Miami Without Sand in Your Toes

By
The Wynwood Walls have been curated by Jeffrey Deitch, who called them a “museum of the streets.” Photo: Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau – MiamiandBeaches.com

Where to Stay

Look out over downtown’s growing collection of futuristic skyscrapers from the 40th floor of EAST Miami (from $349), where a rooftop jungle hides a lounge called Sugar and some unmarked doors hide an unnamed speakeasy reminiscent of an opium den. On the fifth floor is the Uruguayan restaurant Quinto La Huella—an outpost of Parador La Huella in the beach town of Jose Ignacio. EAST’s 352 rooms range from cozy studios with floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies to three-bedroom units with full kitchens and living rooms. All come stocked with coffee from Panther roasters and beers from Wynwood Brewing. The hotel, high-end Asian brand Swire’s first American property, is part of the Brickell City Centre project, which includes a four-level luxury mall and a three-floor Italian food hall.

EAST Miami is part of the Brickell City Centre mixed-use project. Photo: Courtesy of EAST Miami

Imagine yourself in 1920s Miami at downtown’s the Langford (from $199), which has been carved out of the iconic, Beaux-Arts-style Miami National Bank. Interiors are full of kitschy details like 1920s-style sinks, 1940s sailor-tattoo-inspired wallpaper, and 1950s Cadillac-seat-inspired headboards. Enter through the elevator’s vintage brass doors to PB station, from local restaurant group Pubbelly, which resembles an old-world train station with black-and-white subway tiles and clocks displaying various time zones.

Go retro at the New Yorker Boutique Hotel (from $119), a throwback inn from 1953 that underwent a major renovation in 2009, becoming one of the centerpieces of the Miami’s Modern Design District, a.k.a. MiMo. The neon sign is still there, as is the turquoise-and-white color scheme. The rooms open up motel style to the outside, surrounding a small pool and garden.

Where to Eat

At Alter, you can dine inside or head to the outdoor patio for cocktails. Photo: Courtesy of Alter

Dine like a grown-up at minimalist Alter from Brad Kilgore, a Food & Wine Best New Chef for 2016, serving modern American dishes that have redefined what it means to dine in Miami. Skip à la carte and order one of the tasting menus (from $69) that have creative dishes like palm heart covered in edible mosses and mushrooms that looks transplanted straight from the Everglades. Last year, Kilgore expanded the restaurant’s patio to create Bar Alter, with original cocktails and a separate menu that utilizes a Japanese grill station, and opened a second restaurant, Brava, where he reimagines European classics like and three-day beef rib with smoked horseradish ($38) inside the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Brave the long lines at Coyo Taco, a locally sourced and humanely minded Wynwood taco-and-street-food spot, with its own staff tortillera pressing tortillas by hand throughout service. Tacos come two per order ($7 to $9) and are filled with things like charred octopus, duck carnitas, and nopales. Hidden beyond the bathrooms is a speakeasy with 50 or so tequilas and mezcals and cocktails like PaletaRitas ($14), which combine the Mexican ice pops with a margarita. Around the corner you’ll find Zak the Baker: There’s the 405 Deli, a Kosher café with gravlax sandwiches ($12) and some of Wynwood’s best coffee; and then a few doors down is 295 Bakery, a Kickstarter-funded outpost that also functions as an art gallery and opened in November.

Try wood-fired everything at Harry’s Pizzeria, chef Michael Schwartz’s five-year-old pizzeria at the edge of the Design District. It slings a mean set of pies, like a slow-roasted pork with fig and Fontina ($15), plus polenta fries ($7) and pan-roasted skirt steak ($21). Then try a competitor: Miami’s pizza game was upped with the 2016 arrival of Greenpoint’s Paulie Gee’s and its Cuban-sandwich inspired Jewbano pizza ($19).

What to Do

PAMM, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opened in its current building in 2013. Photo: Courtesy of Pérez Art Museum Miami

Explore the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), designed by Pritzker Prize winners Herzog & de Meuron, who set the building on stilts just in case Biscayne Bay decides to roll in during a storm surge. Building on Miami’s claim of being at the cultural crossroads of the Americas, the 200,000-square-foot museum focuses on international art of the 20th and 21st centuries, bringing in rotating exhibitions of eclectic artists whose works have never appeared or rarely appear in the United States, like Argentina’s Julio Le Parc and Jamaica’s John Dunkley. Afterward, swing by the hanging gardens of the French botanist Patrick Blanc and the recently installed Havana’s Balcony, a stainless-steel outline of one of the iconic structures of Cuba from Spanish artist Juan Garaizabal, in the adjacent Museum Park.

Take a stroll through the Wynwood Arts District: Wander through the city’s favorite open-air art museum, the Wynwood Walls, where many of the world’s best graffiti artists display their work, followed by a stop in one of many galleries, like the quirky Harold Golen Gallery, which recently made headlines when a naked statue of Donald Trump called The Emperor Has No Balls was stolen and beheaded. If you have some extra time, you can learn to spin records at Scratch DJ Academy (single-day workshops, $175), take a brewery tour at Wynwood Brewing Co. ($30), and have a snack from the food trucks and see a show at entrepreneurial hub the Wynwood Yard.

Listen to the chatter surrounding the end of the long-standing “wet foot/dry foot” policy and the late-2016 death of Fidel Castro in the heart of Little Havana at Versailles, a restaurant, bar, and bakery on Calle Ocho that has long had its finger on the pulse of Miami’s Cuban community. While you won’t find Cuban tobacco in the neighborhood yet, at least not legally, you’ll certainly find Cubans rolling tobacco, like at El Titan de Bronze, modeled after the old-school corner cigar factories where Cubans once bought cigars. At night listen to Latin jazz and salsa at

Ball & Chain, a throwback lounge to 1940s Cuba that brings in both Wynwood hipsters and neighborhood regulars.

The Miami Design District is a neighborhood within Buena Vista that’s populated by high-fashion flagships from the likes of Dior, Louboutin, Hermès, and Bulgari. But you could also come for the less-commercial aspect: The 18-square-block district is full of public art, like Buckminster Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome and Sou Fujimoto’s rainfall-inspired blue façade in the Palm Court and Zaha Hadid’s Elastika in the Moore Building (which was commissioned for Art Basel). Cultural institutions camp out here too, like the tiny Haitian Heritage Museum ($10 donation) — visit for rotating exhibitions from some of Haiti’s most important artists — and the 30,000-square-foot De La Cruz Collection, adjacent to the forthcoming Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, opening in late 2017.

Expert’s Tips

Try the sancocho at Monserrate. Photo: Courtesy of Monserrate

Diego Oka is the chef of La Mar Miami. He shares tips for some of his favorite eats around town.

There was a point where I was going to Cake Thai every weekend. In Peru, I go to chifas (Peruvian-Chinese restaurants), so this is my chifa here in Miami. It’s this tiny Thai place whose old location didn’t use to even have a bathroom—you would have to go to CVS. They just opened a modern space in Wynwood. There isn’t a bad thing to order here, but the spicy crispy pork belly with Thai basil is to die for, with a side of sticky rice. The Phuket noodles, morning glory, and the duck curry are a must too.

For breakfast, I go to Café Curuba, a tiny Colombian coffee shop in Coral Gables owned by a woman named Debbie, a passionate coffee lover. I always order the Roman Holiday, an espresso drink with turbinado sugar that was a special once and isn’t on the menu anymore but she will still make for me. Because this is a Colombian place, you must order the pan de bono, a bread made with yucca flour and cheese.

If you have a sweet tooth, downtown’s Bachour Bakery + Bistro by Antonio Bachour is the place. It’s modern, beautiful, and delicious. My new favorite thing to order there is the mojito mint cake with lime mousse and rum gelée.

Monserrate is this old-school Colombian place on Coral Way, open since 1974, where for $9 you can have the most delicious sancocho — yucca, banana, potato, and lots of tender beef served with a spicy cilantro sauce and lime juice — plus a Lulada en Leche.

Resources

Read up on upcoming art exhibitions, restaurant openings, and weekend events in one of the city’s many culture mags, including the Miami New Times and Ocean Drive, as well as the food blog Food for Thought Miami.

Get around Miami by cycling with the help of The Miami Bike Scene, which has info on the city’s bike-share program, monthly Critical Mass meetups, and group rides.

Stream the documentary The Field: Miami, a hip-hop-inflected exploration of the Miami most tourists don’t see.

Find more tips and resources on sustainable, responsible tourism on the
city’s own website.

Tags:

Miami Without Sand in Your Toes