Martell Park
Photo by Dan Evans

You can dress her in a parka, crimp her fur, and keep her in your purse, but don't forget: Your dog is still an animal. A pack animal, and it's time to re-acquaint Princess with her long-forgotten species. The Martell dog park is a wedge of suffering grass in the middle of a severe cement landscape, rimmed on the north and east by I-195 ramps, the west by a condo tower, and the east by Biscayne Bay and the sex offender-habitated Julia Tuttle Causeway. But to the finally unleashed urban dog, this is nothing less than heaven: a tract large enough for an epic game of catch (it's about the size of a little-league park) ornamented with a half-dozen big trees to pee on and, if you time the visit right, a plethora of friends equally interested in ass-odor appreciation. Arrive after 5 p.m. on a workday — parking is tricky, so it's wise to drop off your car a few blocks away and make the walk — and the place is packed with downtown-residing yuppies and their toaster-size canines. Run free, purse dogs!

Burgers are big — as in big across-the-board sales during stressed economic times. There are big profits for burger barons, and big-shot chefs putting 'em on their big-price restaurant menus. Govind Armstrong and the folks at Table 8 took things a step further by opening 8 oz. Burger Bar in South Beach. It isn't difficult to locate a great burger in this town — if someone claimed that Clarke's, Kingdom, or Grill on the Alley made the best one, we really wouldn't argue. But Burger Bar's eponymous eight-ouncer brings a few distinctions to the table. The beef is culled from hormone-free cows; ground in-house from Black Angus sirloin, tri-tip, short rib, and chuck; and grilled over live oak. Then it's plunked onto a soft, fresh brioche bun. House-cured bacon, house-pickled pickles, hothouse cucumber relish, and homemade heirloom tomato ketchup are among a long list of cool accouterments; there are lots of cheeses to choose from too. Price for the signature burger is $10, a dollar or two less for those culled from turkey or Niman Ranch lamb. Burger Bar bops from 5 p.m. to midnight, and until 2 in the morning Thursday through Saturday. You're gonna like this place. Big time.

Almost three years ago, ¡Mayday! released its self-titled debut solo album to serious Internet buzz and positive critical reception. On the strength of that disc's breakout single, "Groundhog Day," which featured Cee-Lo singing the hook, it seemed like ¡Mayday! was ready for national play. But after a couple of years on the grind, founding members Plex Luthor and Bernbiz decided to switch things up and get back on their hometown's radar. As such, they've ditched their earlier, sampler-heavy sound in favor of a more organic, live band approach. They've added four new members, including battle champ MC Wrekonize. The new equation has proven to be alchemy — Luthor, Bernbiz, and company have stepped up their live game, laying down a soulful hip-hop funk with an electric energy. We've heard that at an occasional residency at Jazid, their live jams have inspired people to disrobe. You'll have to see for yourself.

FriendsWithYou Boutique

Since tag-teaming in 2002 to form their Friends with You collective, Sam Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III have been on a tear to corner the globe with their vision of magic, luck, and friendship. The Miami-based conceptual duo started off creating a line of designer toys featuring a wacky cast of cosmic characters with names such as Buddy Chub, Fluffy Pop, Bumble Grump, Red Flyer, Albino Squid, and Malfi. Since then, their mysterious creations have opened portals of opportunity for the artists they could scarcely imagine. Their premium toy line can now be found in some of the top boutiques across the planet. They have carved out their own niche in the contemporary art world with their eye-popping installations, performances, paintings, prints, sculptures, and multimedia works also draw the attention of corporate moguls. Some of the clients they have seduced with their otherworldly charms include MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Nike, Volkswagen, Toyota Scion, Red Bull, Target, Sony, BMW, Mini Cooper, Hasbro, and VitaminWater, among others. Borkson and Sandoval's neck-craning projects have become a staple during Art Basel Miami Beach, including a spacey blimp parade in 2006 and this past December's giant bounce house at the Scope Art Fair. In the past few years, these big-dreaming homeboys have repped the 305 in places as far-flung as New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Copenhagen — all under the simple rubric "Come Play with Us!" — while conjuring an undeniably winning franchise.

She was elected in 2005 and not a moment has passed without controversy for Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. Her former political opponent, Richard Dunn, sued her in Miami-Dade Circuit Court the second she took office, claiming she bought votes, and two years later, commission colleague Marc Sarnoff accused her of public corruption. Yet in spite of the troubles dogging her short political career, Spence-Jones has not only survived Miami's cutthroat politics but also successfully leveraged her position to help the people who matter to her — the predominantly black residents living in Overtown, Liberty City, Allapattah, and other low-income neighborhoods in her district. Under her watch, the Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency has finally begun to make inroads in revitalizing the long-neglected historically black community. She made sure the agency spent millions of dollars fixing up storefronts and streets along NW Third Avenue in Overtown, including a $752,903 renovation of Jackson Soul Food Restaurant. Yet Spence-Jones didn't really flex her political muscle until it came time for her to vote for the controversial Marlins stadium deal. Fresh from maternity leave, Spence-Jones channeled great late black leaders M. Athalie Range and Arthur Teele Jr., leveraging her vote to make sure her constituents were taken care of. If the Overtown CRA didn't get $500 million it was promised from the city and county, she would vote against the stadium. An avalanche of criticism descended on Spence-Jones. But she held her ground. Her gambit paid off. She got the $500 million for Overtown. Florida International University political science professor Marvin Dunn sums up the commissioner: "I have nothing but praise for the stand that Spence-Jones has taken: Show us the money. Nothing wrong with that. Bringing home the proverbial bacon is what we expect our politicians to do."

Miami and crime go together like Crockett and Tubbs. This city, after all, has been the backdrop for Grand Theft Auto, CSI: Miami, and that infamous ’80s TV show that became a flop of a movie starring Jamie Foxx. Then there’s the cocaine, grand larceny, and shady banks.

But hey, during a recession, a little hustle goes a long way. Keep reading and you’ll find 336 ways to get ahead in the Magic City. Wanna swipe a parking spot on South Beach? Try Michigan and 15th. What’s the best place to get your heart stolen? Go to Gen Art’s Shop Miami. Where can you drown your sorrows once it’s over? Head for the Fontainebleau.

We’ll also tell you what to do when you’re tired of clubs and movie theaters ripping you off and which art gallery is practically giving away classy stuff.

All of this advice is free, but if it makes you feel like Tony Montana, you can pretend you jacked it.

Courtney Williams is rummaging through a bottom cabinet inside Project 51 in Coconut Grove. He pulls out an alien-looking boot in a moss green, violet purple, and night black color motif. The heavyset sneaker pimp proudly holds up a Nike Convoy Huarache basketball shoe, circa 1993. "I had a pair just like these when I was a kid," Williams explains. "I dogged them out. I found this pair two years ago on eBay." Ten months ago, Williams converted his sneaker love into a business, opening up the first specialty store of its kind in the Grove. "I was going to open on the Beach," Williams says, "but then I realized the Grove didn't have anything like this." Indeed, Project 51 is like walking into a candy store, except the sweets are the multicolored Adidas, Nike, Puma, and Supra athletic shoes lined up on the rainbow-hued shelves. "I'm a sneaker collector," Williams says enthusiastically. "I collect them like crazy. You are not gonna find these shoes at Foot Locker or Champs." And his eye for exclusive kicks can't be doubted. He has stocked the limited-edition ?uestlove gold pack Nike Dunks. The Portland sneaker maker produced only 200 of them. "Those sold out quick," Williams notes. But there are still plenty of other tight sneakers to choose from, including a nice selection of skateboard sneakers by Supra, which have gained notoriety since Lil Wayne has been sporting them. Of course, buying a sweet pair of kicks requires that you find an equally dope T-shirt to match the ensemble. Project 51 has you covered there too, carrying underground labels such as Kidrobot, 10.Deep, DGK, and Crew. You can check out Project 51 Monday through Wednesday from noon to 9 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Nina Johnson
Photo courtesy of Nina Johnson

As far as local dealers go, Nina Johnson has earned her spurs on the local scene as a tireless dynamo and community activist. Her gallery has become a favorite hub for art lovers searching for provocative exhibitions that linger in the mind long after one leaves her lively, shape-shifting space. Since opening its doors in November 2007, Diet has become known for its modest yet focused stable of emerging and mid-career artists as well as an invitational program for international artists. Johnson has also organized lectures by visiting curators and critics, and publishes an electronic newsletter featuring reviews and interviews written by local artists on Miami's booming scene. Best of all, Johnson is among the rare handful of local dealers confident enough to give her artists free run of her space without waffling on the commercial necessity of hewing to the bottom line. Her shows are impeccably curated and often among the most discussed after the monthly Wynwood crawls. Among recent standouts were Maria Jose Arjona's beguiling performance marathon, "Remember to Remember," and Andrew Mowbray's witty "Tempest Prognosticator," in which the artist turned himself into a human weathervane. This past December, Brian Burkhardt transformed Diet into a veritable mad scientist's project, installing a sprawling bio-dome-cum-studio that housed samples of the hybrid species of plants and insects he has created during his career. For many people suffering from the bloated offerings that typically cramp the bowels during Wynwood's monthly openings, Johnson has proven a deft hand at trimming the fat from the bone.

Arbetter's Hot Dogs
Photo courtesy of Arbetter's Hot Dog

Family-owned for 37 years, the small, old-timey joint is now run by brothers David and Joe Arbetter, who insist that the chili used on their dogs be made fresh every day, that the buns be pillow-soft, and that the ambiance stay unpretentious. Simple snacks such as the "All Around" (mustard, onions, and relish) are the brothers' forte, and prices are recession-worthy at $2 to $3.05 per sausage. Inside, the place is a throwback to the shakes-at-the-parlor days when the term veggie dog would have just confused folks. Large sweaty cooks call out orders. Lunchroom dining means grabbing a seat at the counter. And cash is the only way to pay.

Playing live around town for less than a year, the shadowy character known as Panic Bomber has already developed some minor lore. Legend has it that once upon a time, Richard Haig was a local rock musician who got fed up with the grind of being hustled offstage in time for the night's main event — a DJ. So he turned to dance music himself, supposedly in an act of defiance that's explained, sort of, in a treatise on his website. Whatever. The music he makes, regardless of the reasoning behind it, is slick and dance-friendly. It works up to a funky electro-house groove that's rough enough around the edges to belie its creator's rock roots. And unable to fully relinquish a band's spectacle of performance, Haig has devised a pretty sweet light-up costume. Look out for him at a more discerning — hmmm, some would say "hip" — dance club near you.

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