People are accustomed to waiting in line behind velvet ropes to enter some of Miami’s most popular bars and clubs. But when his Heat is playing for his NBA title in Miami, the trendiest place is the fishing-themed bar and grill.
On Thursday night, about two hours before the first leg of the final, most of the venue’s wood-paneled booths and bar stools disappeared. Flanigan’s Kendall’s venue was packed with Heat fans, many wearing the number 22 jersey of the team’s star forward Jimmy Butler. (This restaurant is one of his more than 20 Flanigans restaurants in South Florida.)
Dozens of unhappy fans lined up outside the entrance, even though the hostess said there would be a wait of about three hours, longer than the game time, to enter. His father and son were eating takeout in the backseat of their pickup truck and watching the game on the restaurant’s outdoor TV screen, which they could see from the parking lot.
“The energy and enthusiasm is amazing,” said Kelly Connor, 59. Her husband had arrived hours earlier to set up a table for her and her teenage daughter. “Playing in the game is the next best thing.”
Flat screen TVs were visible from every seat in the restaurant, and some seats were set between life-sized Atlantic blue marlin. Everyone was broadcasting the game.
But generous all-day specials are also a draw for this restaurant. This restaurant started by Joe (Big Daddy) Flanigan in his 1959 as Big Daddy’s, a chain of liquor stores and lounges. He passed away in his 2005, but his face is still adorned on green plastic cups and restaurant signs.
The company added the restaurant to its business in the 1980s, even as it faced bankruptcy, according to local historian Abel Sanchez. As Miami’s interest in sports grew, a turning point occurred.
“Since then, they’re gold,” Sanchez said.
The chain sold more than 50,000 wings when the Heat won the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday.
It’s Eric Morales’ go-to item when he’s here. He recently moved to Atlanta, but has visited the restaurant at least eight times since returning to Miami on vacation three weeks ago, where he and his friends can eat about 50 wings. He also chose this restaurant for his 2010 high school graduation dinner.
“This is Miami’s hidden gem,” exclaimed the 31-year-old Morales as the crowd cheered as the Heat scored. But despite the enthusiasm of the fans, the Heat lost to the Denver Nuggets 104-93. As soon as the match was over the TV channel was changed and the soundtrack switched to salsa music.