Sampling Cuban food is easy and inexpensive at Versailles in nearby Coral Gables (3555 SW Eighth St.; 305-444-0240). Bill Clinton ate here, but more important, so does a regular Cuban crowd. Tourists, too. It’s fun and nothing fancy, but you’ll get authentic Cuban food at bargain prices.
Also in Coral Gables, you can lunch at the Biltmore Hotel’s Cascade Grill (1200 Anastasia Ave.; 305-445-1926; biltmorehotel.com) overlooking its pool. The menu offers contemporary French-Caribbean and spa cuisine. On a free Sunday-afternoon tour of the grounds (1:30, 2:30, or 3:30), learn about guests Ginger Rogers, the duke and duchess of Windsor, and Al Capone.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (130 NE 40th St.; 305-573-5550; michaelsgenuine.com) enchanted the hard-to-please former restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who gushed about it in the New York Times. The menu is “New American bistro” and emphasizes local sourcing. Much is made in-house, including potato chips and sodas. The highlight may be the pastry chef’s take on Pop-Tarts.
If you visit during stone-crab season, mid-October through mid-May, head to the mecca: Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach (11 Washington Ave.; 305-673-0365; joesstonecrab.com). Now in its 97th season, Joe’s claims to be where stone crabs were discovered to be edible. It doesn’t accept reservations unless your party is 20 or more, so expect to wait—two hours isn’t unusual. If you can’t wait, go next door to Joe’s Takeaway.
At the Dining Room at the Villa (1116 Ocean Dr.; 305-576-8003; casacasuarina.com), nibble and imbibe like Madonna, Elton John, or Princess Diana did when Gianni Versace hosted them at his opulent former home.
Good Excuses to Shop
The Sunday farmers market is an institution. Vendors set up year-round from 9 to 6:30 on Lincoln Road between Washington and Meridian avenues. The market features fruits and vegetables; bread, honey, and jams; and flowers.
Lincoln Road is a popular walking destination, with eight blocks of shopping, dining, and people-watching. As you stroll along this outdoor pedestrian mall, there will be street performers, bikers, and skaters around you. Worth visiting are the music listening bar at the clothing store Base; the Jonathan Adler home-design shop; the Cuban coffee counter at David’s Café; Books & Books, with international magazines and a cool cafe; and the interesting art galleries.
Eighteen blocks of furniture, home accessories, and art make up the Miami Design District (miamidesigndistrict.net). Although some blocks look sketchy at night, stores and galleries are busy by day. On the second Saturday of each month from 7 to 10 pm, galleries fill with music, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres for Art & Design Night. The city’s best shop may be Tomas Maier (170 NE 40th St.; 305-576-8383; tomasmaier.com), a boutique stocked with luxe home goods, art books, and clothing and swimwear from Italy and France.
According to Women’s Wear Daily, no other venue in the country does more business per square foot than Bal Harbour Shops (9700 Collins Ave.; 305-866-0311; balharbourshops.com). The outdoor mall, full of lush vegetation and fountains, is anchored by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. In between are Dior, Emilio Pucci, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, and Custo Barcelona. For shoe lovers, there’s Jimmy Choo, Addict, and Tod’s. Jewelers include Bulgari and Cartier.
Lively Night Spots
To hear Cuban music in authentic surroundings, head for Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana (2212 SW Eighth St.; 305-541-2631; hoycomoayer.us), a cozy wood-paneled space decorated with old Cuban ads and portraits of such entertainment icons as Celia Cruz and Benny Moré. On its small stage you might see a bolero performance or hear Latin fusion; occasionally a comedian is on the schedule. The busy bar serves Cuban tapas and cocktails.
A bit rough around the edges for some, Bardot (3456 N. Miami Ave.; 305-576-5570; bardotmiami.com) has an unmarked entrance below a red awning. Entertainment includes live music, performance art, and burlesque along with screenings of cultural events such as political debates. Settle into a vintage sofa, gather around the piano, dance, or play chess, backgammon, or pool. Anything goes.
A house band performs jazz-influenced Haitian folk on weekend nights at Tap Tap (819 Fifth St.; 305-672-2898; taptaprestaurant.com), a Haitian restaurant that serves good island fare including pumpkin soup and grilled goat. The name comes from the brightly painted jitneys common in Haiti; neon colors and beautiful murals give the place character.
CityStyle (miami.citystyle.com) is an e-mail newsletter featuring what’s new and hot in Miami fine dining, nightlife, and men’s style. You might find an announcement of a new bacon cookbook alongside cigar and cuff-link features.
Miami: See It Like a Native (miaminative.wordpress.com), a helpful blog from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, provides up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening. If there’s a movie screening, an opera with seats available, or a hotel special, it’ll be posted here.