If the traveler ever wants to immerse his/herself into a giant bowl of sexy, South Beach in Florida would be the perfect choice. Once a disaster area after the violent hand of Hurricane Andrew, South Beach shrugged off pessimism and rebuilt the Art Deco edifices in the spirit of ecological resistance.
Unlike other austere areas within reach, South Beach pulses with the music of humanity in all its colors and striations. It is as common to see a homeless person as it is to see a millionaire. One can buy a pair of designer swim trunks for $95, or stroll down Collins Avenue to Wings, which specializes in beach wear, and grab a decent pair of trunks for $14.95. The gentle purr of a Honda can be followed by the masculine roar of a Ferrari (or perhaps a parade of them) dominating the sun bleached afternoon.
Travelers would be thoroughly pleased with a stay at the SLS Hotel. Across the street from the famed Delano Hotel, the SLS provides luxury, comfort and great hospitality, though the Delano can boast the occasional stay by Leonardo DiCaprio, J Lo and P. Diddy. The SLS does host some wild pool parties, alive with smoke machines, loud music, alcohol and pheromone infused millennials waving their tattoos to the beat of music with no particular message. Yet there was no sad face in the bunch.
The rooms at the SLS are designed with the style, fabrics and hues synonymous with South Florida. Some of the rooms sport whitewash tapestries with ionic pillar designs, vintage love seats and wide beach vistas that pour tropical colors into the room. From the lobby, which maintains a mix of modern and classic, to the outdoor pool, which is a narrow rectangle surrounded by lounge chairs and semi-private cabana seating, the SLS promises satisfaction through luxury, decor and service.
Within the SLS Hotel are three exciting dining venues. The first is Bazaar Restaurant which glows with a Spanish aura through the tasteful decor, highlighted by a huge chandelier encrusted in seashells which adds to the subtle tones embellished with tea lights and faux bookshelf tapestries. The wine list, dominated by Argentinian wines, is bold and aromatic, paired perfectly with the gourmet dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Jose Andres. One memorable dish is the Caviar Cone, made with Ossetra caviar, capers, eggs, onions, and creme fraiche.
Right next door, but within the SLS is Katsuya, an Asian-inspired restaurant with style and flavor added to every dish. From sushi to sashimi, grilled to tempura, every plate seems more memorable than the last. Start with Albacore Sashimi and move onto Crispy Brussel Sprouts as the Yellowtail with Jalapeno waits to deliver the final blow of the meal.
After dinner, customers can get a nightcap at the Dragon Lounge, just upstairs from the restaurant. Belly up to the bar where a pair of exotic eyes seduce one to drink in the intoxication of South Beach through the dark veil of mascara and almond shaped mystique. It is simply a larger-than-life photograph, but like the decor and Atlantic aura, the beautiful people of South Florida are being watched. The Dragon Lounge is perfect for parties as it is for post-business conference unwinding.
With too many eateries to conquer in one lifetime, the traveler might want to multitask at TimeOut Market. Think food court with a gourmet twist, and one will want to sample the creations from restaurants and chefs native to South Florida all under one roof. The concept of TimeOut Market began in Lisbon and traveled to South Beach as its inaugural US outpost. Another just celebrated its opening in DUMBO (Brooklyn, stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).
Another zone of great food and festivity can be found in Espanola Way, a two-block stretch of real estate that is alive with restaurants, string lights, awnings, festive colors, beautiful young ladies beckoning passers-by to enter their establishments, all to the backdrop of piped-in Mexican music. Oh Mexico! Is renowned for its intoxicating margaritas and tasty tapas. Espanola Cigar offers the unique experience of enjoying a relaxing smoke (from their display cases with countless varieties of cigar) and a menu rich with a local spin on authentic Mexican dishes. These are just two of over a dozen quaint eateries in the pedestrian-only stretch of pavement.
Since eating is so central to South Beach, make sure to visit Diez Y Seis, a Mexican restaurant nestled within the Floridian decor as one walks through the lobby of Shore Club Boutique Hotel. The restaurant boasts a “renegade take on classic cuisine,” and it’s true; the Milanesa, breaded chicken with cuts of heirloom tomatoes, onions and a unique black bean sauce is more memorable than the afternoon on the beach that followed it. F&B Manager Elena Moise shared her enthusiasm for the food, the atmosphere, life in South Florida, and “the best enchiladas you ever had.” A bold statement that will be tested on the return trip to the area.
The promise of a party atmosphere in South Beach might be more accurately experienced by those born after 1990, but there is also a mature decadence here, ecstasies of the flesh felt upon the white sands and pulsing nightlife, the salty lips from a variety of flavored Margaritas, or the simple voyeurism at the daily parade of beauty. Like a good book, South Beach can be revisited and mean something different each time.