In a city as caliente as Miami, the words ‘hidden gems’ aren’t often used. That’s why, when you find one you’ve got to grab on tight, never let go, and only tell those you love most. And since you, dear readers, have stolen our hearts so many moons ago it only seemed fitting that we share our five most cherished hidden gems in one of our favorite Miami neighborhoods: Miami Design District. Known best for its luxury retail shops, Miami Design District is much more diverse than she looks. Pieced together by cafes, ice cream shops, and hidden bars, Design District holds all that is meaningful to Miami and its people. And it only makes sense it would hold some of our most cherished hidden spots.
We know what you’re thinking but hear us out – this isn’t your typical parking garage. The collaborative effort of five world class architects and designers, the garage is an exhibit in itself. And to the outside, it may look like you’ve seen it all, but it only gets better at the top. Climb the seven-story building (well, not literally) and you’ll find our first Design District hidden gem: an explosion of color and design. Waves of pink, green and gold consume the black top, transforming the lot into a real-life Candy Land. The photo-ops are endless next to the boldly painted walls, of bright blues, pinks and yellows that cover the walls, ramps and spiral tube slide. A photographer’s dream, this rooftop is like no other.
What was meant to be merely a pop-up, this designer handbag and accessory brand set up shop just last March in Design’s Paradise Plaza. Featured in Barneys New York and Japan, Smet, Lane Crawford, Selfridges and KITH, the majority of Mizrahi’s business is generated through wholesale business. It was when she was given the opportunity to show in a physical space that she was able to cultivate another passion of hers – collaboration. Showcasing artists both near and far, Gelareh uses her platform to provide exposure for those who would otherwise never have the opportunity to. Carrying pieces from local artist and designer Gabriela Noelle, designer planters from Hello Happy Plants, a variety of magazines from Iconic Magazine bodega out of NYC, and zines from local Miami writers and artists, Gelareh’s is a showroom, a gallery, for other artists, designers, creatives, looking to share their gift with the world.
Photo by Miami Design District
Since her Design District debut, she has turned her back-office into an intimate space for artists to hold their own exhibit, for one month, and with complete control. Creatives like artist Ryan McGrath, Swiss-born and NY-based visual artist Kelly Dabbah and, currently, storyteller and multimedia artist Jen Clay. With a purpose to design while also empowering others, Gelareh is on a mission to develop a unique creative community. To uplift and support those with a common goal – to create and inspire; to connect. “Having the store in itself to be able to connect with others and open it up to people who wouldn’t have an opportunity to show their art in Design District is such a blessing.”
A Kakigori food truck in the middle of Paradise Plaza, Japow couldn’t have come into our lives at a better time. Having opened this past Memorial Day weekend, Japow brings traditional Japanese shaved ice to Miami Design District. Stop by any day of the week and you’re most likely to get served by the Founder and Creative Director herself, Lily Naranjo who not only created the menu but also designed the food truck. Serving up flavors like Strawberry Ichigo, Mango Lassi, Matcha, and Cortadito Affogato, Ms. Naranjo uses only fresh fruits and flavorings, making it the answer to all our prayers on these endless summer days. Open Monday through Saturday from 11am – 8pm and Sunday 12pm – 6pm.
Short for ‘Hokkaido’ of the Northern Providence of Japan, Kaido is the whiskey bar you never thought could’ve ever existed in Miami. From Brad Kilgore of Alter and BRAVA, and Nico De Soto, award-winning master mixologist, Kaido is a Japanese whiskey bar that has quite a spread. Described as ‘Japanese Lux-Punk’, Kaido has over 25 different sakes and whiskeys, including a collection of vintage whiskeys dating as far back as the early 1960s. Though neither Kilgore or De Soto are traditional Japanese, everything, from the ingredients to the design, is authentic and regionally inspired. You can see it in the chandelier of 1,000 golden butterfly knives hanging from the ceiling to represent a sea urchin, which Hokkaido is known for. You can see it in their authentic Indonesian pieces they brought back with them from their travels. Kaido knows exactly what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.
Photo: Eater Miami
What’s more hidden than this hidden gem? Their speakeasy, Ama, that’s tucked so humbly behind a secret door. Enter the world of Ama. With a sequin-covered floor that makes you feel like you’re walking on water, and walls lined with period photos of ‘Ama Women’, shell divers, or more romantically known as, mermaids, you’ll feel as though you’ve just walked onto the coast of Northern Japan. Serving their own 16-course Ama-kase, after the traditional chef’s menu style Omakase, Tuesday through Saturday, Ama feeds only eight guests per night. Currently sold out one month in advance, this lounge-style restaurant and bar is one of a kind.
If it feels like food halls are popping up all over the place, it’s because they are. Whether they’re themed to a specific culture or more traditional in variety, food halls are the perfect way to taste a spectrum of flavors in one sitting. Among Miami’s current spring is St. Roch Market, shining brightly among the rest. The New Orleans-originating food hall veers toward a more classic setup that serves an all-encompassing selection of cuisines from Southern Comfort to Japanese, Italian, and Mexican.
Katy Prohira is contributing writer originally from Upstate New York, and currently based out of North Miami. Passionate about food, drink, art and photography, Katy finds herself writing about the newest art exhibitions, restaurant openings and hidden Miami gems. Follow her on Instagram @katyprohira and read more of what she has to say at highgirlhigh.com.