Travel

South Beach

Establishment neighborhood
The Betsy South Beach Rooftop Wellness Garden & Spa
1440 Ocean Dr., South Beach
Outdoors on the gorgeous plant-flanked rooftop of the Betsy Hotel, this spa is absolute heaven. Retractable sails shade private cabanas, where treatments that harness the power of pure ingredients and salubrious fruit extracts are performed by skilled aestheticians. The Muse is a thorough detox with antioxidant-infused coconut milk, pore-tightening cucumber toner, and a corrective, glowifying mask made with blueberries and cocoa powder.
Happy Place Donuts
507 Española Way, South Beach
Recently opened, Happy Donuts is a sugar palace for grown-ups. Between the café and the terrace, there are over one hundred seats, and impressively, the bakery manages to keep up. For entertainment, stand at the glass counter and watch the busy bakers churn out thousands of chewy doughnuts and tarts. Flavors like guava are something you won’t taste elsewhere, and although this is technically a doughnut shop, we’re partial to the Nutella-stuffed pastries.
Kimpton Surfcomber
1717 Collins Ave., South Beach
Though it’s in close proximity to the glitzy hotels of South Beach, the Surfcomber is unpretentious and relaxed. It’s right on the beach but not super scene-y. The pool is shaded by the surrounding palms and close enough to the waves to catch that essential sea breeze and none of the sand. The décor abandons the all-white concept adopted by so many hotels in the neighborhood and instead goes for bright geometric patterns that complement the Art Deco aesthetic of the property. The surfboards nestled in corners around the lobby and heaped out by the pool are a further nod to the mellow, amiable vibe the Surfcomber is going for.
Casa Tua
1700 James Ave., South Beach
A hotel, restaurant, and private club imply a scene. However, out-of-towners can barely get in the door given locals have taken all the best seats. Casa Tua—which translates to “your house”—resembles a beautiful, homey Mediterranean villa. The four-poster canopied beds are made up with the silkiest white sheets, and the bathrooms have deep tubs for long soaks after days at the beach. The food is some of the best in the city, and the patio is perennially packed with locals, all diving into bowls of rich, peppery truffle tagliatelle at tables illuminated by the Moroccan lanterns that drop from the surrounding trees. Hang out in the lobby during Art Basel—this is where all the deals go down.
Sweet Liberty
237 20th St., Suite B, South Beach
Despite Sweet Liberty's being ranked one of the best bars in the world, locals actually drink here, and tourists, for the most part, do not. The space is a little too big to feel intimate, and the best seats are at the bar. No matter how well-versed you are, you can’t help but be impressed by the selection of premium spirits, and watching the mixologists at work is true theater. Come for happy hour: The drinks are, of course, excellent, and the fresh oysters (under $1 each) go down just as easy. The rest of the bar menu is all tasty, salty bites that pair so well with the drinks—the swordfish tacos with mango pico and Asian-style tater tots with crunchy seaweed and sesame are the standouts.
Planta
850 Commerce St., South Beach
Planta hits that sweet spot of healthy, sustainable dishes that are flavorful and substantial and look absolutely beautiful. We’re partial the “lox” platter, with its smoky carrots, surprisingly good cashew cheese, and sharp pickles. The banana pancakes are comfort on a plate and the ceviche—in this case, with fresh watermelon, mango, and coconut—is incredibly refreshing. The drinks are reason alone to show up. We love a Kombucha Mojito to start, then suggest moving on to a Charcoal Bourbon Sour (with whipped aquafaba, or chickpea water, instead of egg whites). For dessert, get a side of the especially good (and gluten-free) banoffee pie to share—or not.
Chotto Matte
1664 Lenox Ave., South Beach
The late 1800s was a time of mass migration from Japan to Peru. One of the unexpected results is what is now known as Nikkei cuisine. And Chotto Matte may be the best example of it outside of Lima. A table loaded with the Nikkei-dressed sushi—which means traditional sushi servings of yellowtail tuna or scallops “dressed” in Peruvian-style spicy sauces such as aji amarillo (a bright orange, almost fruity-tasting chili)–paired with a few bowls of citrusy branzino ceviche make for a fine meal. The restaurant is similar to the original London location, but grander, louder, and way more Miami: tall, leafy trees; bright murals by local graffiti artists; and—in a truly Miami move—a ceiling that’s fully retractable.
Dirt
232 5th St., South Beach
Dirt opened in autumn 2015, with a mission to source ingredients from local farms and bring a level of transparency to the process for customers. (Part of this is a cool map that hangs on the wall with pinpoints that highlight how much chef de cuisine Nicole Votano’s menu draws on nearby Florida farms, including organic ones as much as possible.) There are gluten-free, paleo, vegan, and kids' menus, with dishes changing somewhat seasonally but including options like an egg white and avocado mash breakfast bowl, chia pudding with coconut milk and cacao nibs, sandwiches served on Zak the Baker bread, and a kale, quinoa, and blood orange salad with cashew cream. The smoothies made with coconut meat are noteworthy. The 5th Street space has a fittingly bright, clean vibe lit by rose-gold lights, with a small juice bar in the corner, plus some tabletops if you aren’t taking your food and drink to go.
Lilikoi
500 S. Pointe Dr., South Beach
This South Beach newcomer, run by an adorable married couple from Maui, specializes in locally sourced organic health food. The menu is full of vegetarian and allergy-friendly dishes, with smoothies and acai bowls in the morning and buckwheat ramen and gluten-free pizza in the afternoon. The décor here is just as light as the food, with walls of subway tiles in the back and dainty patio tables out front—it's exactly the kind of place where you want to meet friends for lunch after a workout.
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