The real estate market collapse and the recession may have slowed the Miami party train, but lately the city has been showing signs of new life. Major projects started during the boom are being completed, from high-profile hotels to the New World Symphony’s fantastic Frank Gehry campus and the Miami Art Museum’s Herzog & de Meuron building downtown, which broke ground last fall. The mood in the city seems increasingly upbeat. “There’s a feeling of optimism and positive energy,” says Craig Robins, a Miami developer whose projects include the revitalization of the Design District. “We’re attracting phenomenal new tenants—there’s a sense of expansion.” All the development over the past decade has given the city an incredible supply of quality hotel rooms and residential units, presenting opportunities for visitors and buyers. And interest in Miami remains high. As Robins notes, “The city is now known as an amazing destination for art, design, fashion, great food, entertainment.” All of which continues to get more interesting.
Since London-based Soho House opened its latest branch here in October, the part private club, part boutique hotel has been a huge hit. On the ocean just north of the South Beach strip, Soho Beach House (rooms, from $325; 4385 Collins Ave.; 786-507-7900; sohobeachhouse.com) brings understated intimacy to an area better known for glitz (the mammoth Fontainebleau is next door). The $100 million property, which was delayed by the recession, occupies the former Sovereign Hotel, a 1940s Art Deco building, and a new 16-story tower. All 50 guest rooms have their own look, with four-poster beds, colorful mosaic tiles and, unusual for Miami, an eclectic mix of antique furniture. The best rooms are in the tower and have expansive terraces and ocean views. Down below, the Venetian restaurant Cecconi’s (dinner, $65; 786-507-7902; cecconismiamibeach.com), the only part of the property open to the public, has quickly become one of the hottest dining spots in town. There’s also a casual outdoor Latin-inspired restaurant, a Cowshed spa, two pools and a private beach complete with watering can–wielding attendants who rinse guests’ feet as they come off the sand. It’s definitely not the typical Miami experience.
The same can certainly be said about The Villa By Barton G. (rooms, from $800; 1116 Ocean Dr.; 305-576-8003; villabybartong.com), the latest incarnation of the former Versace mansion in the heart of South Beach. Opened last spring, it’s ten suites of fabulousness as imagined by restaurateur and event planner Barton G. Weiss, who oversaw a complete restoration of the property after it had fallen into neglect as the failed Casa Casuarina private club. A mishmash of historical styles, the villa features stone and marble floors, stained-glass windows, frescoed ceilings, ornate ironwork and its signature Roman pool, with 14-karat-gold mosaic tiles and gently gurgling fountains. Weiss, who calls himself “a visual artist by every right,” says he “wasn’t going to fight” the Versace legacy but “pay homage to it.” Each of the themed rooms is different, but the decor is consistently opulent: gold fixtures, brocades and tassels, fur-trimmed cashmere throws and oversized beds big enough for five or six. British-certified butlers attend to their guests’ every need, including delivering evening treats such as a chocolate fountain. Afternoon tea on the poolside terrace and dinner in the restaurant are open to the public by reservation. Though not for everyone, Weiss’s vision is a refreshing (and expensive) alternative to the sleek, white, Deco-mod look that’s standard in Miami.
Just behind the villa, hotelier Vikram Chatwal’s much-delayed Dream South Beach (rooms, from $275; 1111 Collins Ave.; 305-673-4747; dreamsouthbeach.com) is taking over the former Palmer House and The Tudor, a pair of 1939 Art Deco hotels. Slated to launch in early March, the 108-room property has a youthful, nightclubby vibe that’s very Miami. The rooms, bathed in blue light, feature minimalist contemporary furnishings, crystal light fixtures, mod minibars and design elements that riff on Indo-Moroccan motifs. Most impressive are the duplex Sun Suites, which are decorated in their own gold-and-yellow color scheme and have private roof decks with views of South Beach and the ocean. After plans for a Geoffrey Zakarian restaurant fell through, Todd English stepped in and will oversee a “casual New American” menu at an as-yet-unnamed bistro.
Across the Intercoastal Waterway, in downtown Miami, Marriott has unveiled two upscale brands in a new 41-story tower. In October it opened the JW Marriott Marquis Miami (rooms, from $240; 255 Biscayne Blvd. Way; 305-421-8600; jwmarriottmarquismiami.com), a 313-room urban destination hotel that immediately generated buzz for its 50,000-square-foot sports and entertainment complex featuring an “NBA-approved” basketball arena, a tennis court, a virtual golf school and bowling alley, a billiards room and an outdoor pool. It’s also home to Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne, his first Miami restaurant. And in January Hotel Beaux Arts Miami (rooms, from $340; 305-421-8700; hotelbeauxartsmiami.com), conceived as a higher-end “hotel within a hotel,” debuted on the building’s top floors. Though it has a separate check-in and concierge, most of its amenities are shared with the rest of the hotel. So what do you get for the premium rates? The 44 guest rooms and suites are outfitted with sleek contemporary furniture, iPads and the latest from Bang & Olufsen: surround-sound speakers, multiple flat-screen TVs and remote-controlled curtains revealing unobstructed views of the bay.
There are lots of places in Miami to do tea, but, says Barton G. Weiss, “nobody else does it right.” At The Villa By Barton G., it starts with the Versace gold-and-pink Rosenthal china. The tea (green or Earl Grey, with a tinge of citrus) is accompanied by three tiers of finger sandwiches and cakes. $55; 305-576-8003.
Without question, the most colorful addition to Miami’s ever-improving dining scene is Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (dinner, $35; 2550 N.W. 2nd Ave.; 305-722-8959; wynwoodkitchenandbar.com), the latest from developer Tony Goldman. The American-style brasserie is set amid the expanding outdoor museum of street art known as the Wynwood Walls, which Goldman launched in 2009 with then dealer and now Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art director Jeffrey Deitch, commissioning artists to paint huge murals on several adjacent warehouse buildings. For the restaurant, opened last November in time for Art Basel Miami Beach, Goldman invited artists Shepard Fairey and Christian Awe to paint the interiors, adding to the works by Fairey, Os Gemeos, Kenny Scharf and others outside. Less refined than Joey’s (Goldman’s popular Italian restaurant down the street), Wynwood Kitchen & Bar serves up simple comfort food. It’s a fun place to enjoy a plate of Mediterranean mezzes, a tasty lamb burger and a beer from the extensive list. And it’s near the Rubell and Margulies collections and galleries such as Dina Mitrani and Fredric Snitzer, which stay open late for a neighborhood block party the second Saturday of each month.
Everybody’s favorite new Miami restaurant, it seems, is Gigi (dinner, $22; 3470 N. Miami Ave.; 305-573-1520; giginow.com), a bustling, industrial-chic noodle and barbecue restaurant on the northeast end of Wynwood, across from the Shops at Midtown. Helmed by Top Chef season five star Jeff McInnis, the open kitchen here turns out a small but eclectic roster of dishes that could be described as Asia meets the American South. The menu is broken down into “basics,” including the can’t-miss Gigi buns (which come in roasted pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket and shiitake mushroom varieties) and a sweet-and-smoky short-rib meat loaf; a selection of raw salads and fish; noodle and rice bowls; and “snacks” such as grilled butternut squash seasoned with spicy vinegar and yogurt. It’s all modestly priced, topping out at $16 for the seafood curry bowl with red coconut, basil, tomatoes and jasmine rice. And the kitchen stays open late—until 5 a.m. on weekends.
Over the past several years, Miami’s Design District has become a premier neighborhood for both shopping (and not just for furniture—there’s Marni, Christian Louboutin, Maison Martin Margiela) and dining (Michelle Bernstein’s Sra. Martinez, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink). The latest newcomer is Vino e Olio ($ dinner, $70; 139 N.E. 39 St.; 305-573-0707; vinoeolio.com), a stylish, 5,600-square-foot Tuscan restaurant that opened to high expectations in November. The kitchen is overseen by chef Andrea Menichetti, who worked for years at his parents’ famous place, Da Caino, in Tuscany’s Maremma region, and hopes were that some of the family’s Michelin stardust (Da Caino has two) would rub off on Vino e Olio. Early reviews have been mixed, and it’s a cause for concern that some fans praise architect Alessandro Moccia’s design—concrete floors, simple wood tables, back-lit colored panels on a black wall—almost as much as they do the cooking. While Menichetti is (hopefully) working out the kinks, stick with the handmade pappardelle in a Bolognese ragù or the roasted suckling pig, and enjoy the strong Italian wine list.
Lincoln Road, which is synonymous with shopping and eating in Miami Beach, has a new anchor at its western end. It’s a parking structure—and, it must be said, parking has rarely been so glamorous. Opened last year, 1111 Lincoln Road (1111lincolnroad.com) is a $65 million parking, office and retail complex designed by Herzog & de Meuron, best known for their “bird’s nest” stadium in Beijing. The car park has extra-high ceilings and no walls, making for amazing views (as well as damp customers during heavy storms). But drivers do pay a premium for parking in the architectural landmark: hourly rates are higher than at many local garages. This summer a restaurant will open on the roof of the offices, while the seventh floor of the car park already doubles as an event space for parties and weddings that rents for $12,000 to $15,000 a night. On street level there’s a Taschen bookstore, a massive Nespresso café and a branch of Danny Meyer’s popular Shake Shack. The most dramatic retail space, however, is a glass cube on the fifth level that’s occupied by the edgy upscale clothing and design boutique Alchemist (305-531-4815; shopalchemist.com), run by husband-and-wife team Roma and Erika Cohen. Keeping their original shop down the street, they opened this one to “showcase a curated selection of merchandise beyond just fashion,” says Erika. Here you’ll find Rick Owens evening gowns ($1,600–$2,800) and a blue-and-white Ming-print dress by Rodarte ($6,200) alongside a Chrome Hearts hand-carved ebony coffee table ($52,000). Best of all, Erika says, is “seeing the looks on people’s faces when they discover us in the middle of a parking garage.”
In December, Miami social fixture Monica Kalpakian opened Etc. (1628 Jefferson Ave., 305-673-4382; etc-miami.com), an intimate home and accessories boutique located just off Lincoln Road. Frustrated by searching unsuccessfully for interesting items for her home and gifts for friends, Kalpakian decided to take matters into her own hands. At Etc., the ebony oak and white leather shelves are filled with decorative objects, artisan-crafted jewelry and other unique pieces she sources from designers around the world. Standout offerings include a handmade silver and fossilized-wood tray from Portugal ($8,190) and an apalca-metal and white goat-leather tea set ($1,560) by Airedelsur, a company based in Kalpakian’s home country, Argentina.
For those making the trip to the Bal Harbour Shops with kids in tow or simply looking for family entertainment on a rainy vacation day, the interactive store C By Me (18673 W. Dixie Hwy.; 305-932-8118; cbymeclothing.com) in North Miami Beach is a great diversion. Customers can create and decorate their own clothing and accessories—t-shirts, sweatshirts, leggings, sneakers—by choosing from a variety of styles, colors and playful bespoke options like embroidered monograms and rhinestone detailing. (A personalized t-shirt with stamps and rhinestones costs around $30.) Started by fashion designer Brittany Socol and Erika Koopman, a former NBC producer turned publicist at Harrison & Shriftman, the shop has in-house “custom clothiers” who can provide creative assistance. For customers who prefer off-the-rack, C By Me also carries ready-to-wear pieces, tote bags and adorable items for pets.
“I personally hate when I buy things and the wrapping doesn’t do the object justice,” says Monica Kalpakian. Instead of shopping bags, all gift purchases at her shop Etc. are placed in black boxes tied with leather straps, then bundled in red organza fabric, using a traditional Japanese gift-wrapping technique. etc-miami.com.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.