(all photos by Eric Lauer)
Today’s Miami City Guide update comes from Sarah Lederman, author of the lifestyle blog Chevrons & Stripes and co-owner of the jewelry line Aroc Urtu. A born and bred New Yorker, Sarah spent several winters in Miami before moving to Miami Beach, and she has amassed a collection of great local restaurants, shops and activities. Today she shares some of the best Miami has to offer. Thanks for this wonderful guide update, Sarah! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
When people think of Miami, they think of the glitzy hotels on Collins, expansive clubs with bottle service and celebrity playground, Star Island. In the past few years, Miami has seen an influx of low-key, quality restaurants, carefully curated design shops and a burgeoning independent art scene — but you have to go searching! If you’re visiting for the first time, travel outside the more touristy boundaries of South Beach to check out the Design District, Wynwood and Brickell, where the majority of Miami’s off-the-beaten-path gems can be found.
See all of the below listings on this Google Map.
A first visit to South Beach would be incomplete without a stroll down Collins to take in the historic art deco district and glitzy hotels, its namesake beach and a meal outside on the pedestrian-only Lincoln Road. The island is dotted with upscale restaurants and clubs where you can dance the night away, but even if that’s not your scene, there’s something for everyone here. Take a trip to the bayside for a quieter, less touristy taste of the island.
The Standard is located on a quiet island on the Miami Beach side of the Venetian Causeway. With its laid-back atmosphere and bay-facing views, it’s a far cry from the more sceney hotels on Collins or Ocean Drive. It boasts a well-recognized spa, a fire pit, indoor and outdoor ping pong tables and cabana-style accommodations. Their dockside Lido restaurant is also known for having delicious healthy options (in addition to the “award winning” tater tots — amazing) and sits right on Biscayne Bay with charming twinkle lights overhead.
The Shelborne — Stay at this recently revamped 1930s art deco spot if you’re looking for a lower-key hotel on the beach. The rooms are all situated around the pool motel-style, and there’s a new beachside taco and tequila bar.
Lords — Branded as a gay hotel, anyone who stays here can appreciate the whimsical artwork, bright pops of color and generous use of chevrons and stripes. This cheery bohemian hotel also features giant pop-art-style paintings of cultural icons like Liz Taylor and Debbie Harry. Eat outside on the porch to people watch on Collins or a grab a drink inside at the glittery gold hotel bar. The beach-ball-toting polar bear in the lobby will put a smile on your face.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar — Having only opened this past summer, Yardbird is one of the newer restaurants in South Beach. The fact that it’s always packed should tell you something. The combination of barn wood and chalkboards gives this Southern restaurant an indie twist. The menu is meat-heavy, and many flock here for the fried chicken and biscuits.
A La Folie Café Francais — Though this place has two locations, I prefer the one on the quiet end of Espanola Way. This quaint café feels like a little taste of Paris in South Beach. Stop in for a meal or just a cappuccino and a crepe; it’s all delicious but depending on the time of day, be prepared to wait!
The Dutch — Andrew Carmellini’s NYC hot spot recently moved into the W on South Beach, and it’s been a hit from the get-go. I love eating here to get a taste of New York life. In a sea of glitzy restaurants playing house music, The Dutch is a welcome escape, serving great food in a location lined with driftwood, vintage pictures and white brick. Carmellini has given the menu at this location a little Latin flair.
Café at Books & Books — One of the more reasonably priced and reliable outdoor eateries on Lincoln Road, it’s great for people watching and those looking for healthier/vegetarian fare. Be sure to stop by the bookstore in the back as it’s one of the nicest independent bookstores in the area.
Joe’s Takeaway — When people think of Joe’s Stone Crab, they often think of long waits and pricey seafood, but if you’re looking for another option, try the next-door takeaway section. This isn’t just a takeaway window but an entire market with tons of seating and a wide selection of salads, stone crabs and most of the regular menu available to order. Favorites include the crab cakes, lobster roll and key lime pie! We often call ahead and pick it up for the ultimate convenient and delicious dinner.
Oliver’s — A laid-back spot with outdoor seating filled with mostly locals on West Ave., closer to the bay. There’s something on the menu for everyone, but their brunch is particularly well thought of. Reservations are rarely necessary.
Babalu Miami — A kiosk-style concept shop tucked away within the famous Herzog & de Meuron designed garage at 1111 Lincoln Road, they have everything from Mentos and soda to Missoni bathrobes and Paul Smith cufflinks. Great for gifts or stocking up on South Beach necessities like flip-flops, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Koto — A whimsical design boutique on Lincoln Road filled with a fun and random assortment of items, from umbrellas and headphones to lomographic cameras and coasters. A great place for unique gifts and cards!
Nest — Perhaps my favorite store on all of Lincoln Road, this two-story interior design boutique showcases some of the best of the best. Browse their beautifully merchandised assortment of Missoni pillows & poufs, Waylande Gregory pottery and a revolving selection of photography prints adorning the walls.
Base — If it’s cool limited-edition menswear you’re looking for, Base is the destination. A live DJ spins while shoppers peruse toys, men’s jewelry, sneakers, coffee table books and a tightly edited selection of clothing.
Consign Of The Times — A must-stop for designer vintage lovers, this cozy little resale boutique is one of the first of its kind in Miami and stocks all the big brands at a fraction of the original price.
Fly Boutique — Vintage addicts come here to dig through clothes and accessories of all price points and time periods at this popular retro consignment shop.
Etc. — Stop by this lofty boutique for luxury home goods and gifts with an Argentinean flair. Owner Monica Kalpakian culls the merchandise from around the world. Whether it’s a set of wood and horn trays from Patagonia or an agate sculpture from Portugal, you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy.
The Webster — A glamorous three-level boutique situated in the heart of the Art Deco district, the Webster is one part boutique, one part bar/restaurant and one part gallery. They stock both men’s and women’s clothing from contemporary brands like Alexander Wang to Chanel and Tom Ford. Even if it doesn’t fit into your budget, the store practically functions like a museum of beautiful clothes and accessories and is worth a visit just for the eye candy!
Boheme — THE go-to destination for beachwear on South Beach, Boheme is stocked with bikinis, flip-flops, straw hats and a ton of cover-ups from the simplest to the printed and bejeweled. Eat next door at Oliver’s pre- or post-shop.
Art Fairs — Early December is a great time to be in South Beach. Come during Art Baselto take in one of the largest art fairs in the world. Not only are there parties, installations and events all over town, but there are also satellite fairs. Design Miami, Verge and Nada have sprouted up and made a name for themselves on the indie circuit.
Lincoln Road Farmers’ Market/Antique Fair — Stroll around Lincoln Road between Washington Ave. and Meridien Ave. on Sundays between 9 am and 6:30 pm to pick through fresh fruit, veggies, teas, smoothies and more at the weekly Farmers’ Market. Every two weeks, an Antique & Collectibles Market joins forces with the Farmers’ Market.
Espanola Way — While walking down Collins, take a quick detour to Espanola Way, the Historic Spanish District. It’s lined with restaurants and at night is lit from above with twinkle lights. It may be touristy, but it’s worth walking the few blocks. Be sure to check out A La Folie at the end.
Water Sports — One of my favorite parts of living on Miami Beach is how easy it is to jump in the water, either by boat, jet ski or paddleboard. Head to the Miami Beach Marina to rent a jet ski on the pier (typically around $100 for an hour) or to charter a boat from Prime Time Boat Rentals. They rent everything from small power boats to mega-yachts, and it’s one of the best ways to see everything from the famed homes on Star Island to the high rises on the river. You can even charter a boat to the Keys or the Bahamas.
Though I live in (and love) South Beach, I find myself escaping the tourists and crowds on the weekends by heading to either the Design District or Wynwood. If it’s bigger box stores you’re looking for, the Design District is the place to go. Here you’ll find stores like The Rug Company, Jonathan Adler, Janus et Cie and Fendi Casa. Big designer names like Marni and Yohji Yamamoto have also made their way over. Sprinkled in are some truly great restaurants, interesting avant-garde clothing stores and several more independent design shops. Make your way to Wynwood for an amazing ever-changing art scene. The area is filled with galleries, artist studios and street art from world-renowned artists covering nearly every inch of wall space. The second Saturday of each month, when everyone in Miami makes their way over for what feels like a giant party in the streets, is not to be missed.
Michael’s Genuine — Locals and tourists alike flock to this Design District joint to dine on good, honest American food. Ask anyone where to eat in Miami, and they’ll point you here. It’s that popular for a reason — it’s worth it! We love sitting outside in the plaza and ordering lots of small plates and good wine.
Gigi — Great atmosphere and creative dishes can be found at this Asian Fusion restaurant where you can taste a little of everything (their small dishes are meant for sharing). If you’re jonesing for a late-night snack after Art Walk, be sure to stop here, as they have an extensive late-night menu.
Sakaya Kitchen — Sakaya was recently named by Bon Appetit as one of the top six places to try “new Asian fusion.” Come here for a taste of gourmet-style Asian street food and don’t leave without trying the Korean fried chicken and ginger Brussels sprouts! Of note: They also have a food truck called Dim Ssäm à gogo which is equally delicious and worth tracking down or finding in the field at Art Walk.
Harry’s Pizzeria — The third restaurant from Chef Michael Schwartz (of Michael’s Genuine fame). Come here for seasonal creative brick oven pizzas, polenta fries, panther coffee, craft beers and a warm, unpretentious atmosphere.
Maitardi — One of the easier spots to get into in the Design District (often without a reservation), I love the lounge-like vibe of this place. Sit outside and enjoy an Italian tapas-style menu while listening to live music.
Crumb On Parchment — Visit this quaint little bakery/café from Chef Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s fame to kick back and plug in (they have free WiFi) while enjoying a sandwich, banana bread and self-serve coffee.
Lester’s — If you’re looking for a hip coffee spot in nearby Wynwood, check out Lester’s. Sit at communal tables and enjoy an eclectic mix — coffee, snacks, bar fare and a magazine shop filled with hard-to-find publications.
Panther Coffee — Coffee connoisseurs flock to this indie spot for specialty fair trade roasts from a husband-and-wife team with a coffee background based in Portland, Oregon. Enjoy your coffee roasted onsite in an artsy/industrial-style space.
Egg & Dart — This rustic Greek restaurant is one of the Design District’s go-to destinations. Come for delicious traditional Greek specialties like tzatziki, hummus and saganaki.
Joey’s — Located in the heart of Wynwood, sitting outside at Joey’s on the night of Art Walk is a great place to see and be seen. Their thin-crust pizza is a definite fan favorite.
Wynwood Kitchen & Bar is probably one of the cooler dining experiences for street-art lovers. Sit on the outdoor patio, and you’ll be immersed in the Wynwood Walls’ works of amazing artists like Shepard Fairey, Os Gêmeos, Kenny Scharf and more (the inside also features an amazing original Shepard Fairey mural!).
Genius Jones — A design-focused store for “cool” kids. Here you’ll find Dwell Studio bedding, Jonathan Adler bookends and mini Panton chairs for tots. Even design lovers without kids will get a kick out of this place!
Jalan Jalan — Find chic beachy furniture/home accessories at this eclectic showroom in the Design District.
Tomas Maier — There are so many swoon-worthy items at this beachy, whitewashed shop from the creative director of Bottega Veneta. From the gorgeous black and white photography books in the back to the diptyque candles in the front, it’s hard to leave this shop without making a purchase.
En Avance — Check out the latest and greatest in emerging designers (alongside established ones) at this chic boutique in the Design District (one of the first to flock here a few years ago).
Niba — Specializing in home accessories, furniture and lighting, there’s always something colorful, fun and whimsical to be found at Niba.
Sebastien James — Shop here while you wait for your table at Michael’s Genuine just across the plaza in the heart of the Design District. Both men and women will find a nice assortment of contemporary clothing brands.
Christian Louboutin — Now I know this is an obvious choice, BUT this isn’t your average Louboutin store. This particular one is more like a shoe museum, dotted with fresh orchids and lined with cubbies for each shoe. Even if these high-priced kicks don’t fit into your budget, stop in just to admire the jewel box-style store and the ever-changing artistic installations in front.
Plant the Future is the mecca of all terrarium shops. More like living works of art than house plants, these terrariums are designed in giant glass orbs, toys, chairs and other interesting stark white sculptures. Each is completely one of a kind, so the display is ever changing.
Elemental — I always make a pit stop here during Art Walk to see what new cool design items they’re stocking. Whether it’s wall hooks, picture frames or candlesticks, there’s never a shortage of quirky, interesting stuff to look at in here.
Bardot — Big-name DJs frequent this loungey speakeasy-style hot spot to play an intimate set. Come for live music from local musicians or just drinks and a great atmosphere.
Art Walk/Food Trucks — The second Saturday of every month, nearly every Wynwood gallery (and many Design District locales) stay open extra late, serve beer & wine and throw something of a party in the streets. It’s hard to see everything, so if you’re looking for something particular, it’s best to map out which galleries are at the top of your list. And even if you’re not into the art scene, check out the gourmet food trucks that line the street and fill the field on NW 2nd Ave. We try not to miss it and make a night out of it by heading over for dinner, perusing the art and then grabbing a late-night drink perhaps somewhere quieter in the Design District.
Wynwood Walls — If you’re making your way over to Wynwood, the Wynwood Walls & Doors are not to be missed. Murals here have been commissioned from the likes of famous street artists like Shepard Fairey, Os Gêmeos, Ryan McGinness, Invader and Kenny Scharf.
Housed in a former DEA facility, the Rubell Family Collection is one of the largest privately owned contemporary art collections and prominently features some of the most well-known artists from Andy Warhol to Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. Toward the back of the gallery is a public research library and a great bookstore filled to the brim with contemporary art books. It’s worth checking out one of their themed exhibitions before it tours other museums around the country.
de la Cruz Collection is another privately funded contemporary art space featuring both established artists as well as locals. The space is airy and bright, and there are typically groups moving in and out at all times. Bonus: free admission!
Brickell isn’t exactly known for its indie destinations, but they’re sprinkled in here and there. Mixed in with the towering high rises are upscale hotels and restaurants including Zuma (the latest and greatest contemporary Japanese restaurant in town) and Rosa Mexicano. In the past year or two, several great new, low-key spots have opened in this neighborhood, and it’s definitely one to watch.
Tobacco Road — Their claim to fame is being Miami’s oldest dive bar, but locals stop in for cheap beers, burgers and the no-frills atmosphere.
River Oyster Bar — This intimate low-key Brickell restaurant serves up organic and sustainable food, and locals love their daily happy hour specials (1/2 price oysters).
Democratic Republic of Beer — A laid-back spot serving over 500 different types of beer from around the world and a global menu to match.
The Corner — Stop by this brand new candlelit bar and enjoy a “Death in the Afternoon,” one of Hemingway’s favorite cocktails, with a bar bite from one of the chefs that used to work at Zuma.
Kork Wine & Cheese — Perfect for a romantic date night, stop into their cozy underground cellar to enjoy some wine and cheese. They often have live jazz, too!
Cvi.che 105 — Munch on Peruvian-style toasted corn kernels and sip sangria while you wait for your fresh off-the-boat ceviche at this modern Peruvian restaurant.
Casablanca Fish Market — Sitting right on the Miami River, the views here can’t be beat. Not only do they serve up fresh-caught fish, but the restaurant is owned in conjunction with an attached fish market where you can purchase the catch of the day to take home and cook up yourself! Stone crab lovers flock here for decent prices on this typically pricey dish.
Mary Brickell Village is a popular destination for shopping and eating in the area. Stop into Balans for brunch or Burger & Beer Joint for a casual bite. There’s also an outpost of the Miami Beach shop Boheme here.
Spend the day at Vizcaya for a lovely afternoon of strolling through the lush outdoor gardens and accompanying Italian Renaissance-style villas. It’s a little farther than Brickell but worth the trip for a European-style escape in Miami.
Chef Michelle Bernstein — Iron Chef winner, guest judge on Top Chef, and most well-known for her Miami restaurants Michy’s, Sra. Martinez and Crumb on Parchment. She has also won the James Beard Award.
Jeff McInnis – Another Top Chef contestant who now owns the popular restaurant Yardbird. Has also designed part of the menu at Gigi.
Michael Schwartz — Owner of popular restaurants Michael’s Genuine and Harry’s Pizzeria.
Tony Goldman — Developer of the Wynwood Walls and surrounding neighborhood sites. He also produced a documentary about Wynwood.
Rachel Goodrich — Indie songstress
Joel Pollock and Leticia Ramos Pollock — Husband-and-wife
Sara Colombo — Owner of design showroom/store NEST.