Best Hidden Neighborhood 1999 | Allapattah | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Allapattah has always been there, right in the heart of Miami, a diverse and often picturesque twenty or so square blocks. But we don't really know what Allapattah is all about. Yes, it's one of those inner-city neighborhoods that used to be rich and white and is now poor and minority. But such a great mix: about 40,000 Nicaraguans, Cubans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Colombians, Hondurans, and African Americans. They live between NW 7th and 27th avenues, from 20th Street north to 38th Street. Perhaps the most important landmarks in Allapattah are internationally known Jackson Memorial Hospital, the Veterans' Administration Hospital, Sylvester Cancer Center, and other medical institutions. But to get a real feel for Allapattah, check out the warehouse and garment district, which includes a legendary produce market. Stroll down NW Seventeenth Avenue, a day-and-night festival of mainly Dominican cafeterías, shops, botánicas, and bakeries. Visit the Wilfredo Vasquez boxing gym just a block away from Jackson Senior High. Cruise along the many residential streets lined with brightly painted 30- and 40-year-old bungalows. And for the record: That Burger King on 27th Avenue at 36th Street is the first BK to open in the United States.
Remember those heady adolescent days when shy, squeaky-voiced Romeos used baseball lingo to clumsily trade stories? Since then America's favorite pastimes have seemingly been at odds: Ask your heartthrob for a date, or catch a ballgame with the crew. It's a needless dilemma, we say. A simple test will prove the two aren't really opposites at all. To wit: Invite your next romantic prospect to watch the Fish. So what if Pro Player is practically in Broward? The drive north will allow you to compare musical tastes, a key early indicator of courtship success. Go Dutch on an unpretentious dinner, say, dogs and soft-serve ice cream. Sit in right field, where hoarse, true-blue fans do their best to heckle the visiting team between jaunty organ riffs and odd bursts of classic rock. The game provides an ideal getting-to-know-you vibe: dramatic enough to watch in silence but tame enough to ignore altogether if the conversation really gets going. And no one will notice if, amid the roar of a big play, you make it to first base.
From the Miami Herald, February 26, 1999: "A graphic that accompanied a Thursday story about the Delano Hotel contained two errors. The Delano is not being accused of illegal liquor sales. And the hotel is located on the Atlantic Ocean, not the Pacific."
It's something of a looking glass: You enter one of Miami's tougher, more impoverished neighborhoods and find yourself in the Bahamas during a wildly fun street party. Dreamed up 22 years ago by musician Billy Rolle and some friends, Goombay commemorates and celebrates the history and culture of the first black settlers in South Florida. Each June the area around Grand Avenue and Douglas Road fills with celebrants (organizers claim more than a half-million visitors each year); music (three stages plus parades); arts and crafts (straw hats, figurines, shell craft, and plenty more). An undercurrent of energy runs through the affair, enlivened by the parading junkanoos, who are musically abetted by the Royal Bahamas Police Band, R&B singers, hip-hoppers, and others. Some 300 vendors line the streets with kiosks full of sundry souvenirs and every type of island food. Here you can find the finest conch salad and fritters outside Nassau. This festival stands out as a vibrant ode to those brave pioneers from the Caribbean and as a joyful indulgence in island culture. And that conch salad ...
Spokespeople for law enforcement agencies, particularly federal law enforcement agencies, have a mantra: "Can't confirm or deny." And aside from events such as photogenic cocaine busts or captures of fugitive murderers, a lot of public-information officers tend to invoke that mantra for everything. But some do try to help clueless reporters and members of the public; they try to find information they can divulge, or to steer the inquirer to other sources. Pam Brown, a personable Louisiana native who raises Arabian horses in her free time, excels in this realm of flackdom. It's a higher realm in which the spokesperson returns calls, efficiently relays facts and figures, and understands the time and data demands of a journalist's job. And just to prove that good things can't last forever, we now regretfully report that Brown has recently been reassigned to fieldwork.
We all know that single men are experts on every subject. (Gee, could that help explain why they're still single?) So what better place to play up to their egos than a video rental store? Not only can you ask for advice, you can also tell a lot about the guy by the video he chooses. For instance if he's got a drama in hand, he's probably sensitive and understanding. A foreign flick shows he's educated, open-minded, or worldly and sophisticated. But if he's carrying around an action film, be careful. He could be your average dullard into domestic violence. Comedy? That could mean he's light on his feet and quick-witted, but maybe just a bit fearful of commitment. Something XXX from the adult section? Please, let's not even go there.
Food is a potent aphrodisiac. Ariana Kumpis understands this. Sprinkled in amid her school's more serious fare ("All About Mushrooms," "Phyllo Delicacies") are several whimsical events geared toward the unhitched. A couple of examples coming up in June are "Sushi for Singles" and "Singles Pasta Evening." Guys, this is a good idea. If past classes are any indication, there are bound to be more women than men. Expect those women to be a little more sophisticated than the ones you're meeting at Hooters. And improving your cooking skills can only garner you goodwill. On top of that, if you meet someone you're interested in, you not only have built-in conversation, but an innocuous way to get together again: to practice what you learned. Class size is between twelve and eighteen, and each class lasts three hours. The cost is $30. You can also expect major points in your favor for simply showing an interest in cooking, at least that's what Carmen Celeiro, Ariana's manager, says. "I think men who cook are great. It means they're very sensual."
It'll cost you a dollar to catch a glimpse of this postcard setting across the Rickenbacker Causeway, but once over the threshold, you'll see South Florida as most South Floridians only wish it could be. There's so much here to keep you busy that the highlights alone will take a full day.

If the kids haven't joined PETA yet, start with Virginia Key's old-fashioned Miami Seaquarium and its killer whales, manatees, dolphins, and sea lions. Then for a real contrast to the typical tourist trap, find your way to Jimbo's by following the road directly across from Seaquarium's parking lot. A crew of salty regulars soak up the sun with an old movie set as their backdrop. Although it's technically a bait shop, Jimbo's is famous for its smoked fish, cold beer, and crusty characters playing bocce and philosophizing.

The beaches at Virginia Key and Key Biscayne qualify as some of Miami's best, and though Virginia Key's are officially closed and provide no lifeguards, die-hards can still swim and sun there. The less daring can head for Key Biscayne's Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area. The Crandon shoreline is sublime, but don't overlook the hidden treasure: the old county zoo, now called the Gardens at Crandon Park, a serenely beautiful landscape of ponds, wildlife, and lush vegetation adjoining the southernmost parking lot.

At the island's tip is Bill Baggs, named for a former outspoken editor of the defunct Miami News. Still recovering from Hurricane Andrew, which knocked down thousands of Australian pines, the park has been replanted entirely with native species. All the amenities have been rebuilt as well, and now the airy Lighthouse Cafe offers splendid ocean views to match its outstanding seafood soup. The actual lighthouse (South Florida's oldest standing structure) survived the hurricane, was recently restored, and is open for tours every day but Tuesday and Wednesday. A beachside concession rents sea kayaks, hydro-bikes, and sailboards for those who want to get physical.

Bill Baggs closes when the sun sets -- just in time to make your way back to Bayside Seafood Restaurant. This thatched-roof, open-air hangout can be found by following the road for the old Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. The simply prepared fresh seafood is reasonably priced. The fish sandwiches aren't bad either. But the mosquitoes can be. Just ask the staff for some insect spray. They're prepared.

"A lot of people claim I'm a rabble-rouser, a curmudgeon," Robert Gewanter says. "But I really don't see myself like that. I see myself like the little boy in the story 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' I'm just here to say the emperor is naked." Gewanter has been saying it every day for the past six years on the message board in front of his store, posting often hilarious little poems about the sad state of affairs in South Florida. Some samples: "Natacha Millan/The junket queen/Has a diploma/That no one has seen." "Ankle monitor unfair/Senator Gutman cackled/Damn right Alberto/U should be shackled." "Virgin birth/No evidence empirical/Re-elect Xavier Suarez/Now that'd be a miracle." "Joe come back/Tell us no lies/We forgive crack/But Rosario's no prize." "Please vote/That would be nice/Heck, it's Hialeah/You can vote twice."
Pity the poor Orange Bowl parade. After 62 years the annual nighttime procession up and down Biscayne Boulevard now teeters on the brink of irrelevance. What once was a national spectacle that reached 12 million television viewers has devolved into the nation's largest small-town parade. At the most recent event the mayor and the police chief rode by atop a convertible on loan from a local auto dealer. The state-championship high school football team waved from fire engines. Marching bands from local high schools and middle schools paraded past in not-quite-lockstep. Municipal workers donated time to construct funky floats that would not be out of place in a suburban high school homecoming parade. Yet despite the low-rent atmosphere, the Orange Bowl parade remains the Magic City's most magical night. It is one of the few times in Miami that Anglos, blacks, and Hispanics smile while mingling. During this past parade, a Nicaraguan family grinned when an Anglo neighbor sublet his shoulders to a tiny black girl in need of an elevated viewing perch. In this context the provincial nature of the parade is not a drawback. It is endearing. Miami never feels more accessible and friendly.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®