I lived in Miami for two key years of my life when Daniel Boulud's Dinex Group sent me - and my big, black dog Cosmo - down there to run all of the beverage program at DB Bistro Modern. On my days off, I Vespa-ed around and made the city my own. Here are a few spots I loved and would recommend to anyone - places that that make the city feel homey and still incredibly fun.
You absolutely must go Thursday late night for the best live jazz / Cuban / Afro / funk music you've ever heard. It's right in the heart of little Havana - you'll dance your heart out, I promise.
On Monday nights, I love the live reggae from a rotating roster of talented Caribbean musicians. Other nights of the week, this place ratchets up in intensity level, but if you come on Monday you'll have a relaxing, funky time.
Haitian cuisine on Miami beach from a Haitian-American who grew up in Manhattan. It has New York-style professionalism mixed with that local flair and authenticity. Order the spicy conch salad, the whole fish of the day and drink Haitian mojitos 'til you speak fluent Creole!
In my opinion, the most talented and professional Miami-based chef is Michael Schwartz. He and his team (including wine director Eric Larkee) absolutely crush this eclectic and high quality concept in the heart of Miami's version of SoHo, the design district. It's contemporary American but with all kinds of Miami twists that make eating here exciting and super enjoyable.
Turkish chef/restaurateur Amit brings authentic Aegean cuisine to Miami. Sit outside and dine al fresco in the most charming courtyard garden in the city. Order the lamb kefka & a bottle of sparkling Austrian rosé.
There are few places to buy truly fine wine in Miami and this is on the short list. He's in Coral Gables and has all the great producers you'll ever need, from Cru Beaujolais to Grand Cru Burgundy and everything in between. For quirky, fun finds between $15-25, you won't find a better curated shop.
Is it a gas station or a wine shop? Or the place to go for an authentic Cuban cortadito? I'm still not sure. But you can get each of those at this confused outpost between downtown Miami and Coral Gables, so I'm not asking any questions. This place truly has it all, including every major Champagne brand for the lowest prices in the city. They also have some sick deals on rare Burgundies and Bordeaux in their reserve cellar in the back. Even if you have a full tank, you can recharge your personal battery with a cute little Cuban espresso & condensed milk before you hit the town with your underpriced Grandes Marque bubbles.
This place in downtown Miami has the best happy hour in the whole city. $1 oysters, $5 glasses of Muscadet - what else in life do you need? They've also got great snacks and a ton of fun wines on their list. A great spot to kick off a long (or short) night of eating and drinking.
Photo credits: Caleb Ganzer, oliom.com, Florida South Beach Rentals, SmithRatliff, Southflorida.com, Eater Miami, Flickr Kaufmann Rossin, Yelp - Caroline P, 10best
Cover Photo: Flickr/Daniel Reichert