Sun, Sweets, and Cinema: Our Top Fun and Culture Picks for Miami
BY JOHNNY DIAZ // PHOTOS BY NICK GARCIA
Like a pop-up city with gleaming skyscrapers, Miami is ever-changing, its skyline expanding with each new construction crane. The hot, modern, sprawling metro has diverse pockets that cater to everyone’s tastes. Here’s a trip through three neighborhoods that offer a different side of the Magic City.
A neighborhood of stunning outdoor art? We’re there, with cameras on.
GRAFFITI, GIANT COOKIES, AND “PIG OUT'S IN WYNWOOD
Wynwood is an urban warehouse district just northwest of downtown Miami that has blossomed in recent years with art galleries, clubs, shops, and restaurants. The neighborhood is like a giant outdoor gritty art gallery where the walls of businesses wear the colorful and whimsical expressions of graffiti artists. If you’re zipping from here, The LAB Miami and Omni Parking Garage have vehicles.
Start at Wynwood Walls (along NW 2nd Avenue between 25 and 26th streets, an open-air gallery complex that features murals from a collection of local, national, and international graffiti artists whose styles range from bright abstract female nudes on a black background to expressive faces of the downtrodden. Stroll inside and marvel at the giant pieces of animated characters, to more dream-like figures with empowering statements such as “Rise above” and “Independent.” This exhibit becomes a centerpiece during the neighborhood’s monthly art walk, which takes place the second Saturday of each month from 7 to 10 p.m.
Panther Coffee (2390 NW 2nd Avenue; 305-677-3952; panthercoffee.com). If you need a jolt of java for all your art crawling, head over to Panther Coffee, a small but growing Miami-based chain of specialty coffee from Brazil, Colombia, and Ethiopia. But this location, where tires dangle from a flamboyant tree in the front courtyard, has become a go-to place in the heart of Wynwood for some great people-watching. Writers, creative types, techies, and entrepreneurs hang out here while they peck away on their smartphones or tablets. There’s more of a hipster edge among the customers here than anywhere else in the city. While you watch, order an espresso and one of the assortment of giant cookies. (Chocolate chip with pecan and coconut is a great choice.)
Get your caffeine fix with small-batch specialty roasts at the hip Panther Coffee.
The Butcher Shop Beer Garden and Grill (165 NW 23rd Street; 305-846-9120; thebutchershopmiami.com). Don’t let the name scare you! This is another good neighborhood spot. The front beer garden with its wooden picnic-like tables and benches is great for family-friendly brunches and early dinners. At night, this area transforms into a lounge with live music. If it gets too loud, head to the back where there’s a quiet bar for drinks and an actual butcher shop (hence the name) for top-shelf quality meats. Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. is known as “Pig Out’’ when the shop offers free tastings of its various pork offerings.
Pick up tempting prime cuts from The Butcher Shop, or have them served sizzling on site in the beer garden.
PEACE, FOOD TENTS, AND A BIRD’S EYE VIEW IN MARY BRICKELL VILLAGE
Brickell Village has grown into a popular day and nighttime destination for locals and visitors. The district is part of the larger Brickell neighborhood, where all the financial skyscrapers and posh condo buildings shape the downtown skyline.
The Shops of Mary Brickell Village (901 South Miami Avenue; 305-381-6130; marybrickellvillage.com) is the retail heart of the area. It has the European feel of a small Italian plaza complete with fountains, restaurants, shops, and boutiques from different countries. Check out Peace Love World (900 S. Miami Ave.; 305-374-2661; peaceloveworld.com), which sells inspiring-message-adorned clothing and accessories for peace-loving customers. Sandals simply read “Happy,” while hoodies and tees declare, “I am love.”
Ditch the strip mall for Mary Brickell Village’s airy plaza, featuring fine dining, boutiques, and relaxing spas.
One block over, you’ll see Baru Urbano Cocina and Drinks (1001 S. Miami Avenue; 305-381-5901; barurbano.com). This brown wooden-looking saloon features a Colombian/Caribbean inspired restaurant and bar that hums with young professionals and newcomers. If you’re sitting in the inside bar that faces Miami Avenue, glance up and check out the collection of out-of-state license plates while you sip your coconut mojito or glass of sangria.
As you stroll the neighborhood, you may notice above you the winding tracks of the Metromover, a boxy trolley that centipedes through downtown Miami. It’s a free service that runs through midnight with stops sprinkled throughout the district, including Brickell and Tenth Street. Hop on and get a bird’s eye view of the city. You can catch the Metromover to other Zipcar spots. (Convenient!)
Experience Miami’s stunning skyline from a higher elevation aboard the handy (and free!) Metromover.
On weekends, check out the food tents that begin at SE 12th Street and S. Miami Avenue. You can try some $5 Peruvian ceviche from Ceviche Box and Grill (305-905-7316), where the chef is right there on hand to serve you.
GELATO, ART FILMS, AND “THE CITY BEAUTIFUL” IN MIRACLE MILE
This isn’t an official Miami neighborhood, but this half-mile long strip of bridal stores, art galleries, bars, eateries, and cafés is the retail and business spine of the city of Coral Gables, which calls itself “The City Beautiful,’’ and borders Miami. From Coral Way between Douglas Road and LeJeune Road, the district (shopcoralgables.com) is pedestrian friendly, but the side streets off Ponce de Leon Boulevard also offer plenty of spots to explore by foot or car.
345 Caffé Italiano (259 Miracle Mile; 305-569-7222; 345caffeitaliano.com). On a hot Miami day, this place beckons, especially after walking around Miracle Mile. This Italian eatery decorated in red and white hues has a little of everything, from crepes dripping with Nutella, to fresh salads, to hot paninis, to pastries, like succulent chocolate cake that is molto bene! The friendly staff—at least one has an Italian accent—will gladly offer you samples of the creamy cool gelatos. Young cyclists and families out for a Sunday afternoon all gather here. Try the Nutella-infused espresso for some sweet energy.
345 Caffé Italiano’s motto is, “Good Food, Good Life.” With their indulgent, refreshing gelato, we believe it.
If you want to venture off the bustling mile, head to Books & Books (265 Aragon Avenue; 305-442-4408; booksandbooks.com/coralgables), an independent bookstore that is a must-stop for visiting authors and book lovers. There are readings almost every night in this Mediterranean-styled building, which has a courtyard for outdoor reading and coffee and wine drinking. There’s a café on the premises that offers salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Take a break from flipping pages to try the pineapple grilled chicken wrap and a glass of tropical iced tea.
Come for the great reads, stay for the exquisite 1927 building, listed in the Coral Gables Register of Historic Places.
Across the street is Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave., 786-472-2249, gablescinema.com.This nonprofit film house shows independent domestic and European movies that you may not find at the nearest megaplex. (Think last year’s “Before Midnight” or a Pedro Almodovar flick.) This movie house usually features a handful of films throughout the week since it’s a one-screen theater. An employee provides helpful context with a talk about the theater and the film before the lights fade and the action begins.
Take a culture-filled AC break at Coral Gables Art Cinema, named “Miami’s Best Art-House Cinema” by the Miami New Times.