When you go to school in paradise, it’s easy to fall into the same old habits: going to the same beaches, the same bars with the same cute bartenders who wink at you when you order the same cocktails you’ve been drinking for the past two years. Students could very easily take Miami for granted while spending the days inside our coral gables campus. As trends change, the city changes, but some Miami things never go out of style — they only get better with time. You’ve heard of Little Havana — with its famed cultural festivals–but what about Little Haiti, a lesser known neighborhood in Miami where people dance til dawn. Wynwood is known among many Generation Xers for its Instagrammable ice creams and gripping graffiti — but the city has another role within Miami’s history. Overtown’s reputation is being turned around thanks to new developments in the city. Nestled between the bridges, Brickell is booming, doubling its population size between 2000 and 2010, and is known to be one of the fastest developing cities in Miami. But South Beach has so many more surprises than LIV and Mr. Jones. After all, there’s more to Miami than your Instagram highlights. Make 2020 the year you truly explore the world surrounding the U.
Brickell is Miami’s premier neighborhood for business, nightlife and luxury living. While Brickell’s skyline is adorned with skyscrapers, its streets are crawling with scooters, peacocks and poincianas. Located south of the Miami River and extending to the Rickenbacker Causeway, Brickell is one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods. Mary Brickell is credited with convincing Henry Flagler to stretch his railroad down to Miami at the end of the 19th century. She was a catalyst in Miami’s upscale development — some might even say that she’s the original Miami Mami.
In the early twentieth-century, Brickell was nicknamed “Millionaires Row,” because it was home to a string of lavish homes on Brickell Avenue, according to Miami-History.com. While high-rise apartments and office buildings have replaced the historic mansions of Miami’s early pioneers, the neighborhood has not lost its lust for luxury. Brickell is one the hottest up-and-coming neighborhood for young professionals— but its price tag isn’t so hot.
As of July 2019, the highest average rent prices for a one-bedroom apartment in Miami-Dade were in Brickell at $2,305 per month, according to RentCafe. Dr. Wilson Shearin, Brickell resident and associate professor of Classics at University of Miami said, “Brickell is more expensive than some other parts of Miami and that contributes to a certain homogeneity here. Most of my friends in the area work in the same areas: law, banking, accounting, financial services. That isn’t per se bad, but I do feel that certain groups are effectively priced out of Brickell.”
Despite this, Brickell has become an increasingly popular neighborhood for University of Miami students. With its proximity to the Metrorail and urban locale, its metropolitan perks are hard to beat. Each morning or evening, you can walk along the bay, do yoga in Brickell Key Park, head to happy hour at Sugar or grab a pizza at MisterO. Everything you need is within walking distance. Shearin originally moved to the neighborhood mainly because he was looking to live a car-free lifestyle. “My commute to UM is easier and simpler than almost anywhere else. I’m also an avid runner & cyclist, and Brickell is one of the best places in Miami for these activities,” Shearin said.
Live Like A Local
Originally from Madrid, UM junior Ana Rubio moved to Brickell in 2019. “I love the location and the fact that it’s super close to downtown. Because I don’t own a car, I can be independent and walk around Brickell to do my errands without having to ask my roommates for rides,” said Rubio. “I also love how new and modern the apartments are, and I especially love how cool the views are in my building.” Although Brickell isn’t a short bike ride from UM’s campus, the benefits of living in this city-center are unrivaled. Living in Brickell means living like a local, not just a student.
Drinks: Sugar at the EAST Hotel
Night-out: Los Altos, Blackbird Ordinary
Sushi: Pubbelly Sushi, Suviche Brickell
Workout: Redbike Studios, Sweat440
Views: Brickell Key
Date night: La Mar at the Mandarin Oriental
Coffee: Latin Café, B Bistro + Bakery
Wynwood locals will remind you of its not-so-glamorous past, as it was once a grungy, overrun, industrial area. But a wave of new businesses and developments have revived the neighborhood, helping to create the cultural hub it is now. By day, Miami’s trendiest parade the mural-lined blocks, snapping Insta-worthy shots before settling at a popular spot. By night, the neighborhood lights up with buzzing bars and clubs — a revolving door of hedonistic fun.
A Foodie’s Paradise
Wynwood is a foodie’s dream, with plenty of delicious eateries open all hours of the day and long into the night. Miami’s first-ever artisanal donut shop, The Salty Donut, serves up donuts in one-of-a-kind flavors. Kaitlyn Woods, regional manager of The Salty Donut, said that the pop-up shop turned donut powerhouse has held a loyal following since its opening during Art Basel in 2015, garnering 191,000 followers on social media since its inception. “What sets Salty apart is that we are not just a dessert place,” Woods said. “We do everything internally — like baking small batches of our craft donuts from scratch with artisanal pastry chefs.”
A continuation of the Latin culture that pervades Miami, Coyo Taco is a laid-back venue for piquant tacos, hearty burritos and melty quesadillas. This taco spot is wondrously open until 3 a.m., making it the perfect after-party meal. And here’s a local tip — there’s a secret bar in the back.
Drawing crowds since its inception, the famous Wynwood Walls are a collection of graffiti art and murals made by renowned local and international street artists alike. After recognizing an underlying potential for the area’s large supply of unused warehouse buildings, Tony Goldman, an American real estate developer and art visionary, thought to use the area as a canvas for his street art. Goldman launched the concept formally in 2009, forever changing the neighborhood. Wynwood has since blossomed into a canvas for young, budding artists, featuring museums, galleries, art festivals and even art walking tours.
After getting your fix of art and enjoying local street food, head out to one of Wynwood’s many nightlife destinations. Record store-turned bar, 1-800-Lucky, is home to seven different Asian restaurants and bars. At night, the food hall presents live DJs for patrons to dance off their recent ramen meals or Taiyaki ice cream desserts. Another hotspot is the Wynwood Marketplace, a mixed-use venue boasting food vendors and an open dance floor. For an all-around authentic Miami experience, check out El Patio — the reggaeton-infused bar always mixes the best of Latin music with an intoxicatingly upbeat vibe, remaining lively even on Sunday nights.
Nestled between Wynwood and Downtown Miami, Overtown is a hub of culture, music and business with a rich African-American history — boasting the legacies of Billie Holiday, Jackie Robinson and Nat King Cole. Drive through this culturally-rich neighborhood to visit historic landmarks, try soul food and volunteer along the way.
Overtown Community Garden/Greenhaven
What began as a group of unacquainted community members passionate about bringing fresh produce to one of Miami’s most impoverished communities eventually blossomed into a selfless project committed to providing the community of Overtown with locally-grown produce. The Green Haven Project seeks not only to provide fresh food, but also to inform community members and volunteers on how to effectively grow their own produce and how to incorporate sustainable practices into their lifestyles. When asked about the greater mission of the garden, one of the founders, Bottles Belafonte, said, “We give life to give back life.”
Jackson Soul Food
The scent of fried fish and biscuits escapes through the doors of Jackson Soul Food and settles in the hearts and noses of every person strolling through Overtown. Boasting over 60 years of service, Jackson Soul Food unites the community with a genuine family atmosphere and hearty home-cooked meals. The ever-changing menu features items aimed at satisfying both the health-conscious “soul foodie.” Miami locals commonly boast about menu favorites such as the country sausage breakfast sandwich and the lemon-pepper chicken wings. Several celebrities — including Lil Pump and LeBron James — frequent this restaurant, and with delicious options for every palate, it’s easy to tell why.
Fifty years ago, the well-known contemporary artist Purvis Young posted several of his works on a wall in Goodbread Alley, a street in Overtown where he lived and worked. The artist often used everyday objects as canvases for his paintings. He plastered his work everywhere, from neighborhood walls to the homes of celebrities like Lenny Kravitz. Although Young’s work now adorns museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Smithsonian American Art Museum, his murals can still be found throughout Overtown. Look out for murals with abstract images of horses and long-faced men, which serve as Young’s representations of the black experience.
Preserving the history of Overtown while simultaneously revitalizing the neighborhood, the Dunns-Josephine Hotel has 15 Harlem Renaissance-themed rooms, each named after iconic Harlem figures including Josephine Baker and Langston Hughes. “We wanted to pull together a look and feel that resembled that era but also throw in a modern touch,” said Mona Stephen, the interior designer behind the Dunns-Josephine Hotel. “During the Harlem Renaissance, back in the twenties, there were iconic African-American music performers who would perform on South Beach but were not allowed to stay at the hotels there — so they would stay here.” When they enter the hotel lobby today, guests are greeted by bright blue furniture accentuated by gold features and throw pillows of Harlem icons.
At the heart of Miami’s vibrant, cosmopolitan mecca lies Little Havana — a bustling Cuban corner brimming with Hispanic history and culture.
Little Havana, Big Historia
Prior to the Cuban influx of the 1960s, the area where Little Havana now sits first emerged as a hub for Miami’s Jewish population. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Cuban refugees fled to nearby Miami, anticipating their exile to be temporary, according to The New Tropic. Immigrants settled in the cheapest area of land — just west of Downtown — where they established homes and businesses along the neighborhood’s flagship Calle Ocho. Little Havana flourished into a magnet for Latin American immigrants, creating a hotbed for Miami’s cultural diversity. This densely concentrated Hispanic community has since dispersed throughout the city’s neighborhoods.
Salsa Night Every Night
At the core of Ball & Chain’s electrifying allure is a nonstop, nightly dance party. Salsa, mambo or bachata the night away at Little Havana’s premier nightlife destination. Enjoy expertly-mixed cocktails and delicious Cuban fare — think mariquitas and tapas — while vibing to authentic Latin jazz. “There’s no other club in Miami where we can play straight-up jazz or fusion for such a captive audience,” said drummer Aaron Glueckauf, a Frost School of Music alumnus who has played at Ball & Chain with his trio for years.
Eighth Street Eats
El Rey De Las Fritas is “the one spot I always come back to on weekends,” said Caesar Krauss, a former Miami local who was making his weekly visit to the restaurant. The diner’s classic Frita — a beef patty on a Cuban roll showered with potato crisps — is the unequivocal crown jewel of Miami’s burger scene. Wash it down with a coral-hued batido de mamey, or tropical fruit shake, from Los Pinarenos Fruteria, and you’re set for the night. For Cubanos and medianoches, look no further than Sanguich de Miami. The shop’s tiny ventanita serves up gourmet sandwiches and on-the-go cortaditos.
Student Voice: Little Havana Life
Anthony Torres, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Miami, is a native of Little Havana — it has been his home since birth. “Little Havana isn’t the greatest area in terms of its outward appearance. People probably hate the fact that lots of places are messy, and traffic is really awful,” said Torres. “But when you look past that, and at the people who live there, the majority of the time you’re going to come across genuine, warm-hearted individuals who — especially as minorities — wish to change the world and do anything to reach their goals and desires.”
Little Haiti, also nicknamed the Lemon City for the lemon groves that once populated the area, was built upon the movement of the people and culture of the Haitian diaspora. The art splashed across the buildings, the advertisements plastered through the district in both Creole and English and the mouthwatering scent of Haitian food are clear signs that you’ve crossed into the flourishing cultural hub known as Little Haiti.
Respect The Locals
In the Lemon City, people can be heard chatting in Creole or French, just as if they were in Haiti. Noam Yemini, co-owner and general manager of Naomi’s Garden Restaurant & Lounge — a classic Creole restaurant — said his favorite part of the area is the rich culture and tradition of Little Haiti’s locals.“Little Haiti is a rich and storied community full of art and culture,” said Yemini. “The Haitian people are hardworking and loyal — feeling a sense of commitment and respect to the businesses that cater to and respect them.”
If you’re looking to sample some Haitian food while in the area, look for the colorful murals painted on the walls of Naomi’s Garden Restaurant & Lounge. Yemini recommends sampling the jerk chicken, the fried snapper or — for vegans with a hankering for Haitian food — the legumes.Naomi’s has been a part of Little Haiti’s culture for more than 35 years. “It is a long and interesting history,” Yemini said. “My parents bought this property as a commissary for their health food truck in the late 1970s. We had Haitian employees and, by community request, we started serving Haitian lunch which then expanded into a very popular long-time restaurant!”
At What Price?
Zillow puts many property values in the heart of Little Haiti under $300,000, which is low in comparison to other areas in Miami. This disparity may be caused by Little Haiti’s reputation for crime. According to SpotaCrime.com, there have been 188 reported cases of theft and 131 cases of assault in this area in the past six months, which have added to the negative perspective of Little Haiti. However, prices increase as you begin to inch towards the outskirts of the area, reaching upwards of $500,000. It is possible that these new builds are part of a larger epidemic plaguing the Lemon City — gentrification. As investors come into the area and scoop up cheap properties, locals get pushed out. Is this ruining the authentic sanctity of Little Haiti, or is it a necessary step towards creating a more revitalized Miami? Rachelle Barrett, a junior majoring in political science and broadcast journalism at the University of Miami, said that her grandparents left Haiti and settled in “the safe haven” of Little Haiti for a life of more opportunity. However, now that gentrification is making a move to push Haitians out of their homes, locals are growing increasingly frustrated. “It’s just a little sad when you’re forced to leave your country, only to find that the replacement home is threatened by such a vast change,” added Barrett.
South Beach — or SoBe to locals — is a prime tourist destination. The pastel allure of Art Deco buildings was used as a backdrop in famous TV shows and films like “Scarface.” You can lay back with your toes in the sand, eat seafood overlooking the ocean or dance alongside celebrities at LIV nightclub, making it one of the most exciting spots in Miami.
Art Deco District
After a hurricane destroyed the area’s buildings in 1926, South Beach saw a boom of new infrastructure, which now comprise the Art Deco District. Art Deco architecture revolutionized South Beach, creating the retro style that it is known for today. Lester Corrales, a UM junior who spent his summers in South Beach, said that his favorite place in SoBe is the Faena Hotel. “The hotel screams ‘Art Deco!’ The place is a visual delight in the etymological sense — bringing the light, shining sunshine and bliss over everything,” said Corrales. “Everything is designed to be an experience.” For a quick history lesson, make sure to take a stroll down Ocean Drive or consider taking a walking tour with the Miami Center for Architecture & Design. Ocean Drive is home to the Villa Casa Casuarina — also known as the Versace Mansion — whose legacy precedes the Versace era. Once an Italian designer’s private home, the mansion is now a living museum where guests can stay the night or enjoy a lavish meal.
Tourists and locals alike flock to these white sand beaches to experience the natural beauty of South Beach. Martin Nesvig, a University of Miami professor who teaches a class on the history of beaches, said that although South Beach has been flooded with tourists and rappers in recent years, he still would never personally give up the quiet calm of the beach. “Fifteen years ago, I was offered a job in Miami, so I moved three blocks away from the beach and haven’t left,” said Nesvig. While exploring the beaches for yourself, look out for stands with bikes to rent for a picturesque sunset ride around the neighborhood or simply stroll down the twisting paths that hug the beach.
Up All Night
South Beach hosts some of the world’s best nightclubs, known for their electrifying DJs, expensive tables and strict bouncers. For a non-traditional clubbing experience, try Basement, which features a bowling alley and an indoor ice-skating rink. A boutique nightclub option is Do Not Sit On The Furniture, which offers an intimate environment for club-goers to enjoy house music. South Beach’s LGBTQ+ community frequents the iconic club Twist, which has seven bars and three dance floors, each boasting a different ambiance. If you’re looking to avoid the crowded club scene and enjoy a chic lounge space, you’re sure to love Sophie’s bar and lounge. Designed to replicate old-school South Beach glamour, their motto is #MakeSoBeDopeAgain.
This article was featured in Distraction’s spring 2020 print issue.
Opener — words_scarlett diaz design_gabby rosenbloom
Brickell — words_elisa baena photo_teagan polizzi
Wynwood — words_camille devincenti photo_teagan polizzi
Overtown — words_anjuli sharpley photo_jess morgan
Little Havana — words_gianna milan photo_gabriela nahous
Little Haiti — words_olivia ginsberg photo_jess morgan
South Beach — words_camille devincenti photo_gabriela nahous