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The Miami neighborhoods we love

From new and trendy to revamped and on the rise, these are the corners of the Magic City we're digging right now

Photograph: Patrick Michael Chin

When it comes to Miami, South Beach and Wynwood get the lion’s share of the world’s love and affection. And though both have rightly earned their time in the spotlight, a new class of neighborhood is stepping up to give them a run for their money. Case in point: These five on-the-verge areas are making waves with an influx of compelling art, creative wares, great restaurants and lip-smacking cocktails. Admittedly, Miami neighborhoods can be a bit tough to define, but make no mistake, these districts are distinctive, diverse and deserving of your attention.

Little Haiti

Little Haiti

Boundaries: Roughly from 54th to 79th St between NW Sixth and NE Second Aves

Named after the lemon groves that populated the area in the late 19th century, Lemon City and its ever-growing Haitian community are now referred to as Little Haiti. The neighborhood’s new official name has been a point of contention as of late. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, one thing is indisputable: Artists priced out of Wynwood are making their home here—and restaurateurs and developers are following suit. Nina Johnson (formerly Gallery Diet) and Spinello Projects are just a few galleries that have moved here, with developers such as Avra Jain (the Vagabond Hotel) and Peter Ehrlich (Scenic Miami-Dade County) mining the area’s possibilities. Call it Little Haiti or Lemon City, but it’s becoming one of the city’s hottest hubs.   

Eat

One of South Beach’s best burgers has crossed the causeway. Cheeseburger Baby (212 NE 79th St; 786-536-2933, cheeseburgerbaby.net) serves its famous half-pound burgers and bacon-chili-cheese fries from a black-and-white bunker painted by local artist Lebo. Elsewhere, Fiorito churns out Argentine fare amid a mishmash of car dealerships and mom-and-pop shops. The kitchen is the domain of Buenos Aires chef Cristian Alvarez, who keeps your choripán authentic.

Drink

The latest venture from Wynwood’s El Patio crew, Punch evokes 1940s Cuban boxing culture and throws a few mojitos into the mix. You’ll find punching bags and title belts on the walls, as well as big punch bowls of mojitos. The patio bar is outfitted with 5,000 domino pieces and bottle-lined scaffolding that towers over couples salsa dancing into the night.

Do

Last year, Wynwood’s Gallery Diet reopened as Nina Johnson in Little Haiti, showcasing contemporary exhibitions from artists all over the world. The space is made up of a former storefront turned church, a two-story residential house, a loft and a garden. Another art project, Yo Space, brings communalism to the local art world. With seven individual studios and a shared gallery, it allows artists to collaborate, interact with people and display their work.

Little River/Shorecrest

Little River/Shorecrest

Boundaries: Roughly from I-95 to NE 10th Ave between 54th and 87th Sts

Named for the waterway that runs along the neighborhood’s northern edge, Little River (and bordering neighborhood Shorecrest) is undergoing a transformation similar to that of its sister neighborhood to the south, Little Haiti. What started as a largely industrial area has evolved into a playground for artists and an incubator for local businesses. A sign of things to come: Panther Coffee is looking to move its headquarters and training facilities to the ’hood.    

Eat

Yep, one of Brooklyn’s finest pizza joints can officially call Miami home. Paulie Gee’s Neapolitan pies are made of double-zero flour and baked in an oven imported from Italy. Our pick? The Jewbano, with pork, Canadian bacon, mustard and pickles. The ’hood doesn’t just have pizza, though. Local pop-up turned neighborhood fixture Phuc Yea has the market cornered on Viet-Cajun (try the caramel pork riblets), while Pinch Kitchen has brunch covered with a roster of small plates. 

Drink

If anyone knows how to whip up a smashing cocktail in Miami, it’s the Bar Lab crew. With its latest venture, the Anderson, you get two bars for the price of one; a surf shack in the back has glowing lanterns and strong tiki-style drinks, while the inside is an ’80s throwback featuring cocktails with names like Stay Golden Pony Boy. 

Do

You’ll find drum circles and kombucha-making classes at the two-acre urban farm Earth-N-Us. If soaking in contemporary Chinese art is more up your alley, Art Lexïng in the Ironside Miami complex has an impressive collection of paintings, photography and sculptures. Speaking of Ironside Miami (7610 NE 4th Ct; 305-438-9002), the eco-friendly retail center is ready for you with Ironside Pizza, which is top-notch, plus a host of shops to peruse.

Miami River/Allapattah

Miami River/Allapattah

Boundaries: Roughly along the Miami River between NW 27th and Brickell Aves

Miami may be synonymous with sexy beaches, but there’s also a river that flows through the heart of the city. And the neighborhood bordering it, Allapattah, has a long history dating back to when it was settled in 1856. Allapattah has largely been known for its open-air food distribution centers, bodegas and garment manufacturing industry. But the land around the river has seen a recent spate of development, with upscale yacht clubs joining the fisheries and family-run spots that were already there. With an eye further west, Wynwood operators are hoping to revitalize the area thanks to affordable land, rents and relative proximity to Downtown.

Eat

With years of fine-dining experience under his belt, Klime Kovaceski decided to embrace his inner pizzaiolo and open local favorite Crust . Although you can’t go wrong with arugula-topped pie drizzled in white truffle oil, don’t miss his rendition of classic Italian dishes such as his chicken piccata. One to watch: Kiki on the River (50 NW North River Dr; facebook.com/kikiontheriver), a Mediterranean stunner from Roman Jones, managing partner of the Opium Group, and Steve Rhee, former chef at Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis. The swanky restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the river, a terrace and an aquatic-themed mural by local artist Juan Rosas, whose work has made a splash at the Wynwood Walls.

Drink

Have yacht, will party. That’s the idea behind the river’s polished resident, River Yacht Club. Order one of their magnums of rosé, settle into a plush couch, and watch the parade of megayachts. Looking for something else waterside? The sceney riverfront bar at Seaspice plays host to Miami’s glitterati with its stiff sangrias and a chic lounge. For low-key fun, head inland to revamped Taberna Las Rosas, an Allapattah dive bar with an extensive roster of tequilas.  

Do

Located in a former Victorian boarding house, Roam Miami is shaking up what it means to live in the Magic City. Members share a communal kitchen, a pool and working space while hanging their hats in a private suite. They’re also granted living privileges in sister properties in Madrid and Bali, Indonesia. Allapattah Market (729 NW 29th St; allapattahmarket.com), which the Wood Tavern Group opens this month, plans to bring together vendors and artisans in a 15,000-square-foot open-air space with a decidedly hippie vibe. 

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Hialeah

Hialeah

Boundaries: Roughly from N Okeechobee Rd to NW 37th Ave between I-75 and E Okeechobee Rd  

Not so much a neighborhood as a bustling municipality, Hialeah is the sixth-largest city in the state. La Ciudad de Progreso—an official city tagline that translates to “city of progress”—is home to one of the largest percentages of Cuban and Cuban-American residents of any city in the U.S. In the early 1900s, it was cast as a playground for the rich, with the Hialeah Park racetrack attracting the attention of names like J.P. Morgan. In later decades, the city became a hub for manufacturing and, in 2008, earned itself the dubious honor of being named by Forbes as one of the most boring cities in America. But Hialeah is turning that notion on its head with yet another reincarnation—one led by people who grew up here and are determined to help bring its groove back.

Eat

Cuban food reigns supreme in Hialeah, but La Fresa Francesa (59 W 3rd St; 786-717-6886) is injecting some French flair into the area. It’s a small operation (run by Sandy Sanchez and Benoit Rablat, who both honed their skills in L.A.’s Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza), but the flavors are huge. Classic croque-monsieurs mingle on the menu with dulce de leche crêpes, and the cozy atmosphere encourages guests to stay for just one more bottle of wine. But if it’s Cuban you’re craving, the head-spinningly massive milanesa steak topped with Swiss cheese and ham at Molina’s Ranch (4090 E Eighth Ave; 305-693-4440, molinasranchrestaurant.com) is a perfect prelude to a long siesta.

Drink

Bubble tea and smoothies in the land of cafecito? You bet. AraVita Smoothies, Coffees and Bubble Teas (18400 NW 75th Pl, unit 134; 305-364-5734, aravitacoffee.com) serves more than 45 flavors of boba tea and an addictive almond-and-date smoothie. Looking for something harder? Once a dive bar with a reputation for illegal dealings, the Bend (6844 NW 169th St; 786-542-1948, thebendmiami.com) has remade itself into a low-key drinking den. It’s a ’70s throwback, where rousing matches of Jenga and karaoke nights are the rule, not the exception.    

Do

Hialeah’s Garden of the Arts (1700-1798 W 76th St) is an open-air museum in the middle of the city, where sculptures punctuate an urban oasis that also offers walking trails. You can’t miss the Leah Arts District (1450 E 11th Ave; leahartsdistrict.org)—literally. Vibrant murals drape buildings on the 1500 block of East 10th Avenue, which are affordable spaces for artists to live and work in while promoting local art. Among the residents is Maryjane Claverol, a jewelry designer who makes wearable masterpieces out of taxidermied critters.

Bird Road Art District

Bird Road Art District

Boundaries: Roughly from Bird Rd to Miller Dr between 57th Ave and the Palmetto Expwy 

Go west. No, really: Hop in your car and set Waze for the area where the Palmetto Expressway runs into Bird Road. And there you’ll find it: Bird Road Art District (BRAD). Once an unremarkable row of warehouses, the area (officially designated an arts district in 2000) is now home to more than 30 artist studios and lofts and a growing number of indie fashion boutiques, antique shops and even a live theater group. Every third Saturday night of the month, the BRAD group organizes an art walk, during which galleries and shops open their doors for locals looking to sip wine and explore
the neighborhood.  

Eat

Kendall’s Tacos & Tattoos sends its food truck, Tako Krew (instagram.com/takokrew), to make the rounds at BRAD, typically doling out pork-stuffed shells and packed burritos near Lincoln’s Beard Brewing Co. La Madre Patria is alive and well at Delicias de España (7384 SW 40th St; 305-226-5529, deliciasdeespana.com), where the assortment of Spanish staples are just as good as what you’ll find in Madrid. Although it’s technically a few blocks outside of BRAD, you can count on Tropical Chinese for some of the best Chinese plates in the city. After 32 years in business, the infamous dim-sum cart service is still gloriously the same.

Drink

Gallery-hopping is a great way to work up a thirst. Enter: Lincoln’s Beard Brewing Co. The brewery and taproom opened earlier this year and has been plying ale aficionados with a solid roster of American IPAs and witbiers. But you can also find truffle cheddar popcorn and pickled veggies to snack on, along with a few rotating taps dedicated to other brewers around town.

Do

Want to get more hands-on with your beer? Urban Brewers (4600 SW 75th Ave; 866-414-BREW, urbanbrewers.com) stocks everything you need to start brewing at home. From fermenting equipment to classes on how to make beer, everything for your next brewing sojourn is covered. And though there are plenty of galleries and boutiques to pop into, like the Nickel Glass Studios (4416 SW 74th Ave) and Anhinga Clay Studios (4600 SW 75th Ave), don’t leave MANO Fine Art off your list. The Latin Expressionist work of self-taught Cuban artist MANO hangs in private galleries and collections around the world. Just call to make an appointment first.

What's good in (other) 'hoods?

Arts & Entertainment District
90 NE 17th St; aedistrict.com

This community is driving the rebirth of the former Omni district with free programming (think outdoor yoga) and new businesses like coffee brewer Vice City Bean (1657 N Miami Ave; 305-726-8031, vicecitybean.com).

Upper Buena Vista 
NE Second Ave between 50th St and 50th Terr

This tiny community between Little Haiti and the Design District will offer microboutiques, great eateries and all sorts of holistic programming. 

Surfside 
9301 Collins Ave; townofsurfsidefl.gov

With a large community complex and water park at its center, Surfside is perfect for kids and adults looking for a real beach-town vibe.

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South of Fifth 
Collins Ave between 1st and 5th Sts

Luxury high-rises give way to cool dive bars, nightlife stalwarts and a mix of upscale and down-home restaurants.

Park West 
From Biscayne Blvd to NW First Ave between NW 7th and I-395

Most of the action happens after dark—thanks to the 24-hour nightclub E11EVEN—but stick around once the sun rises for incredible food and drink options at places like the Persian-French restaurant Fooq’s (1035 N Miami Ave; 786-536-2749).

Downtown Dadeland 
7250 N Kendall Dr; downtowndadeland.com 

Who said suburbia is boring? Across the street from Dadeland Mall is a burgeoning community of condos, trendy restaurants and shopping. There’s even a farmers’ market!

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