Best Bookstore 2016 | Libreri Mapou Creole & French | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Stroll into Libreri Mapou in the heart of Little Haiti on a Saturday night, and you'll hear the sounds of Port-au-Prince. It's Zetwal Kreyòl, a folkloric Haitian band led by Pierre Antoine Jules, rehearsing, with Jules strumming an acoustic guitar along with Willer Fils-Aimé (baritone), Alex Toussaint (bass/baritone), and Reimsky Toussaint (tenor). That's exactly what this iconic bookstore brings to Little Haiti — a vital link to the vibrant island whose cultural home in Miami is under ever-greater threat of gentrification. The beating heart of the bookstore is its founder, Jan Mapou, a Miami icon in his own right. Mapou came here after spending time in jail in the late '60s for defying Papa Doc Duvalier's orders against speaking Kreyol on the airwaves. As befits a man willing to do hard time to fight for his culture, Mapou has spent more than four decades in Miami celebrating Haitian culture by writing plays and poetry and running the art group Sosyete Koukouy. His Little Haiti bookstore remains one of the Magic City's most authentic bastions of literary freedom. In the front room, the shelves are always stocked with Kreyol- and English-language works related to Haitian culture and literature. Miami's own Edwidge Danticat's portfolio is available here. In an ever-changing Miami, Libreri Mapou keeps Haitian culture alive through stories rooted in unity and love.

Readers' choice: Books & Books

It's an odd thing to say in a sprawling metropolis of 2.5 million people, but it's all too easy to be alone in Miami-Dade County. Most of us spend our days shuttling from air-conditioned cubicle to hermetically sealed home via cars with windows rolled up, blocking out our fellow citizens. That's not the case on the Metromover. On the free rail loop around downtown, the magic of public transit happens — Miamian brushes shoulders with Miamian, sometimes even exchanging meaningful words and conversation. That kind of connection inspires another — a social media link to everyone else in the same city you suddenly remember you share. Just look at the number of Instagrams and Snapchats broadcast from the moving cars rolling tranquilly across downtown — all thanks to rapid-fire free Wi-Fi on the cars. Hop onboard, exchange smiles with an actual human being in your city, and share the link to the global network spreading the love. It's a beautiful link.

A major dilemma: Your hot, single co-worker never seems to notice you no matter how many times you bring by a cup of coffee or "accidentally" drop a stack of papers nearby. Sure, you could just directly ask for a date. But why not sweeten your chances first with a love potion from your local botanica? Flossie's has you covered. Here, you'll find a trove of spiritual oils, perfumes, crystals, books, candles, and incense. Since 1976, the store's namesake has been helping South Floridians find the solution to their problems and perhaps a bit of luck. Looking to dive into Afro-Caribbean spiritualism? Flossie's carries books about Shango, Oshun, Oya, and other topics. Need essential oils to awaken the senses? Flossie's will help you create the perfect mix for your needs. Whether you take it seriously by practicing Yoruba, Vodou, or Wicca to quickly free yourself from el mal de ojo or are just looking for a fun way to pass the time or an interesting keepsake, it's worth spending a few minutes with Flossie. Just remember — you still have to work up the courage to ask for that first date, even after your co-worker chugs that love potion.

Courtesy of Bal Harbour Shops

Fifty years ago, the United States was in the middle of the Vietnam War; Bob Dylan released Blonde on Blonde; Star Trek aired its first episode, "The Man Trap"; and the Bal Harbour Shops celebrated its first anniversary. A lot has changed since the 450,000-square-foot mall — which was built on the site of a demolished World War II barracks — first opened its doors in 1965, including the construction of a second level of stores inside the white-painted open-air center. But the shopping mecca has maintained its rep as the Magic City's go-to destination for all things designer and luxury. Whether you're looking to pamper yourself with a Michael Kors handbag or some Tory Burch flats, Bal Harbour still stocks more high-end fashion than anyone else in town to make you feel and look like a million bucks. But that doesn't mean your net worth has to be in the seven-figure range to enjoy a trip here. There's a comfortable outpost of Books & Books with thousands of titles to peruse and fresh Italian fare on the menu at Carpaccio. And there's no law against spending an hour or two window shopping at Chanel, Tiffany & Co., or the dozens of other Milan-approved boutiques that are well out of most Miamians' price range.

Readers' choice: Aventura Mall

The colors are the most alluring part of any flea market. Vibrant, flashy hues in every direction attract the eye and leave patrons squinting into jam-packed booths. Are those vintage unicycles for sale? Hand-painted surfboards? Knit pants for Chihuahuas? At the Arts & Entertainment District's monthly Miami Flea event, vendors and guests form the perfect combination of a visual spectacle. From the items on the tables to the natural backdrop to the attendees themselves, it's a combination of people-watching at its finest and a great hunting ground for unique finds. Organized by the A&E District, the Miami Flea takes place once a month, either the third or fourth Sunday. The market brings together dozens of vendors selling vintage and handmade items, as well as locally crafted food and drinks. Plus, there are workshops and live music. Earlier this year, one vendor displayed a table full of multicolored fluorescent burlap booties next to local frozen-treat shop Lulu's Ice Cream, which had a red-and-white-checkered cloth draped over its table with matching large red KitchenAid mixers. Add in the leafy-green tree cover, the azure sky, and the usual patchwork of Miami characters, and it's visual heaven.

A hipster tsunami of gentrification — huge waves of artisan coffee and cleverly branded organic cotton T-shirts — is threatening to engulf Little Haiti. But you can do your part to keep Little Haiti legit by avoiding whatever new overpriced consignment shop opens on NE Second Avenue and instead truly devoting yourself to shopping local. The Little Haiti Thrift Shop is packed to the brim with great finds, from designer clothes to fascinating no-name labels. Owner Schiller Sanon-Jules has amassed a collection that speaks both to Miami's quirky fashion tastes and Haiti's loud and colorful aesthetic. From purses to shoes, clothing, and furniture, the store packs a lot into a little space. The shop is also a community space that connects the area to Miami at large by inviting everyone to participate in events and gatherings. It even houses a juice bar, JuiceVine Café, which, unlike other juicers in town, won't charge you your entire clothing allowance for a freshly squeezed beverage.

Readers' choice: Lotus House Thrift Chic Boutique

Unless you're a Russian oligarch parachuting into South Florida for a real-estate purchase, when you step inside Gary Rubinstein Antiques, a three-showroom store that occupies an entire block of North Miami's antique district, you might sense the wares are out of your price range. Asked about the cost of a gorgeous midcentury lacquered desk, the store manager announces "$22,000" and fills in the desk's history: Sourced in Italy and then totally refinished, the piece once belonged to the distant cousin of a Tuscan movie star. A lovely turquoise vase nearby goes for $5,800, though it's barely large enough to hold a bouquet of flowers. But Rubinstein recovered that artifact from a Swedish princess whose family had owned the porcelain urn for centuries. It's easy to see why interior designers on the hunt for something unique frequent this store. For design lovers of all stripes — and bank account sizes — it's a worthy museum where the owners don't mind educating browsers on their hundreds of stunning goods. So forget about that nagging feeling that you won't be able to afford anything here. If you're an antiques freak looking to admire some of Miami's most stunning artifacts, stop into Gary's and learn a thing or two.

Photo by Jessica Lipscomb

Sometimes you don't know you need an antique pink piano until you find one (or, if you're inclined to believe in fate, until it finds you). At this shop in a coral-trimmed house in the Bird Road Arts District, each room is filled with a surprising amount of home decor and furnishings, everything from a chic wicker love seat for $550 to a brightly colored yellow campaign chest priced at $155. Casa Twice is an offshoot of married couple Gilberto Reyes and Carmen Franchi de Alfaro's first vintage shop, Twice, on South Red Road. The home-goods store is open daily except Monday and has a half-dozen parking spots out front so you don't have far to carry whatever goodies you take home. Don't forget to check out the patio out back for even more furniture and accoutrements — you never know which one will speak to you.

Straight talk: Shopping for your baby isn't like any other trip to the store. You might breeze through IKEA for living room furniture and slide through Publix for groceries, but this is your child we're talking about. That's why Give Wink in North Miami Beach takes children's shopping to the next level, including free nursery room consultations with members of the knowledgeable team. Founded by Colombia-born Francine Delarosa — who has dubbed herself "Miami's hippest mompreneur" — Give Wink has everything, whether you're looking for a sleek and modern crib like the Eicho model by Spot on Square ($690) or a baroque-inspired table lamp ($299) for your child's room. If more affordable gifts are more your MO, there are walls of books, toys, and bedding starting at $6.99. Give Wink specializes in more interesting and fashion-forward items than you'll find in a big-box store or national chain. Plus, Delarosa started a charity that provides an eye exam and pair of glasses to a child in Barranquilla for every $100 sale at the shop.

Antonio Del Moral, artist and owner of Galeria Adelmo, feels a strong connection with Changó, the Yoruban orisha who represents a passionate warrior spirit. It is no coincidence then that Santa Barbara, the saint syncretized with Changó, is also the name of the church that stands across the street from his Little Havana gallery. It's protected, he insists. But nearly every Saturday, Antonio opens this sacred space to students eager to learn his ways and to translate his spiritual energy to paint. Classes last five weeks and concentrate on acrylic painting. Antonio's own portfolio of vibrant work, with abstract and floral pieces, hangs along the intimate space's walls as he guides his students in acrylic and water-based painting. His own biography mirrors the fascinating works he paints: Born in Havana before the revolution, he moved to Miami at 20 years old. He spent years working as an interior designer at a Marriott in Washington, D.C., before returning to Miami in 2010. Del Moral, who never stopped painting during his corporate days in D.C., is not interested in teaching established artists. He wants to give opportunities to new artists from the community. Experience is not required — just passion. Classes cost $130 for five sessions and last three hours each.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®