Like most Vegas girls, when I hit the road I never want to be very far from familiar comforts such as bottle service, artful culinary experiences and neon unicorns. Miami has plenty to offer in each of these categories as well as a few gems this desert doesn’t have just yet—just make sure to either know someone who knows someone, or book reservations far in advance. Here’s where to eat, stay and play in the Vegas of the Southeast.
Michael Mina 74
In Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 877-326-7412, Fontainebleau.com.
The scene: Tucked beneath the entrance to Liv Nightclub in the iconic Fontainebleau resort, Michael Mina 74 blends fine dining and nightlife with a late-night menu that goes till 4 a.m., as well as a diverse cocktail roster. The fresh seafood—displayed in a mountainous tableside shellfish cart—comes straight from the Fontainebleau fishing boat, and the space has enough ambiance to make it both the first and last destination of the evening. What to eat and drink: The dry-aged steak burger with double-smoked bacon and a bottled Gimlet from the “Fizzy Lifting Drinks” section of the menu. Expect to see: Brigades of South Beach models dancing in the aisles as the DJ turns up the music after midnight. Say hi to Bouchon Las Vegas alum Thomas Griese, who is Mina 74’s chef de cuisine.
In SLS, 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-455-2999, TheBazaar.com.
The scene: The dining room simply drips in the quirky design sensibilities of Phillip Stark from a barnacle-inlaid chandelier to faux book wallpaper and lamps—there are surprises at every turn. If your psyche had a library where it categorized all outrageous thoughts, ideas and notions, this is what it would look like. What to eat and drink: Each Bazaar location captures the personality of the city in which it is located (what does that say about Las Vegas’ soon-to-open Bazaar Meat?) Here, the emphasis is on blending Asian, Latin and Mediterranean flavors to mimic the cultures of South Beach. I especially love the Singapore Connection part of the menu with its boa con lechón (pork buns) and traditional sui mai. No trip to Miami would be complete without a Cuban sandwich, and José does his “Cubano in Honor of Café Versailles” sandwich his way: a small air-puffed bread filled with Swiss-cheese foam and topped with Iberian pork, ham and mustard. Cocktail-wise, the #SaharaToSLS is just one of many I love. A blend of Grey Goose La Poire, sweet vermouth, Aperol, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and orange bitters, it’s available at all SBE restaurants nationwide, including Katsuya, The Bazaar and Cleo, in honor of the transformation of the Sahara Hotel into the SLS Las Vegas.
In Delano South Beach, 1685 Collins Ave., 305-672-2000, MorgansHotelGroup.com.
The scene: Until Delano Las Vegas opens at Mandalay Bay in 2015, we will just have to be satisfied with a visit to the South Beach original in the heart of Collins Avenue. This is where to go when you want to feel like the queen of the Miami night. What to eat: The menu is familiar as Bianca is run by Las Vegas’ The Light Group and chef Brian Massie of Fix and Stack created the original. Big Eye Tuna Pizza? They got that! My favorites, though, all come from the Italian side of the menu including Vongole (linguine and clams) and spaghetti squash with garlic, San Marzano tomatoes and Parmesan. Who to meet: Flavio, the unforgettable sommelier, who will give you a history lesson about his Versace shirt and so much more
Restaurant Michael Schwartz
In the Raleigh Hotel, 1775 Collins Ave., 305-612-1163,RaleighHotel.com.
The scene: Sister property to Michael’s Genuine—perhaps the most famous of all Miami restaurants—Restaurant Michael Schwartz is a serene place for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I love this outdoor eatery because it’s a perfect spot to soak up some precious Vitamin D without actually getting wet or sunburned. It doesn’t hurt that it overlooks the famous Raleigh pool, an Art Deco masterpiece where Esther Williams once swam. What to eat: Lobster roll on brioche or fish tacos with tomatillo salsa, avocado and cilantro mayo.
In Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, 305-577-0277, ZumaRestaurant.com.
The scene: Caution. Zuma is expensive. Very expensive. But as the international jet set restaurant of the moment, this modern Japanese restaurant is always packed to the gills. This is the next generation for Nobu lovers, it boasts ventures in Istanbul, London and throughout the Middle East. We can only hope Zuma one day lands in Las Vegas! What to eat: Opt for the $90 tasting menu, a good sampling of Zuma’s signature dishes. My favorite item is the salmon and tuna tartar duo, which impresses even before first bite based on its “blocked” presentation. On the hot side, the rice hotpot with wild mushrooms and Japanese vegetables is a standout.
1776 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 855-220-1776; theredbury.com/southbeach/
The vibe: It goes without saying that I am really excited about SLS Las Vegas, and their South Beach outpost is a great way to whet one’s palate for the highly anticipated experience. But if you are looking for an escape from the norm, book a stay at the newly minted Redbury. On the non-beach-side of Collins Avenue and much smaller in comparison to its sister on the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles, the second hotel under SBE’s Redbury brand is a quaint and comfortable place to crash in the heart of South Beach. What to do: Set in a mid-century modern structure, the hotel, which opened in December, has a spectacular roof deck view and pool. Plus, guests can use the beach access at adjacent SLS or Raleigh—soak in all the posh without any of the madness from the other side of the street.
One Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 786.276.4000; ritzcarlton.com
The vibe: With a seemingly endless supply of hotels both large and small on Collins Avenue, it is no easy decision to pick the right one for a sojourn in South Beach. A sleeper favorite is the Ritz Carlton located at the gateway to the Lincoln Road shopping district. Built in 1953 as the DiLido Hotel and designed by the godfather of Miami Modern, Morris Lapidus, the structure has maintained its original integrity—as dictated by the Historic Preservation Board—while being completely updated to a current standard of luxury. The first thing guests see upon arrival is the building’s proud original sign, channeling a bygone era. Inside there are rotating art installations from owner Diana Lowenstein’s Wynwood Art District gallery. What to do: If relaxation is the name of the game, hit the pool bar for a mojito and then head to the spa for a Rhythm Massage. One of the signatures of the Ritz Carlton brand is that its hotel spas have at least one treatment reflecting their location. Here, it’s all about channeling Miami’s steamy vibe, with Latin music to boost the mood and movements in sync with the beat. Don’t miss this deal: If you are in the mood for a hop over to Ritz-Carlton’s Key Biscayne property, check out the A Tale of Two Beaches package, which begins with two nights at one of the properties and one-way transportation between the two. Guests enjoy oceanfront lunches at both properties, an Art Deco walking tour, tickets to Bill Baggs State Park to explore the Cape Florida Lighthouse and more. (Rates starting from $799; valid through November 22, 2014).