The best new building won't be there much longer. It will be taken down not because it is an historic landmark no one cared about but because it wasn't meant to last. But while it stands, it's incredible to behold. Artist George Sanchez decided to create a model of the famous 1929 Le Corbusier house in France, an exquisite example of modernist architecture, and put it up underneath the I-395 underpass off NW Thirteenth Street. That's right -- Overtown at its most blighted decrepitude. It sits clean and sleek -- at night it glows -- amid the concrete and filth of Miami's neglected urban core. Sanchez called it "The Blessing." Maybe that's what the city will need to follow the artist's path and create permanent beauty and hope in an area too long without it.

This place is known for its amazing Saturday and Sunday dim sum brunches, in which customers choose from authentic comestibles presented on rolling carts. And it is precisely this movable feast that makes Tropical a great venue for a debut date. For one thing, you can order as much or as little as you want, which means the date can last as long or short as you wish. Like her? Slowly sample all 56 dumplings, buns, rolls, and tarts. Less than thrilled with him? Over shrimp rice pasta, develop a sudden seafood allergy. Want to test his spirit of adventure? Grab an order of chicken feet or fried squid heads. Need to know if she's got a gag reflex? Serve her a sample of congee garnished with a thousand-year-old egg. Best of all, whatever the outcome of this encounter, dim sum ends at 3:30 p.m., which means you've got the rest of the day to, uh, fool around.
A recent Mendez client is serving a nineteen-year sentence in federal prison after a Miami jury convicted him of espionage, along with four other Cuban agents. But one must judge a lawyer by the principles for which he stands, even when they are misunderstood and unpopular. For Mendez one of them is the Fifth Amendment: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." Numerous Cuban-American lawyers in Miami declined to defend those charged with spying for Cuba. And sure enough, once the trial began, fanatical anti-Castro radio commentators called Mendez a "scoundrel" for taking the job. In so doing they impugned not only Mendez but one of the most crucial of American judicial institutions, the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Mendez's employer. The public defender provides counsel even to the most unseemly of characters, who are, under our system, still innocent until proven guilty. Beating an espionage rap, however, is almost impossible, and jurors were not about to forgive anyone who appeared to be snooping around U.S. military bases. Judge Joan Lenard slammed four of the defendants with the maximum penalties allowed, but Mendez managed to shave 11 years off the nearly 30-year sentence federal prosecutors had sought for his client.

The Fontainebleau was ten years old in 1964, when the James Bond film Goldfinger opened with a glorious view of the high-rise curving toward the sea and its guests drinking martinis by the huge swimming pool and its waterfall. That was when the Fontainebleau was a celebrity hotel that attracted the stars of the day: Steve Allen hosted the Tonight Show there, and its La Ronde Room booked the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and even Elvis Presley. Other movie scenes have since been set at Morris Lapidus's sublime temple of whimsy, loved and loathed by critics for its colorful and hyper-glamorous design and furnishings. Like an aging screen siren, the Fontainebleau has inevitably had its nips, tucks, and makeovers. In keeping with Miami's Latinization, the La Ronde Room is now the Tropigala nightclub, redone in a tropical motif, and Latin-American tourists make up much of the hotel's clientele. And of course time and the economic downturn have dulled the glitz overall. But the Fontainebleau will always be an icon.

To the unaware, Mike Bode could be just any other UPS guy. He wears a brown shirt and brown shorts. He drives a brown van around South Beach, concentrating on Lincoln Road. But he's not. His customers describe him as the hardest-working human being on the planet. Store owners up and down the Road sing his praises unsolicited. Phrases like "amazingly conscientious" come up often. "He never gets down, no matter if he's lugging around dozens and dozens of boxes," marvels one merchant. "He's always up. They need to clone him. The whole world should just be like Mike." It's obvious Bode takes pride in his work. "The best part of my job is being able to make people happy," he explains. "My grandfather taught me to treat people the way you want to be treated. He also told me to enjoy my job. If you don't enjoy what you do, why do it?"
If they're visiting from out of town, there's a good chance they're not familiar with the word guajiro. In Cuba it's the name given to country folk, that island nation's noble peasants. Rancho Don Goyo, a rustic retreat in Miami's own countryside, keeps the guajiro spirit alive on Saturdays and Sundays, when Cuban immigrant Gregorio Arensibia, better known as Don Goyo, throws open the gates to his two-acre ranch and invites in the world. Bring your guests here and let them experience a peculiar and exotic aspect of Miami: This really is not the U.S.A. From noon until roughly 10:00 p.m. South Florida residents hailing from all over Latin America gather for food, drink, music, and dance in an atmosphere that feels a lot like home, whether that was Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or Cuba. Rancho Don Goyo is marked by an unassuming sign on the north side of Okeechobee Road (U.S. 27) beyond the turnpike, after it opens up under a big sky and a landscape of broad fields. (If you reach the junction with Krome Avenue you've gone too far.) A dusty side road takes you to a makeshift parking lot, then on to the heart of the place -- a ramshackle general store and an immense open-air restaurant where patrons enjoy their beers along with a tempting variety of freshly grilled meats and tangy side dishes. When live bands aren't playing, the jukebox kicks in. Either way the dance floor will always be occupied. If possible try to be there on a Sunday afternoon when local enthusiasts of punto guajiro take to the stage. Punto guajiro is a Cuban musical invention of improvised lyrics set to the poetic decima, a traditional Spanish form favored by itinerant troubadours of yore. At Don Goyo's the tradition lives with an exuberance that requires no translation. Fun and games and barnyard animals for the kids. Ice-cold cervezas and back-slapping camaraderie for the adults. And a very special treat for your out-of-town guests.
Every exodus deserves a festival. The epic flight inspired by the collapse of the Argentine economy is no exception. Luckily those fleeing the new bartering society of Buenos Aires already have Miami's best festival waiting for them. Every spring, for four years now, long-time expat Enrique Kogan has offered tens of thousands of his compatriots a daylong celebration of tangolandia. And thanks to performances by the biggest stars along the Rio Plata -- Miguel Mateo, Charly Garcia, Alejandro Lerner -- the folks back home can see you on Telefe. Whether you are Argentine or just wish you were, you'll find something to love at this paean to the civilization Sarmiento dreamed of: futbol, rocanrol, choripan, dulce de leche, and the national question, asked by patriots and expats alike: Che, how did we end up here?
The irony is just too delicious. This past October marketing executives from Burger King, reeling from the botched introduction of their revamped French fries and gearing up to push the new Chicken Whopper sandwich, participated in an "achievement" team-building seminar on Key Largo. According to published reports, some 100 Burger King employees "used their bare hands to bend spoons, break boards, and smash bricks. Some bent steel bars with their throats and walked over a board of 6000 sharp nails." At the end of the seminar the executives were introduced to the highlight of the evening: an eight-foot-long pit of glowing-hot rocks they were told to walk across in their bare feet. Most of the participants made it over fine, and supposedly enjoyed a surge of confidence that comes from knowing they can overcome any obstacle. Unfortunately not everyone could overcome this particular obstacle. A dozen people suffered first- and second-degree burns on their feet. One woman had to be hustled to the emergency room. A day later several executives had yet to recover ambulatory status and were moving around in wheelchairs. As Burger King spokesman Rob Doughty told the Herald: "We certainly didn't intend for that to happen."

We know what you're going to say: Robert's is not a true farmers market. A splendidly eclectic fruit stand/reptile show/folk revue perhaps. What, you'll ask, about the Coconut Grove farmers market? Or the one outside Gardner's Market in Pinecrest? Fine. But this is our list and this year we're picking Robert Is Here. Yes, it's partly about the exotic fruit milkshakes, which are divine. But Robert Moehling and his crew have so much more to offer. In the fruit-and-vegetable department, for instance, just about everything grown in South Miami-Dade. In season there's U-pick strawberries. Plus live bees in a glass-enclosed honeycomb, every type of honey and preserve known to man, countless pepper and barbecue sauces, key-lime-infused chocolate-covered coconut squares, and many touristy trinkets. Out back is a large pen filled with giant tortoises and iguanas. There's also a one-man band playing in the corner on Saturdays. This is a place where you can truly eat, drink, and be merry.
From the Miami Herald, Thursday, December 20, 2001: "On Sept. 23, 2000, The Herald published a story about a house donated to the Fort Lauderdale Branch NAACP. It included information provided by Hansel Williams, who was interviewed at the house, that is not correct. Williams subsequently said he is not married, has no children, did not live in the house rent-free and that his grandmother did not live there with him."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®