Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Don't be surprised when mid-tattoo session at Ocho Placas, a neighbor drops by to hand out Cuban coffee for everyone in the room; that's just the type of vibe that emanates from this neighborhood shop in Little Havana. Fifteen years in and plenty of celebrity clients later (including Lil Wayne and Birdman), Ocho Placas is still affordable and faithful to its relaxed, artistic beginnings. Vibrantly crafted pieces line the walls as artists and customers bounce friendly banter back and forth — a nice distraction from the pain throbbing from the piercing tat gun. Though the shop is best known for its classic American work, thanks to an expansion — including a new second floor — in 2013, the eight resident artists and renowned out-of-town guests ink their indelible marks in all forms and styles. Owners John Vale and Javier Betancourt, who carry the torch from late founder Jose Carreras, are true artists. (Vale sings in local punk band Furious Dudes, while Betancourt recently launched the multimedia project This Is Meant to Hurt You, to "re-imagine subjects that have been traditionally maligned by polite society," such as tattoos and fetishism.) As one customer summed it up: Ocho Placas is "a quality tattoo place that puts the bullshit aside and outputs some great shit."
Readers' choice: Ocho Placas
Do you need a T-shirt with an image of Tom Ford wearing Mickey Mouse ears? Probably not, but it's incredibly soft and a total conversation starter. At Expat, a small boutique tucked inside South Beach's recently revamped Nautilus Hotel in the heart of Collins Avenue's art deco district, that gloriously ridiculous top is available for $75 and is designed by Spanish-Italian fashion brand South Parade. The matching gray sweatshirt costs $140, in case you're really into Ford's Disney look. Spend a few more minutes poking around Expat and you'll stumble upon countless other absurd but delightful treasures in this pintsize shop, including $700 limited-edition titanium and acetate Dita sunglasses made in Japan; clothing and accessories for men, women, and kids; as well as candles, coffee table books, perfumes, and scores of other items you buy only when you're feeling extra-indulgent. But you're in South Beach, dammit. Pull on that Tom Ford shirt, fork over the 75 bucks, and enjoy the ride.
Miami is to high-end shopping what Punxsutawney is to groundhogs. Between Bal Harbour Shops and the Design District, the Magic City houses more luxury brands on display than the average Richard Branson TV appearance. So it's a real feat that En Avance stocks high-end clothing and accessories that are pretty much impossible to find anywhere else in Miami. The store concentrates on discovering up-and-coming talent like Ellery, Urban Zen, Paskal, Vilshenko, and Marques Almeida, along with more recognizable labels such as Tibi, Kiki de Montparnasse, Fornasetti, and MSGM. The least expensive item in the store is a pair of Hanky Panky underwear for a reasonable $20, but many of the dresses will hit your wallet in the $1,400 range. You can purchase a stylin' hat for $56 or a pair of Tkee flip-flops for $50, but it's probably best to check your credit card limit before wandering too far into En Avance. That doesn't mean everyone shouldn't check it out, though: Much of the clothing here resembles works of art, and there's no reason not to browse like you would a museum. This is fashion as art, and some clothes are meant to be viewed as much as worn.
Every day, Lincoln Road grows more and more like your average American mall, with international brands such as Zara, Forever 21, Lululemon, and H&M moving in to replace quirky longtime establishments. However, a local beacon of South Beach style remains amid this chain-driven commercialism. Since 1989, Base has been the go-to place for Miami men looking to stay fashion-forward. Founded by Steven Giles, the store isn't just a spot to buy clothing; it's a lifestyle emporium offering vinyl, magazines, and collectibles. But at the core is still threads that buck the yuppie trend permeating the rest of Lincoln Road. Base stocks up on brands such as Stampd, Knomadik, Nanamica, and Heathen — collections that add an avant-garde twist to street wear. No, they aren't cheap, but they aren't out of reach either. Average prices are $100 to $200, but the pieces make a statement, and a good wardrobe is an investment. (A fashionable man also knows how to mix and match expensive pieces with perhaps cheaper finds.) Base has consistently remained Miami's bellwether of men's fashion, and for good reason — it challenges men to look beyond clothing as a necessity and instead as a way of self-expression.
"I make just about everything I can think of," says Aja Butler-Burns, the mastermind behind ABA Jewels. It may sound like bragging, but she's just being honest. An Art Institute grad who found Miami's bauble selections dismal, Butler-Burns opened ABA Jewels to fill a need to create something for herself. Drawing on inspiration from every corner of the Earth and various iconic periods in history — from ancient Egypt to 1940s Americana to '90s S&M — ABA Jewels is a secret to most locals, but the fashion set has long coveted her minimalist, galactic designs. Selling mostly on Etsy and at pop-up shops around the Magic City, ABA Jewels frequently collaborates with Miami artists, such as when Butler-Burns designed bondage-style chokers and thigh jewelry for ALMA Dance Theater's production of Cask. And at ultra-affordable prices — like $32 for a racy '90s choker necklace in gold and $22 for a brass-and-amethyst bindi — ABA Jewels' designs are totally worth coveting.
You know how magazines are always telling you to make the most of your small apartment by maximizing the vertical space? That's sort of how Beatnix operates. Located inside a narrow storefront on the corner of Washington and 12th Street, this Miami Beach costume shop is packed floor-to-ceiling with a myriad of wacky accessories, from top hats to tutus. Most packaged costumes run $50 to $60, while smaller accessories are sold à la carte. Feel like letting it all hang out with some nipple tassels ($16) and gold booty shorts ($30)? Beatnix has 'em. Prefer to cover your face with a rubber gas mask? That's here too, for just 15 bucks. The staff is friendly without hovering, and Thursday through Sunday, the store is open until midnight, meaning you can grab something last-minute for that festival or costume party and still look like the baddest one there.
Karma Car Wash is probably one of the only places you can sit for Sunday brunch while your wheels get a thorough professional washing. This isn't your everyday, budget car wash — a basic scrub and vacuum starts at $20 at this scenic spot in the MiMo District. But consider it a treat-yourself opportunity before a big date or important meeting. While you wait, grab a Wynwood Brewing Company beer from the adjacent café, Organic Bites, and take a load off. At Karma Car Wash, you can hit that weekend sweet spot of productivity and laziness that feels pretty damn good.
You're moving so fast you didn't even notice it until that annoying warning began pinging and the tiny yellow light glowed from the dashboard: You're running on empty. Empty. As you contemplate the word amid the usual Doral traffic sludge, it seems to resonate — something else important, it suddenly seems to you, is also empty. But what? That's when you notice the growls, feral and angry, coming from the very pit of your stomach. Luckily, there on the corner, is an Exxon station. Sure, it's got the gas to keep your car running. But the real reason your day just got a lot better is what's inside: Pepito's Plaza. A smorgasbord of all things South American food, this Doralzuela hot spot has four restaurants where you'll find everything from pepitos (Venezuelan Philly cheesesteaks) overflowing with carne asada and papitas, arepas oozing with melted cheese and shredded chicken, Colombian hot dogs drenched in pink sauce, and even fresh ceviche. In fact, the best time to fill up your tank at this station is late into the night, conveniently enough around the same time those 2 a.m. munchies kick in. Sure, you'll have to wait in line with like-minded hungry drivers, but you'll leave full and satisfied. Just don't forget to fill up your car's tank.
Readers' choice: Europa Car Wash & Cafe
The wedding venue has been booked, your kid just asked his first girlfriend to the prom, or it's time for a madhouse celebration of your 30th birthday. The fact is this: You'll need a whip a little hotter than your '05 Corolla to get you to the party. Time to call Padrino Limousine, which since 1968 has been in the business of making getting where you're going as glammed-out — and worry-free — as possible. The fleet includes a ten-passenger stretch limo, a 20-passenger limo bus, and a 40-passenger luxury minicoach if you've got more friends than you can count on fingers and toes. If classic cars are more your style, Padrino can pick you up in a 1955 Bentley Silver Cloud or two Rolls-Royce Phantoms from 1956 or 1962. Prices are listed directly on the company's website (an hour in the ten-person limo will set you back $99, while the eight-person ride costs $86 per hour), and you can make reservations online. Even those hypersensitive and highly unstable creatures known as brides love Padrino Limo, and for good reason: The rides are clean, the company is bent on customer service, and drivers are somehow able to navigate Miami's notoriously bad traffic without breaking a sweat.
The Magic City Bicycle Collective aims to be less of a store and more of a friend, a pal who hands you a wrench and lets you do it yourself. Located in Miami's Park West district, across the street from the Corner, the MCBC's home base is humble. But the space has all the tools you'll need to get that bike in fighting shape. The spot is open Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m., and a $5 donation is all it takes to get an hour of repair time. If you already know how to fix the bike yourself but simply lack the very expensive tools, no problem. The MCBC will give you access to its stockpile of bike stands and gear and let you do your thing. But for those fresh off the training wheels, you too will be embraced by the MCBC. You'll find no bike snobbery here. A volunteer will happily work with you one-on-one to show you how to fix and maintain your bike, as well as answer any questions you might have about becoming a cyclist in Miami. The MCBC has a tent at every monthly Critical Mass, as well as at various festivals and concerts around town. Keep an eye out for them. It's never too late to be inducted into Miami's cycling family.
Readers' choice: Fritz's Skate, Bike & Surf
From extreme boot camps to boutique cycling and Pilates studios, Miami's sweat scene works overtime and always seems to have a new trend on the horizon. A little more than two years ago, North Miami's Fit Shop wanted in on the action. Instead of creating another high-priced luxury gym, though, owners Adriane Abraham and Kaisa Kerwin concentrated on one thing: girl power. The industrial-like warehouse space is filled with heavy weights and strong women, where bodies are transformed mentally, physically, and spiritually. Though about 70 percent of the shop's clientele are women, men get their fair share of butt-kicking too. The women-run gym offers four signature classes focusing on techniques such as high-intensity interval training, cardio conditioning, flexibility, balance, and resistance work, plus a kids' class. As you work out, expect to jam, because Kerwin, who spends her time as a DJ when she's not training, curates all workout playlists. Prices vary depending upon specials (Kerwin might still be able to get you in at the $199-per-month rate), but other packages are available too, with individual classes running $30 and ten-class packages costing $260.
Readers' choice: Equinox
The rest of America can never know our struggle. Oh, you have to get your beach body in order three whole months of the year? Poor dude! Living in South Florida means a bikini-ready physique is necessary 12 months of the year — and all while living in a culinary capital where croquetas always beckon. JetSet Pilates is here to help. Founded in Miami Beach's South of Fifth neighborhood in 2009 on the simple premise of getting South Beach utterly ripped through resistance-based conditioning classes, JetSet has been a hit. The unique approach fuses Pilates, weight training, and cardio, and the bulk of each 50-minute class is done on a machine that uses weighted springs to target all the muscles — even the little ones you never knew you had. Classes are pleasantly small, because there are only eight machines in the room, meaning plenty of personalized attention from an enviably toned trainer. A single class is $30 to $35 depending upon the location, and package deals are available. Because every exercise here targets the core muscles, you'll walk out with the best abs of your life — even if you sneak a croqueta here or there.