by Beth D’Addono
South Beach is all about glitzy, high energy nightlife, runway models and influencers, designer shops and swank art deco hotels, right? Well, that’s only partly true.
Because there’s another South Beach, South of Fifth, that offers green space, family fun, boutique accommodations and a global array of eats.
What was once all known as Miami Beach, a long finger of land bordering Biscayne Bay, accessible by a series of bridges from the mainland, morphed into the jet set South Beach scene in the Miami Vice ’80s. Collins and Washington Aavenues along with Ocean Drive run the length of it, through a series of neighbors from Bal Harbor Harbour to the north down through Miami Beach, South Beach and finally, ahhhhhh, to the bottom 10 percent of the peninsula, the quiet, pretty enclave South of Fifth.
South of Fifth, also known as SoFi (so-FEE) is a small upscale neighborhood that goes from Fifth Street south to South Pointe Park, a compact triangle bracketed by Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic.
An oasis for families, friends and couples seeking a recharge instead of a rave, SoFi has lots to offer, if clubbing, selfies and celebs aren’t high on your list. Mind you, all that is 10 minutes away, but in this sleepy neighborhood, you’d never know it. So if the entertainment district with crazy party scene isn’t for you, head South of Fifth to commune with nature, sit on the beach and hang with the locals.
What’s there to do?
Get to the Pointe
South Pointe Park has it all, walking and jogging paths, dog parks, free yoga on the beach sunrise and sunset and spectacular views. The Obstinate Lighthouse statue of staggered blocks by artist Tobias Rehberger is an artsy eyecatcher, as are the gigantic cruise ships trolling Port Miami across the channel. There are places to picnic, an observation deck and granite fountains that glow fuchsia at night. The people watching is almost as riveting as the views.
Jumpstart with Java
The locals are nuts about coffee, slurping short sweet pours Cuban style or downing the usual suspects of espresso, cappuccino and Americano, brewed from boutique beans, natch. Prima Classe is a friendly café with a strong Italian accent. Order croissants and strong coffee to start the day Roman style, but the menu of authentic Italian meats and cheeses, salads and sandwiches will tempt you to stay for lunch. Pura Vida offers fresh juices and smoothies along with an all-day breakfast menu that includes toast topped with smoked salmon or avocado, egg sammies and bagels with a schmear of cream cheese. Of course, there’s oat or almond milk available or consider a trendy turmeric latte for something different.
Abbalé Telavivian Kitchen is a buzz-worthy newcomer, a modern Israeli restaurant from hospitality entrepreneurs Omer Horev and Sam Gorenstein. Chef Gorenstein mines his Turkish, Syrian and Israeli roots serving offerings like kale and avocado salad, — refreshing local fish, ceviche drizzled with harissa-leche, grilled lamb chops with rosemary and Moroccan-spiced local fish. Bold, fresh flavors and eye- popping presentation comes with every order. Head to the casual open air Lobster Shack for the freshest seafood, raw bar, chowder and fish tacos, or get a “lazy” lobster platter — the kitchen does everything but feeds it do you. Open every day from 11 to midnight, you’ll come back for any of the specialty lobster rolls. Fancy steakhouses are a thing, including the solid Smith & Wollensky (great happy hour) and Papi Steak, where the drinks are strong and the heart-stoppingly perfect 32-ounce kosher ribeye is $190 — it comes with secret sauce, but everything else is extra.
Industry insiders already know about this compact cocktail gem but there’s no reason you shouldn’t discover it too. The ScapeGoat is surely the neighborhood’s favorite craft cocktail hideaway. There’s happy hour every day from noon to 8 p.m. and late night from midnight to 3 a.m., with $5 bottled beers, $7 hard seltzers and a rotating list of $10 cocktail specials, which might range from a sherry cobbler made with fresh juices and Fino sherry to a riff on an old fashioned. Enjoy the expanded patio but definitely ogle the retro backlit bar with its mirrored ceiling. Santorini by Georgios is a swell Greek spot that also offers a dangerously long cocktail hour poolside from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 3 to 5 Friday through Sunday, with discount nibbles, wine, beer and cocktails. Then, there’s Monty’s Raw Bar in the South Point Marina, where the best place to be is the outside tiki hut area popular with the happy-hour set weekdays, 4-8, for its relaxed vibe and casual bar menu. Ted’s Hideaway is an irresistible dive bar, great for watching the game, with drink specials from noon to 8 p.m. daily.
Hotel St. Augustine is a fine choice for sleeping in, located on a residential stretch of Washington just below 4th Street. Quaint and minimalist, the 32-room hotel is spotlessly clean, with a bright little lobby lounge, fab spa-showers and an easy stroll from the beach.
For shopping, dancing and striking a pose, head north a few blocks to South Beach for late night action. Or just relax in SoFi where the only pose you need to strike is downward dog on the beach at sunset.
(Go Magazine Online Exclusive November 2021)
(Photos: ScapeGoat, Abbalé Telavivian Kitchen, Gettyimages)