South Beach is showy, but beyond the bars and restaurants in the spotlight are some places that require a search. Because the Beach is about to celebrate its centennial, it's time to highlight those special eateries off the beaten path.
These are places for locals only, spots in back alleys with no signage, and even a special locale with a porta-potty portal.
Here are our top ten picks for the best hidden spots to eat and drink in South Beach.
10. Ocean Deli
Everyone knows and loves La Sandwicherie, but there's a certain mystique surrounding a proper liquor-store deli. Grab a forty (or forty ounces of freedom) and a sub on Liberty Street. Ocean Deli has the bonus of one of the best lunch specials on the Beach. You can get a takeout box filled to the brim with roast pork, plantains, and pasta for $5 flat.
9. Foxhole Bar
A back alley and a red light set the tone for this supersecret location. Even the name hints at its concealment. Though this place is a hot spot among Flamingo residents and industry folk, weapons hang on the wall in case too many invade. This local favorite hangout proves that a dive bar doesn't have to be a hole -- it can be foxy, even classy with bottle service.
Miami Beach has no shortage of Cuban restaurants, but one tucked away in a boutique hotel and owned by a Latin Grammy winner certainly stands out. Jorge Moreno is the heart and soul behind this eatery, featuring a relaxed bar and free live music seven nights a week. This Havana-like hideaway is a best-kept secret in South Beach.
Sure, you can wait in the brunch line at Yardbird like a civilized chick. Or perhaps you are really in-the-know and get the fried chicken box at Joe's Take Away. However, if you want to get in on the real secret in South Beach, head to the fried chicken franchise inside a convenience store on Washington Avenue. Normally you'd have to go to a gas station in a sketchy neighborhood to get this Krispy Krunchy "krack," but now you can get it at all hours of the night and even delivered.
Perhaps you've heard great things about Bodega's tacos, but for something mas bodacious, you must enter through the porta-potty portal. (It's way better than a hot tub time machine.) It is the blue door that reads, "Baños," in graffiti, and it will transport you to a supercool bar with mucha tequila.
When it comes to breakfast off the beaten path, everyone on that side of Flamingo flocks to Las Olas. According to New Times' own Zachary Fagenson, "Abuelitas in their floral-patterned house dresses sip the strongly sugared brews alongside double-parked cops and models who munch on spinach empanadas while silently praying not to be seen." Grab some grub and morning brew and take in the people-watching.
4. The Alibi
South Beach and Philly have very little in common, so it should come as a surprise that you can get a good cheesesteak a stone's throw from the beach bods. Part of Española Way may be a tourist trap, but closer to the water you get some cool punk and sports bars that don't match the club scene. Head to the back window at the end of the bar in Lost Weekend, and you'll find the Alibi, which serves a Philly cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz (!) on an Amoroso's roll (!!).
3. Patpong Road
Even though we know nothing beats South Beach, it is nice to be transported to a faraway land just by veering off Lincoln Road. Located above Khong River House and accessed through an alley is Patpong Road, paying homage to the red-light district in Thailand. Friday and Saturday evenings, walk up the tin stairs and find a whole new world (one night in Bangkok) with a Long "Thailand" iced tea, some drunken noodles, and fun times.
Another eatery just off the bustling Lincoln Road is Visa-O1. It is located on the first floor of a multistory office building. Unless someone is sitting on a stool outside slinging menus, good luck finding this gem. If you do, it is so worth it. But your mission isn't yet complete. The aroma of fresh pizza permeates, but you still have the task of snagging a seat in this tiny restaurant filled with Italians speaking their native tongue. Don't give up. You need your slice of the absolute best pizza: the Star Luca, with ricotta stuffed into the corners of this star-shaped pie.
There is the South Beach that tourists see, and then there is this vibrant, rich culture of neighbors and sense of community that grows Under the Mango Tree. This small store and eatery isn't easy to spot, but the veggie melts, açaí bowls, dragon fruit smoothies, and fresh juices aren't easily forgotten. This place is special and full of health and heart.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst