In South Florida, Flanigan’s, a fishing-themed restaurant chain, is the hot spot to watch the Miami Heat play the Denver Nuggets.
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By Christina Morales
Reporting from Miami
People are used to waiting in lines behind velvet ropes to squeeze into the hottest bars and clubs in Miami. But when the Miami Heat are playing for an N.B.A. title, the trendiest place to be is a fishing-themed bar and grill.
Nearly two hours before Game 1 of the finals began on Thursday night, most of the wood-paneled booths and bar stools at the Flanigan’s in Kendall were filled with Heat fans, many of them wearing the No. 22 jersey of the team’s star forward Jimmy Butler. (The restaurant is one of more than 20 Flanigan’s in South Florida.)
Dozens of other unlucky fans lined up outside the entrance, even after the hostesses told them they’d be waiting about three hours to get in, longer than the game itself. A father and son ate takeout in the back of their pickup truck as they watched the game on one of the restaurant’s outdoor TV screens visible from the parking lot.
“The energy and enthusiasm is electric,” said Kelly Connor, 59. Her husband had arrived hours earlier to grab a table for her and their teenage daughter. “It’s the next best thing to being at the game.”
Every seat in the restaurant, too, had a view of a flat-screen television, some mounted between life-size Atlantic blue marlins. All were broadcasting the game.
But the generous all-day specials are also a draw for this restaurant, which Joe (Big Daddy) Flanigan started in 1959 as Big Daddy’s, a chain of liquor stores and lounges. Though he died in 2005, his face still adorns the green plastic cups and the restaurant signage.
In the 1980s, while facing bankruptcy, the company added restaurants to the business, said Abel Sanchez, a local historian. The pivot happened as interest in Miami sports increased.
“They’ve been gold ever since,” Mr. Sanchez said.
On Monday, when the Heat won the Eastern Conference finals, the chain sold more than 50,000 wings.
That’s Erick Morales’s go-to item when he comes here. He recently moved to Atlanta, but since returning to Miami for vacation three weeks ago, he has been at least eight times to the restaurant, where he and his friends can consume about 50 wings. He also chose the restaurant for his high school graduation dinner in 2010.
“This is the hidden gem of Miami,” Mr. Morales, 31, yelled as the crowd cheered when the Heat scored. But the fans’ enthusiasm didn’t keep the Heat from losing to the Denver Nuggets 104-93. As soon as the game was done, the TV channels were changed and the soundtrack switched to salsa music.
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Christina Morales is a reporter covering news on food and culture. She joined The Times in 2020 as a member of the newsroom’s second fellowship class. @Christina_M18
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