Whether it’s been a month or six since your last trip to Miami, you’d barely recognize The Magic City. Historic downtown is taking on a modern day revival with classic cocktail rooftop bars, craft coffee cafés and gilded boutique hotels, while the Wynwood Arts District and Brickell have expanded their pedestrian-friendly streets to include pop-up music venues and California-inspired vegan cafes. From your morning cold brew to your nightcap, here’s how Miami keeps up with an ever evolving world.
1. Downtown Mornings
Starting the day downtown used to mean strolling out of Club Space in time for brunch Sunday. With the population doubling over the past decade, this historic side of the city is finally undergoing a much-needed facelift with cafes setting up shop on side streets near notorious late-night venues. Just around the corner from 24-hour nightclub E11even, you can get your caffeine fix at All Day, with nitrogen-infused Brooklyn blend and Florida eggs served four ways: caste iron-fried, soft scrambled, poached or baked with pecorino and citrus on sourdough. The Scandinavian-meets-midcentury modern Miami cafe is the work of Panther Coffee’s Camila Ramos and The Corner owner Chris MacLeod, so it’s no surprise the cafe not only looks sleek in its minimalist design (think loft-style spaces, dark wood banquets and branches hanging overhead), but it also nails both the coffee and the cuisine. From the street, the one pop of color standing out against the stark white interior is a neon green sign glowing with words spelling out 10 different types of coffee options, from double shot to hot drip. Espresso is brewed in the custom-crafted La Marzocco Strada machine—the largest in the world—from small-batch beans expertly sourced from roasters like Birmingham’s Revelator and Miami’s Per’la. The menu, meanwhile, is the work of Charles Lutka, who pulls from his previous stints at Michelin-starred Marea in NYC and Miami’s late-night Korean barbecue joint Gigi to craft locally inspired brunch fare with a haute twist. Expect decadent dishes like French toast with tres leches batter and pecan butter and lamb merguez tartine served with za’atar on olive toast. Anything you order will also pair perfectly with one of the 10 caffeine fixes, from the double shot espresso with sweet Florida milk to the nitrogen gas-infused “royal tea.”
2. Wynwood Expansions
The arts district has seen its fair share of pop-ups from galleries to drive-thru cinemas, but the Wynwood Yard is combining all of these concepts with a multipurpose space perfect for a food truck-served lunch during the day, as well as live music and yoga in the evenings. What started as a 10-month pop-up has become more permanent with a bar, a garden by Little River Cooperative and cuisine ranging from omakase sushi food truck Myumi to healthy bowl test kitchen Della. Order one of Della’s popular vegan bowls filled with quinoa, black coconut rice, tangy ginger tempeh and Maduro-style ripe plantain and dig in at one of the picnic tables placed out front. Wi-Fi is free, so this spot easily doubles as a co-working space, but if you would rather work in the comfort of an air-conditioned coffee shop, drive over to nearby Panther Coffee, a locally based roaster with brew just as good as their people watching in the typically packed cafe. Order a cold brew and one of Cindy Lou’s Cookies’ Morning Glory Muffins before setting off on a street art and shopping tour of the neighborhood.
The highlight is the living street art gallery Wynwood Walls, which started in 2009 on six buildings spanning the 25th-26th Street complex. It has now expanded to over 80,000 square feet of walls painted by more than 50 street art and graffiti artists from around the globe, including French artist Invader (behind video game-inspired space invader mosaics) and South Africa’s Faith47. Start at the beginning, exploring the street art, before weaving in and out of the galleries lining Northwest Second Avenue. Here, you’ll also find a number of boutiques like Melbourne-based skin care line Aesop and vintage-inspired glasses showroom Warby Parker. In addition to some of the larger labels, Wynwood also houses independent boutiques like Plant the Future, with its living art installations and hand-blown glass terrariums, and Mexican concept and design shop Malaquita, featuring everything from rainbow-colored sacred string artwork to hand-painted cowboy boots.
3. Plant-based Gourmet
Photo courtesy of DIRT
Miami is home to a slew of restaurants branded by big name chefs like Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but the city is turning over a new leaf with the trend veering toward plant-based cuisine. The celeb chef behind California-based Matthew Kenney Cuisine brought his concept down south and gave it a Florida spin, opening up the seasonally focused Plant Food + Wine in Wynwood’s new Sacred Space. Take a seat on the patio next to the reflecting pool in this oasis-style spot and get ready to dig in to a list of dishes that taste almost too good to be purely plant-based. Start with the flora artisanal cheese plate of white truffle, smoked cheddar and mixed pepper cashew and macadamia-crafted cheese before moving on to one of the mains like the banana leaf tamale with cacao mole and shiitake mushroom or the coconut ceviche tacos with sunflower chorizo.
For a meal just as beautifully presented but delivered in a quick service setting, head to wellness bar DIRT in SoFi and order from the paleo, vegan or gluten-sensitive menus filled with clean dishes like the kimchee-spiced Seoul Bowl or the Santorini salad with housemade harissa-spiked hummus (both pictured above). This is a spot that caters to all dietary requirements, so if your friend wants an option topped with organic, grass-fed meat, they’re in luck. One of the top picks: the dirty sandwich with homemade chicken apple sausage served on locally baked Zak the Baker bread.
4. Beach Bootcamp
Miami is a city known for its beaches and sex appeal, and while you’ll find plenty of upscale fitness studios like SoulCycle and Exhale, trainers are taking to the shores making the most of Miami’s natural resources. Dubbed the “wellness power couple,” celeb trainers Christopher and Tracie Vlaun behind V Art of Wellness have brought their boutique fitness brand of beach bootcamps to the sand in front of the newly opened beach house-inspired hotel, The Confidante. Based in Miami and hosting retreats in the Caribbean and Cabo, the duo have brought together their areas of expertise (from Tracie’s 15-year career as an Elite model and Chris’s functional fitness training background) to develop intimate beach-based fitness classes that range from high intensity interval training to TRX body sculpting taught by top trainers like former Division 1 athletes.
5. Cuban Cabaret
Photo courtesy of El Tucan
Cuba is in the spotlight right now, and in turn, so is Cuban culture. Supper clubs are making a comeback in Miami and one of the hottest acts in town is the 1940s Cuban cabaret-inspired El Tucán, with an 11-piece Latin orchestra playing as the house act and cocktails curated by Bar Lab, the team behind local favorite Broken Shaker. Music ranges from DJ sets to bands playing Parisian pop, while the tapas-style cuisine from chef Jean Paul Lourdes highlights Caribbean and South American flavors. Sister venue to the French-themed Bâoli, this spot in Brickell has a personality all of its own, capturing vintage Cuba from the tropical-style bar to the golden palms lining the theater. Take a seat for one of the two dinner shows and indulge in a cocktail just as decadent as the setting, such as the namesake El Tucán, a vodka-based libation with lemon and watermelon juice served up in a copper toucan glass.
6. Down to Earth Rooftops
In this one-upping society, every hotel is clamoring to create the highest and most enticing rooftop bar on the beach. But what visitors don’t know is that the better rooftop is more down to earth, providing a closer look at the true sultry Miami scene. Part of the Downtown revival, boutique hotel The Langford opened up a little over a year ago in the historic 1925 Beaux-Arts Miami National Bank with throwback travel-inspired rooms (think vintage trunks) and one of the city’s best restaurant groups, Pubbelly, behind their restaurant PB Station and rooftop bar Pawn Broker. While the rooms capture one part of the vintage element, the bar captures the other through its cocktails. Sit al fresco staring out at the city’s skyline while sipping on a Prohibition era cocktail like the bathtub gin-inspired Giggle Water, a bubbly version of a gin and tonic served in a ceramic bathtub.
7. Midnight in Paris
With six sister restaurants in Brazil, Paris 6 has taken its French-meets-Latin American concept to Miami Beach with the opening of the 24/7 bistro. The first of the Brazilian-owned bistros to open in the U.S., this contemporary brasserie is a nice addition to Miami’s late-night dining scene of empanadas, sandwiches and fast food joints lining South Beach. Venezuelan-born chef Atilio Padra whips up a menu of traditional fare like entrecote Béarnaise and filet mignon au poivre vert alongside some of the more modern twists like duck croquettes and lamb over apricot couscous in a setting that looks straight out of Paris’s sixth arrondissement. With a Midnight in Paris-esque design, the bistro every bit fits the bill from its Damask-covered walls and chandeliers to the red banquet seating and signature green bar with gilded gold etching, designed just for the Miami location. The one whimsical touch: caricature celebrity paintings commissioned by Brazilian artist Flavio Rossi. Whether you’ve missed dinner or are looking for a late-night feast, this is the perfect spot unassumingly tucked along bustling Collins Avenue just across the street from some of the city’s hottest nightlife venues like Wall at the W South Beach.
Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.