By: Jennifer Conrad
Miami Beach has the glitz, and the sea, but across the bay in the city of Miami, talented young chefs, bartenders, bakers, and coffee roasters are planting their flags. Many spent time working at the big restaurants on the beach or returned to Miami after working in larger markets, finding a more affordable environment, with warm weather, a diverse population with ties to Latin America and the Caribbean, and access to produce from tropical fruit like star fruit and mangoes to greens from local Little River Cooperative—even bread from the oven of Zak the Baker, made by the bearded Zak Stern in Wynwood. “There’s a new sense of local pride in Miami,” says Jourdan Binder, one of the partners behind The Anderson in the Upper Eastside neighborhood. Uber to one of these three areas to see for yourself.
Denizens of New York City’s Williamsburg or L.A.’s Silver Lake will recognize a lot in Wynwood, the creative hub of the city, with its coworking spaces and small batch–roasted coffee (Panther) and craft IPA (Concrete Beach) spots among the mural-lined blocks. While the neighborhood is hardly a secret anymore, Wynwood and the neighboring Design District are still the best first stops to experience hipster Miami.
With an attention to aesthetics natural to the gallery-filled neighborhood, Alter offers prettily plated dishes with Floridian ingredients—think grouper cheeks with black rice, shoyu hollandaise, and sea lettuce. Like the location in Venice, California, Wynwood’s Plant Food + Wine features chef Matthew Kenney’s clean vegan-organic cuisine. Nearby KYU’s wood-fired grill marries the barbecue traditions of the Southern U.S. and Asia (beef tenderloin with soy-garlic butter and fire-roasted kimchi). And The Wynwood Yard offers a bit of everything: live music, yoga classes, food trucks, specialty cocktails, and a kitchen garden.
Little River/Upper Eastside
Not one but two culty Brooklyn pizza parlors have their sights on the up-and-coming northeastern part of Miami: Paulie Gee’s will begin wood-firing its famous pies like the Arugula Shmoogula (Italian tomatoes, baby arugula, olive oil, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano) very soon, while Roberta’s cofounder Eddie Diez is rumored to be opening a spot in the Little River neighborhood, an area with a growing bar and restaurant scene popular with creative types priced out of Wynwood.
Nearby, Upper Eastside’s Pinch Kitchen provides the area with boozy brunches, ceviche, and roast chicken with local veggies. Opened earlier this year, The Anderson, formerly a popular piano bar and location of Miami’s longest-running liquor license, has an ’80s vibe and tiki cocktails from Elad Zvi and Gabe Orta of Miami Beach cocktail phenomenon the Broken Shaker, a bar that has played a key role in nurturing the next generation of talent. Chef Alex Chang, who gained fame running outlaw eatery Paladar in his undergraduate apartment and worked at L.A.’s Animal and Mexico City’s Pujol before moving to Miami, provides The Anderson’s bar bites. Chang also helms the kitchen at kitschy Upper Eastside hotel the Vagabond Hotel with menu items like peanuts and chapulines (grasshoppers) spiced with Sichuan peppercorns, rib eye carpaccio, and blistered cauliflower with tahini and mint. The hotel itself, built in 1953, recently underwent a retro-renovation celebrating the era when the Rat Pack used to hang out in the lounge.
As the business center of Miami, Brickell and neighboring Downtown in the past felt a bit, well, stuffy, but newer offerings bring in a hipper clientele. Drawing raves since the first feathered dancer shimmied across its stage last fall, El Tucán is a new-wave supper club evoking Cuba in the 1940s with Afro-Cuban music, late-night DJs, and murals by Happy Menocal.
Also in the area, Fooq’s Mediterranean cuisine incorporates local produce, and a new branch of popular Wynwood spot Coyo Taco makes tacos to go with more than 50 types of tequila. The boutique hotel The Langford just opened in a downtown Beaux Arts bank tower dating to 1925, with the rooftop Pawn Broker serving cocktails like the lavender-and-mezcal Lady Lindy and a ground-floor new American restaurant called PB Station, both from the team behind Miami Beach’s Pubbelly.
These spots join bigger projects like the just-opened East Miami hotel (the first U.S. outpost from the company behind Beijing’s Opposite House), with Quinto la Huella, the sister restaurant to Uruguay’s renowned Parador La Huella, serving South American parrilla seared over an open flame and arroz negro (squid ink and shrimp rice). Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés will open the seafood-centric Bazaar Mar in forthcoming SLS Brickell hotel. And with the first trains from Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach scheduled to begin arriving to new station MiamiCentral in mid-2017, it will be that much easier to take it all in.