While Miami’s Downtown core is ever-changing, the fastest rising skyline in the country, there is much to discover amongst its age-old streets. It’s more than a business sector and bayfront community, it’s also home to some of our biggest cultural institutions and organizations that have helped define Miami’s identity along the way. In between these big moves, there are quite a few historical and local spots that can’t be overlooked. A huge plus about the neighborhood is that it’s so walkable, which means you’ll have plenty of time to visit these gems we’ve picked out for you:
You may not have noticed but hanging on the door behind the soda cooler at Station 28, is an inconspicuous sign that reads We’re Closed. Behind the side door of this mouthwatering Peruvian burger joint is a theater, restaurant extension, and event rental space, depending on the day. The first floor of Station 28’s Theater Bar opens only when needed to serve lunch rushes and host private parties. On special nights, Theatre Bar partners with local performance companies to showcase comedy acts and live plays. Those are the coveted nights, when the owner herself (Sharon Marlo) jumps behind the bar to serve. You won’t exactly find a consistent schedule online, however we suggest asking the staff at Station 28 or checking Facebook for updates.
This spot brings small time character and no-frills bites to a city in need of a local’s paradise. Walk in to Lost Boy and you’ll find a former family-owned clothing store converted into a sports bar. Paying homage to his family’s history of 20 years in the denim business, owner Randy Alonso embellished Lost Boy with much of the same furniture and every bit of Alonso charm. Wander into Lost Boy during the day to throw a few darts, watch a game, eat a German pretzel and drink a tall glass of feel-good elixir. Wander in on the weekends, and you’ll find this neighborhood gem transformed into an all-out party.
…But what she doesn’t know about this 5 AM revelry won’t hurt her. From the owners of Purdy Lounge, Sweet Liberty, Bend and Sidebar, Mama Tried is a 70s style retro bar that hosts new DJs every night. While happy hours are quiet, evenings get rowdy with themes that range from Wednesday’s ladies’ night to Thursday’s Juke box to Sunday’s Disco. Every night is a party but according to the bartenders, Emo night is a fan favorite. Check out this monthly throwback jam sesh for its angsty tunes and the occasional PBR Guitar Hero competition. But first—Mama is about to turn 1 and she’s celebrating with an all about bash tomorrow. Check out the open bar from 9-11!
Brought to you by the owners of Butcher Shop Beer Garden, The Egg Spot goes straight to the point. You guessed it—this casual eatery is known for eggs served for all day along with an assortment of Butcher shop favorite burgers, bowls, and salads. German father and son duo Igor and Fred Niznik understand the power of hearty fare coupled with an extensive beer and wine list. They make it easy to sit and hang, especially on weekends with bottomless mimosas for $20. In addition to eggs, bites and bubbles, The Egg Spot serves Illy brand coffee, espresso, and cortaditos as well fresh squeezed OJ and Kombucha.
In a city largely devoid of jazz and live music in general, Le Chat Noir is a much needed outcast. Step inside and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to a dimly lit Soho hangout. Order a platter of cured meat and aged cheeses with a side of fine wine from the cellar, and you’ll feel like you’re in Spain. Around 9 p.m. descend the steps and get ready for a live jazz performance with different musicians every night. Visit Le Chat between 4 and 8 p.m. for happy hour and get ready for the crowd to boom around 10 PM. Arrive with an empty belly, an open mind, and a mood to (quietly) chill. Le Chat rightly takes its performances seriously and makes that clear through several signs that read, “Silent and Listen are spelled with the same letters.” Yup.
This is a flavor maven’s paradise. The second you open the door, a wave of fragrant spices inundate the nose sending signals to the brain that it’s time to chow down. You’ll take anything on the menu because you immediately trust that the cooks know their craft. Bali Café features an open kitchen concept decorated with the vibrant colors and spiritual sculptures. Its authenticity is almost as pungent as the aroma. Featuring 4.5 star reviews, Bali Café’s menu of Indonesian cuisine fused with sushi plates guarantees to please almost any palate. Check out Bali Café any day of the week but remember to bring cash. No cards accepted here. Ah the authenticity!
An award-winning eatery standing strong along downtown’s riverway since 1966. Garcia’s is the oldest fish market and restaurant in Miami and still a hidden gem. If you’ve never been, the first floor of Garcia’s is a fresh fish market that offers local caught seafood and cafeteria style dining—a.k.a. the freshest fast food joint known to man. Upstairs is an old school style restaurant. Fish heads and boat paddles line the walls as oversized seashells hang from the ceiling lights. This place is all about serving the freshest seafood Miami has to offer. There is no happy hour, just fresh AF fish overlooking the River. Pro tip for first timers—snapper is their specialty.
Photo: Garcia’s Grille & Fish Market
The brand-new food hall on the second floor of Virgin Trains’ (formerly Brightline) Downtown hub. Central Fare is far from the food court at the mall and much closer to a foodie destination for commuters and locals alike. Rosetta Italian Bakery showcases an assortment of cured meats, pastries, and breads. If you can peel your eyes off the baguettes for a moment, you’ll notice Counter Culture to the right, serving fresh kombucha and strained craft yogurt. In the mood for something sweet instead? Walk around the bend to Bio Bio, an organic gelato vendor aka the answer to your prayers. Rather sit and be served? La Estación is a swanky farm-style concept serving French inspired cuisine. Other headliners include: Bucks crepes, Patagonia deli and Acai & fruits smoothies.
Photo: North Palm Beach Life
It looks like a relic from the past, an ancient artifact in comparison to the constant construction of newness around the city. Luckily this charming theatre has survived the ages of bulldozing and continues to thrive since opening its doors in 1926. Previously a home for silent movies, this recently restored creative hub now features movie screenings, concerts, and live performances amongst red, velvet curtains and royal balconies. Olympia also offers free—yes free—monthly events. This month’s free event is the Leesa Richards jazz Quartet on June 12. Check out the full lineup here.
Another historic charm nestled in a city not exactly known for its religious pursuits (see Mama Tried for proof). Gesu church was erected in 1896 and added to the US National Register of Historic places in 1974. Since its original wood frame, Gesu was reconstructed as a beautiful Mediterranean style building. The oldest Catholic Church in South Florida, Gesu was home to the one the country’s first de-segregated schools, drew hundreds of men and women for WWII services, and was the site of singing legend Celia Cruz’s memorial mass. Visit Gesu church for weekly mass or walk in during the day to appreciate the Miami sun beaming through the stained-glass windows and religious sculptures adorning the alter.
Elena Schmidt is a creative writer, yoga teacher, and adventure seeker. She seeks equal parts fun and discipline in life and LOVES finding new ideas and places to explore. Check out her portfolio at www.elenaschmidt.com.