Art Basel Miami officially opens today and nothing pairs better with art appreciation than a cocktail, wine and great food, plus an ample side of people-watching, of course. Chances are you’ve got your reservations in order, but if not, here are five personality-packed spots that I featured in a post a while back. And, don’t forget about sizzling Los Fuegos, at the lavish Faena Miami!
If you don’t have a table reserved, you can also try these handy time-tested tricks:
- Show up dressed well and see what’s available. Dressing the part (or better) can sway even the most smug host.
- Dine at the bar. If you can snag corners seats, you’re golden. Corner seats are perfect for conversing! Plus, the host may offer you a table if you’re patient.
- Slip your hotel concierge a little cash and see if he/she can help you out. The concierge should have a friendly relationship with most restaurants.
If a round table is better than a rectangular table for socializing (and it is), than just imagine the feng shui benefits of a round dining room. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s sexy Matador Room in Ian Schrager’s Miami Beach Edition Hotel serves Spanish, Caribbean, and Latin American small plates and has just the right ingredients for a good time. It’s a magnet for celebs and we met one beautiful Miami designer who just loves their yummy avocado pizza with jalapeno pepper, cilantro, and lime. Who wouldn’t? I scouted out the Matador Room with three girl friends recently and we could not get enough of their sweet pea guacamole. The service is lovely, too. Our charming waiters, Arthur and Carlos, humored our spontaneous laughing jag–the kind that comes after 2 days of too much sun and too many cocktails. In a nutshell, Matador Room is an elegant, atmospheric space with fabulously fitting “light and bright” and “golden and crispy” fare served without stuffiness. After a day by the pool, it’s the perfect start to a glamorous night out.
Here’s a fun idea: around sun set, head to the South Point on South Beach and grab a cocktail at the outdoor bar at Smith & Wollensky. While you’re rubbing shoulders with salty local carnivores, watch the mammoth cruise ships head out to sea. After waving big, full-hearted “bon voyages” to giddy passengers, cross the street and be charming to the maitre d’ at Joe’s Stone Crab. (They don’t take reservations.) Table secured, order a tall, sweet mountain of fresh stone crab with mustardy mayo and cream spinach, followed by Joe’s fluffy key lime pie. Joe’s is not hip per se, but it’s a true classic. Joe’s has been around for more than a century and everyone and their uncle loves it, plus, it offers solid people watching. Last month, I stood in line with model and former RHONY Kelly Bensimon, draped in a slinky dress, out with pals. There’s always someone to watch, and the stone crab is simply divine.
For a laidback, boho style lunch, hop on a hotel bike and pedal to the trendy Freehand, from the same team behind NoMad and Ace Hotels. Personally, I’m too high maintenance to check in to this “luxury hostel,” but I don’t mind sneaking a few sips from its fountain of youth and having a bite with my BFF at the Broken Shaker, the award-winning bar by the hostel pool. After getting lost around Miami Beach Senior High during a sweltering bike ride on my birthday, we finally rolled up on this 1930s art deco inn, just a block or so from the beach. The salty watermelon and crunchy salad hit the spot and the kitschy vibe made us feel A-ok about our disheveled selves. Next time, I’m going to checking out the “Abuela’s Special” at Twenty Seven Restaurant & Bar in the historic house on site. They were closed, but the Broken Shaker was a refreshing surprise and won a 2014 mention for by the James Beard Foundation for their Outstanding Bar Program.
After a day on Miami Beach, nothing feels more lofty and lively than sipping a tropical “Ginger loves Coco” cocktail while soaking up the amazing views from the rooftop restaurant Juvia. A few weeks back, during Art Basel, we took note of the mix of sexy young couples, erudite art dealers in cool glasses, and beautiful people of all ages, even a little kid and a solid senior or two. Located down Lincoln Road, next to the landmark Herzog & de Meuron mod parking garage, Juvia is our go-to in Miami. It’s a beautiful perch with a living plant wall and great fusion dishes including wagyu short rub gyoza and king crab risotto. After dinner, stroll down famous Lincoln Road, lined with bustling shops and restaurants.
Thirteen years ago or so, Mr. Scout and I were visiting Miami from our then-homebase in NYC. The travel magazine I worked for had just published a tidbit about the Miami’s up and coming Design District, but when I asked the hotel concierge for directions, he forbid us to go. “Way too dangerous for you around there,” he said. Well, look at the Design District now with its Waterworks, Hermes, Jonathan Adler, and Celine boutiques. Just seven miles from the heart of South Beach, this posh quarter is booming as more flagship stores and high profile restaurants move in. Wallow in the decadent commerce, then duck into the cozy Cypress Tavern for the kind of classic brasserie fare that feels just right after too many fish tacos off the pool menu. Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz serves up indulgent burgers with onion marmalade and “thrice cooked fries,” wood grilled chicken, and Skuna Bay salmon with braised chickpea and heirloom tomato stew in this intimate, civilized bar and grill with an old Florida vibe.