Beyond the Glam in South Beach
MIAMI -- South Beach has been a hot and hyped destination for more than a decade, and sometimes it's hard to separate the glam from the good. I've spent the past 10 winters in South Beach, from four to six months at a time, and over the years I've compiled an unofficial ''Best of South Beach" list for guests. The premise is it's easy to find the high-profile, newest, hottest, glitziest places, but harder to find where the locals like to go. So here, in addition to my favorite restaurants, are some helpful tips about the neighborhood, the beach, and other things the usual tourist might miss. Welcome to my other hometown.
413 Washington Ave.
This small gem is where local folks go for terrific Italian food with a low-key, friendly vibe. Don't miss the Penne dell'Appennino, an aphrodisiac mix of wild mushrooms with a touch of truffle oil. The charming man with the hundred-watt smile darting between the tables is the owner, Francesco Cavaletti. Entrees $9-$23.
100 Collins Ave.
A top-of-the-list expensive place. Get the citrus-cured salmon rolls with wasabi mayonnaise or the sea bass on ginger-laced spinach. Entrees $25-$39.
Miss Yip Chinese Cafe
1661 Meridian Ave.
A great noodle and martini joint. Order the Singapore-curry noodles named Miss Yip (with shrimp, pork, egg, and vegetables) with a lychee martini and slip into bliss. Entrees $11-$17.
Lincoln Road Cafe
941 Lincoln Road at Michigan Avenue
The best place for good inexpensive Cuban food on the beach. Excellent for breakfast, also open for lunch and dinner. Definitely eat outside. Try eggs with ham, Cuban toast, and cafe con leche, or a real pressed Cuban sandwich that is unlike anything you'll find in Boston. Breakfast $4-$6.
A La Folie Cafe
516 Espanola Way (between Drexel and Pennsylvania)
My favorite casual hangout, day or night. Thirty varieties of crepes (savory and sweet) as well as sandwiches, salads, wine, and the best iced coffee (made with espresso). Very French, very bohemian -- thus the service is slow, but so what. Entrees $5-$10.
1351 Collins Ave.
Sit at the bar. Get the spider roll. Entrees $11-$24.
525 Lincoln Road (near Pennsylvania)
Stop here for inexpensive, authentic Italian food with recipes by Mama Rosinella. Try the grilled calamari on mixed greens or the daily ravioli special. Also excellent wood-fired thin-crust pizzas. Eat outside and watch the crowds, or, when the temperatures drop below, say, 70 degrees, eat inside. Entrees $8-$16.
The Front Porch Cafe
1418 Ocean Drive
Locals and tourists line up for huge breakfasts: omelets, breakfast burritos, fresh fruit. Also a great spot for drinks and people-watching in late afternoon. Breakfast $6.25-$8.50.
863 Washington Ave.
I don't even like pizza much, but I drool over thoughts of their large slices with a multitude of toppings. Perfect for après-beach or après-nightclub. (They close at 7 a.m.) Other locations at 667 Lincoln Road and 1447 Washington Ave. Slices $4.
1049 Washington Ave.
Make sure you're at this Israeli-owned pita place and no other. Amazing falafel, hummus, kabobs, and shawarma, all fresh and homemade. They even grill the bread. A funky patio out back, or sit at tables on Washington Avenue. Sandwiches $5-$15.
900 Alton Road
Diet-tempting pastries, bagels (Asiago cheese!), smoothies, salads, wraps, coffee, and chai latte. Hormone and pesticide-free. Bring your laptop for the free Wi-Fi. Wraps and sandwiches $4-$6.
819 Fifth St.
Colorful Haitian restaurant. Perfect if you're in the mood for stewed goat or whole steamed fish with lime sauce. Try a side dish of spinach and coconut milk. If you're lucky, there will be some live music. Entrees $6-$14.
On a budget
Best Western South Beach
1050 Washington Ave.
The Kent Hotel
1131 Collins Ave.
1340 Collins Ave.
Not on a budget
1685 Collins Ave.
The Raleigh Hotel
1775 Collins Ave.
1120 Collins Ave.
955 Washington Ave.
A good place to get essentials like a few basic groceries, plus the newspaper, flip-flops, postcards, and nail polish. The small wiry guy watching the door is the owner, Fast Eddie.
Books & Books
933 Lincoln Road
Our local bookstore. Pretty good for its size, with a small cafe. The Miami New Times
This free weekly newspaper has listings for things to do and see and is in red metal boxes on many street corners.
Fernandez Fruit Market
1407 Washington Ave.
A slightly disheveled supermarket, but you can order fresh fruit drinks (including watermelon, papaya, blueberry, apple, carrot, orange) or smoothies for two to three bucks. Ask for extra ice if you want it cold, as they generally use only a few cubes.
1920 West Ave.
This is the coolest Publix in the world, designed by architect Carlos Zapata and shaped like a futuristic cruise ship.
A little glam is sometimes necessary. Check out this hotel with interior designed by Phillippe Stark. Wander through the lobby, out to the back and see the pool. Splurge for lunch on the patio or hang with the too-cool crowd at night at the bar.
A great place to have a drink at the bar off the lobby. Sit outside or in and watch the green-lighted waterfall wall next to the pool.
The interior bar is a classic but it's magical to sit out near the pool at night beneath the palms and stars. You'll pay dearly for the lush life, but you only live once. (My last martini cost $18 with tip. Though with 10 ounces of alcohol, according to the bartender, it was like having two.)
1001 Washington Ave.
A museum of art and design objects from 1885-1945, housed in a former fur storage building. Admission $7.
1300 Washington Ave.
Cool Works Progress Administration-era building with murals in the lobby.
This is a great urban beach, with a hard-packed surface for running and biking, areas with volleyball nets, and a funky array of decoratively painted lifeguard shacks. Rent chairs and umbrellas all along the beach. From 12th to 13th street is predominantly a gay area. Third Street used to be a more local and Euro crowd, but with new hotels along the strip, you'll find tourists there as well. This is a city beach, so leave your wallet and valuables at the hotel. Women can go topless anywhere.
Never step on any grass, in a park, along the beach, and especially the small strips between the curb and the sidewalk, as people here rarely curb their dogs.
Contact Necee Regis, a freelance writer in Boston and Miami Beach, at firstname.lastname@example.org.