Best Of :: Shopping & Services
At AAA Pawnbrokers of North Miami, you may come for the guns and jewelry, but you'll stay for the conversation. The shop, which is marked by a big yellow sign with handguns in a strip mall just off West Dixie Highway, isn't much to look at from the outside. But inside, you'll find a great selection of rifles, pistols, gold, jewelry, cameras, fishing rods, iPads, DVDs, videogames, and power washers, plus hundreds of other things you didn't even realize you were looking for. Prices vary as widely as the selection: Used handguns start around $60, rifles start about $100, and watches range from around $30 to more than $1,000. What really distinguishes AAA, though, is the staff. Customers love AAA's fair-trade policy and relaxed environment. The manager, an ex-Marine named Domingo, boasts that "jokes and wisecracks are my specialty," and he's not wrong. In a room packed full of firearms, that levity goes a long way.
"Today I'm going to chill in an igloo" is a phrase you probably never anticipated saying in Miami, but thanks to the Carillon Hotel & Spa, you really should. During a sultry, humid South Florida summer, cooling your blood inside an ice sculpture reinforced with three arctic mist "experiences" (in menthol, mint, and eucalyptus scents) actually sounds like a damn good way to spend a day. To do that, you'll need some serious cash: $295 to be exact. That's how much a day pass costs for Carillon's 70,000-square-foot world of relaxation and rejuvenation. But considering all the outlandish benefits that come with that pass, it seems like a bargain. You get a 50-minute tailored massage from a therapist, more than 40 fitness classes to choose from, pool access, and use of all the regular spa facilities. Try a Caribbean Monsoon (a "rain experience") or stare at the starlit ceiling and let all your worries melt away in the herbal laconicum — a warm ceramic room infused with herbs and private seating niches. There's even mindful relaxation therapy to get your brain as chill as your muscles via a soothing massage on vibrating sound tables that retune brainwaves.
Readers' choice: The Standard Spa
A short sampling of Miami's rankings in various national surveys last year: the seventh worst traffic in America, the fifth least affordable rentals, and the fourth worst place for recent college grads to move. Is it any wonder that last year, real-estate blog Movoto ranked Miami the third most stressed place in the nation? That's why you need a glorious, 50-minute massage, stat. And no one in Miami does it better than Lapis, the spa at the historic Fontainebleau resort. Soft music plays in the background while guests slip into a soft robe and rubber slippers. Before the rub begins, guests can take in the other considerable amenities, such as a swimming pool and a warm waterfall. Lapis offers various treatments, but perhaps the one that will give your muscles a workout is the "weekend warrior rehab," a combination of deep-tissue massage mixed with hot stones to "ease pain, tension, and improve mobility and range of motion." Those 50 minutes of heaven cost $165 — a hefty investment, but think of how Miami's national rankings could change if we all took a few minutes for a legit massage. America's number one Zen city, here we come.
Readers' choice: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental
Miamians aren't known for being wallflowers. So why shouldn't our fingernails match the personality of the city that birthed the Golden Girls, Tony Montana, and "surfbort." If you're looking to take that vivid loudness to a whole new level, there's one spot in town that can turn your nails into a work of art: Miami's freshly minted Vanity Projects. The salon, which was previously a pop-up during Art Basel, recently opened a full-time shop in Little River — its first outpost after establishing its street cred in Manhattan. It's easy to see why Vanity has received genuine art-world love: These guys can draw just about anything you want on your fingers. Tribal prints and talking lips? OK. Comic book heroes and attitudinal cats? Sure, why not? Vanity Projects offers custom colors, gel or regular polish, and a seemingly endless supply of inspiration for your nail art designs. Starting at $30, their work is generally priced per nail.
Wanna look like Christie Brinkley at 61 or Halle Berry at 48? Facials — lots and lots of facials — are the answer. Perfect skin doesn't come from over-the-counter creams, no matter what Big Cosmetics might want you to believe. To look firm and glowing into your later years, professional skincare is a must, and Leelou Salon and Spa is all about pampering your pretty face. Betsy, the resident facial queen, starts by analyzing your unique epidermis and adjusting as needed — because skin rarely stays the same. Try a $95 customized facial and lie back while she cleans, scrubs, extracts, masks, massages, and moisturizes your outer layer. Products and equipment are as fancy-pants as anything celebs use, and the private rooms have a spa-like vibe with soft lights and Zen tunes. You'll walk away feeling refreshed, relaxed, and, most important (particularly in Miami), ten years younger.
It's not a crime to want to look your best, particularly if it's a special occasion and there's a certain ex to impress. This is where the makeup-wielding wizards at Gee Beauty come in. Their signature "Red Carpet" service (for $60) includes 35 minutes with an artist who uses the company's beauty line to even out your skin tone, enhance your eyes, and contour better than a Kardashian. And by "better," we mean "more natural looking," because the mantra here is to emphasize each client's God-given attributes. It's why the "Secrets From the Chair" service ($125) is so great: For one hour, one of the friendly Gee gals teaches you her insider tips and tricks so you can be the pro. Then, two weeks later, you get to come in for a complementary followup where you apply your own makeup under their expert guidance. Plus, this Bal Harbour shop's beauty boutique and salon can shape and tint your brows and lashes ($20 to $35) to help round out your fabulous look.
Not many cities boast more options than Miami for a nip, a tuck, or whatever other bit of appearance-boosting magic you're looking for at the hands of a skilled surgeon. So where to get that boob job, chin lift, or butt enhancement? When talking about serious knife-work on your body, we suggest you start with "skill" as the first and really only criterion. That's why you'd be hard-pressed to find a better man for the job than Dr. Gabriel Salloum at the Miami Center for Plastic Surgery in the Design District. The center's decor is inviting and handsome, and so is the young surgeon himself, with a seductively smooth face and warm brown eyes that hint at your own aesthetic enhancements to come. More important, though, Salloum is a Vanderbilt honors grad who completed his residency at Miami Beach's Mount Sinai Medical Center and has fast earned a reputation for his techniques. For good reason, online reviews for the center rave about the professionalism, courtesy, and effectiveness of Salloum and his staff — the doctor with "gentle hands" who performed a "perfect" breast repair and provided "the nose that should have always been on my face." Consultations are typically free, and prices vary based on the procedure.
It's Saturday night, and you're on a blind date. Don't worry! It's going way better than expected. Laughter is flowing, the vibes are clicking — this thing is actually working! That's when the realization hits harder than a Tinder rejection: You forgot to shave. So much for any extracurricular activities after the bar. Listen up: There's no need for this horror story to play out in 2015. Laser hair removal has gone far beyond a craze and become a physical game-changer. Seven sessions at Ultima Med Spa is all it takes to extinguish stubborn hairs forever. If lasers zapping through your skin sounds like a painful operation, well, it usually is. But Dr. Rosa Mena works with cooling-tip technology on her lasers so you don't feel the burn. Prices vary according to the area you wish to tackle, but think of the procedure as a lifelong investment. After all, you'll never say no to another impromptu boat day or one-night stand. Thanks, science!
In an unassuming shopping center in Little Havana, a tiny salon holds just a handful of chairs. Opening the front door pauses all Spanglish conversations and starts some serious stares in the sudden pin-drop silence. Simply ask for Susana Rodriguez, a 40-something Cuban woman with short blond hair who works in platform stilettos at Franci Beauty Salon. Her English is minimal, but pointing and uttering "keratin" is all that's needed if you don't habla. Rodriguez has a loyal following among her daughter's friends and their parents, and for $150 (depending upon hair length and texture), she'll soak and treat your strands in chemicals, straighten them, and dry them. It's a three-hour process for long hair, and the fumes are barely breathable. When you exit, though, not even Miami's humidity will cause your newly glossed locks to frizz.
In a just world, $50 men's haircuts would be considered a lesser crime against humanity. Who really needs to sip champagne while sitting in a vintage Italian leather salon chair while listening to indie Muzak? Celebrity co-owners or clients are not a must. Gossip is optional. The only necessity, actually, is someone armed with a buzzer and scissors who knows what they're doing, and that's exactly what the Cutting Room guarantees. As the name suggests, it's a simple room where they cut hair, and the work they do in this room is done very well. It's a humble little shop located in a nondescript office building in North Bay Village with experienced employees who have been there for years. Yes, they offer other full-service salon services like pedicures, waxing, and keratin treatments, but the place has a quaint, down-to-earth vibe. There are no pretensions here, and you're not paying extra for them. A men's short buzzcut costs just $23, and a loyalty rewards system means the sixth cut is on the house after every five visits. They can pull off the latest trends with no problem if you like, but they're not trend-chasing. They use all-American products and regularly give back to the community. Trust us: If they don't offer it, your hair doesn't need it.
Readers' choice: RazzleDazzle Barbershop
[Scene: An empty room with an old TV set.] Voiceover begins: "Are you feeling blue? Does your dull, lifeless hair have you feeling under the weather? Is your style missing a certain pizzazz? You need a haircut."
[Pan to a not-so-stylish person dressed in sweatpants about to enter Junior & Hatter]. "You've taken the plunge. You've decided it has been too long since your last haircut and you're ready for a change. Good for you!"
[Myrnelle Singh greets the newcomer.] "Oh, isn't she lovely? The first thing you'll notice when meeting Myrnelle is her smile, so infectious it's sure to make you feel as if tiny rays of sunshine are sprinkling over you. And the first thing you'll probably hear is the proper pronunciation of her name because you're likely saying it wrong. (It's pronounced mer-NEL.) You're in good, capable hands, Sweatpants."
[Sweatpants sits in the coveted black spinning chair in front of the mirror, ready to get some style]. "If there's one thing that comforts you at this point, Sweatpants, is the fact that Myrnelle has, beyond a reasonable doubt, fabulous hair. You want your hair to look like hers. Inspiration begins to shoot through you, and you want to be wild, you want to be adventuresome, you think you can pull off blue hair or a faux-hawk. Calm down, because you can't. One step at a time."
[Myrnelle snips and snips and twirls Sweatpants around until the customer becomes a different person]. "Voila! You've emerged a new, nearly unrecognizable person. You have style now. Your hair has pizzazz. You're ready to shed those sweatpants for a tasteful pantsuit. Go take a bite out of life, wild one — the world is ready to embrace the new you."
Getting your hair done in Miami can go one of two ways: Either you wind up looking like a younger version of Gloria Estefan no matter what you requested, or you find that perfect person who knows exactly what you want and always delivers. The team at Concept 5 Studio in Edgewater is definitely in the latter camp. Solange Sarria and Andino Andres are creative hair gods with their fingers on the pulse of what's trending in techniques, colors, and cuts. With an impressive portfolio of editorial and production work, they always deliver a look that's exactly like that photo you showed them, only better because it's customized to what works for you. And they do it at a price that doesn't require an Estefan-esque address on Star Island: Women's cuts start at $78, and men's start at $68. The studio's discreet location on the fifth floor of a condo is the perfect spot to sit back, enjoy the views, and await a new do.
Readers' choice: Contesta Rock Hair