Miami Beach

Getting Around

We love Florida, and EVERYBODY loves South Beach, from the 101 year old crinklies riding the free busses that go up and down Washington Avenue all day till way late to locals cradling huge red paw-paws in their arms home from the grocery stores to the mad crazed tourists of all svelte shapes and lumpy sizes, from all nations and planets, going up and down, up and down Ocean Drive, checking out the restaurants and models and being part of the wonderfully sultry, shallow, sparkly SCENE.

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And a scene it is, too, with that striking neon art deco lettering glowing atop all the little hotels, and Cameron Diaz passing the plantains with friends at the local little Cuban restaurant, and salubrious breezes coming in off the Atlantic Ocean---it’s aqua today, imagine!---and the flapping palm leaves whispering in your shell-likes, reeeeelaaaaaax…..relaaaaaaaax……..

Miami Beach is a separate city from Miami, and it is a city. That’s great news for sophisticated diner-outers with city-bred, gourmet palates. Unlike most of Florida, (especially Orlando and most of Florida's West Coast, where the horrible tasting water ruins the flavours of meals), this town has excellent, kick-ass food.

The other great news is you don’t need a car, in fact, a car is a hassle if you are just planning to stay here. Last time we parked a rental car in Miami Beach someone bashed a dent in the side of it, just for fun. There‘s a free bus, the Electrowave (For info call 305 535 9160) which runs from 5th to 17th Streets and back, so if you’ve had a few you can get around safely. It goes from 8 am to 2 am Mondays through Wednesdays, and 8 am to, yes, 4am Thursdays through Saturdays, and 10 am to 2 am on Sundays and Holidays. Public busses are excellent, and will even connect you to the trains so you can take day trips to Vizcaya or Coconut Grove without the murderous traffic and demolition derby driving styles on Miami's highways. tropics.wmf (5036 bytes)The Miami Metrobus folks will tell you helpfully just how to get anywhere you want to go and they even have humans picking up the phones, so do call them for info at 305 770 3131. (If you are looking for Nature, stars and transcendent sunsets, we’ll have a Florida Keys report up here for you in a few weeks.)

Miami ‘s South Beach (SOBE) scene may be every tourist’s Eurodream come true. You’ve got casual, adequate, not quote charming little hotels, 16% service charge added to your restaurant cheque just to make sure sun-worshipping, badly-behaving Euros don't sneak out of tipping (yeah, many try to skunk the waiters and waitresses, all a part of the ‘we love sun, sex, shopping, freedom, friendliness, fairness, but we don’t really like the Americans…until we go back to freezing Augsburg, or Maastricht, or drippy old Monaco, when we’ll brag about the ‘it’ boys we danced near at Chaos or Clevelander or Berlin Bar….’

Catalina Hotel (and its sister next door) Maxine Hotel 1732 Collins Avenue 33139 Tel. 305 674 1160. Comes with pool, clean, but really basic rooms (like -whoops- no curtain on the bathroom windows, etc.) and is convenient to everything. The room should have seemed depressing, but with the clean coat of white paint and big round writin’ table in the corner room with all the windows, it wasn’t. Not all rooms are as nice. Ask for Room 310 at the Maxine.

About that hotel DELANO on Collins Avenue……Extremely worth a looksee, the Delano is arguably one of the lushest, weirdest, prettiest and most remarkable citadels of style and ‘tude you can imagine….a little more than you can imagine. The only drawback: you will probably be mixing with the vapid lipo and cell-phone set.

Run Away From The Scene: Go higher up Miami Beach, outa the Art Deco District, past the corny ol’ Fountainbleu and at 69th Street and Collins you’ll find the unpretentious and wonderfully comfortable GOLDEN SANDS Beach Resort, 6901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 33141. In USA and CANADA 1-800-932-0333, Rest of the World 305-866-8734 (Fax 305 866-0187) Great beds, cool pool, right on the ocean, and near all bus stops, lotsa restaurants, and the price---and service--- is righteous.

Dining in South Beach:
Despite the surfeit of fish, chickies and burgers, we found ample and sometimes even tasty vegetarian eats.

bulletCafé Milano SEA VIEW Ocean Drive Excellent Italian food and beautiful indoors as well.
bulletCompass Café SEA VIEW Ocean Drive Pretty sitting outdoors, nicer waitstaff.
bulletNews Café SEA VIEW 800 Ocean Drive Tel. 305 538-6397 Open 24 hours
bulletBrilliant breakfasts, very "scene". This was Versace's a.m. newspaper-and-nosh hangout. Buy your foreign newspapers here!
bulletPuerto Sagua 700 Collins Avenue The real deal, black beans, rice, fried bananas, all kinds of flans, cool, ship’s cabin rustic room, a comforting, cosseting, low-priced Cuban cucina.
bulletSouth Seas a hotel on Collins. You wander in one evening, stroll down a corridor past hotel rooms and end up in a tropical Shangri-La called the Bamboo Grill. Sit in  lining a deep turquoise pool. No scene. Nothing but perfect peace, the beauty of the black night sky, surprise and serendipity. All food is steamed in bamboo baskets -- except maybe for the cheese plate and green salad.
bulletEl Viajante Segundo 1676 Collins Avenue Tel. 305 534-2101 Open 24 hours. OK, a tourist trap, but not that much more expensive than a normal spot. It just hurts your feelings the way they bring you the bread basket, then you find a charge on the bill later for it, plus the 16% service charge, which they figure on top of the total and tax, not exactly cricket. This "service charge" is interesting to New Yorkers, who are used to tipping more generously. But if you want black beans and rice and bananas for breakfast, with big tough good coffee, WB01409_.gif (599 bytes)they’ll do it for you at all hours. It’s the stuff they don’t tell you about and charge you for, like sharing an entrée, you’ve gotta ask them about.
bulletDo you know…. about Lincoln Road? Hey, maybe a mall can be magic if you’re over fifteen, and it is, on Lincoln Road, with excellent edgy cafes and restaurants. A few we can vouch for:
bulletBalans 1022 Lincoln Road 33139 Tel. 534-9191 Fabulous vegetarian dishes too, like sweet potato soufflé garnished with leeks and nestled next to spinach with garlic, looking like castles under moonlight mushroom dressing. And vegetarian sticky spinach risotto.
bulletPaninoteca 809 Lincoln Road 33139 Tel. 305 538 0058 Sweet fresh and special sandwiches to make a meal of, and lots of beautiful little $3 side salads to try, with green apple dressings, Mascarpone vinaigrettes, and your choice of ciabatta, baguette, focaccia, 7-grain, country and olive breads. Open only a year, Paninoteca has the freshest ingredients and best table service (courtesy of Sandy the Real Waitress) in all of surly South Beach. Amusingly, the surly owner, true to type, scowled and denied a request for conversation and a sesame seed bread, against the rules, I guess, unless you get the meaty Muffaletta. Stick with Sandy and have a lovely picnic.
bulletThere’s a yummy crepes place (Piu Bello) a few doors down for dessert, with soft gelato in cones in more flavours than Ho Jo.
bulletSkip Van Dyke Café at 846 Lincoln: too much ‘tude and downright rude, and just a pale copy of the News Café on Ocean Drive.
bulletResolved to live like a yogi and go on a hippie health fruit diet? Hah! Good luck in food land. But if you want to try to purify, good for you. Two beautiful ATHENS JUICE BARS will help,1214 Washington Avenue (tel. 305 672 4648) and up on 6976 Collins Avenue (Tel 305 861 2143), where they live the trip and will make you smoothies, too, and sell you paw-paws to take with you and slurp on the beach.
bulletNear the Golden Sands is Café Prima Pasta at 414 71st Street with a mixture of A+ and no worse than B- Italian dishes, probably the best pick in the area. Try their eggplant rollatini. Also opposite the GOLDEN SANDS is a good old California style fresh juice and tropical fruit bar (the aforementioned Athens), and a few doors down, International House of Pancakes, Denny'sI (they make the mashed potatoes right there from the mix), Mickey D’s, the usual road food comforts. Avoid Mangia Mangia on 6984 Collins.


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