A guide to Miami’s funky side
Strangely cool things outside of South Beach (mostly)
Contrary to popular belief, Miami isn’t a single big music video full of bikinis, sports cars, and dollar bills flying through the air. It’s way funkier than that, a place where you travel from the glamorous beach scene to gloomy reality with your eyes barely blinking. Sure, our innate sexiness is part of the Miami people’s obsession. But it is also our weird, bizarre and head-shaking madness that makes the city so unique. So stop by – from rundown barbecues to late-night Latin dance clubs to a castle made of coral – and find the funky places locals love and tourists rarely find.
Do you think you are a home improvement guru because you managed to build a deck yourself? Ed Leedsklanin sees your deck and lets you carve an entire fortress and sculpture garden out of coral. He built this 11,000 pound wonder all by himself between 1923 and 1951 and opened it as a street attraction along the South Dixie Highway. And since it was never built, the way it was built is one of the city’s great secrets.
Locals know Card Sound Road is a must-see if you are visiting the Keys on a busy weekend to avoid the crowds. They also know that this little waterfront fish shack about halfway down Card Sound is the ideal spot to wait for the traffic, where live country music, cold drinks, and fresh fish take a virtual trip to preconditioned Florida . The swampy redneck atmosphere shows what this place looked like before it was discovered by the rest of the world. And it’s a peaceful break from an afternoon of South Florida drivers.
Photo courtesy Club Tipico Dominicano
Do you know the scene in From Justin to Kelly where Kaya goes to an underground salsa club with a sexy waiter she just met and has the night of her life? Probably not like no one has seen From Justin to Kelly, but believe us, it was definitely Club Tipico. This Dominican-owned place has been a staple of merengue and bachata for over 35 years. We can’t promise you that you will experience a top-notch romance that teaches the world a lesson in love, but we can promise you that you will have a hot, sweaty, dance-filled night with lots of alcohol to keep you going .
Western small river
With all due respect to the many great BBQ spots in our town – Society, Myron Mixon’s – if you want to discover the real Miami, you have to go to this golden shack on NW 22nd Avenue & NW 93rd Street. This is where you can undoubtedly find the best ribs in Miami, sold in platters or sandwiches, as well as pork and chicken sauce such as can only be made in Northwest Miami. Local boxers and MMA fighters will be returned to the take-away line after the sparring. Your seal of approval is the only thing you need.
Calling a Miami tour “Weird Miami” is a bit like calling a tour of the Aleutian Islands “Cold Alaska,” but what you get on the artist-led city tours offered by Bas Fisher Invitational is too unique. Your guide for the monthly bus tours are local artists who will take you through the strange, surreal and bizarrely beautiful places of this city that inspire their work. You’ll immerse yourself in places most locals don’t even know about and immerse yourself in some of the city’s subcultures, if only for a few hours.
Courtesy Funky Buddha
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Biscayne Bay island parties
TV producers would have the world believe that Miamians drink $ 20 worth of cocktails all day long in swanky day clubs by the pool. But the locals know that the scene is only for people with plane tickets at home. The real local parties take place on the small, uninhabited islands in the middle of Biscayne Bay, where we pull our boats ashore every weekend and cause spontaneous speeders. Live DJs often play in the sand at places like the Flagler Memorial and the Pace Picnic Islands. Yes you need a boat to get there. But hey, isn’t that part of what dating apps are for?
Another misconception on TV about Miami locals: That we spend our beach days on South Beach. Sure, if you live in Miami Beach, maybe you could, but for the mainland residents, there is nothing like the soft sand and swaying palm trees of Crandon Park. The beach in this Key Biscayne park feels like a secluded paradise where all you see from your shady spot is turquoise water and the occasional cruise ship. Our slice of paradise just got better this year with Open Seas Café, which has brought a menu full of Latin and Caribbean favorites to the beach so you can enjoy empanadas and conch fritters and forget that you are less than 10 minutes from downtown are away.
Usually it’s a secret bar you conjure up, a chic underground whisper bar where guys in leather aprons screw up cocktails full of ingredients you can’t pronounce. This couldn’t be further from the scene at America’s most quaint VFW bar. Go to an unmarked door just to the left of the entrance to the Floridian Condo Tower, press a buzzer, and you’ll be strolling into a dimly lit room that’s usually full of people who like to hide from the sun. The bar has breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline, plus cheap drinks and cold air conditioning. And unlike some of our favorite dive bars, it doesn’t smell like smoke for days.
Photo by Phillip Pessary / Flickr
City Hall of Opa-Locka
The Grandpa Locks, as they are known by the locals, were once designed as the treasury of Islamic revival architecture, where buildings inspired by 1920s Arab films dominated the landscape. The great hurricane of 1926 destroyed many of them, but the most impressive is the City Hall, a domed and minaret castle that looks like Casablanca fell into the swamp. The TRI train station could also be a standard – you can find it just half a mile away on Ali Baba Avenue.
Ruins of the Crandon Park Zoo
The story of the old Crandon Park Zoo has all of the great trappings of classic Miami history: bankrupt hikers, weird poor planning, and of course, a major hurricane. The story goes that an ongoing animal show in Miami got to the end of the street and went broke and then sold a handful of animals to the city. In its infinite wisdom, the city allegedly chose to make these animals the main attraction of a new zoo located on a low-lying island that acted as a barrier against hurricanes. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy rolled through and over 200 of the animals died. Eventually, the city moved the zoo to a larger, more open location in southwest Dade. But even today you can stroll through the overgrown zoo relics of Crandon Park.
Even getting to the Russian and Turkish baths of Miami Beach is a trip into the bizarre, as the entrance is through a confusing hallway / half-abandoned shopping center under the New Point Condo Tower. Inside, you’ll find a world of marble saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs, and other places where you can relax in warm water in general. For the ultimate experience, ask about the Platza, a Russian bathhouse tradition where a staff member beats you in a sauna with oak leaves. The smell of oak leaves is said to relieve stress, but the more likely the incessant laughs you make as you place them make you feel better.
Before any hipster who popped Bulgogi in a taco decided to open a food truck, there was The Pincho Man, a roving supplier of some of the city’s best grilled meat sandwiches that became a legend among those who grew up in the Miami suburbs . His sandwiches range from burgers to churrasco to shrimp and chicken, all covered in his secret sauce and potato straws. Legend has it that a nationwide food TV show once tried to film the pincho man. He immediately closed all of his doors and left the suburban parking lot he was in. To find him, follow his social media and give him a call. He is always “on site”, but you have to find out for yourself exactly where that is.