Which neighborhood is home to The 305’s most sumptuous stores, high-quality cuisine, hottest contemporary art, an abundance of parking, and-unlike Wynwood-few tourists? If you guessed Miami’s Design District, you would be #winning.
[A Botero sculpture at the entrance to Palm Court]
For now, the Design District remains an underground chic scene, perfect for lovers of art and beauty across all income strata. It shouldn’t require too much imagination to figure out how to enjoy yourself at FENDI Casa or MC Kitchen, if you’re seeking to spend sta¢k$ in the neighborhood.
[An 18th century granary-turned-handbag closet at Loewe]
But for those looking to experience a luxe day on a little less extravagant of a budget, there are an array of appealing options too:
Michael Schwartz is without a doubt, the reigning tastemaker-pun intended- of the Design District culinary scene.
His signature Michael’s Genuine restaurant boasts that their “fresh, simple, and pure approach is all about daily care and attention to the quality of our local sources and getting their beautiful product into the kitchen at its freshest”. While the interior is attractive, the chief appeal of Michael’s Genuine is in its outstanding devotion to having the freshest and highest-quality ingredients in each dish. Accordingly, the menu shifts slightly each day to reflect the very best foods available daily from their local suppliers.
On a weekend evening, the restaurant will be really crowded and you will have to make a reservation, but the quality of the food will surpass any spacial inconveniences. I usually have a custom farm-to-table vegetable plate as my main course, and have found them to always be very flexible with working around dietary restrictions or preferences. It’s not the place to be too virtuous though; I often accessorize my veggies with a decadent shared plate of strachiatella or the wood-roasted double yolk farm egg with gruyère and crostini. A multi-course dinner for 2 will typically run about $85-$120 (and it is worth it!), but a more price-friendly option is to stop by for a snack or dessert.
[The $11 toasted coconut cake with dulce de leche, lavender, and lemon zest is a particularly sweet favorite]
If you are looking for quality food in a more casual setting, Harry’s Pizzeria, also founded by Michael Schwartz, possesses some of the best pizza (and polenta fries) in all of Miami. Your calorie count may runneth over, but your wallet won’t; it is hard to spend more than $20 on dinner at Harry’s, with most large entrees between $12-$17.
[Tacos and architectural thinkers]
This weekend, I visited Schwartz’s pop-up café, ella, for the first time, as I was in dire need of a post-Barry’s Bootcamp snack. The 2 small, but satisfying, vegetable tacos with beans and cotija cheese for $10, buttressed by a potent $4 Panther Coffee almond milk infused cold brew, was a re-energizing pick. The $8 avocado toast and $2 fudge ice cream bars also looked delicious, but I managed to refrain, for now.
A table at ella, festooned with pastries and/or Panther coffee, provides you with the perfect ring-side seat to people watch and relax at Palm Court. This central shopping zone within the Design District is flanked by masculine-leaning luxury brands such as Hublot, John Lobb, and Piaget.
The clean-aesthetics-of-the-modern-male theme continues visually with an austere statue of “Le Corbusier” by Xavier Veilhan, overlooking Palm Court’s centerpiece, the majestically modern “Fly’s Eye Dome” by Buckminster Fuller.
Another interesting vantage point to enjoy Palm Court’s public art is from above. An escalator leads to a series of white swinging chairs by German designer, Konstanin Grcic, where visitors are encouraged to play and sway in the sky.
I rarely leave the Design District without making a stop at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). Currently ensconced in the historic Moore Building, ICA rotates its always-changing exhibits of au courant art. Most of the pieces tend to be interesting, rather than classically beautiful, sparking thought and conversation.
[John Miller exhibit at ICA]
ICA is usually quiet, making it ideal for solo contemplation and exploration. However, they also throw really amazing (and free!) parties each time there is a new exhibit, often followed by a libations-filled after-party. Financial backers of ICA include Craig Robins and Elle Macpherson, so you never know who you might see or meet.
[Laura Lima exhibit at ICA]
In the coming years, ICA will be moving to much larger space in the neighborhood, designed by Spanish firm, Aranguren & Gallegos Arquitectos. Take some time now to enjoy its tranquility, and always provocative art, before it is discovered by non-residents en masse.