Best-Kept Secrets of Miami Beach There's more to Magic City than meets the eye! From hidden speakeasy-style restaurants to secret beaches, we're spilling about the obscure haunts that Florida locals love. Budget Travel Tuesday, May 3, 2016, 10:00 AM Blink and you'll miss it. No, seriously. The Drunken Dragon is hidden behind what looks like an empty deli façade, but inside is a trendy, bustling Korean barbecue gastropub with rich wood accents, thick rope trim, and artistic nods to Japanese bondage. To save cash but still soak up the scene, pop in for a single tiki-themed cocktail and sit at the sustainable Douglas fir bar, or time your visit to Dragon Hour: Every Monday through Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., the restaurant serves affordable small bites like bahn mi and bok choy (from $3) alongside reduced-price beer, wine, and creative cocktails like Marlee's Green Tea (green tea whiskey, blue agave, and lemon) (from $4, drunkendragon.com).   (Drunken Dragon) Budget Travel LLC, 2016
 

VACATION IDEAS

Best-Kept Secrets of Miami Beach

There's more to Magic City than meets the eye! From hidden speakeasy-style restaurants to secret beaches, we're spilling about the obscure haunts that Florida locals love.

  • Drunken Dragon restaurant, Miami, Florida
  • Table grill, Drunken Dragon, Miami, Florida
  • The Hall hotel, Sunnys, Miami, Florida
  • Sunnys, The Hall hotel, Miami, Florida
  • yoga classes, Mondrian South Beach, Miami, Florida
  • yoga classes, Mondrian South Beach, Miami, Florida
  • 27 Restaurant, Miami, Florida
  • 27 Restaurant, Freehand, Miami, Florida
  • The Wolfsonian-FIU, museum, Florida, Miami
  • The Wolfsonian-FIU, Miami, Florida, museum
  • La Sandwicherie, Miami, Florida
  • La Sandwicherie, Miami, Florida
  • North Shore Open Space Park, Miami, Florida
  • North Shore Open Space Park, Miami, Florida
  • Moises Bakery, Miami, Florida
  • Pastel de Nata, Moises Bakery, Miami, Florida
  • Bodega Lounge, Miami, Florida
  • Bodega Lounge, Miami, Florida
  • Hotel Breakwater South Beach, Miami, Florida
  • Hotel Breakwater South Beach, Miami, Florida
  • Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida
  • Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida
  • The Freehand, hostel, hotel, The Broken Shaker bar, Miami, Florida
  • The Freehand, hostel, hotel, The Broken Shaker bar, Miami, Florida
  • Las Olas Café, Miami, Florida
  • Las Olas Café, Miami, Florida
  • Macchialina, Miami, Florida
  • Macchialina, Miami, Florida

Blink and you'll miss it. No, seriously. The Drunken Dragon is hidden behind what looks like an empty deli façade, but inside is a trendy, bustling Korean barbecue gastropub with rich wood accents, thick rope trim, and artistic nods to Japanese bondage. To save cash but still soak up the scene, pop in for a single tiki-themed cocktail and sit at the sustainable Douglas fir bar, or time your visit to Dragon Hour: Every Monday through Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., the restaurant serves affordable small bites like bahn mi and bok choy (from $3) alongside reduced-price beer, wine, and creative cocktails like Marlee's Green Tea (green tea whiskey, blue agave, and lemon) (from $4, drunkendragon.com).

 

(Drunken Dragon)

If you splurge and make dinner reservations at the Drunken Dragon (calling ahead or booking a res on OpenTable is highly recommended—this place is hopping), ask for a table with a barbecue grill and DIY your dinner: rib eye, shrimp, pork belly, and mushrooms in inventive sauces are just a few options to sear and share with the table (starters and sides from $6, sharable entrées from $11).

(Drunken Dragon)

A newly renovated property right on the beach, The Hall mixes on-trend, minimalist rooms—the slightest wash of teal paint on the walls, miniature cacti, and artsy palm tree silhouettes on plywood—with common areas that encourage daylong hangouts. Don't tell, but the building was originally the less-than-desirable Haddon Hall, better known among locals as "Haddon Hell." No more, thanks to an overhaul from the swanky Joie de Vivre hotel group. Post-reno, from the Jonathan Adler toiletries to the zen terra-cotta pots filled with smooth stones as decor, this is a basic but chic steal. The hotel is building a beer garden on property; if you'd rather not be in the middle of party central, ask for a quiet interior room (from $149 per night, plus $20 resort fee, jdvhotels.com).

(The Hall)

More an aspirational lifestyle compound than a mere place to stay, The Hall hotel has a hipster-friendly restaurant, Sunny's, which presses fresh juices (from $8) and slings beach-inspired dishes—sometimes health-conscious, sometimes not—like açai bowls, chilaquiles, and lemongrass short ribs, served in baskets or vibrantly hued dishware (entrées from $9, jdvhotels.com). At breakfast, the bottomless cereal bowl (including Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch) comes complete with a Game Boy for ultimate millennial bliss ($6). Sit outside in the light Miami breeze as the Beach Boys' "Caroline No" plays, and youngsters in fedoras and sweeping floor-length beach dresses swan by. Or wander inside to enjoy your dinner and you'll find Holiday's, an opulent gold mirrored cocktail bar—complete with vintage piano—that mixes up killer libations like Prohibition-era gin drink The Last Word.

(The Hall)

Free stuff alert! OK, so maybe a stay at the Mondrian South Beach isn't within most frugal travelers' budgets (though poking around on Booking.com and LastMinuteTravel.com can score you discounted rates) but anyone—yes, any member of the public—is welcome to take a complimentary outdoor yoga class at the Mondrian on Sundays at 10 a.m. Major key: Space is limited, so RSVP at mondrianpoolclub@mhgc.com to reserve your spot. 

(Graciela Cattarossi)

The Mondrian South Beach's free yoga classes are held on the pool veranda right next to Biscayne Bay, in partnership with Green Monkey Yoga. If you like the free class and want to check out Green Monkey's hip Miami Beach studio in the Purdy Avenue neighborhood, you can drop into any class—from Beginner's Yoga to Hip Hop Flow—for $25 (greenmonkeyyoga.com).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Meet your new favorite brunch spot. With comfort food galore and impossibly quaint touches—like fried chicken and a buttermilk biscuit with gravy, served in a cast-iron skillet with a quilted pan handle cover—the see-and-be-seen 27 Restaurant at the Freehand Miami hostel in Mid-Beach is designed to make diners feel they're in their abuela's home, down to the floral china and framed needlepoint of raccoons on the wall (brunch entrées from $10, thefreehand.com). Prior to being a restaurant, the two-story 1930s structure was, indeed, a historic home designed by Russell Pancoast, one of the architects responsible for Miami Beach's Art Deco look.

(Justin Namon)

Specialties at 27 Restaurant include shakshuka—eggs poached in a tomato sauce with feta (above)—and local daily catch with Florida citrus and herbs. Splurge on a cocktail with a spirited name, like Rye or Die (Wild Turkey with granny apple–infused vermouth) or #B*tch Better Have My Money (vodka and Aperol with strawberries, citrus, cinnamon, and basil). The drinks' bitters and herbs like mint are plucked right from the Freehand's hydroponic garden (from $14).

(Justin Namon)

A hidden treasure tucked into South Beach's Art Deco district, the Wolfsonian-FIU museum displays works spanning from the 1850s to the 1950s ($10, wolfsonian.org). To save big, go on a Friday evening from 6 to 9, when admission is free.

(The Wolfsonian–FIU)

A taste of the exhibit Art and Design in the Modern Age, permanently housed at Wolfsonian-FIU. The museum's eclectic collection includes Bauhaus furniture, historic political propaganda, and vintage travel posters for late-1800s ocean liners—then a newfangled way to see the world.

(The Wolfsonian–FIU)

The French-owned La Sandwicherie, in South Beach, is a stellar place to get your Francophile fix, even into the wee, wee hours: 5 a.m. weeknights and 6 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Pick up a hot or cold sandwich like the Frenchie (French salami and brie) or a classic croque monsieur with side salad (sandwiches from $6, lasandwicherie.com). 

(La Sandwicherie)

It's the Left Bank in South Beach: Choose a baguette or a croissant as your base for sandwiches with French fixings—including cornichons (French pickles)—at La Sandwicherie.

(La Sandwicherie)

A whisper-quiet white-sand beach in Miami that you just might have all to yourself? It's not a myth! Bring along a beach chair like the locals do at North Shore Open Space Park, in the residential North Beach area, far from South Beach's high-rise hotels jockeying for space.

(Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Pack your beach gear, sure, but bring your pooch and your walking shoes too. North Shore Open Space Park has a peaceful swath of trees and a trail winding through them—part of the East Coast Greenway, which stretches from Maine to Key West. The park also has picnic tables, a dog park, playground equipment, and plenty of space to park a car.

(Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau)

On your way to North Shore Open Space Park, hit up Moises Bakery in North Beach for authentic Venezuelan sandwiches and pastries to toss into your beach cooler. A ham and cheese arepa ($5) makes for a light oceanside lunch, paired with a decadent, eclair-like bombas de crema, custard squeezing out of the sides with each bite ($1.50, moisesbakery.com).

(Moises Bakery)

Pastel de natas (egg tarts) are also in Moises Bakery's repertoire. Order a café con leche, sit on a bench, and appreciate the area's authenticity.

(Moises Bakery)

Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, a casual South Beach Mexican joint with brightly painted furniture and an Airstream taco truck inside, serves elevated street food like mahi ceviche, braised short rib tacos, and chorizo burritos, plus margs, ice-cold bottles of Dos Equis, and churros. But the restaurant is also a façade for what's in the back... (tacos from $3, bodegasouthbeach.com).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Make it through the secret Porta Potti door at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila and you'll enter B, a late-night hot spot where live bands jam, DJs spin, cocktails flow, and Victoria's Secret models have been known to dance (specialty drinks from $8). It's open till 5 a.m., but if you're not a night owl or looking to cut costs, get the party started early at happy hour every day from 6 to 8 p.m.—tacos are $2 and tequila shots start at $5 (bodegasouthbeach.com).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Right on the touristy and occasionally noisy but centrally located Ocean Drive, the classic Art Deco Hotel Breakwater has a modern, design-forward aesthetic (from $129 per night, plus $22 resort fee, breakwatersouthbeach.com). Not to diss the rollicking South Beach scene, though. The Breakwater embraces its busy location with the slogan "Ocean Drive comfort in the middle of the party." If "shots, shots, shots!" is the vibe you're after, walk a block to Wet Willie's, a wonderland of frozen alcoholic drinks where you can get your brain freeze on with zany concoctions like Shock Treatment and Call a Cab—but you won't need to if you're bunking at the Breakwater (wetwillies.com).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

An incredible view of the ocean from Hotel Breakwater's three-story glassed-in rooftop plunge pool is one of several perks. Guests also get a complimentary breakfast buffet (yes, there are scrambled eggs, French toast, sausage, and croissants along with the usual suspects like cereal and OJ), free bicycle rental, free Wi-Fi, and discounts on rental cars.

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Locals love Crandon Park in Key Biscayne. Its sandy beach is one of the draws, along with kiteboard and kayak rentals (from $20 per hour), a tennis center (court fees from $4), and cabana rentals (from $37 per day, miami-dade.gov).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Eco-adventures are part of the thrill at the Crandon Park Visitors and Nature Center. Schedule a Bear Cut Preserve Nature Walk ($3), take a self-guided nature tour, or walk the mangrove boardwalk to view a fossilized reef (miami-dade.gov).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

The Freehand Miami hostel's critically acclaimed Broken Shaker bar looks like an olde tyme apothecary cabinet, and the drinks are meticuously crafted potions. Choose your own adventure and bring up to 12 friends to share a custom-blended punch bowl: You pick the spirit, fruit, and "botanical" (fresh sage, dandelion root, etc.), and they'll stir it up ($200 for a shared bowl). If the lump sum gives you sticker shock, à la carte cocktails are equally fanciful, like the Sorry Donald, made with mezcal, corn whiskey, tamarind, cinnamon, and Modelo beer ($13). However, you can always order a Miller High Life for $4 and enjoy the same ambiance as everyone else (thefreehand.com)

(Graciela Cattarossi)

After you've ordered, bring your cocktail over to the Freehand Miami's pool, private and shaded by greenery that's both decorative and functional. The hostel's in-house garden grows everything from rosemary to starfruit to mint, all intended to make the Broken Shaker's cocktails as fresh and local as possible. Think infused syrups, homemade bitters, and herbs for muddling.

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Craving breakfast at dinnertime or an authentic Cuban sandwich? Go right up to the window on 6th Street in South Beach and order Cuban comfort food from the casual Las Olas Café. The friendly staff dishes out breakfast all day, plus fresh-squeezed juices, sandwiches, generous platters, and Cuban Jupiña and Materva sodas (pancakes from $1.50, cubanos $6.50, lasolascafesb.com).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Heaping helpings of plantains, slow-roasted pork shoulder, and boiled yucca with garlic sauce are up for grabs at a sweet price at Las Olas Café. A platter like this one (above) will run you roughly $9—non-vegetarians can sub out the black beans for another protein option, like grilled palomilla steak, half roasted chicken, or fish.

(Graciela Cattarossi)

Thank us later for introducing you to Macchialina, a cozy rustic Italian restaurant that's far away from the touristy Ocean Drive restos—and well worth the walk to Alton Road, on the west side, to get there. Slide into one of the leather booths, framed by antique brick walls lined with black-and-white photos of Italian starlets, and you'll feel like you've stepped into a Scorsese movie—but the only thing getting whacked is the house-smoked porchetta and Italian crucolo on your meat-and-cheese board (from $5, macchialina.com).

(Graciela Cattarossi)

The best secret at Macchialina? Pasta Thursdays. All pastas are $10, even decadent seasonal dishes like duck tagliatelle with minted bread crumbs; spaghetti allo scoglio with local Venus clams, rock shrimp, and tomato; and beet-filled mezzaluna with hazelnuts, brown butter, and ricotta salata.

(Graciela Cattarossi)
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