Could this be the best wine bar on Calle Ocho in Miami?

Small and unassuming, Happy Wine appears to be just a strip mall wine store stocked high with cases of reds and whites. But the Calle Ocho establishment is also an intimate drinking hole,  with wine barrel tables wedged into every nook for patrons to sip, nosh and make merry among the stacks.  

In the absence of a wine list, the cases of wine, pinned with informative handmade labels,  serve as a three-dimensional menu for educated aficionados and novices alike. For those less versed in, or less concerned with, the fine art of wine tasting, suggestions abound – from whatever happens to be open at the counter to what the folks on the other side of the case of Veuve are drinking. 

Originally opened as Best Time by Philippe Douriez in 1997, the wine and tapas cafe at 5792 SW Eighth St. is intended as a place not simply to purchase wine at good prices, but to enjoy it. 

Friends sit on stacked-up wine boxes and plastic lawn chairs, eating from tables made of wine barrels and still more boxes. Patrons do have a good time, sharing laughs, bottles of wine and tapas recommendations across tables. There are occasional jam sessions, too,  where musicians bring instruments on designated nights. 

The good times have even spread to the tops of the walls, where Happy Wine-goers have climbed up the boxes to scrawl greetings high on the walls. 

A broad range of prices from $2.50 to $150 a bottle for imported selections and $5 to $120 for domestics makes Happy Wine an economical destination for wine purchases  – the same ingredient that makes the cafe  so down-to-earth. 

Available by the bottle or by the glass, the wine is even more appealing paired with a  choice of 13 tapas dishes, ranging from a generous portion of rich Spanish olives, Spanish tortilla, cubes of cheese or high-class boquerones (marinated anchovies), to a Mixta plate of cheese and chorizo. And all unpretentiously served on Styrofoam plates.