For all its internationally-recognized hustle and bustle, South Beach still boasts a few spots where the true hustler can hang without having to endure the crush of amateurs. Havens from the madding crowd. The kinda joints where one doesn’t mind colliding with the crowd because the crowd generally consists of folks worth colliding with. As anyone who hits the afterdark knows, the night can be predicated as much by the company you encounter as the company you keep. And woe to those who come up against the flowless. Last night I had the great good pleasure of hitting two of the cooler hotspots in Miami, and it was almost enough to restore my faith in swingin’ the Strip.
August 02, 2011
1diggdigg Like any dynamite night out, it began in exquisite company. In my case it was the ever-elegant Nicole Soden, a gal-about-town with more renown than I’ll ever muster, no matter how much trouble I cause. Nicole’s a knockout, pure and simple. Not just looks-wise (though of course there is that), but charm-wise and smarts-wise and talent-wise, too.
Over a spectacularly delicious fine dine at the just-opened Vic & Angelo’s, Nicole spoke of her recent trip to the Yucatan, where she explored the history and mysteries of Chichen Itza, as well as her upcoming film project with lensman Juan Carlos Castaneda of So-Me Designs and No More Tears infamy. It was for the coincident campaigns where Nicole and Juan Carlos first met, and having quickly discovered their creative stars were aligned, the two decided to pursue even more endeavors. I’ve got a hunch that after they team up over Nicole’s “Luncheon on the Grass” (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe), which springs from the same-named Manet painting and is slated for the next Art Basel, we’ll all reap the rewards of the work to come. .
If food and rep is any indication, Vic and Angelo’s will too be forever more. An offshoot of the resoundingly popular Palm Beach Gardens original (and its Delray Beach sister eatery) on the site of what was DeVito (and before that Joia), restaurateur David Manero’s latest creation brings a certain Old World mythic to the New World wonder of Ocean Drive. Much of that myth is rooted in Naples, where, legend has it, the real Vic and Angelo Vespaed to market each and every Sunday in order to procure the freshest foodstuffs for their traditional weekly dinners. Here, however, it’s Chef Paul Griffin who keeps alive the tradition, and he does so by infusing a heaping helping of 21st century know-how. We started with Baked Clams al Forno and Giant Beef Carpaccio, mained with Black Grouper (topped with Jumbo Lump Crab, Lemon Scampi Jus, Escarole, and White Beans) and the Bone-In Rib-Eye (which is “selected and aged for 21 days in the famous stockyards of Chicago”), then ended with Tiramesu. Needless to say, we were sated beyond satiation.
Also dining while we were there was Ocean Drive editor Suzy Buckley and the bi-coastally-inclined Josh Woodward, who with Chef Govind Armstrong is/was responsible for both Table 8 and 8oz Burger Bar, and hence knows a thing or three about good food.
After bidding adieu to our Serbian server Vladimir and maitre ‘d Oscar H, who both were the picture of perfect attendance, we swung up to Lincoln Road to find yet another haven among hangouts, this time one conveniently called Haven.
That’s right, the now 90-day-young self-described gastro-lounge calls it as it wants it to be, and for once we can clearly see what they mean. Helmed by Ben Arndt (who wasn’t on hand), Kimberly Acker, and Dana “Danger” Dwyer (both of whom were there), Haven truly is something of a haven from South Beach’s usual grind. Part of that has to do with its location on the far west end of Lincoln, where mostly it’s locals who don’t fear to tread. But even locals can be a finicky bunch, and if Haven didn’t have what it takes to make a place the right kinda hang, it’d go the way of all the other venues that believed they knew what was what. Fortunately for us and few handfuls of Miami heavies, Haven doesn’t seem to be just guessing—it seems to know. And we all know what a little knowledge can do for a scene.
Vic and Angelo’s, pictured here and above