Sure, Miami is filled with beaches, babes and frozen drinks galore, but it’s also one of the most culinary diverse cities in America. From Cuban food to the classic fare of the American South, this Florida city is as rich in ethnic and art culture as it is a destination for crystal blue waters and white sand beaches. We recently went down for a long weekend to explore the best places to eat, drink, stay and play in the tropical tip of the Sunshine State.
Attached to an inconspicuous motel in Miami’s historic Modern District, Blue Collar has been serving hearty market vegetables and delicious southern comfort food since it opened its doors in 2012. The space is sunny and lively with a friendly staff that will make you feel like part of the family. And the food is incredibly well done with something everyone will enjoy from a perfect Cobb salad to melt-in-your-mouth ribs.
Chef Richard Hale and his team at modern Chinese restaurant Blackbrick have a simple mission, and that’s to serve delicious, honest, affordable food in a fun and comfortable setting. This is the kind of place to take a group of friends so you can go in on some dim sum and try as many dishes as humanly possible. Some of our favorites? You can’t go wrong with the Xinjiang cumin lamb dumplings, crispy duck neck and grandma’s red cooked pork belly.
Dubbing itself “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant” is no mistake because whether you speak to a Miami native or someone who’s visited just once, they know Versailles. Serving Cuban food to locals and tourists alike since 1971, you have to try the famous Cuban sandwich, crispy and flavorful empanadas, roasted meat dishes and sweet plantains. And don’t you dare think about leaving without tasting the flan.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
There are all types of authentic cuisines to explore in Miami, and, of course, traditional southern food is one of them. No one does this better than Yardbird. The name says it all – they are famous for their deliciously crisp and juicy fried chicken, served with waffles, biscuits or solo with honey hot sauce. But you can’t go to Yardbird and just get the chicken because everything else on the menu is just as delicious. We’re especially partial to the fried green tomato BLT and iceberg wedge salad, two classic dishes made new with some unconventional ingredients to bring them next level. Yardbird is eternally busy, so make sure you snag a reservation.
Miami Beach, Wynwood, Brickell
Don’t let the silly name fool you – SuViche (yes, specializing in sushi and ceviche) serves some of the freshest, most delicious fish in Miami. Both the traditional and modern preparations are very well done, so go with friends and split a few rolls and some ceviches. Make sure to order a drink from the Pisco Bar if you’re in the mood for a cocktail (only available at some locations).
You definitely want to be drinking at Gramps. Not only do they have great cocktails, we recommend supplementing your libation of choice with a $16 bottle of champagne, which is actually not bad at all. Good beats are bumping whether you’re dancing in the sprawling backyard or tucked into a booth indoors. The vibe is lively, fun and unpretentious, the kind of laid-back spot we hope to find in every city.
The Broken Shaker
Nestled in the courtyard of the Freehand Hotel, this hip bar is like a mini oasis from some of the overdone nightlife of the neighborhood. The bartenders here know what they’re doing and have received accolades from James Beard and Tales of the Cocktail. Whether you grab one of their signature punches or a glass of your favorite wine, find a spot by the pool and take in the good vibes.
This open-air watering hole has a huge patio and DJs constantly on the decks, so you know it’s gonna be a party whether it’s a Friday night or Sunday afternoon. They have two bars and plenty of picnic tables if you need to rest your dancing legs for a minute. It gets boisterous, so don’t come here if you’re looking to have a quiet conversation.
Mac’s Club Deuce
Mac’s Club Deuce is a dive. A real dive. The kind of place where the same clientele have been hanging out for years, probably decades. You can smoke cigarettes in there, so expect to smell like them when you leave. But it’s all worth it for the cheap drinks, old-school neons and a true oasis from the fist bumping South Beach is so well known for.
Originally designed in the 1950s, Nautilus South Beach was restored and reopened in October 2015 as the newest SIXTY Hotel. Located smack dab in the middle of Miami’s Art Deco District, it’s central to everything and has a chiller atmosphere than many of the hotels in the area, a quality of which we couldn’t get enough. The lobby and bar situated there have a round design, bringing to mind the Nautilus shell itself when you settle in for a nightcap. The rooms have a clean design, washed in blues and whites, and the whole property is filled with artwork inspired by global beach culture. The saltwater pool, backyard and private beach access give you plenty of places to catch some rays. Helmed by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, the Driftwood Room restaurant marries her expertise in Southern French cuisine with Miami flare and local ingredients. We only ate breakfast there, but we can vouch for the avocado toast with poached egg and capers, a dish we’d been tiring of until we tasted her tangy, citrusy version. Although we had a couple hiccups with room service, we would recommend the Nautilus to anyone who wants a South Beach experience that’s lively and relaxing at the same time. They do it perfectly.
The late Tony Goldman saw potential in the windowless warehouses of Wynwood, and his vision has transformed the neighborhood into one of, if not the, best places to see street art in America. Artists have come from all over the world to contribute to the space and have covered 80,000 square feet of walls since its inception. It’s the kind of public forum you wish would show up in your neighborhood, giving locals and tourists alike a place to gather day or night, socialize and enjoy the creative energy of the best artists in the world. Come as you are and leave feeling inspired.
Whoever said swampland is an eyesore could have fooled us. We were pleasantly surprised as we climbed into our airboat for a sunset ride through the Everglades at how beautiful the protected tropical wetlands could be, especially in the golden hour of a perfect spring day in South Florida. Located about an hour west of Miami, there’s a good chance you’ll see some alligators, more than 350 species of birds, 27 different kinds of snakes and many mammals too, all living in this extraordinary protected environment. We suggest grabbing some beers and catching a late afternoon ride.
A huge thank you to Chevrolet for lending us this amazing 2016 Corvette Stingray Convertible for the trip. If you want to have way too much fun turning every head as you cruise the streets of Miami, you have to get in the driver’s seat of this gorgeous American-made sports car. The electronic drop-top lowers with the push of a button, Competition Sport seats make you feel like you’re in a pro cockpit and a unique flat bottom steering wheel enhances the driving experience. Take one for a spin the next time you’re in a place as sunny as Miami to make your time in the car one of the best parts of the trip.