It seems like art is everywhere in Miami these days: in galleries, hotels and condos, parks and street corners. But long before the Basel boom brought an explosion of galleries to the city, locals were adorning themselves in a different artistic genre: body art.
Today, Miami's tattoo scene is bustling, driven in part by tourists wanting a lifelong memento of the Magic City, but supported by a dedicated group of inked-up artists and designers who want to make the world a better place, one sleeve at a time. Whether you're getting your first tattoo or filling that last spot on your body with an ode to your mama, these are the best tattoo shops in town.
1. Ocho Placas
Ocho Placas holds it down as Miami’s top shop for traditional and neo-traditional tattoos. Come here for impeccably precise outlines, solid blacks that
6240 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-264-0888; ochoplacastattoo.com.
2. Tattoo & Co. Wynwood
If scarfing down pan con lechón and
2679 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-485-0770; tattooandco.com.
3. Iris Tattoo Studio
Iris cracks the top three because of the work it’s doing in changing the traditional American tattoo aesthetic, and because its watercolor and geometric designs really capture the Wynwood and Miami vibe. The shop was founded in Argentina four years ago by Nahuel Hilal after his horrible experience at a tattoo parlor in Buenos Aires. “I walked in and everyone was just so rude to me," Hilal says. "I was also super disappointed with the aesthetic of a lot of mainstream tattoos; the blacks, the reds, the gloominess.” The Miami outpost, which was founded by Kenneth Springer, opened in 2016. Iris Tattoo’s artists are all trained graphic designers, and the shop's mission is to make tattooing more approachable and enjoyable by bringing design sensibilities to the tattoo process. The shop's friendly and creative nature is reflected in its clientele. This isn’t where the haggard, full-body-suited yakuza bosses come to get their ink done. Instead, Iris might just be the best place in Miami to get your first tattoo, and to get one that’s as unique and weird as the city itself.
2700 N. Miami Ave., Suite 508, Miami; 786-615-9186; iristattoomia.com.
4. Love Hate Tattoo
This is the tattoo shop that starred in the TLC reality television show, Miami Ink. It’s the shop that helped make the South Beach lifestyle notorious and visible, and arguably put Miami on the map as a destination for body modification art. Owned by the very recognizable Ami James, Love Hate Tattoo is known for doing great work in all styles, but resident artists like Federico Ferroni and Darren Brass are better known for their eclectic mixtures of traditional Japanese and modern realist sensibilities. Because Love Hate always has a slew of visiting tattoo artists (sometimes up to eight), they typically cater to high volumes of impulsive tourists looking for a permanent South Beach souvenir. But discriminate against this shop at your peril — even if the celebrity tattoo artist fad never quite caught on in the mainstream, pieces by Love Hate's signature artists are big, bold, and easily recognizable by connoisseurs of the craft.
1360 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-4556; lovehatetattoos.com.
5. Tattoos by Lou
Founded by Lou
9820 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami; 305-670-6694; tattoosbylou.com.
Owned by the mysterious Mr. Columbia, Inkaholik brings a high-volume approach to its two locations in South Miami. Founded in 2007, the shops are known as much for their mastery of various tattoo styles as for their groundbreaking business model. Inkaholik employs over 22 artists, and regularly advertises tattoo “flash sales” and reduced price specials. Gabe, the manager of the SW 40th Street location, describes their business strategy as “groundbreaking” and insists that Inkaholik has “more tattoo artists per square foot than any other shop in the state of Florida.” But lest you think Inkaholik is just series of veal pens filled with overworked tattoo artists, the two shops also top spots in the city for piercings, employing several expert needle wielders.
8367 SW 40th St., Miami; 305-392-0966; inkaholiktattoos.com.
7. Vatican Tattoo
Started in 2007 by Jeff Kozan and Erik Russell, Vatican Tattoo is a relative newcomer to the South Florida ink scene. But don’t their novelty fool you — these guys sling some righteous ink. While they specialize in traditional Japanese and American styles, these classically trained tattoo artists pump out portrait, geometric, and new style tattoos with some of the cleanest lines and sharpest colors in all of South Florida. Of particular note is the presence of Dr. Chyloe, a Colombian-American who's one of the only traditional hand-poke tattoo artists in the state. If you’re an avid fisherman who wants a permanent memento, Erik Russell also crafts some incredible Guy Harvey-like underwater scenes. The shop has also just recently opened its second location, in downtown Delray Beach.
99 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-561-9646; vaticantattoostudio.com.
8. 27 Miami Tattoo Shop
Full disclosure: Argentinian owner Fernando Zicarelli and I have ink from the same Buenos Aires tattoo artist, El Chino, so it’s a sure thing that he has great taste. 27 Miami Tattoo shop is another small one-man operation run by a great artist. Zicarelli does incredible work in just about any modern or geometric style. His lines are so clean they pop. His blacks hold the light. His colors catch the eye. This is the guy you go to if you have a vision for a sleeve or a big back piece. He’s going to listen closely and he’s going to produce incredible results.
1697 NW 27th Ave., Miami; 786-262-9713; 27miamitattooshop.com.
9. Green Machine Tattoo Shop
Don’t let the vermilion interior put you off. Green Machine, a small South Miami shop run by owner Chris Rossi, has attracted a loyal following from its humble storefront at the corner of Bird Road and Ludlam. This traditional local tattoo shop features a friendly atmosphere, excellent Japanese-style tattoos, and realistic portraiture. Interior decoration notwithstanding, Green Machine is where you go to make a personal connection with your tattoo artist, and where you can get a great tattoo done for a decent and reasonable price by a guy you will probably run into at the local bar.
6570 SW 40th St., Miami; 786-619-8760; facebook.com/GreenMachineTattoos.
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10. Babylon Tattoo
Babylon Tattoo is one of Broward's best tattoo shops and well worth the drive north. This is a medium-sized shop that does great work in all styles, but artists Novi Filipovich and Keith Zahra really stand out for their distinctive aesthetics. Filipovich’s cubist-inspired works look like the kind of
831B N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-523-3088; babylontattooshop.com.
Correction: New Times previously reported Kenneth Springer was the founder of Iris Tattoo in Buenos Aries. The founder is Nahuel Hilal, while Springer opened in Miami shop in 2016. Also, the suite number of Iris Tattoo is 508 not 405. We regret the error.