The best guides are beer-drinking, taco-noshing locals with a few hours to kill.
With a couple of shiny new beach cruisers and 72 hours I set out with three intrepid locals to explore the Miami Beach neighborhoods of Mid Beach and North Beach by bike. I let my locals set our itinerary with one request – we visit places that they authentically love and frequent, no obligatory tourist bullshit.
My theory (which hasn’t failed me yet) is that everybody has a favorite place to eat, drink and relax and these are the places that are worth discovering.
Bryant Soriano, Hotel Manager
Bryant kept me fed. We pedaled to and from his favorite nosh spots — cafes, restaurants and food trucks — grabbing quick bites.
New York Bagel Deli & Juice (01:26 – 01:47)
Yes, this place is lodged in a nondescript strip mall corner unit next to a Dominos. And yes, you would probably never notice it unless a local brings you there. New York Bagel Deli does the simple things right with zero frills and it’s clear from Bryant’s reverent tone that this is the type of unpretentious local joint that quietly helps anchor a sense of neighborhood and community.
We order mango and strawberry smoothies and slurp them down at a table outside.
Fifi’s Seafood Restaurant (02:40 – 03:07)
There’s a big sign that say’s ‘stone crab’ in the window and a big ice bath full of stone crab a few feet from the entrance and when we step inside he tells me ‘This place has great stone crab.’ No kidding. But we don’t get stone crab. We get ceviche and beer and battered and fried rock shrimp. The ceviche is good. The rock shrimp is crazy good.
Miami Beach Food Truck & Music Fest (04:04 – 04:40)
The food truck gathering that congregates every last Wednesday of the month is a conga line of Miami Beach’s finest comfort fare. The trucks show up at 5pm – dusk for us in mid Dec. – and a small stage is erected for music. We forego the lobster rolls and fried mac n’ cheese balls and tacos to settle for a pile of syrup sweetened shaved ice. Night falls and folks form lines at the food trucks and stand in clumps, munching contently.
Tanja Morariu, Dir. of Brand Development
Fueled by a dark chocolate binge Tanja (and her frequent, infectious outbursts of laughter) guides me through some of the more chill and down to earth areas of Mid Beach.
Miami Beach Chocolates (00:57 – 01:20)
We point our bikes toward chocolate and pedal.
It’s noon, the unseasonably strong sun is flashing through palm fronds as Tanja and I lean our beach cruisers against their kickstands and duck into Miami Beach Chocolates. The squat brick building looks like a throwback and so does the jolly looking bespectacled Jewish man behind the counter. I haven’t had breakfast, but here we are, emptying our pockets of bills and filling a paper bag with fine chocolates. We sit outside at one of the little cafe tables and fill our cheeks with sweets. We got a massive chocolate buzz then grabbed our bikes to coast through the neighborhoods just beyond the shop.
Indian Creek (01:54 – 02:14)
Indian Creek slices the better part of Miami Beach in half length wise. Luxury yachts and manatees share space in the brackish green waters though the yachts are considerably more numerable and easy to spot. Tanja and I bike along the mostly empty neighborhood streets that meander along the shore of Indian Creek. In stark contrast to the immodest hotel towers that dominate the landscape a few blocks away, the streets we pedal down are shaded by large trees, not penthouse suites. A footbridge, the only one I notice on our ride, is just big enough for two people on bikes.
Mid Beach sand and surf (03:13 – 03:40)
A web of dirt paths, boardwalks, bike paths and paved boulevards runs up and down Miami Beach allowing people dozens of access points. Pick one. The water is warm, of course. Perfect is more apt.
Leo Holtzman, Professional Mixologist & Bar Owner
The three places Leo takes me on our ride are the epitome of local chill. Nothing flashy here, just the cafes, beaches and dive bars he loves most.
Buenos Aires Cafe (00:39 – 00:56)
The thing about the Buenos Aires Cafe is that it feels like you’re in Buenos Aires. The scarcity of english spoken, the old, high waisted dudes standing around the counter languishing over tiny cups of coffee. As we sit down over pastries Leo admits that he doesn’t know the names of the baked goods he’s been ordering for the last five years. It’s basically all good, he says, just point to something and order two.
North Shore Park (02:17 – 02:39)
Nothing to see here folks, and that’s the point he tells me as we walk our bikes beside the beach. No hotel towers. No pools. No crowds. No parking lots, restaurants or retail spaces. No nothing except a lazy game of sunset volley ball, a copse of palms, a well loved bike path and a mostly empty stretch of beach. A local oasis of understated chill.
Lou’s Beer Garden (03:46 – 04:02)
Lou’s is exactly the kind of place that I love to throw back a couple of pints at. It’s hidden (apparently the neon sign on the sidewalk is new, before there was zero street front signage.) and unpretentious. It’s a hotel/hostel, so there is a strong contingency of world travelers lounging about sipping lager. Actually I’m a little surprised that this is one of Leo’s favorite spots initially. Leo has owned is own cocktail bar, is a bartender and corporate mixologist — I took all of this to indicate that his go-to spot would be a snazzier, more high brow joint. I’m glad it’s not. Lou’s is exactly what the doc order after 3 solid days in the saddle. Leo orders two big imported beers and expertly empties them into tall hefeweizen glasses. I take one look at the pool 4 feet to my left and wonder if I’m going for an accidental swim tonight.
A Few Practical Tips for Biking Miami Beach
Rent a bike by the hour at the Citibike stations. There are many pick up / drop off stations up and down Miami Beach. The bikes are ugly and heavy but they seem to work fine.
The best beach path biking is from Mid Beach to South Beach. South Beach is the best for long stretches of interconnected, beach side bike paths.
There are bike paths up and down much of Collins, but stay alert. Keep an eye out for cars even if you are in a bike lane, especially during commute times.
The sidewalks on Collins and Indian Creek Drive are pretty wide. Don’t be afraid to hop up on the side walks if the road traffic is not your thing. Watch out for people exiting buildings.
My base camp for my 72 hours in Miami Beach and the sponsor of this video is Circa 39 Hotel.