BY PAUL SCHRODT
Sun, palm trees, and intensely fresh seafood are hard to pass up, even without the enjoyable effects of cannabis in the mix. But with the growing medical-marijuana business in Florida and a rejuvenated food and retail scene in Miami, plus upcoming MedMen locations in Miami Beach (along with an array of other future MedMen outposts in Florida, including Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and St. Petersburg) there’s never been a better time to pair pot with everything the Magic City has to offer. Here’s where to stay, eat, drink, play, and shop in Miami right now.
A room at the newly opened Four Seasons hotel in North Beach doesn’t come cheap, but it’s hard to match for history or beauty. Architect Richard Meier completed a jaw-dropping redesign of the legendary Surf Club, originally opened in 1930, paying respect to the structure’s Art Deco glamour while adding three new clean-lined buildings and pools. A stay here comes with sweeping oceanfront vistas seen through floor-to-ceiling windows and a serene color scheme in a quieter section of Miami Beach. Notable restaurants include chef Antonio Mermolia’s Le Sirenuse, bringing flavors of the Amalfi Coast to South Florida, and chef Thomas Keller’s Surf Club Restaurant, featuring luxe throwback dishes like a caesar salad made tableside and lobster thermidor.
The reopened Plymouth hotel in Mid-Beach makes the most of its restored 1940s Art Moderne building, giving it a sleek makeover that comes at surprisingly affordable prices. Guests can also enjoy an elegant outdoor pool area with a canopy, plus a mere five-minute walk to the beach, where there’s exclusive seating for hotel guests. A new outpost of New York City sushi favorite Blue Ribbon inside emphasizes rotating, straight-from-the-ocean seafood options.
The eco-friendly details of 1 Hotel will appeal to the most ardent environmentalist without sacrificing luxury. Situated on the booming northern end of South Beach, the boutique hotel uses cardboard hangers in closets and reclaimed wood headboards in tranquil, spacious rooms. If the serenity indoors gets old, there are four pools, including one that runs the length of the adults-only rooftop lounge, complete with panoramic views. Habitat, a restaurant from the acclaimed local Pubbelly restaurant group and homegrown chef Jose Mendin, fuses Spanish and Asian flavors in a woody setting.
It’s easy to feel like you’ve left the South when you reach the cosmopolitan, Latin-influenced surroundings of Miami. But Yardbird stays true to down-home cooking while rendering it with a distinctly elevated sensibility. The massively popular eatery has spawned locations in Las Vegas, Singapore, and recently, Los Angeles. The bright, airy original spot in South Beach specializes in decadent fare that looks even better after a hit of a vape pen, including deviled eggs dotted with smoked trout roe, hulking slabs of house-cured bacon, and the most crackling fried chicken in the 305 area code, served with honey hot sauce.
Whether staying at the upscale Freehand hostel or not, Broken Shaker is an essential hotspot day and night. The indoor/outdoor cocktail bar that has spawned new locations in New York City and Los Angeles surrounds the Freehand’s gorgeously appointed courtyard space and pool, lined with string lights, exotic local plants, and plenty of seating. The meticulously made libations gave a much-needed boost to Miami’s drinking scene, and they still beat out the nearby competition.
This casual yet refined restaurant, located in a historic 1930s-era two-story house on the Freehand Hotel premises, carries the torch of New World cuisine founded in Miami by the likes of chef Norman Van Aken with flavor-packed dishes drawing on various global cuisines. Arrive early to enjoy a tipple alfresco at Broken Shaker next door, then saunter inside for tostones (fried green plantains) with a daily dip, plus locally caught crudo and skirt steak with hearts of palm salad.
Ask Miamians where to get the best Cuban food and you’re bound to hear a slew of answers, but every respondent will likely agree on the superb quality of Versailles. A stalwart of Little Havana’s iconic Calle Ocho stretch that opened in 1971, it was once the go-to meeting spot for Cuban exiles. The noisy, mirror-lined dining room now hosts elderly Cubans gabbing alongside tourists looking to get a taste of quintessential, flawlessly executed classics, like vaca frita, ropa vieja, and the coveted pressed Cuban sandwich.
Cuban food appropriately takes the limelight in Miami, but the city’s once-withering Mexican cuisine is better than ever these days. The team behind Little Havana’s beloved bar Ball & Chain recently took the reins at this Calle Ocho taqueria, bringing high-level execution to comforting staples like tacos, burritos, and fajitas in a colorful space. There’s also a robust cocktail menu that extends to the hidden speakeasy-style bar Los Altos.
A Miami experience is never complete without indulging in the unique, plentiful seafood the area has to offer. Monty’s in Coconut Grove offers the whole spread in a huge, raucous outdoor environment with live music and a pristine waterfront view looking out toward Miami Beach. Check for happy-hour specials that include stone crab, a luxurious Florida specialty paired with zingy mustard sauce.
Miami goes to play at Wynwood Arcade, an architectural stunner occupying three renovated warehouses in the formerly industrial Wynwood neighborhood that are now teeming with local art galleries. The 25,000-square-foot complex includes eye-catching murals, open-air shopping featuring independent retailers, and the recently opened No. 3 Social, Wynwood’s first-ever rooftop bar and lounge from celebrated South Florida chef and restaurateur Norman Van Aken, where you can pair cocktails with street food-inspired bites including ice pops known as paletas. Van Aken is also behind the new Three in Wynwood Arcade, serving sophisticated and classically Floridian cuisine like chilled Key West pink shrimp with watermelon radish and creamy cracked conch chowder.