Weekend In Miami: Jimbo’s Place

After leaving the lighthouse at Bill Bagg Park, we traveled north — back through the Village of Key Biscayne, back through Crandon Park, and off the island. Before hitting mainland Miami, we approached a small key on our right. This is Virginia Key, a wonderfully underdeveloped barrier island that boasts several nice beaches. However, we weren’t interested in seeing the beaches. We were interested in seeing Jimbo.

Jimbo’s Place isn’t really a bar, but you can get cold drinks there.

Jimbo’s isn’t really a restaurant, either, though you can get smoked fish there. (That’s what the sign on that wall says… trust me.)

Jimbo’s isn’t really a music venue, but you can hear live music there.

However, Jimbo’s is among the best bar/ restaurant/ music venues around.

Be warned that if you’re high maintenance, you might not feel too comfortable at Jimbo’s.

But if you go, Jimbo Luznar — the self-proclaimed “Friendliest Man on Earth” — will make you feel very welcome.

I’d heard about Jimbo’s Place while researching Miami. I was looking for an unusual, off-the-beaten path sort of destination for us to enjoy. A sprawling, ramshackle, ad-hoc-sort-of bar, ultra-casual Jimbo’s fit the bill.

Fifty years ago, Jimbo lived on the mainland. However, since the Miami Herald wanted the real estate Jimbo legally owned, the city cut a deal with him: move to Virginia Key, and you can stay out there the rest of your life. Jimbo didn’t care about the land. After all, he was a shrimp fisherman, and the location they offered him was better for his boats. He accepted.

Fast forward 50 years. Now, Miami is a boom town, and Jimbo is sitting on prime real estate. Of course, the city wants it back. However, they’ve wanted it back for years. When I was at Jimbo’s Place, Jimbo told me that the mayor has informed him personally that he can keep his place as long as he’s alive — even though he doesn’t have a license to sell beer, or have a license to smoke fish, or even hold a lease to the place. This past weekend, Jimbo — a great-grandpa — celebrated his 80th birthday. Who knows how long Jimbo’s will remain.

Anyway, Jimbo’s is like no other bar/restaurant I’ve ever been to. It was a fun, eclectic, wide-ranging group of people — — from hipsters to bikers; from hippies to retirees — and everyone got along fine.

There’s bocce ball, if you want to get competitive.

There’s a dock, if you want to hang out and chat.

Jimbo has a great view of the city. This lagoon was the film site for several Sixties-era television shows, including Flipper and Gentle Ben.

There are plenty of places to sit and relax and chat with friends.

Jimbo is so popular, he even has groupies on site, selling stickers of him…

…and singing his praises…

If you think I’m crazy for liking Jimbo’s, consider that I’m not the only fan.

Out of the entire weekend, I think visiting Jimbo’s Place was the highlight. It was the most relaxed. It was the most casual. It was the most fun. And Jimbo made me feel so welcome. I’m really sorry I missed your 80th birthday, Jimbo. I hope I get to attend next year!

Jimbo’s Fast Facts:

  • Jimbo’s movie credits include scenes from True Lies, a 1994 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Blood and Wine, a 1997 film starring Jack Nicholson. The film crew for 1983s Porky’s II built a riverboat in the lagoon behind Jimbo’s.
  • Jimbo’s has been the site of numerous fashion and music video shoots. Mariah Carey shot her first album cover there.