Unlike many other cities, Miami has boomed in the course of the pandemic. Thousands moved to South Florida, where restaurants, attractions and shops remained open, with the tropical sparkle of Miami seemingly a panacea for a life in lockdown.
“The pandemic has boosted Miami’s stock value,” said Craig Robins, a real estate developer who has helped revitalize South Beach and other parts of the city in recent years. “In the Design District alone, there are eight new restaurants and two hotels under construction. That growth is happening throughout the city.”
Visitor numbers are also skyrocketing: For the week ending May 21, the number of airline passengers at Miami International Airport was 1,010,657, a 20 percent increase from 841,892 recorded for the same period in 2019, according to STR, the hospitality benchmarking analysts. For the same week, hotel occupancy (or rooms sold) clocked in at 345,091, up 14 percent from 301,648 booked in 2019.
Here’s what’s new in the Magic City.
A steakhouse and a gem in a strip mall, both awarded a Michelin star
Bee Cote, the only Korean steakhouse in the world with a Michelin star, the fun factor is just as important as the beef. Owner Simon Kim opened the Design District location in February 2021 with psychedelic lighting and a red-light dry-aging room that doubles as an art installation. Serious carnivores prefer the 10-course steak omakase ($185 per person), which is cooked at the table on smokeless charcoal grills and served with pickled seasonal vegetables. Another popular choice is the “steak & eggs,” a dish of filet mignon tartare and caviar ($58).
In Buena Vista, the 27-seater buoy by Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer who sits in a sun-drenched strip mall recently received their own Michelin star. The two chefs, who have worked together at Scarpetta, Carbone and Eleven Madison Park, create Tuscan-inspired small plates (starting at $15) that are modest and a little surprising. Crispy polenta sticks with marinated eggplant and hangar steak tartare topped with tonnato sauce and crispy capers are standout orders.
Eric Demby, the founder of Smorgasburg in New York, brought his outdoor food market to Wynwood in March when he noticed how many restaurant professionals were looking for work. “We provide food entrepreneurs with a huge public platform,” Mr Demby wrote in an email, allowing them to “do their own thing with minimal upfront investment.” The event unfolds every Saturday afternoon with over 60 vendors.
But the biggest impact on South Florida’s culinary landscape is the arrival of large food group, the Manhattan-based hospitality outfit known for smashing restaurants like Carbone and Dirty French. Jeff Zalaznick, a partner of the group, was in Miami with his family when the coronavirus struck there in the spring of 2020. They extended their vacation, and Mr. Zalaznick said he saw “an opportunity to raise the bar, bring our style of high-energy, fine dining to Miami.”
Major Food Group delivered, with a crop of restaurants whose glamor is matched by sky-high prices. first came Carbon Miami, which debuted in South Beach in January 2021 and is a clash of Sinatra-era elegance with South Florida flash; dishes include spicy rigatoni ($33) and veal Parmesan ($69). Then a Miami version of the Tel Avivan dance party that is Hi Salon with Israeli chef Eyal Shani, followed by a brunch spot Sadelle’s in Coconut Grove with $125 bagel towers. On Brickell Avenue, in a zebra print dining room with velvet walls, fit for Tony Montana, the Dirty French Steakhouse sells $275 Wagyu Tomahawks – bone-in rib-eye steaks served with the whole rib bone.
New art, shopping and urban greenery
During the pandemic, the Design District proved to be as much a cultural center as it is a shopping destination. Locals and visitors alike flocked to the boutique-lined, 18-block area to view public art by Zaha Hadid, John Baldessari, Marc Newson, and Buckminster Fuller. In addition to new stores, there are new artworks to visit, including a window installation by Argentine photographer Lucía Fainzilber, and two murals, “Interdimensional Portal,” by Afro-Brazilian muralist Criola, and “Baltimore’s Best: Mr. GirlYouCrazy and Dev, 2021-2022”, by Amani Lewis.
the underline, a civic project in downtown Miami, is transforming 10 miles of arid land under the Metrorail system into gardens of native plants. You can stroll from Miami River to SW 13th Avenue and enjoy the cityscape and functional artworks like Cara Despain’s terrazzo-topped ping-pong tables, which speak to rising sea levels.
Hotels influenced by Art Deco and Spanish-Mediterranean revival
Those interested in a hotel designed by nightlife impresario David Grutman and artist Pharrell Williams won’t be disappointed in the influencer fever dream that the Goodtime Hotel (rates starting at $243), opening April 2021. Inspired by the Art Deco environment, the 266-room South Beach property features vintage scalloped bar chairs, hand-painted murals in the greenhouse, and a 30,000-square-foot pool club ( yes, there’s a DJ booth), bustling with scantily clad, selfie-taking millennials.
Also in South Beach, a former artist colony has been redesigned as Esme Hotel (rates from $250). The property is the length of a city block with its 145 rooms and five restaurants, spread over eight Spanish-Mediterranean revival buildings. Fun fact: Al Capone once ran an underground gambling operation out of the main property.
Twenty-five minutes north of the hubbub of South Beach is Port of St. Regis Bal ($1,050/night), located on a stretch of dune-strewn beach. Non-hotel guests can enjoy an afternoon of tranquility by booking one of the private oceanfront villas.