Miami Essentials

Find out the best places to go in Miami for whatever it is you want to do.

By: Amy Driscoll and Larry Lebowitz

Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to...

BUY GROCERIES

  • Laurenzo's Italian Market, 16385 W. Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach 
    Since 1951, Laurenzo’s has been supplying fresh pasta, meats and fish to the Miami area. With a green market adjacent and a small indoor cafe, it’s a great place to eat lunch and shop.
  • Epicure Market, 1656 Alton Road, Miami Beach, and 18236 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach 
    Along with high-end gourmet food and organics, the South Beach market also has a small cafe inside with a great cheese and wine selection and out-of-this-world desserts. Try the key lime pie.
  • Gardner’s Market, 7301 SW 57th Ave., South Miami 
    This cute little gourmet shop has a couple of tables for in-house munchies.

BUY FRUIT AND VEGGIES

  • Robert Is Here, 19200 SW 344th St., Homestead 
    It’s worth the trip. This landmark in the agricultural area offers fresh-from-the-field veggies, local honey and the best key lime milkshakes.
  • El Palacio De Los Jugos, 5721 W. Flagler St., Miami 
    This gathering place for Cuban exiles is so much more than a fresh-fruit “juice palace.” Check out the fully stocked produce market. Sample the excellent batidos (shakes) and some of the best fried plantains in town.

GRAB A LATE NIGHT BITE

  • Hiro’s Yakko-San, 17040-46 West Dixie Highway, North Miami Beach 
    This authentic, but incredibly affordable, Japanese restaurant is the late-night haunt for off-duty sushi chefs and Miami foodies. Food and Wine just named it one of the best restaurants in the United States. Insider’s tip: If you’re in a small party, ask for a seat at the bar and watch Hiro’s excellent crew work their magic while sucking down a “flight’’ of sake samples.
  • Yambo Restaurant Tipico Nicaraguense, 1643 SW First St., Miami 
    Figuring out how to order at this 24/7 restaurant with one of the craziest outdoor dining areas you’ll ever encounter can be a bit daunting for those who don’t speak a lick of Spanish. But the food, plentiful and cheap, is well worth it. Don’t miss the pescazones, fried potato balls brimming with chayote and cheese. It also has an original Ms. Pac-Man machine.

GRAB AN EARLY BITE

  • Happy Wine, 5792 SW Eighth St., Miami 
    Grab a bottle off the shelves, pay a $1 corkage fee, grab a seat at one of the tables made from casks and crates and then dig into some of the best tapas in town. On Saturday afternoons, Cuban musicians provide a live soundtrack.
  • Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market, 398 NW River Drive, Miami 
    Garcia’s is home of Miami’s best grouper sandwich. Take a lazy, long lunch on the “working” end of the Miami River. Enjoy your black beans and rice and a chilled beer on the waterfront deck as a freighter bound for Haiti passes by. It’s a lunchtime favorite for cops, judges, firefighters and local politicians.

SIP A LATTE

There are plenty of strip malls and shopping centers for cafe fiends to find their Starbucks and other franchised baristavilles. But if you really want that authentic Miami-style jolt of caffeine, you need to learn your way around the Cuban cafe culture. 

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to...

HAVE FUN FOR FREE

  • People watching on Lincoln Road, South Beach 
    This pedestrian mall is the place to see everyone from celebrities to your neighbor. Halloween night is better than a Broadway show, and it’s just as crowded.
  • Ride the downtown Metromover 
    International bankers and lawyers in suits rub elbows with construction workers, community college students, bicycle messengers and multilingual song stylists. Try not to make too much eye contact as you take in an unparalleled view of downtown Miami.

AVOID THE TOURISTS

  • Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami 
    The self-proclaimed “Cradle of Indie Music” in the Magic City, this English pub is located deep in the heart of Little Haiti. Multiband bills nearly every night and English football on the satellite. It’s perfect.
  • Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave., Miami 
    This is a historic dive. The city’s Liquor License No. 1 is still posted over the bar. A great place to hang out, the crowd tends to skew a little older than the throbbing dance clubs. Sample excellent burgers and ribs inside, and listen to rocking music upstairs and on the patio on the weekends.
  • Happy’s Stork, 1872 79th Street Causeway, North Bay Village 
    Look in the dictionary under “cheap cive” and you will find a pencil-dot drawing of the Stork. Not for the faint of heart, but great for the thirsty and light of wallet.

ENTERTAIN THE KIDS

  • Mattheson Hammock, 9610 Old Cutler Road, Miami 
    The beachfront park is open from sunrise to sunset. This tropical haven is a regular spot for families. It also has a restaurant built in a historic coral rock building.
  • Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Miami 
    Walk or take a tram to see gorgeous exotic plants and trees. Don’t miss the International Mango Festival in July.

MEET NEW PEOPLE

  • Wynwood Art Walk 
    Miami’s edgiest art experience happens on the second Saturday of every month. More than 80 galleries are located in this former warehouse district. The surroundings can seem a bit dicey, but some jaw-dropping modern art collections and multimedia installations await.

TAKE A SIGNIFICANT OTHER

  • Fox's Sherron Inn, 6030 S. Dixie Highway 
    The old school bar has a Sinatra/Rat Pack vibe, decently priced drinks and an excellent free jukebox.
  • Studio, Shelbourne Hotel, 1801 Collins Ave., South Beach 
    Descending the stairs at this downscale basement karaoke bar provides the perfect late-night counterpoint to a neighborhood filled with hip-hop kids, fashionistas and lobster-red European tourists.

Nightlife Essentials: Best Places to...

GRAB A BEER

  • Scotty's Landing, 3381 Pan American Drive, Miami 
    Arrive by car or boat. This mainstay is located on the edge of a popular city marina at Dinner Key. The adjacent City Hall used to be the Pan Am seaplane terminal.
  • Mac’s Club Deuce, 222 14th Street, South Beach 
    Simply put, there’s no place -- or noir place -- like The Deuce. Sweaty oddities, blue-collar toughs, u goofballs and slumming celebrities all gather around the horseshoe shaped bar. Some of the savviest bartenders in Miami know when to let the debauchery flow and when it’s time to tamp down the danger and weirdness.
  • Jimbo’s, the little shrimp shack at the end of the road to Virginia Key, off the Rickenbacker Causeway 
    Now in his 80s, Jimbo Luznar has been selling fresh bait and cold beer at this rustic collection of brightly painted shacks since the 1950s. Relax in the shade, soak up the suds, snack on some of Jimbo’s smoked fish dip or play a little bocce with his friends. Dozens of producers of movies, TV shows and music videos all want a piece of Jimbo’s Cracker-meets-Caribbean vibe.

DANCE 
(Caveat emptor: what’s hip can change very fast, especially in the downtown and South Beach club scene)

  • Mainland: 
    Club Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami 
    Pawnshop Lounge, 1222 NE Second Ave., Miami 
    Vagabond Lounge, 30 NE 14th St., Miami
  • South Beach: 
    Cameo, 1445 Washington Ave., Miami Beach 
    Mansion, 1235 Washington Ave., Miami Beach 
    Mokai Lounge, 235 23rd St., Miami Beach
  • Off The Beaten Path: 
    Hoy Como Ayer, 2212 SW Eighth St., Miami, especially on Thursday nights, for Cuban and young Latin dance music 
    Club Tipico Dominicano, 1344 NW 36th St., Miami, an authentic dance institution for serious fans of meringue, salsa and bachata

DRINK A MOJITO 
By now, the fabled Cuban rum drink has become ubiquitous among the cocktail-swilling classes. The best bartenders know that the secret ingredient is fresh hand-crushed yerbabuena. Regular old mint just doesn’t cut it.

  • Tap-Tap, 819 5th St., Miami Beach 
    Tap-Tap makes it with Haiti’s finest rum, Bharbancourt. One of our favorite mojitos, ironically, comes from the best Haitian restaurant on South Beach.
  • Ortanique on the Mile, 278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables 
    The mojitos at this Caribbean-influenced restaurant regularly rank high in “Best Of” contests. Start with a cocktail, but stay for Chef Cindy Hutson’s cuisine.

ENJOY A STIFF DRINK AND A SHOW TUNE

  • Magnum, 709 NE 79th Street, Miami 
    Another Upper East Side pioneer, this slightly off-kilter restaurant and piano bar has been attracting a fun-loving crowd, gay and straight, for several years now.

Outdoor Essentials: Best Places to...

ENJOY NATURE

  • Shark Valley, 36000 Tamiami Trail, 25 miles west of Florida’s Turnpike on Southwest Eighth Street in Everglades National Park 
    Take your bike or rent one to ride around and look at the alligators slumbering in the sun.
  • Rickenbacker Causeway over Biscayne Bay 
    For slightly less wildlife closer to town, take your bike over the scenic Rickenbacker Causeway over the sparking waters of Biscayne Bay to Crandon Park or Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne. Stop along the causeway and toss out a line or rent a windsurfer.
  • Fruit and Spice Park, 24801 SW 187th Ave., Homestead 
    Some of the most exotic fruits grown in the subtropics are found here.
  • The Everglades 
    Take an airboat ride from one of multiple locations: Billie Swamp Safari, off Alligator Alley west of Fort Lauderdale; Wooten’s Airboat Ride, due west of Miami off Tamiami Trail, and Everglades Safari Park just west of Homestead, near the Flamingo entrance to Everglades National Park.
  • Upper Keys 
    Start with a snorkeling tour of the living coral reefs at John Pennekamp State Park at 102601 Overseas Highway in Key Largo. Excellent scuba options abound for experienced, certified divers. Twenty miles farther south, near Mile Markers 87 and 88, in Islamorada, several area outfitters rent kayaks for daytrips or overnight camping on the uninhabited islands on Florida Bay.

TAKE FIDO

  • Dog Chow Park, 2400 S. Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove 
    Located on the waterfront, the park features a separate fenced area for smaller dogs.
  • Amelia Earhart “Bark Park”, 401 E. 65th St., Hialeah 
    Five-acre off-leash park features a separate area for smaller dogs. Amenities include paved walkways, benches, shade trees, a digging pit, agility equipment, bathing pools and specially designed drinking and spray fountains for dogs and their owners.
  • Flamingo Bark Park, 999 11th St., Miami Beach 
    Located behind the paddle ball courts.
  • East Greynolds Park, 16700 Biscayne Blvd., Sunny Isles Beach 
    Greynolds is a 249-acre former rock quarry and home to one of the largest intact natural hardwood hammocks in the area.

ENJOY GREAT VIEWS OF THE CITY

The Miami City Club, 200 S. Biscayne Boulevard, 55th Floor, Miami 
This is where the city’s movers and shakers break bread, cut deals and take in a transcendent view.

Park under the MacArthur Causeway or near the Venetian Causeway tollbooth, and look back toward the Miami Herald building and the city skyline.

Walk the old Rickenbacker Causeway between the mainland and Virginia Key. All the gritty chaos that is Miami gathers on this fishing pier that used to provide the primary access from downtown Miami to Key Biscayne.

Shopping Essentials: Best Places to...

CHANNEL YOUR INNER DO-IT-YOURSELFER

  • Thrift City, 2000 NW 79th St., Miami 
    An incredible treasure trove for salvage fiends and Dumpster divers, Thrift City is acres of old doors, sinks, tile, bathroom fixtures, appliances and plenty of junk. Occasional gems can be found when builders hastily unload excess stock from finished or failed projects, or demolition crews cast off Art Deco and mid-century modern classics.

FUNKY LOCAL BUSINESS

  • Karma, 7010 Biscayne Blvd., Miami 
    This Upper East Side carwash doubles as a tapas bar. Its name was inspired by its next door neighbor, the popular hot dog stand, Dogma.
  • Flamingo Plaza thrift stores, 901 E. 10th Ave., Hialeah 
    You can get lost amid the bric-a-brac at this L-shaped strip mall filled with second-hand and thrift stores. You can literally find anything here: cheap undergarments, toys, clothes, hats, furniture, decorative thimble sets, 8-track tape players, CB radios, knock-off beauty supplies, paint-by-numbers dogs playing poker, old Havana trinkets, Hummel figures, lawn ornaments, auto parts, “Club Pablo Escobar" trucker hats and pinball machines.
  • Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave., Miami 
    In its latest incarnation next to Churchill’s Pub, this record store and Wi-Fi coffeehouse is the heart of Miami’s tiny but fervent indie music scene.
  • Rag Trade Happy Clothing Co., 4600 NE Second Ave., Miami 
    This popular vintage and consignment shop is becoming a mainstay in the still up-and-coming Buena Vista East neighborhood.

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