Five (of the very best) Places to Shop-and-Dine: Miami

 

Miami lends itself as the perfect place to launch LuxuryBARED’s definitive guides to shopping and eating in some of the world’s greatest cities. Our Editor-in-Chief, Alison Holmes, has her finger on the pulse (and her credit cards) in any given location.

As I write this, in August, I realise it’s not the time of year when thoughts turn to Miami; but you’ll all think of me in January, or worse, February, when the high winds and your woolly socks get the better of you.

So, without further ado, here’s my A-list for this dynamic city, where dreams really do come true.

Forget tourist-swarming South Beach as a shopping/dining venue, except, obviously for Joe’s Stone Crabs down on 5th Street, which I, and just about everyone else, consider to be one of Miami’s greatest eating emporiums – a true blue American experience. You can shop here too, as Joe’s has a little outlet with cookbooks and aprons and the like. Great for souvenirs, anyway.

 

The Village of Merrick Park, Coral Gables

But if you’ve come to Miami with serious shopping on your mind, start in the south, in Coral Gables to be precise. On your way to the Village of Merrick Park, make a cultural pitstop at Coconut Grove’s magnificent Villa Vizcaya, and then carry on a little to your destination. Of course, like every mall in America, dining options abound at the Village of Merrick Park, but many are only average, and you want the day to be perfect. So, because you’re here to shop and not dive into a three-course cordon bleu feast, Mariposa, at Neiman Marcus will hit the spot, in the right kind of setting.  

A bar, balcony seating when the weather is good (most days here), staff who know what they’re doing and a menu that counts calories for you (yes, who knew some salads could be weightier than a burger?) will win you over. And in addition, there’s a  very nice “powder room” here for the ladies. Yes, Mariposa is my number one choice when I come here to stock up on shoes in Neman’s competitor Nordstrom’s, on the opposite end of this mall. 

Diners are started off with a shot of chicken broth and a perfectly prepared popover (the Yankee version of a mini Yorkshire pud) that never sinks. So I always skip the appetiser and go for the fish tacos or a steak salad, but the plantain chips that come with the lobster roll are decidedly delish too. There’s a very smart wine list to go with whatever it is you choose if you’re in a holiday mood, which, to be frank, I usually am when I shop at Merrick Park. 

 

Brickell City Center, Downtown

Heading north towards the beaches, you’ll pass downtown Miami which used to be a quasi-wasteland – but not anymore. Because, in what I can only compare to a Dubai-style erection (umm, no, not that kind) that seems to be built in a nanosecond, the Brickell City Center (BCC) and adjoining offices and a fabulous hotel, East, are today open for business. In a case of ‘build it, and they will come’, this is where you want to hang out, day or night when you’re in Miami. You won’t be beachside, but there are many great hotels here in the vicinity (not to mention the Pérez Art Museum), and restaurants too. Shopping highlights at the BCC include many swish boutiques, a dedicated Lafayette New York shop, an Apple store, a Zara and Saks Fifth Avenue as its destination department store. 

After shopping a few hours, hunger will surely set in, and Casa Tua Cucina on the ground floor will be a perfect choice for all the family, as everyone can order from whichever food counter they want in this multi-concept, Italian gourmet mecca. For those 21 and older who wish to drop out of post-lunch shopping, there are around 48 wines by the glass to choose from at the bar. 

Those of you who follow golf will have heard of Ernie Els, the South African pro player known as The Big Easy for his stature and his swing. Els owns a restaurant here called, you guessed it, The Big Easy. Of course, Americans will equate that name to New Orleans, but the food here is decidedly from Els’ home country, with big, bold grilled meats and fish taking centre stage. The lobster salad I ordered had so much lobster in it I couldn’t finish it all, and the mushroom flatbread was superb. 

Els has selected some super South African wines which are on the list at reasonable prices, and there’s a bar here too, with a big screen TV showing pertinent European football games and golf tournaments (of course). Another great place for extended members of the family to kill time with a cup of coffee, or otherwise, while those who like to shop get down to business.

 

  Toscana Divino

Toscana Divino

Mary Brickell Village, Brickell

If I’m honest, this is not a true shopper’s paradise, but there are a few boutiques that are worth a rustle through if you need a new pair of shades (Edward Beiner has a shop here), a sundress or a pair of flip-flops. It’s really more of a nice venue to wander around for an hour before lunch, and then head to Toscana Divino for some of the best Tuscan food in Miami. 

Sit outside in the winter months, and enjoy people watching while sipping one of the many Super Tuscans on their extensive wine list. Service is friendly but strictly professional, and because I love bottarga, I usually opt for the black spaghetti seafood when I’m here.

 

The Design District

Who am I kidding when I try to slip in and out of the Design District thinking I’ll give Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink a miss just once? The lure is too strong. 

Chef Michael Schwartz has been making his homemade delicious and unfussy meals in this chic but laid-back establishment since 2007. Sit inside and enjoy the raw bar, or outside in this luxury street dining venue – the service is great, and the sommelier knows his stuff. Order up the deviled eggs, have a pizza or a beautifully prepared piece of fish, with sides to die for. This kind of food is what makes American cuisine so exciting: fresh, local ingredients, perfectly prepared and presented with a host of flavours. 

I was here, hanging around, in those days, when the Design District was a mere concept. A few brave men and women ventured over and helped turn the place around – today it’s something else. Originally a handful of old warehouses, every luxury outfitter and art studio, jeweller and retailer, has a store here. Some tried and true, like Louis Vuitton, Harry Winston, Armani and Lanvin, and others you may not yet know but need to check out, like Orianne Collins Jewellery (Phil and his family call Miami home) and Jason of Beverly Hills, jeweller to the stars.

 

The Bal Harbour Mall

Last, only because this is as far north as I go and consider I’m still in Miami (Aventura, for me, is not Miami), Bal Harbour is my go-to venue when I want to grab an early morning swim in the ocean at nearby Surfside beach before my days begins. The public beach here is often deserted which I like. A quick dip, and then I dry up and head to the Red Market Salon in the mall for a blow dry. After which, I’m ready to swan around the shops; Bal Harbour is the most elegant mall in the USA some say, and I would agree. Do a bit of window shopping before having lunch at Makoto, or if it’s full, Carpaccio. 

You can book Makoto in advance if you remember to, but Carpaccio is on a first-come-first-served basis, and you can leave your name on the waitlist (there’s always one) and wander around some more.

Makoto is a bit dark inside, so you’ll want to snag an outdoor table at this, chef Makoto Okuwa’s, Miami kingdom. He’s a well-respected master of Edomae-style sushi here in the USA, and his signature dishes in the Bal Harbour restaurant are designed around the freshest raw fish and premium Japanese and American beef. With some of Miami’s popular dishes as inspiration, I love his take on ceviche, the best I’ve ever had, anywhere. Order a Passion Pisco to go with it, and plan your next trip, to Peru – where else?

Other than cocktails, there’s an enormous sake menu which will inspire you to try the very moreish sushi which just keeps on coming – well, because I keep asking for more, that is. You won’t get away cheap, but it’ll be well worth the experience. And don’t miss out on the Brussel sprouts – they’re wonderful.

Carpaccio is an entirely different experience: essentially traditional trattoria food. But the pizza is delicious, and the service is speedy and good. Really, you come here to people watch (there’s lots to see) and revise your shopping lists. 

After lunch, the serene setting here at the mall (and the amazing fish ponds and flora to enjoy) is the perfect place for a post-meal stroll, which will, most likely, lead to Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue, the two biggest destination shops here. Oh yes, and don’t miss the shoes at the Roger Vivier shop, the best in town.

Looking for a hotel in Miami to book? Find our full list of Miami hotels here:

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