Going out in Miami
It's that time of year again when social media feeds get flooded with pictures of pretty people having fun in the sunshine amongst palm trees. You know, Art Basel Miami Beach. Stephanie Seidel, associate curator at the ICA Miami, gets to enjoy the Florida wonderland 365 days a year and has lots of tips for hungry and thirsty visitors.
There are countless clichés about Miami. Most of them are probably true. But there is much more to the city then sprawling high-rises and the glitter of South Beach. After all, Miami is – as essayist Joan Didion wrote – “a tropical capital", the northernmost city of the Carribean. Thanks to a large Cuban and Haitian community and inhabitants from all over South and Middle America as well as North Americans and Europeans who just couldn’t stand the winters anymore, the local cuisine offers a huge variety. New trendy restaurants, often in the pricier realm, seem to open weekly. However, there are also spots in less exposed areas of the city that quietly offer great food.
Up on Biscayne Boulevard, in the middle a strip of old motels built in the 1950s on old highway 1, now referred to as “MiMo” (Miami Modern), you find Jimmy's Eastside Diner. The interior and the waiters seem to not have changed for decades. Famously staging the erotically charged love scene-cum-onion-frying of the movie Moonlight it is a great place to get eggs and hash browns.
When you are looking for a breakfast that does not send you right back to sleep, you might want to check out ALLDAY in downtown Miami. They have brought coffee, home-made pastries and trendy contemporary classics such as eggs benedict and avocado toast to perfection. If you crave bread and are not afraid to enter the tourist filled Wynwood district, Zak the Baker has excellent baguettes and cinnamon buns.
Jimmy's Eastside Diner
7201 Biscayne Blvd
1035 N Miami Ave
Zak the Baker
295 NW 26th St
In Miami, you’ll find countless places for cafecito and pastelitos, arepas and Cuban sandwiches. But my favorite place is Chef Creole. Located in the heart of little Haiti you find the best fried shrimp with rice and beans and their secret “Chef Creole” sauce. While you wait you can browse through their photo wall of fame, where the Fugee’s Lauryn Hill and Miami rapper Rick Ross are posing with Chef Creole Wilkinson Sejour. The adjacent patio is thatched with palm tree leaves, and at times adorned with acrylic paintings of Prince.
Another great place to get super fresh fish is La Camaronera Seafood Joint and Fish Market in a strip mall Little Havana. Founded by the eleven Garcia brothers after they emigrated from Cuba, this place started as a fish wholesaler that was equipped with deep fryers and a counter in 1976. They say La Camaronera has the best fried shrimp in Miami, however, I think their pan con minuta, fried snapper filet in a bun with tartar sauce, is even better. They certainly do have the best key lime pie in Miami – a Floridian version of a lemon tarte. Classic Cuban diner food with lots of rice and black beans, you’ll find at Enriqueta's at NE 2nd Avenue.
200 NW 54th St
La Camoranera Seafood Joint and Fish Market
1952 W Flagler St
Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop
186 NE 29th St
South Beach has tons of restaurants. Certainly not an insider tip but just a must-see is Joe’s Stone Crab. What Musso’s and Frank’s is to Los Angeles, Joe’s is to Miami Beach. Almost as old as the City of Miami itself their list of guests includes Joseph Kennedy, Barbra Streisand and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Joe’s is also the “inventor” of stonecrab – a Floridian specialty of black-tipped crab claws. There is a distinct 1950s vibe to this place with their liveried waiters and dark green leather couches. My favorites here: extra dirty martini and stuffies (filled and baked clams).
If you prefer a 20-dollar dinner over a 200-dollar dinner, Sabor a Peru on Biscayne Boulevard is a great place to eat. Incredibly fresh ceviche and huge piles of fried rice come with ice-cold Peruvian beer. If you get the yuca fries, ask for their cilantro sauce. Make sure to bring a scarf and pullover – Miami restaurants tend to have arctic temperatures inside. If you’re already on the later side of the evening, just down the street La Palapa Hondurena serves food till 1 AM. Get one of their “combos” that include pupusas, fried corn tortilla filled with melted cheese. If this doesn’t send you right to sleep, you can continue here with billiards and karaoke that they host on weekends.
Joe's Stone Crab
11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
Sabor a Peru
2923 Biscayne Blvd
La Palapa Hondurena
2699 Biscayne Blvd & 3820 NW 36th St
At the end of the day you might find yourself back at where you started in the morning: Right next to ALLDAY is The Corner. Starting with their extended Happy Hour from 4-8pm with 3-dollar beer and hot dogs, it’s a great place for your “Feierabendbier”. Later in the evening, the crowd of the neighboring industrial-size clubs gradually takes over. Two blocks from here, 1306 hosts great hip-hop parties every now and then – make sure to hydrate for non-stop dancing on their sweaty outside patio. Once a month they also host the queer party “Counter Corner”. For electronic music check out the Electric Pickle a little further north on North Miami Avenue. Miami Beach has tons of infamous clubs that you probably already know about and might like or not. For dive bars, you should check out The Abbey in South Beach, or if you are in North Beach, On the Rocks, open 24 hours since their entrance door got hit by a car.
1035 N Miami Ave
1306 N Miami Ave
2826 N Miami Ave
1115-1117 16th St, Miami Beach
On the Rocks
217 71st St
If you’ve seen enough art and are tired of beach and roaring traffic, you should go and discover the wild (yet quiet) side of Miami: Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. The huge park opened in 1938 initiated by a group of passionate plant collectors gathering plants from all over the world and designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, who also worked for the codesigner of New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted’s office. The park is filled with palm trees of all kinds, orchids and whatever grows in the tropics. You’ll run into a bunch of iguanas that can grow to quite impressive sizes, sometimes also a saltwater crocodile. In the butterfly garden, you can see giant Atlas moths and watch critters emerge from their cocoons, which is pretty sci-fi.
Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens
10901 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables
Art Basel Miami Beach runs from 7 – 10 December.
Stephanie Seidel is associate curator at ICA Miami.