Cigar Bar and Lounge accomplishes more than you could expect in a city that is routinely misrepresented. They answered the constant lamentation of young professionals of color “Where can we go and socialize with fellow black and brown professionals and just be you”, not worrying about judgement, or having to wear that mask we unfortunately have to put on day to day.
Opening this beautiful establishment took time and effort. “The City of Miami Gardens is very supportive, but I had no financial help from any banking institution or investors. It was just my friends, family, and early customers who are the real backbone of this place. I currently experience a high amount of discrimination on account of me being a black business owner when it comes to this industry. As one of only 10 black owned cigar lounges of this size in the nation, I have to work twice as hard to get the relationships to help me grow, and even then I’m shut out. It just motivates me to keep grinding for my people. I started this business because I felt the constant dismissive feeling from other establishments. They would treat me like I was nothing. I got tired of that. I decided to open a place where I would treat EVERYONE with respect. I felt that I should bring it to the same community I was raised—Miami Gardens. I hate to say it, but a lot of the benefits enjoyed by other similarly sized businesses with non-black owners I do not receive. You have no idea how hard it is to keep pushing and fighting. I do it for my community—to have a beautiful and respectable place that you can feel proud of.”
As he continued, I began to get a bit emotional. I now have reviewed several establishments, some black owned some not, and consequently, the black owners have shared the same sentiments. Access to capital, respect in their fields by gatekeepers, and support from potential investors. There seems to be a disconnection in this area. Hopefully, readers like you will help these small businesses regardless of race, to compete. However, it seems we should allocate an additional push to help our black business owners, who disproportionately suffer. I think this is very important (sorry for the commentary, just wanted to let you know the struggle is real) and one of the reoccurring issues, is access to capital and support from vendors. It is already difficult enough just being black, but to be a small black business owner opened up a whole new set of challenges for many of these entrepreneurs.
This place would explode if the right investor came along. It has an excellent brand and impeccable service. They have live music on Tuesday and Fridays, spoken word and poetry on the 1st Wednesday of each month along with a variety show hosted by comedian Larry Dog on the 1st Saturday of each month. Professional associations and other groups routinely host events and meetings here along with private functions. In a town where Black business is still taboo, Signature Cigar and Lounge challenges every stereotype with their friendly and accommodating service and solid product. Any given day you can see a national and/or local celebrity, like Willis McGahee or a group of black attorneys playing spades while discussing anything from politics to why does Al Sharpton’s head keep getting bigger (I really need to know that though. How is his head getting that large?).
A true melting pot of professions, backgrounds, and ages, Signature embraces the large groups of lawyers, accountants, doctors, and business folk with the sanitation workers, clerks, and college students. The vibe is definitely mature and the dress is both casual and business wear. I would recommend you give this place a visit before heading to see the Dolphins lose. You can pre drink and discuss interesting topics, meet new people, listen to great music, dance, grab a drink and head to the stadium to WATCH THE DOLPHINS LOSE each and every Sunday. This will be my pre and post dinner spot for sure. If you prefer to watch the DOLPHINS LOSE on one of their many televisions (I’m a Dolphfan, but hey, I ‘m just speaking truth to power her), or chill at the bar with some drinks–“The Black Cheers” has made its mark on the beautiful chocolate City of Miami Gardens!
Contact me with any questions regarding this review at Starexsmith1@gmail.com
Address: 19801 NW 27th Ave, Miami Gardens, FL 33056
Phone: (305) 974-4661
Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate
Outside/Inside smoking: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Limited in front of the building. All other parking is at the Walmart parking lot located directly next to the business