The South Beach Wine & Food Festival is upon us, and thousands of people are flocking to the sands of Miami Beach to eat, drink, and frolic with their favorite culinary celebrities.
Though the fest is jam-packed with more than 100 dinners, parties, and seminars, many attendees still find time to grab a bite or a cocktail at a restaurant or bar nearby in the hopes of sneaking a peek of a favorite star enjoying a meal at the next table.
From venerable favorites to quirky spots, here are the best places to visit during SOBEWFF.
Be sure to check out all the New Times' coverage for South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
The Cat Café South Beach. This year's SOBEWFF offers so many events that it seems there's a party for everyone. Yappie Hour invites people to drink vodka cocktails with their pooches, but what if you're a cat person? If you're jonesing for a little feline attention (or just need a break from the mayhem of the Grand Tasting Village), sneak over to this South Beach spot for a coffee break. Sip an iced latte ($3.50 or $5.60), nitro coffee ($4.50 or $8), or a signature "catnip tea," a hibiscus blend served hot or cold ($3.50). Then pay a visit to the kitties. A half-hour of hearing gentle purring as a cat nuzzles your face is the renewal you need. 1423 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; catcafesobe.com.
Joe's Stone Crab. Miami Beach's venerable institution dates back to 1913, when Joe Weiss opened a seafood shack on Collins Avenue in South Beach. Since then, the restaurant has become a favorite haunt for presidents and celebrities. During the festival, it's a sure thing to spot big names such as Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay, who filmed an episode of his show FoodNation With Bobby Flay at Joe's. If you're looking for some quick nourishment between events, check out Joe's Take Away next door, where you'll find everything from omelets to salads (plus a full bar) without the lines.11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-0365; joesstonecrab.com.
Mac's Club Deuce. Miami Beach's last true dive bar, the Deuce was famously the place to spot Anthony Bourdain decompressing with a PBR after a long day at SOBEWFF. Sadly, sightings of the brilliant chef at this South Beach staple are no longer possible, but if you sidle up to the retro bar (which hasn't changed much since 1964), you might catch a glimpse of celebs such as Anne Burrell. The chef and cohost of America's Worst Cooks told New Times: "It may be a total dive bar, but there is just something that I love, love, love about Club Deuce!" While you're there, raise a glass to Bourdain. 222 14th St., Miami Beach; 305-531-6200.
Planta. If you indulged too much at Burger Bash and want to do a little green detox, head to David Grutman's palace of vegan pleasures. Don't expect a plate of wheatgrass to show up at your table, though. Chef Benjamin Goldman transforms fruits and vegetables into food you want to eat. "Planta has a fun vibe, and our food often mirrors a classic, craveable item — pizza, burger, sushi, 'crab' cake, I could go on and on," Grutman says. "The best part about Planta is that you do not need to be plant-based or vegetarian to enjoy it." When savoring delectable dishes such as "queso" dip ($16) and Singapore noodles with curry, broccoli, bean sprouts, goji berries, and cilantro ($19.95), you'll never miss meat. 850 Commerce St., Miami Beach; 305-397-8513; plantarestaurants.com.
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Sushi by Bou. This tiny, 500-square-foot restaurant, tucked inside Gianni Versace's former mansion (now called Villa Casa Casuarina), offers multicourse omakase experiences ($125) in an über-intimate setting. The menu changes daily, according to what's deemed fresh by the room's sushi chef, Wenjie Lian. At a recent dinner, highlights included striped jack, a butter-sweet Hokkaido scallop, and soy sauce-marinated ikura. The restaurant also offers Mr. Sake, a sake vending machine that serves three-ounce pours for $10. Reservations are difficult to get, but if you do snag one, you just might run into some big-name culinary wizards in town for the festival. 1116 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-922-9195; sushibybou.com. Open daily 5 to 11 p.m.
Sweet Liberty. If you're looking for a post-SOBEWFF nightcap (or two or three), walk a few blocks north of the festival's main tents to find one of the World's 50 Best Bars. Sweet Liberty, ranked 21st on the prestigious annual list in 2018, also received a posthumous Industry Icon Award for cofounder John Lermayer's contributions to the industry. Lermayer's spirit is very much alive in the cocktail program, which includes drinks such as the JL Remix, a strawberry daiquiri made with Bacardi Superior, Manzanilla, fresh strawberry, lime, sugar, salt, and pepper; and the Sweet Potato Pain Killer, containing three kinds of rum, sweet potato juice, coconut cream, orange juice, and allspice. Best of all, the bar slings drinks until 4 a.m., so you can "pursue happiness" (as the bar's neon sign says) until the wee hours. 237-B 20th St., Miami Beach; 305-763-8217; mysweetliberty.com.