So you're visiting Miami or you just moved here and you're looking for a good time, great! You're in luck because Miami is the fun capital of the world. Now you have to ask yourself if you want be a tourist or an insider. Do you want to just visit the city, maybe buy a “I’m in Miami bitch” neon tee shirt to prove to people you were here, or do you want to touch the real, the actual, the living, vibrant, empirical Miami? The latter of course, unless you're really into tee neon shirts. And how do you find that rare, local, hidden Miami? Where's the party, in other words? Where can you dine and drink and feel like you're part of the life of a great coastal city?
We can help. Here is a short list of what Miami really tastes like, what's possible here, where you'd be going and what you'd be doing if you really knew Miami. Visit these places, do these things -- and you know what? You may never leave.
The Anderson - To Drink
The Anderson occupies the former Magnum Lounge building at 709 NE 79th St. Causeway, in Miami, and it is a place of local legend. The Magnum Lounge held Miami's oldest liquor license, and a lot of locals, particularly those with a sense of the city's history, expressed concern about the Magnum's future when the building changed hands.
They shouldn't have worried. To begin with, the new owners named the bar "The Anderson" to honor developer Hugh Anderson, builder of the Venetian Causeway and the force behind Miami Shores. How's that for local history? The Anderson is a collaboration between the Broken Shaker’s Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi, with a menu by Alex Chang of The Vagabond. Perhaps you haven't heard of those establishments, but you should know that Broken Shaker and The Vagabond are epic examples of the great new uprising of Miami cuisine and culture. This is the place to go if you want to see what Miami is going to be like in a couple of years.
The interior is visually stimulating without being loud, a futuristic vision as seen from the '80s. The prices are, umm, modern, but reasonable nevertheless: Cocktails are generally around $14, and there is a daily happy hour featuring $4 beers, $10 beer-and-shot specials, and $7 specialty drinks. For more information, visit www.theandersonmiami.com.
Bardot - To Party
Bardot, located at 3456 N. Miami Ave., is not only "local," it's exclusive. There's a parking-lot entrance without a sign, so watch those street numbers carefully. The red-and-gold interior is defined by a long bar along the side of the room, and the room itself is salted with funky-artsy lounge furniture. There's a pool table and a stage, and the rest is dance floor. And you will dance, you don't have a choice. Local bands and musicians are featured several nights a week, and DJs own the stage on a regular basis.
Musically speaking, Bardot has an amazing mix of indie, electro, house, funk, hip hop. Their own resident Djs are pretty awesome but the best thing about their music is their live shows. Digitalism, Crystal Castles, Bob Moses, Questlove and many other huge acts have passed through Bardot’s stage so make sure you check www.bardotmiami.com to see what they have going on, you might be pleasently surprised.
CENA by Michy - To Eat
Every major American city has its mavens and movers, but Miami supports a select number of culinary luminaries, people who think deeply and well about food culture. Want to know what Miami is capable of producing, ultimately? Come to CENA. Cena is Latin for “The most important meal of the day," and Michy is the nickname of Chef Michelle Bernstein, 2008 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef (South), and author of "Cuisine a Latina," published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2008.
“You don't need heavy handed technique and over the top presentations to make a dish work," writes Bernstein on Cena's web site. "It's about amazing ingredients, layered flavors and simplicity. My style of cooking is inspired by my own food memories and it's the simple, soulful cooking that I remember from my travels. I cook the food I love and I think that love translates to the diners."
Bernstein and partner David Martinez opened Cena in 2006, in what was then considered to be a risky spot: the Biscayne corridor's MiMo District. Now MiMo is jumping, and much of it is down to Cena's vibe and hospitality. The food is unique to say the least, partly informed by the international party that is Miami, and partly informed by Michy's Argentine roots. CENA by Michy is located at 6927 Biscayne Blvd. For more information, visit www.cenabymichy.com.
Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company - To Drink, Eat and Dance
Most locals familiar with the South Beach scene are flabbergasted when they find Sweet Liberty. The service, the tastes, the labels are unheard of in this area at these prices. Read the customer reviews online, and it's "Go to this place for the drinks...Go to this place for the music...Go to this place for the service..." But the message is clear: Go to this place.
Sweet Liberty was launched by local bar mavens John Lermayer and Dan Binkiewicz, with the help of above-mentioned restaurateur David Martinez. And the kitchen is run by Halid Quiroz, protege of the above-mentioned chef Michelle Bernstein. It's located in the Collins Park area next to the Bass Art Museum. It's billed as a neighborhood bar, but it's more of a neighborhood experience, a warm, welcoming, colorful space with a lot of ambiance and charm.
The food is mostly American cuisine with Latin overtones, and most entrees are under $20. Happy hour at Sweet Liberty (daily from 4 to 7 p.m.) is happy indeed, with $5 Moscow Mules, $5 Old Fashioneds, and $5 rose on tap, not to mention four craft beers on tap, three champagnes, and five different wines -- and, oh yes, $.75 cent oysters.
It has to be experienced to be believed. Maybe you should visit other South Beach watering holes to really understand why people love this place so much. There's nothing like it in Miami, and if you can make it to Sweet Liberty, you can tell the world that you did Miami just like a local.