We love to travel, but a new town can feel overwhelming, especially if time is tight. Our Bite-Sized Guides lift the pressure to sort through every recommendation and review, and give you the perfect introduction to a new town, with a walking tour of just one neighborhood we love.
For Miami we chose Brickell, the city's waterfront financial district. Once reserved for the offices of attorneys, accountants, and bankers, it is now a live-work-play neighborhood for young professionals. Recent additions like Brickell City Centre and the anticipated SLS Brickell Hotel & Residences (with not one but two restaurants from star chefs), plus easy access to Wynwood, the Miami Design District, and Little Havana make it a worthy destination for visitors as well. Here to guide us is Evelyn Torres, the creative force behind Miami lifestyle blog Brickellista Files.
When I first moved to Brickell in 2008 during the economic crisis, it was a desolate time for the neighborhood. The buildings were empty and there were only a few restaurants to dine in, but I saw the potential for the area and decided to claim it as my home. In the past few years Brickell has not disappointed! It has evolved from a sleepy city on the water to a bustling neighborhood bursting with young professionals and families. All attention is on Brickell — it's caliente!
There is so much to do in the area, and as it continues to grow it will continue to welcome companies, restaurants, and shops from across the world. But it's not just the new that excites me. Some of my favorite spots have been around forever, including our starting point — a fish taco truck in a parking lot.
A Neighborhood Walk in Miami
1. Start here: Surf & Turf Catering
609 Brickell Avenue
One of my go-to lunch spots is the taco truck in the parking lot behind First Presbyterian Church. They are only open Wednesday through Saturdays and the lines can get long, but it is well worth the wait! The food is ridiculously fresh and it's right by the water.
I usually order the fish tacos with fries, the veggie of the day, and an extra side of their homemade potato chips. These are seriously good chips and the spicy mayo they come with is to die for! The owners treat you like family and if you're nice, they may even hook you up with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
2. First Presbyterian Church & Brickell Park
609 & 501 Brickell Avenue
I mentioned that the taco truck is behind First Presbyterian Church and this historic building, one of the first religious structures in Miami, is worth pointing out. It's this gorgeous pink church with a copper roof (now green) surrounded by high-rises!
It's also right next door to one of my favorite spots: Brickell Park, where you can find the Brickell family mausoleum. I know it sounds gory, but it's actually pretty. William Brickell was one of the original founders of Miami, alongside Julia Tuttle. William and his wife, Mary, opened up the first trading post here, in Brickell, on the bank of the Miami River.
Many locals don't even know this is here, so this is a super-insider tip!
701 S. Miami Avenue
Just around the corner is Brickell City Centre and it truly is the talk of the town! The mall is filled with stores from around the globe, including this sweet French candy store, La Confiserie du Roy René, which is the very first outpost in the United States. Violetas Home Design is another of my favorite spots. I could seriously move in! They have everything to make your home sparkle and the swankiest gadgets in town.
Also, while you're shopping around make sure you look up! There is a climate ribbon that spans across the centre and keeps everything cool. It ribbon grabs the ocean breeze and disperses it across the mall. It's like outdoor AC, only green-friendly and super pretty.
907 Brickell Avenue
If you are like me, you'll need an afternoon pick-me-up. In Miami, we love our café con leche with a vengeance and Pasion del Cielo is my favorite spot to get my fix. It's in the center of the neighborhood and always packed with locals.
The coolest part about Pasion, though, is that you can pick your beans from your country of choice and they will grind them on the spot. My poison is the Cuba Cappuccino with 2% milk, and if you have a sweet tooth the Mama Guava Bars are the way to go.
Just down the block from Pasion del Cielo, on the corner of Brickell Avenue and SE 8th Street, is one of Miami's Citi Bike stations. I have to confess, I'm not a regular, but it's a fun way to get a feel for the neighborhood. And if you haven't ridden a bike in a while, trust me — If I can do it, you can too! You can check one out for anywhere from a half-hour ($4.50) to a full day ($24).
You don't have to follow a specific route — go where your wheels take you, even, if you're really ambitious out Calle Ocho into Little Havana — but do make a point to swing past this next spot.
6. SLS Brickell
Together with the Brickell City Centre, this months-old property is a sign that Brickell really is on the map. It's also really cool to look at: An entire facade of the building is covered in a mural by German-born artist Markus Linnenbrink, triangular balconies jut out and light up at night, and there's a Botero sculpture right out front. That's before you even get inside!
The hotel also boasts two incredible restaurants, Fi'lia, an Italian-inspired concept by Miami chef Michael Schwartz (which happens to have a fantastic breakfast), and Bazaar Mar, which is a seafood-centric restaurant from acclaimed Spanish chef Jose Andres. And the pool is so cool you won't even mind you're not on the beach.
7. Brickell Key Bridge
Circle back to the docking station and then go by foot over the Brickell Bay Bridge to Brickell Key. The best views of Brickell are on Brickell Key. The locals love to run around the 1.3-mile trail and then meet at Mandarin Oriental for sunset cocktails, but we won't make you run — after all, you've already been biking!
Normally I go to the MO Bar, but Yaku by La Mar just opened and I'm all for trying new things. Plus, it's right at the end of the bridge and it's time for a drink, am I right? The views here are impeccable and watching the sky turn shades of pinks and purples as the sun sets behind the city is a great way to end the day and really soak in the city. I usually stick to bubbles, but their cocktail menu is the talk of the town and they come in really fun glasses.
Once you've had a rest and a drink, it's time for dinner. Walk (or call a Lyft if you're too tired!) back over the bridge to Perricone's, which is a really old-school red-sauce Italian restaurant. Now, I know what you're thinking: Red-sauce Italian in Miami? Well, this restaurant is near and dear to my heart because when I first moved to Brickell it was one of the few restaurants in town. Literally, there were three!
Whenever I need a little reminder about how my life has evolved in Miami, I'll go to Perricone's. I usually stick with the classics — the lasagna is my go-to — but everyone loves the baked brie and they also have really good gelato. Okay, so everything is good! And you should definitely stop by the store and pick up some provisions: wine, cheese, cannolis. Hey, you might get hungry later!
If you have the stamina for another drink, head back to Brickell City Centre and the East, Miami. Towering 42 stories over Brickell, Sugar is the rooftop bar to be spotted soaking in the 360-degree views of Miami. My advice, save a little room for their lamb skewers. I always order it even if I'm stuffed! Too good to pass up and pairs well with a chilly Albariño and a star-lit sky.