In recent years South Beach has been swamped with media exposure that would have you think that a Bentley, an entourage, a couple of tattoos and a lot of bling are mandatory in order to enjoy South Beach these days. If you stay close to the beach at one of the swank hotels on Collins Avenue and don’t venture out, you may find yourself thinking the same. Although I am also a fan of the many big-ticket restaurants offering glitter and glam, this time I offer you a view from the other side.
Although South Beach is still booming with tourism, there has been more a resurgence of people moving to South Beach and downtown Miami to live, with many beautiful condos rising up on the West and South regions of the beach and in neighboring downtown Miami only 10 minutes away. This resurgence over the last decade has given rise to many beautiful places to eat and shop that are known more to locals than tourists, mainly because these establishments have such a strong base of regulars that they haven’t had need to promote to our visitors on the beachfront.
Although many a traveler has walked down Espanola Way, most get to the intersection at Drexel Avenue and turn around, missing a favorite insider brunch haunt, A La Folie. A La Folie is a small French Cafe with a truly French atmosphere and delicious crepes (both sweet and savory), salads, cheese/meat plates, coffee and wines. Owner Olivier Corre’s inspiration comes from La Folie in Brittany France and sitting at one of his casual sidewalk tables will conjure thoughts of the Champs-Élysées, albeit a tropical version.
After brunch, work up an appetite with a stroll down the beach and then head over to La Sandwicherie. Hidden between Drexel and Washington Ave on 14th street (and next to Lou’s Tattoos, the original Tattoo Parlor in South Beach where the owners and stars of reality TV fame “Miami Ink” first sharpened their skills), this “outdoor seating at the counter only” deli is all about the best sandwich in town.
Originally opened and owned by French Scuba Divers looking to supplement their income from salvage diving, La Sandwicherie is committed to super fresh ingredients packed with taste. Along with the usual sandwich options, La Sandwicherie also offers Proscuitto, Pate, Smoked Salmon and Salami Provolone, and Swiss, Provolone, Fresh Mozzarella and Camembert cheeses. Fresh Greens, Ripe Red Tomatoes, Green & Hot Peppers, Black Olives, Onions, Cucumbers, Cornichons (French Pickles), Mayonnaise, and a Mustard Vinaigrette come standard with each sandwich (or salad with bread on the side). The Mustard Vinaigrette is a secret recipe that is worth the trip alone, making La Sandwicherie a beach favorite. Watch as your sandwich is made and you’ll be tempted to get a smoothie when you see the fresh ripe berries and savory juices just waiting to be enjoyed.
If it’s crowded at the counter get it “to go”, head back to the beach three blocks away and enjoy a picnic on the grass while people watching some of the colorful personalities strolling the walk that runs in front of Ocean Drive.
After a little afternoon shopping on Espanola Way and Lincoln Road, some people watching and a cappuccino at Segafredo cafe are a must. Or head west two more blocks and stop by Panizza for a little taste of Argentina. Fresh, flaky handmade pastries filled with Dulce de Leche (also known as Arequipe in South America or Milk Caramel in the U.S.) are a perfect pick-me-up alongside a nice strong cappuccino.
Ending this perfect day with a visit to Barton G. Restaurant will remind you that you are still in the United States of America, but the experience will be out of this world. All of the previously mentioned places are more casual, but an evening of dining at Barton G. deserves a little evening-wear flair. Nestled in on the opposite side of the island from most tourist hotels, Barton G. is not often discovered without a little help, even though it has achieved critical fame. I am going to let the presentation of the food be a surprise, but expect to be wowed by a witty integration of iconic Americana while you dine on super fresh cuisine served by waiters knowledgeable with the menu as well as wine and drink pairings, and enjoy a pleasant ambience highlighted by an impressive bar top made of an entire slab of Jade, with miniature replicas of paintings by famous abstract expressionist Mark Rothko.
And please don’t tell anyone I told you, or the natives may get restless…
What & Where:
A La Folie (516 Espanola Way; 305-538-4484)
La Sandwicherie (229 14th St; 305-532-8934)
Segafredos (1040 Lincoln Rd: 305-673-0047)
Panizza (1229 Lincoln Rd: 305) 695-8800)
Barton G. (1427 West Ave; 305-672-8881)