The VICE Guide to Miami
Miami + VICE. Need we say more?
Photo by Ian Patrick O'Connor
Miami is not red, white, and blue through and through. Miami has more colors—and not just the aqua waves or pink- and green-painted buildings silhouetted against purple and orange sunsets. Though it has all of that too.
Miami's skin has more shades. Hispanic residents make up 66 percent of the city, and 18 percent of Miamians are black. It has the particular smells, flavors and sounds of Haiti, Trinidad, Argentina, Cuba, and Brazil.
Miami can be lawless and unsafe. It's underdeveloped, but it's making up for that with every passing minute. It's silly and ridiculous, helpless against swarming developers and rising ocean levels. It's a dramatic slab of land. Isolated by swamp and sea, it's wild like Mowgli or an experiment left too long in a petri dish. It's proud and free and stubborn and loyal. It's like nowhere else in the world.
NEIGHBORHOODS WE LOVE
Arriving in Miami Beach is like stepping on set for a movie about Miami. Imagine The Birdcage meets Ride Along 2. Cigarette boats fly down Biscayne Bay, bags of cocaine cramming their guts. Big brown butts bounce to Calvin Harris in the flashing lights of LIV. Drag queens do splits on the sidewalk around noon while you cheer them along over your omelet. Corrupt politicians lurk behind every palm tree.
Miami Beach is weird and dirty, but it's also otherworldly and glamorous. It has some of the best preserved examples of Art Deco architecture in the world. If you want an Ibiza day party, Nikki Beach has overpriced mojito pitchers with sugar cane stirrers and white beds with curtains on the sand. If comfort is more your thing, the Delano has a somehow flawless Alice in Wonderland meets the 1990s backyard and pool area that must be visited and worshiped. A few doors down at the 50s throwback Raleigh Hotel, you'll spend a fortune on a cocktail and physically drool over its iconic, 70-year-old baroque pool where Esther Williams once did laps.
But back to trashy. Grab a foolishly strong, freezing Call a Cab from Wet Willie's while wearing only your bikini or Speedo, because SoBe has probably the best swimming beach in the country, and everything feels better drunk. The water is never not warm, and there are relatively not repulsive bathrooms where you can change your clothes and mind-set from day to night drinking.
As of last year, the Wynwood Arts District has become a place where dads from Brazil in sneakers that cost more than you have in your savings account take iPhone photos of their tanned teens modeling in front of a Shepard Fairey mural. That would be at the Wynwood Walls, a public space that celebrates street art with murals by artists like Ron English and Kenny Scharf. What was once an area that had a spattering of quality local galleries is now an all-out graffitied tourist trap.
You'll probably have to wait in line for 30 minutes for a worthy cold brew at Panther Coffee. There will be a faster line and a (this isn't overstating) perfect lunch at Zak the Baker down the street. In an effort to fit in with the rest of the bearded nation, new breweries are popping up like weeds in this old warehouse district (more on that in the Where to Drink section).
Downtown/ Midtown/ Overtown
Walking distance from Wynwood in two different directions are Midtown and Overtown. Now, Midtown is bougie. But if you're hungry for something authentic, hit up Salumeria 104, where the cured meats are treated better than a show cat. Overtown, on the other hand, is a bit sketch. But 14th Street has long been a place where dance clubs and bars come and go. If it's heroin you're looking for, head just west on that block. If it's musical theater you're addicted to, walk east to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. But if it's delicious Persian food and a cocktail bar that stays open till the sun rises, head south toward Fooq's.
Little Haiti/ Little River
All the galleries flocked like seagulls up to Little Haiti when Wynwood property became more valuable than healthy babies. This is a neighborhood where Caribbean families live and chickens roam the streets like feral cats. Soon, this genuine area will be the place you get "Caribbean" food and see "local" artists who actually live in LA. But it's not like the neighborhood couldn't do with a little face-lift. Make sure to wander into a botanica where Santeria and Vodou supplies are sold. You will likely leave wondering if you now have spirits tagging along for your vacay and if you got ripped off (you did).
Upper East Side
If you're not all architectured out on Art Deco, a trip to the Upper East Side to see all the weird old motels from the 50s is in order. Some are fully renovated, like the polished Vagabond Hotel with its posh poolside bar, while others remain sad sex worker spots. The classic Coppertone Girl sign—the one with the dog pulling down a little girl's bathing suit bottom—is hanging around Biscayne and 73 Street.
You're going to want to get Cuban coffee and a media noche sangwish (as they say locally) at the tacky tourist mecca in Little Havana, Versailles. Avocado or plantain ice cream sabores are for sale on Calle Ocho at Azucar, which is easy to find, because there is a seriously massive sculpture of a cone and scoops of the sweet stuff on its exterior. If you want to feel shame, go get whooped at dominoes by a Cuban abuelo at Domino Park. Also, there's a good chance that if you drive closer to the airport, you'll find Elian Gonzalez's house, which very well might be a museum now.
Coral Gables is simply one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the US. The streets are like a maze with names of Spanish cities located curbside on white hunks of cement. If you live there and want to paint your house, you have to get the color approved first. But so fucking what? It's gorgeous with the long hanging roots of banyan trees and Florida oaks shading the quiet roads lined with Spanish-style and ranch houses. Get deep in there, and eat brunch at the ridiculously luxurious Biltmore Hotel. Built in the 1920s, it defines class and is likely haunted (it was a hospital during WWII, after all, and gangster Thomas "Fatty" Walsh was murdered there). Tastefully caged tropical birds flutter in the lobby and oversized iguanas lay around on the 18-hole golf course. This is living.
Coconut Grove is Coral Gables' stoned cousin. It has equally majestic residences, but the lawns grow more freely. Down Grand Avenue, though, are tiny houses and tenements where the first Caribbeans lived (still do, in fact) when they arrived in Miami. "Keep Coconut Grove Weird" is something the tight-knit natives actually say. And yeah, there are still elements of its hippy past, like the boat people and the Bookstore in the Grove. But its anchor is Cocowalk, which is kind of like an Orlando mall, but even there, you can get totally shitfaced in a giant, reclining chair in the intimate VIP movie theaters. Check out the massive Italian-villa Vizcaya, a mansion on Biscayne Bay with Renaissance gardens and plenty of things too valuable for you to touch.
Hialeah/ Miami Gardens/ Opa Locka City Hall
West of Dade County are the Everglades, but if you head out that way and stop just short of the alligators, you'll see a new arts scene budding in Hialeah. Formerly the least cool neighborhood, ridiculous rents in more central areas have pushed art makers and young scenesters into this Cubano enclave. While you're visiting the "Leah Arts District," head over to be confused by the Ali Baba–themed Opa Locka City Hall.
Homestead is far. Like really far from everywhere else in Miami. But the thing is, you drive through on your way to the Keys, so you might as well stop because it's really the only place to get good Mexican food in South Florida. And there's Robert Is Here, a tropical fruit stand with fenced in tortoises at its petting zoo and shakes people drive hours to simply suck down in seconds.
BASIC ETIQUETTE (HOW TO ACT)
You have officially left the cultural United States once you hit the Miami-Dade County line. Don't greet strangers at a safe, sterile distance or even shake their hands. You're in Latin America, so you now kiss everyone you meet on the cheek. Just lean in, and keep it dry. No one needs a sensual, sloppy cheek suck. That's embarrassing, and this is meant to be all very civilized.
When you dress for the tropics, there's no way to cover it all up, so don't bother trying. Miami loves exposed meat in all of its tight or voluptuous forms. Skin wins.
No matter what your gender, you will be heckled on the street by all levels of perverts. Most comments will be about your ass. But this, again, is not New York, so these lechers expect a response. Give them the finger. In Miami, take the catcalling as a compliment, your ass looks good!
Watch "Shit Miami Girls Say," because it is real. Speak up, because everyone around you will be—they're not yelling. This is really just how people in Miami talk. The volume is always at full blast, and every sentence is punctuated with a nuanced "bro." Also, bringing up Fidel Castro, ever, especially in the presence of a Cuban grandmother, shows poor form.
Embrace the weirdness, because with developers barreling in at full speed, this may be the final days of a real Miami, bro.
WHERE TO DRINK
Miami is a weird city for drinking. Because most bars here are incredibly expensive, shitty tourist traps, or trendy as hell, it can be hard to know where to go. A bar might be cool for a few years, then one day its crowd completely disappears—on to the hippest, latest spot like junkies frantically trying to stay one step in front of FOMO. That formerly cool spot shutters, and another (probably more expensive and equally doomed) spot opens in its place. And the cycle repeats itself. That makes it all the more miraculous when a place lasts long enough to become a cultural staple.
As such, the Miami bar scene was dealt a few devastatingly sad blows these past few years, with the closing of Tobacco Road and the lightning quick yuppification of Wynwood. But it's also had a sort of explosion of new bars as more of the city is getting filled out with new development. Some of the new places still need to prove themselves, and some already have. All in all, however, there are plenty of fun-ass places to drink.
It only took a few months for this pseudo-dive to quietly become the centerpiece of the Wynwood bar scene. While the cocktails are a little pricey, it sports some dope Miami cubic windows, styled from the 80s, and a few different rooms and areas to get wasted in. The place is sort of going for that Hotline Miami 80's coke-den vibe, and it succeeds. Good music and DJs, and sometimes, you might see a great live act here. Everyone who goes to Wynwood and gets exhausted by the other lame places ends up decompressing at Gramps. Also, bonus points for the poster of Miami Blues, which just so happens to be the finest film ever made about Miami. Appropriately, Gramps also periodically hosts film nights.
This wonderfully smelly shithole in the heart of Little Haiti has long been a formative bar for locals. If you ask anyone from here, he or she is more than likely to have many memories of getting way too fucked up at Churchill's, or of getting angrily moshed to the ground. Florida native Marilyn Manson played his first show here. Hell, someone shot a porno in the bathroom at Churchill's. The place hosts metal and punk shows frequently, as well as the venerable and lovingly named International Noise Conference. Be sure to check out the jazz/open mic night on Mondays to see some weird shit, and say to hello to Mr. C at the door.
It might seem a little pinky-raising bougie to go to a place where you pick a wine (or beer) and cheese pairing for your table and watch jazz. But it's chill. The wines can be pretty cheap and generally are delicious. The place somehow manages to still feel pretty casual, and people generally talk to each other and are very friendly, which is abnormal for Miami bars. The outdoor lounge looks like a little makeshift party is going on in your parent's backyard. There's live music every night, but word to the wise: On Wednesday jazz nights, it gets so crowded that it's hard to walk inside.
Seven Seas Karaoke
You know you've made it to Seven Seas once you see the old school baby blue car and the gaggle of motorcycles out front. This legendary Cuban karaoke place sports walls filled with Florida Keys boating ephemera, a pool table, and songbooks longer than the Torah. It's a great mix of clientele, and you're just as likely to see a trio of 80-year-old Cuban men belting out some old Cuban jazz tune as you are to see a fuccboi from the nearby university crying while crooning out some Pearl Jam song. Only go on Karaoke nights: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
Blackbird began as a chill place to hang out and grab a cocktail, perhaps even play a board game in one of the quiet booths. It's turned into the monstrous bar of choice for Downtown yuppies and Brickell-ite's who are all trying to have sex with each other. The drinks are still good, but we would suggest going there mostly to see Miami bros and bro-ettes mating in their natural habitat, or at off-peak hours if you don't have the stomach for that kind of thing.
The most unreal sunset view in Miami and the cheapest drinks are all in one place. This might be a little bit of an intimidating visit for non-locals, as the bar is housed at the marine science campus at the University of Miami, and it is frequented by students and professors of the school. Also, you have to wander through the bowels of the school, passing by parked boats and baskets of buoys to find it. But it's fucking awesome, and totally worth it. All the beers are craft, and generally run from $3.50–$5, and it's not uncommon to spot stingrays and dolphins in the bay. Take the stairs down to the beach and drunkenly make sand-angels. The downside is it's only open Wednesday through Friday while school's in session. Also, it closes before midnight, typically, so it's a great pre-game option.
Mac's Club Deuce
This 1926-built bar is a piece of goddamned history. It is the oldest bar on the beach, and one of the only places close to sand where you can get cheap drink without hassle. Its owner, Mac Klein, is a tough 101-year-old Jewish veteran of World War II. He is a local legend, a centenarian hustler, the man who makes the rules. In his bar, walls are black, and they have survived some shit: Miami Vice cast parties, being named one of "America's Greatest Bars" by Playboy, and multiple annoying Anthony Bourdain visits, who has rightfully called the place "a delightfully festive establishment and antidote to South Beach." The only source of light on many nights is the hot-pink glow of the naked neon ladies who decorate the place. When you walk in here, you cease to be the person you were. Here, you're just someone who's drinking a cheap beer. And you're going to clink that beer next to someone who will likely wind up a temporary best friend. Cash only.
The beach's other major dive bar smells exactly like Churchill's. Always full of people looking for a cheap drink and a nice game of pool, this boozy hole sits right across from a few major nightclubs and hotels, who no doubt wish Free Spirits would go away. It's very satisfying to sit here and watch people line up at other clubs in their dresses and suits, have a laugh, and realize how hollow your life is.
The Broken Shaker
The Broken Shaker isn't exactly a Miami secret. It's fun as hell, and the drinks are great. As a result, it's quite hoppin' most nights. This hyper-trendy hostel bar has made a name for itself with its fresh cocktails and tiki hut-inspired vibe. People come from all over to check out the vibes. There used to be ping pong tables and cornhole, but they've been replaced by a garden for the bar's freshly-grown ingredients. The cocktails are expensive and take time, but you can generally get a High Life much quicker if you're don't give a shit about mixology (you shouldn't). Pro-tip: The neighboring restaurant, 27, is owned by the same people and has an upstairs lounge that serves the same quality drinks with less of a crowd.
Lou's Beer Garden
Much like how North Miami Beach is the chiller, cheaper, less crowded version of South Beach, this bar is the much quieter pool lounge version of the Broken Shaker. It's somewhat hidden and cool as fuck if you just want to get a drink and a nice bite. The drinks are great, and you don't have to wait for them. And bonus: You get to sit around a sparkly blue pool.
This is Miami's ultimate post-game location. No matter where anyone goes throughout the night, he or she ends up at this old-timey dive. It gets more crowded as the night goes on, with people staying until the 5 AM closing time. Frankly, the drinks aren't that great, but they always pack a punch, and that's what you're here for. It's the kind of place where the bartenders dress like they've just survived the Great Depression—all suspenders and waxed mustaches—but it's surprisingly tolerable. We spotted Paul Giamatti here one time, right before one hobo threw a glass bottle at one of the dealer's across the street. Paul kept drinking, as though nothing happened. Tuesday's jazz night is killer.
This dusty hole-in-the-wall sits under a billboard on US 1. That's not an exaggeration. You have to walk around the base of a billboard to enter this bar. But it's got everything you'd want from a true dive: cheap pitchers, burgers that taste like they came off your dad's 4th of July grill, and fantastic smokey wings. This place has a little bit of a Southern cracker vibe, but that doesn't ruin its charm. It's been open for more than 50 years, and there's a reason for that.
Ball and Chain
This Calle Ocho jazz bar was built in Little Havana in the 30s, and it is another historic Miami spot that still manages to be fun. It hit hard times a few years back, and it reopened in 2014 with a quirky-ass drink menu. You'll find drinks mixed with tobacco (not as bad as it sounds), Cuban fruits (as good as it sounds), and pastelitos (probably the most Miami you can do). There is an outdoor bandshell shaped like a pineapple made for live music and blowing minds. And there's a gigantic mural of Celia Cruz. It gets a little intensely clubby at night on the weekends, and some might say it's played out and touristy, but you should definitely make the visit. It has a paella party on Sundays, where you listen to music and eat paella. Live jazz most nights. Probably hosts the best neon sign in Miami.
King of Diamonds
If you're a hip-hop fan, you've probably heard of this purple stripper emporium. But if you want to feel like you're in a Miami rap video, you're going to have to drop some serious dime. Strippers come in all shapes and sizes here, but they all have one thing in common: They're incredibly aggressive and very, very expensive. So we would recommend going in, getting a drink and hiding out a bit like a coward whose greatest fear is naked women. The music alone will make it worth it. When two strippers sit on your lap, remember to just say no. Unless, of course, you can afford it. Also, turn in your guns at the door.
Now this is a strip club that really takes care of you. It's so accessible and relaxed it feels more like you're at a sports bar than at a place of debauchery that lets you gawk at women as much as you want (provided you have the singles). Also, check out the adorable windmill! Some builder really put a lot of effort into that! Tootsie's also low-key has the best wings in Miami. Try the lemon-pepper. They're the best.
This $40 million, three-story house of "burlesque" was built as someone's dream of bringing Vegas trash to Miami. It's an absurd place, with a rooftop bar that houses live music and a fancy Italian restaurant. While inside the strip club—er "burlesque area"—you can expect to see women performing gymnastic feats and doing silly dances. It's worth visiting if only for the weirdness of it all. If you go with a group, it can be really fun. On special occasions, the place will have a crazy famous host, like Diplo or Drake or Usher. If you're into that.
Wynwood Brewery Scene
One alternative to the trendier bars of Wynwood would be to try the various breweries in the area. They're all within walking distance of one another and each has at least one or two great homemade beers you can try in the lounge areas. Try the Wynwood Brewery if you want to sit down and play some board games with a pretty friendly crowd. J. Wakefield Brewery has an entire wall of Star Wars murals and the best tasting beers of the bunch. Concrete Beach Brewery has some nice architecture and some nice beers, but after three beer breweries, you should probably be done drinking beer at that point.
Purdy was a Miami Beach standard before the Miami bar scene really exploded. It's dusky and sexy, yet really small and intimate. It has a reliably great reggae night on Mondays for those that really want to groove, and Chocolate Sundays is one of the most fun hip-hop nights in Miami. Great place to go if you sort of want to dance but don't want the pressure of a club. May have lost some of its crowd to some of the newer places.
Bodega Taqueria and Tequila
Hey! A backroom that's behind a quaint taco shack that happens to be a gigantic club bigger than the shack. How kitschy. How Eyes Wide Shut. While the facade and giant artificial club line are annoying, this place is a party. And the tequila drinks are fucking tasty. There is an 'Oh-my-god how cool are we for knowing about this place?!' vibe to the people here that can be a touch annoying, but just accept it, and drink your drink.
Flannigan's is a South Florida cracker seafood chain that just happens to be a great place to drink once you've given up on the night, and perhaps on life. You get a separate menu that consists solely of deals, and if you walk out of Flannies without getting a bunch of free shit along the way, you're doing it wrong. Cheap pitchers often come with free apps. There's a Flannigan's in every major area of Miami, so you should run into one soon enough. Once there, you'll notice it has that Florida Keys seafood tavern interior that feels quite charming while inebriated.
WHERE TO EAT
Miami's dining scene is a constantly evolving mishmash of cultures, with an unsurprisingly heavy dose of Caribbean and Latin American influence. That means great little mom and pop restaurants on almost every block serving thick, strong cafecitos and pressed Cuban "sangwiches." But our little city has also been invaded by celebrity chefs upping our culinary cred—after all, who wouldn't want to take a few business trips to South Beach in the middle of an extremely brutal New York winter. Chefs here rely heavily on local fruits and seafood, and some of the most interesting eateries require a bit of a trek from the neon glitz of Miami Beach, whether it be in search of burgers and craft beer in yuppified Wynwood or fried chicken in Little Haiti.
Burgers and Fritas
You might not instantly think "burgers" when you think of Miami—but we've got our fair share of great ones. (Don't hold the fact that Burger King's headquarters are located here against us). If you won't settle for anything less than a quality burger and a craft beer, the two best options are owned by the same person. Matt Kuscher's Coconut Grove's Lokal (in Coconut Grove) and Kush (in Wynwood) both serve the kinds of burgers that would make you consider being the type of douche who uses the word "artisanal" seriously—they're made with free-range, antiobiotic-free, Florida grass-fed beef. That's as expensive as it sounds but makes for one damn fine burger. Both places have great beer selections, with an emphasis on local made-in-Miami brews, which are totes becoming a thing of late.
Of course, Miami has its own version of the burger—the frita. This Cuban take on the American standard starts with a beef patty seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices that include cumin and paprika. The patty is then topped with tangy ketchup, diced onions, and then smothered in crunchy shoestring potatoes. You can also top it with a fried egg and cheese. (LOL @ the American burger, come to think of it.) Though many restaurants offer the frita, El Rey de las Fritas, Morro Castle, and El Mago de las Fritas have been vying for the frita title for years. We highly recommend buying a big bottle of Pepto, apologizing to your stomach, and going on a frita journey to compare and contrast all three.
A Trip to Havana
If you haven't been to Cuba, you can still eat your way around the island in Miami. Sidle up to any ventanitia, a restaurant with a walk-up window that you can find on nearly any block in Miami Beach and Downtown Miami, for a shot of sugar-laced Cuban coffee. Versailles in Little Havana is the most famous Cuban restaurant in Miami. It's the place where old Cubans go to discuss Castro's numerous death rumors. While you're on Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), stop in Azucar for handmade ice cream in flavors like sweet plantain, caramel flan, and cafe con leche. If you're looking for the best Cuban sandwich in Miami, Enriqueta's adds a secret weapon to its Cubano—croquetas. The crunchy snack gives the classic sandwich of sweet ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard added dimension and richness.
There's no doubt that Miami is a playground of the rich and beautiful. Jay-Z and Beyonce hang in our juice bars, and Kim and Kanye have date nights here. You can def eat on the cheap here, but if you're doing Miami right, you've got to ball out for at least one night. On any given evening, expect to run into a Miami Heat player or a Kardashian at Prime 112, who go wild for the USDA Prime beef that's dry aged for 21–28 days. Joe's Stone Crab is arguably the most famous restaurant on Miami Beach. The restaurant opened in 1913 and is still family-run. The dining room doesn't accept reservations, but the hour-long (on average) wait is worth it when you crack open your first claw and dig out that sweet meat.
The Vagabond Restaurant in Miami's MiMo District is also pretty great for removing you from your money. The restaurant, which doubles as an art gallery, was recently restored to its original Mad Men era glory, and it is helmed by chef Alex Chang. He's a wunderkind who first received recognition as the subject of the documentary Paladar, the story of the illegal restaurant he and his roommates ran from their apartment while students at the University of Southern California. Try the peanuts and chapulines, a spicy, earthy snack made with grasshoppers imported from Mexico. Because there's no more opulent way to spend your coin than eating bugs.
On the Farm
Just a half hour drive from the towering high rises of Miami lies Homestead (See: Neighborhoods We Love), Miami's own farming community. It's also home to Schnebly Redland's Winery, where tropical fruits like guava and mango are turned into wine. The winery is also home to Miami Brewing Company and the Redlander restaurant. This gorgeous, yet casual restaurant features hyper local grub like tabbouleh made with spent grains from the beer making process and fish just caught that morning from the Florida Keys.
Homestead is also home Knaus Berry Farm and what could be the world's best cinnamon rolls. People drive for hours for a dozen. Pair it with a milkshake made with strawberries grown on premises and then cry silently to yourself. Just be forewarned -- the family who owns the farm still does things the same way it did when the restaurant opened in 1965. Homestead takes cash only and is closed on Sundays and during the summer months. If you do find yourself in the area in the summer, head over to Robert is Here. This farm stand/fruit market/petting zoo sells milkshakes made with tropical fruit like mango, mamey, papaya, and key lime, and it offers both local and rare fruits from around the world. Robert will even cut up your mango for you. It even has a tortoise petting zoo for the young-ins.
Only in Miami
Other can't miss places include Wynwood's Salty Donut pop-up, where Miamians line up for an hour or more for the shop's boozy donut creations. There's also Myumi, which offers Japanese omakase dinners from a food truck that are pretty untouchable. And Garcia's, a combination fish market and seafood restaurant on the Miami River, which is as boss as Rick Ross.
Couple more shout outs before we move on...
Wedged between a car wash and an auto parts shop, this iconic SW First Street restaurant is what Miami locals and their abuelitas call una fritanga. (Basically, a working-class eating spot that serves traditional down-home Nicaraguan grub.) But unlike the Magic City's many other perfectly serviceable fritangas, the ambiance at Yambo goes way beyond "Central American hospital cafeteria." This place is a quaintly kaleidoscopic eye-fuck of Nica knickknacks, patriotic statuary, and trippy folk art, from mischievous donkey masks to sundrenched, slightly erotic portraits of chaste pre-Colombian native babes. Oh, and the food is fucking delicious too. Just memorize the following phrase: "Carne asada con gallo pinto, maduros, y queso, por favor." (Translation: Gimme two chunks of tasty-ass grilled beef, please, with rice & beans, sweet plantain, and fried cheese.) That's the absolutely classic menu choice at any fritanga. However, for those diners with an adventuresome palate and literal intestinal fortitude, we also recommend la lengua entomata, a stewed beef tongue dish, and the pigblood sausage, otherwise known by the forbidding name moronga. As for drinks, keep it simple and slurp down either a huge styrofoam cup of cacao, a chocolate milk made from freshly roasted and ground cocoa beans, or a cold Toña, the cerveza of choice among Nicaraguans since 1977.
Pinolandia is one of the best Nicaraguan fritangas in Miami. Located in Little Havana, this low-key spot offers classic Nica dishes: carne asada, gallo pinto, queso frito—all satisfyingly served, as it should be, on styrofoam plates. Be sure to get extra helpings of the ensalada de repollo if you're into really good coleslaw. (Life tip: You should be into really good coleslaw.)
In Haiti, a tap tap is a pimped-out jitney with a psychedelic paint job that serves as a form of public transportation. In Miami, though, Tap Tap is a restaurant that keeps a pimped-out jitney with a psychedelic paint job parked at the curb as a signal to Haitian food lovers, saying, "This place has a kabrit nan sos that will make you bleat and scream like a cannibal goat at feeding time." (FYI, the kabrit nan sos is stewed goat in spicy scotch bonnet pepper and tomato sauce.) Other prime gwoplats (that's the creole word for big plate) include the pwoson gwosel, a whole fried or seared snapper drowned in hot lime sauce, and the griyo, a platter of crispy pork chunks. But you aren't doing it like a true Ayitian unless you order dessert: Blanc Manger coconut pudding and three shots of Barbancourt rhum.
Palacio de los Jugos
The Palacio de los Jugos is best described as a Cuban open-air market and restaurant. The classic yellow and red awnings contain various vendors providing everything from just-picked coconuts, fresh tropical juices (we're talking everything: watermelon, mango, mamey, etc.), and many other foods and desserts that'll leave you saying "que rico."
La Palapa Hondurena
This hole-in-the-wall Honduran restaurant off Biscayne Boulevard has amazing food that you'll sound cool as hell ordering like baleada con carne y papusa de chicharrone y queso. (Say it 10 times, fast!) It also gets lit on the weekends with DJs and live music, and it usually has soccer playing on the TVs.
Miami sports are relatively young in comparison with other large television markets and other grand cities of America. With the exception of the Miami Dolphins, the other three major franchises—Panthers (really, they exist), Marlins, Heat— are less than 30 years old, with the first two born in 1993. Despite that, there are plenty of die hard fans here, enough to balance out the kind of bandwagon Miami idiots who have never seen snow but will claim they're huge hockey bros if the Panthers make a run.
Eventually David Beckham will hammer down the people of Miami with his chiseled colonial jaw to make Major League Soccer here a reality. Until then, the North American Soccer League starts in April, and we have a team! Miami FC kicks off its first season at FIU Stadium, and the team is owned by Paolo Maldini and coached by Sandro Nesta. Both were very famous footballers in their own right back in the day. It will be interesting to see if anyone cares about NASL or professional soccer here in general, but watch out for Beckham to be gifted millions in either property or tax incentives for his group's privately funded stadium because Miami just can't resist a classically good looking businessman.
Until then, the big place to play rec soccer is Kendall Soccer Park, Tropical Park. Also, Amelia Earhart in Hialeah just opened up brand new soccer pitches. But the real story is that basically every public park in Miami that can handle it hosts pick-up soccer. People play footie all over and often. You just need four cones, a ball, and a handful of not Anglo-Americans.
Fado and Churchill's air pretty much every Premier League game regardless of how early they are. For specific vibes, Batch Gastropub hosts Miami's Manchester United fans, and Fox and Hound in Fort Lauderdale hosts Tottenham Spurs fans. Whenever there is a big Champions League match happening, Fado and Fritz & Franz are the places to be. For big events like the World Cup, cruise Lincoln Road and find a seat and make some new Euro friends.
You have to go where the Heat play, because American Airlines Arena is full of people dressed like they're going to the club. (To. The. Nines.) Alternatively, the University of Miami BankUnited Center can get very very loud, and you can get seats for cheap.
Margaret Pace Park is by far the best green space the city of Miami has cobbled together recently. It's amazing how active and alive it is. There's always a game going and usually a million other things like yoga, soccer, food trucks, and ample places for people's high-rise raised dog to shit.
During the Lebron-era playoff run, the best place to watch the game by a million miles was Mike's at Venetia Restaurant and Irish Pub. There was always a decent crowd, and you were close enough to bang some pots and pans and maybe get caught in a Junkanoo. Nowadays, we have to settle for mildly competitive play and the ever looming promise of Pat Riley's genius. Stick with Mike's. It took us there and back again.
Even though they have, without question, the best unofficial theme song in the entire MLB courtesy of sad Creed frontman Scott Stapp, the Marlins are absolute garbage, and to root for them almost means you hate the city. Due to much publicized fuckery on behalf of the team's shit bag, art-dealing owner, our great great great grandchildren will still be paying for Marlins Park when aliens land and harvest the internal organs of every designated hitter in the American League, and finally ruin baseball for good. If you've got a few hours to kill and a good opposing team is in town, it's might be worth heading to the park. Otherwise, maybe best to watch the University of Miami's baseball team, which is a perennial contender. The team plays at the comically named Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in Coral Gables.
There aren't really any Marlins' bars, per se. Almost 100 percent of the time, if you ask people to put a Marlins' game on at a bar, they think you're kidding. There's Bowl Bar, which is next to the ballpark, but that place has more hookers than lights, and the only TV is a karaoke machine. If you're looking for a place to watch a Marlins game in public, you probably have a meth problem.
Instead, join one of the rec softball leagues at Peacock Park in the Grove. The field isn't the best one available, but being within walking distance of the fish tacos at Sandbar Sports Grill helps build camaraderie like the pros. Also, Sandbar is a solid University of Miami hangout and a good place to catch any kind of sporting event amongst a youthful crowd.
Joe Robbie Stadium, now Sun Life Stadium, still has our hearts—even if the Dolphins are being run by a piece of lint Stephen Ross made friends with in the 1990s. The best place to watch the Dolphins would be the early 1970s. Second best place would be Shuckers. Third best place would be on a yacht with DJ Khaled. Don't watch the Dolphins unless you're getting beered up at Shuckers. They will only leave you cold, alone, and 6–10.
ART, CULTURE, AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Putting your vapid Miami Vice fantasies of the Magic City to rest has been the mission of a generation of millennials and settled-down Gen-Xers who chose to stay in this sunny town instead of fleeing to New York or Los Angeles. They met their goal of creating strong, supportive art, music, fashion, and foodie scenes in a town mostly known for the quality of its cocaine.
And since Art Basel sat its fat art ass on Miami Beach over a decade back, culturally, the city has blossomed from a backyard garden to an all-out jungle. There's always been something completely other to do in Miami, and those weird-o roadside attractions withstood the test of time, but nowadays, the city has plenty of legit cool galleries, contemporary art collections, world-class museums, and cultural affairs that mentally and visually transport you to tropical Caribbean islands.
Yes, go to Miami Beach; that shit is amazing. The water is piss warm in November. It's heavenly. But don't miss all of the other feats of cultural genius that have sprouted from the minds and hands of Miami's weirdest and most ambitious creators.
South Florida has one of the most unique water systems on the planet, the Everglades. Now, you can take your chances with the sawgrass, mosquitoes, and gators by canoeing there, or you can just hit up the Miccosukee Indian Village for a very loud but intimate airboat ride. The boats are driven by redneck Seminoles who are so familiar with the landscape that they see an overlay of a roadmap on what looks like an endless river of grass. The Village also has a bit of alligator wrestling for the kiddies. You usually get to pet a baby gator yourself, so it's worth a trip.
The HM69 Nike Missile Base
Built in Everglades National Park right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, this decommissioned missile base once had nukes aimed at Havana. It's one of the few places where you can enjoy one of the most unique ecosystems in the world while also contemplating the prospect of total annihilation. Guided tours of this creepy Cold War relic are given from December—April.
The Everglades are being overrun by pythons because a bunch of former owners realized that having a giant snake is a stupid idea. These snakes are destroying the Everglades ecosystem, and driving down gator and bird populations—which is why there's a contest to destroy them. Though you need a permit to hunt these exotic serpents, feel free to still take a snap of 'em. Be sure to then report these fuckers to the National Park Service.
You would be a fool not to take in all the ridiculousness of the beachside strip of Ocean Drive. South Beach may be like that tacky old stereotypical aunt you're not sure your friends will like, but her tasteless jokes and faux pas are what make her so special. There's an actual gay beach at 12th Street. And you can enjoy a drag brunch with insane acrobatics by experienced drag queens and unlimited mimosas at Palace Bar across the street. And, because fuck it, go to Mango's Tropical Café for a drink but not food. This will be where you realize you're no better than anyone else in the world, and that salsa dancing kind of makes you horny.
Charles Deering Estate
Vizcaya may be the fanciest castle-like villa in town—it took James Deering nine years to build—but his less pretentious brother Charles made a more humble but equally charming real estate investment. Down Old Cutler Road, you'll find the succulent Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, the former Parrot Jungle grounds where some Macaws remain, and even a mangrove you can bike through to a man-made beach at Matheson Hammock Park. But driving farther leads you to the Charles Deering Estate. The three-story wooden house built in 1900 overlooks a tropical hammock, untouched by man. Fairchild may be more lush, but this place will blast your ass back to living in Florida in the 20s—and it feels the good kind of spooky. It's simple, it has breathtaking sunsets, and if you're rich and patient, you can get married there.
Russian and Turkish Baths
People usually get to Miami and decide they "need to relax" after drinking for three days straight. They think it'll cure their alcohol-induced acne and lurching stomach. These people usually hit the spa at the Standard or the Delano, which are, granted, very nice. But if you want a side of borscht with your back rub, head a little further north up Collins Avenue to the Russian and Turkish Baths in the basement of the Castle Beach Club hotel. Not only does it have the regular spa stuff, but it also has an infrared sauna and a very odd co-ed hammam with a heavy duty salt waterfall. There's a full kitchen serving up Russian cuisine right next to the gym down there too. This is the strangest spa you may ever enjoy.
The Venetian Pool is situated in the heart of Coral Gables (See: Neighborhoods We Love) and is made entirely out of coral. Years ago, it would empty out the massive pool daily because it only used freezing cold, fresh water. Someone must have informed the place that it was sucking the Everglades dry or something because it uses normal pool water now. There's a dark grotto for fucking (j/k) or smooching and a waterfall that you're really not supposed to jump off.
It's hot in Miami, so your wang and other unmentionables will want some air. Don't bring them out in public unless you're on Haulover Beach. This naturist enclave is at the northernmost tip of the county with a gay and straight side, so sun accordingly.
Miami has museums. You may not know that, but it does. The largest is the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), which is an eco-friendly Herzog de Meuron structure with huge hanging gardens, situated on Biscayne Bay where dolphins leap. You can sit on the grand, but austere outdoor staircase to watch cruise ships float by or head inside for exhibitions featuring some of the bigger names in contemporary art like Doris Salcedo. The much newer Institute for Contemporary Art Miami is currently occupying the beautiful Moore space in the Design District while its new structure is being built. Kim Gordon played at its first ever gala, and ICA's star curator Alex Gartenfeld is pulling in legit shows that have all eyes on Miami.
Art Galleries and Collections
Ever since Art Basel Miami Beach crashed down on South Florida, the local art scene has become overwhelming. Locust Projects has been showcasing the area's best artists since 1998. The Little Haiti area is booming with worthwhile galleries like Spinello Projects, Dorsch Gallery, and Diet Gallery. But little do many know, Miami has three of the largest private, contemporary art collections in the US on display. They are all within a mile of one another and function almost like museums. The De la Cruz Collection built out a huge structure in what has become the very high-end, posh shopping hood, the Design District. Two Wynwood originals and strongholds are the Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection—all which demonstrate why it'd be cool to make a ton of money and buy all of your favorite art.
Formerly Guccivuitton, VersaceVersaceVersace is unquestionably the hottest artist-led gallery in Miami right now. A space that focuses on future-bent contemporary art and regional folk vernacular, the gallery is the perfect blend of smart, cheekily self-aware, and is local af. Run by Loriel Beltran, Aramis Gutierrez, and Domingo Castillo, you can expect high concepts and deep meditations on the role of luxury in Miami.
Coral Castle/ Monkey Jungle/ Stiltsville National Park
The only really good reason to travel by car in the US are the roadside attractions. Miami has its share, but the most spectacular oddities have to be Monkey Jungle, where you're the one caged and the monkeys run free. There's Coral Castle, an outdoor structure with a throne, half moons, and a Saturn made of coral rock by a tiny Latvian man in the 20s. It has one of the most bizarre, romantic, and possibly supernatural backstories of any attraction. There's also Stiltsville National Park, which you have to boat to and get a permit to visit. So, I've never been there, but chilling and staring at those houses out on stilts looks like a nice way to pass a Sunday.
The Skunk Ape Headquarters
The Skunk Ape is Florida's filthy version of Bigfoot. The Skunk Ape Headquarters is a kitschy "research" facility in Big Cypress National Preserve, dedicated to the hunt for the elusive hominid. Unlike its fresher, pinier-smelling Pacific cousin, the Skunk Ape reportedly smells like shit. Go to the headquarters for Skunk Ape swag and tours.
Miami Jai Alai
Besides the name of a local poetry magazine, Jai Alai is a sport originally from the Basque region. Dudes with xisteras (curved bat things) swing a ball at crazy speeds against a wall, (usually) barely avoiding injury. Though we're not exactly sure how teams win, it's great to watch and bet on, especially since when drinking cheap beer and yelling.
Formerly Hot Wheels, Super Wheels is a classic skating rink where many of us natives grew up booty dancing to Miami bass. Go if you're into cheesy neon, skating in a circle for hours, and Uncle Luke blasting at high volumes. Watch out for the 10-year-old pros whizzing past you while skating backwards and teaching you how to dougie.
MUSIC AND NIGHTLIFE
Much like the Colombian women flirting with the bouncer, Miami's nightlife scene gets frequent facelifts. It's not unusual for a club or venue to open, gain a strong following, and suddenly close a few years later. Some don't even make it past the 12 month mark, or even the six. Suffice to say, it's tough in these streets, and competition is stiff.
Despite the here-today, gone-tomorrow nature of most its institutions, Miami remains a world-renown nightlife destination. While the names and faces of clubs may change, the hunger of locals and tourists for after-hour diversions remains insatiable. Our clubs are open until 5 AM across the board, and some of them never close—ever. Head to these spots to get your dance on, or to see some live music. But please, do your coke in the bathroom, and unroll your dollars before tipping your bartender.
This is it, the Vice City capital that Will Smith sang about. This is where models and Madonna often flock, where mobsters ran mega clubs, and where most visitors spend most of their time. Truth be told, they're not in Miami. The City of Miami Beach is its own municipality, and it's actually an island unto itself, totally man-made 100 years ago. Naturally, it's here you'll find the most illustrious EDM party palaces. LIV is one of the world's most famous VIP-centric clubs, a haven for both big room house DJs and hip-hop superstars. It's where Calvin Harris kicked out that "dumb fucking bitch." Drake sings about it in "305 to My City." It's sister club Story is just as opulent but caters to a deeper taste in house. South Beach used to be the home of Mansion nightclub, where DJ Shadow was kicked off the decks for being "too future," but Mansion has since shut down and was reopened as Icon Nightclub, though it still caters to beefcakes in Cuban links and their bottle rats.
Those looking for a cheaper, dive-ier, music-first dance experience are better off heading to Trade, Treehouse, or Do Not Sit on the Furniture, which is lined with gold-painted cassette tapes and stuffed full of people dancing so hard they heed the warning. Downstairs from Trade, you'll find a bunch of hunky gay dudes dancing to Beyonce at Score. Another LGBT favorite is the multi-roomed Twist, which does have the dirtier (in a sexy way) reputation.
Many of the historic hotels on Washington and Collins have been renovated to include top-tier discotheque's. FDR at the Delano is famous for it's wild, celebrity-infested hip-hop Mondays. Across the street, the Gale Hotel's Rec Room fits a house party vibe between its vinyl-lined walls. Basement at the Edition has become a SoBe crown jewel thanks to its neon-lit bowling alley and ice skating rink. And each month, more parties find homes on the new dance floors at the Thompson and The 1 Hotel rooftop.
Elsewhere, there's Audiotheque, probably the only experimental music space of its kind. It's an intimate venue on South Beach that regularly brings in avant-garde musicians from around the world. The acoustics in the space are unbeatable, perfect for jamming out to sound art.
You could walk up and down SoBe's main drags and find a million places to blow your cash, but be prepared to spend silly amounts of money wherever you go. Parking alone can set you back $40, and a humble Heineken can run $16. Gratuity is often included on the beach, so make sure you're not too drunk to check before you sign. No one said Big Pimpin' was easy.
If you want to have a good time and money left over for snacks, you're better off across the bridge with the locals of Miami proper. One thing that SoBe and the mainland have in common is a strong preference for dance music, all styles and BPMs. If seven hours of drug-fueled oblivion is your prerogative, you're likely to end up Downtown or in the Wynwood arts district. Wynwood is Miami's hippest emerging hood, so expect all the trappings that it suggests. Top dogs in those streets are the The Electric Pickle Co. (locals just call it "The Pickle), where house and techno reign, or Bardot, home of cutting-edge indie, disco, and future beats. Coyo Taco is a new joint that serves Mexican finger food with a dope, 100-person "club" in the back. We suggest the fish tacos with a side of Murk Mondays, an always-packed party hosted by Oscar G and Lazaro Casanova that'll get your week off on the right foot.
A few blocks away in Downtown, most of the action circles the 24-hour district between Northeast First and North Miami Avenue on the Northeast 11th Street block. Club Space was the first to plant a flag, and with it's 24-hour liquor license, it made the all-day district possible. It only operates on Saturdays, but it's the only place to catch a marathon set from someone like Eric Prydz as the sun rises. Heart Nightclub is its sister spot, open for business on Fridays. Next door, The Hangar is gaining a reputation for great intimate shows from rappers and DJs alike, and nearby Libertine's hip lounge atmosphere keeps the party going Thursday through Sunday from 11 PM "till whenever." Across the street is E11even, the mega club-meets-strip club that never closes, no matter the hour, day, or weather conditions. It's pretty wild. You've got to see it to believe it. (Read more about it in our Where to Drink section)
In Miami, summer is a dead zone. It's too hot for anyone but locals to stand the pit stains, but as soon as October comes around, the snowbirds start landing, and things really come to life. Things kick off in early October with III Points Art, Music, and Technology festival. With three years behind it, it's young, but it's making waves, putting headliners from Jamie XX to Run the Jewels, AlunaGeorge, and Duke Dumont on top of a stacked local lineup designed to show off our homegrown talent. Early December is the time of Art Basel Miami Beach, an international art show that spawned 20-plus satellite fairs and more giant concerts and high-profile after-parties than anyone could have ever imagined.
Of course, the big daddy rager is in late March when Ultra Music Festival takes over the heart of the city. For three days, that behemoth grabs the city by the balls, totally overshadowing the Winter Music Conference that inspired it. UMF even branded its own week of celebrations, Miami Music Week, the new catch-all term for the nearly-endless array of satellite parties and label showcases popping off all over South Beach and Miami proper. The whole EDM industry comes to Miami that week. If you like partying at all, it's something to see.
Hang the DJ
Maybe you hate dance music. It's weird that you're in Miami but whatever. Our beautiful beaches don't discriminate. If you want to drink and listen to rock music, there are places you can find solace. Churchill's in Little Haiti, which we blurbed in the Where to Drink section, is a favorite of Iggy Pop and has offered mud-covered punk rockers a sub-tropic place to call home since 1979. Wood Tavern has a pretty diverse range of tunes—everything from New wave to 90s hip-hop—although it's been discovered by mainstream crowds, so prepare to wait in line.
If you want to feel the heat of Latin rhythms, head to Little Havana and check out the live musicians at Hoy Como Ayer, where salsa reigns supreme, or have a drink and a dance at cozy Ball and Chain. Less authentic but also very fun is the dinner show at El Tucan, where you can enjoy steak and burlesque at the same damn time. If you're not too white, get your bachata on at Club Tipico Dominicano in Allapattah. La Covacha is off the beaten path in the warehouse district of Doral, but it's one of the best places in town to dance with locals to salsa, merengue, and vallenato. If you're stuck on the beach and looking for something with an infectious beat, head to Mango'sTropical Café. It's a bit of a tourist trap, but the dinner show is fantastic, and honestly, every local has done it at least once.
If you're in town with your parents or just love big ticket pop shows, there are a few places you can head to satisfy all age groups. The American Airlines Arena is both where the Heat and superstars like Adelle play. The Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park is a great place to catch an open-air show, and the beautiful Adrienne Arsht Center frequently brings great musicals, bands, and jazz performers for a more highbrow audience.
Across the bay, on the beach, is the 2,000-capacity Fillmore at the historic Jackie Gleason Theater, complete with an intimate space in back for drag shows and other frivolities. Across the street is the New World Symphony, which often projects its classical concerts and other performances outside for free. A lot of free shows also go down at the North Beach Bandshell, which actually books a lot of fantastic local and nationally-touring acts, so check its site when you come to town.
WHERE TO SHOP
Miami is tacky and materialistic—that's not news to anyone who lives here or has visited the city. Or has any passing knowledge of it at all, really. Miami Vice certainly cemented the city's reputation for outlandish, if impractical, fashion. And the weather—which can only be described as being stuck in someone's swampy tender bits after an intense cardio workout—means things like layers and all-black ensembles are more torture than fashion statement.
But don't let Miami's thirst for designer labels fool you. Places like Bal Harbour Shops and the Design District are meant for the wives of Russian oligarchs and rich Latin Americans with questionable backgrounds. For everyone else, shopping around Miami is more about looking like you earn a drug lord-sized payout while shopping on a dime bag dealer budget. Places like Flamingo Shopping Plaza, a thrift shop mecca in the suburb of Hialeah anchored by a Red White & Blue and the Community Family Thrift Shop, have long been a locals-only secret. And it's not unheard to find high-end brands among the mountains of clothes there.
Over in the Miami neighborhood of Little Haiti, Little Haiti Thrift & Gift Store also offers someone else's discarded threads but without having to wade through the stretched out and discolored shit brands from your local mall. Instead, the shop keeps it simple and better organized in case you lack the willpower of trying not to elbow someone's abuela while thrifting.
Other not-shit places to help feed your inner shopaholic include...
Compared to most record stores, Sweat is miniscule. But the place makes good use of its tiny space, offering the latest vinyl you're looking for plus some harder-to-find and out-of-print selections in case you're the kind of asshole who likes bragging about how complete your record collect