When Noel Lanzas left his home in Nicaragua for Miami in 1988, he might not have known that it’s where he would put down roots — and even when he was part of the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach’s opening team just about 20 years ago, he may not have realized he’d still be at that five-star hotel all these years later. One thing is certain: He knows his city. We recently caught up with Lanzas to tap his bottomless well of Miami recommendations.
What’s a good restaurant where only locals go?
Where should I go for a big night out?
Best budget spot in town?
Lung Yai Thai Tapas has a simple and inexpensive menu for delicious street Thai food. You must order all at once when you are seated at a table.
Where can I go for a great dessert?
Best place for a sunset cocktail?
Where can I get a cup of coffee near the hotel and go for a good walk?
I would go to Joe and The Juice on Collins Avenue, where you can get a nice cup of high-quality coffee, fresh juices and delicious sandwiches, and then walk down to Lummus Park, heading south on the boardwalk to South Pointe Park.
Best neighborhood if I want to get better acquainted with the city?
A stroll in Calle Ocho. Get acquainted with our Cuban culture by visiting Domino Park, galleries and the cigar-roller stores found there. Also visit the Wynwood area to enjoy a more colorful area of Miami.
Miami is known for its art scene. What galleries and art installations should we be sure to experience?
We love getting out into the park in a big city, so which Miami parks should be on our don’t-miss list?
South Pointe Park on Sunday, where the community gathers to watch the sunset while they play drums, practice yoga and dance salsa. Also Fairchild Tropical Gardens for a quiet getaway from the noise of the city,
What’s a less-crowded beach to enjoy in the Miami area?
What architectural landmarks are there to see in Miami — structures that excite the imagination?
To start with, the Art Deco District, where the imagination can take you to that era of time. The Art Deco architecture is known for its bold, streamlined design and its ability to evoke the glamour of the ’40s era. Also, the Renaissance-style villa of Vizcaya, with their beautiful gardens and unique art pieces.
What’s the best way for visitors to get out onto the water around Miami?
Besides having a private yacht to take around the area? This city offers great water tours, such as the Island Queen Cruises boat that takes you around the famous homes in the area. Also, a great semi-private tour to Stiltsville homes with Ocean Force Adventures, where you can even observe some dolphins in their habitat.
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What food does your city do better than anywhere else?
We have a great food culture because of the different nationalities we host. You can have Venezuelan arepas, Colombian sancocho, great Nicaraguan carne asada, amazing Cuban coffee and guava pastelitos, Honduran baleadas, juicy Argentinian churrasco, tasty Salvadoran pupusas and more.
What’s the best thing that you can only do in Miami?
Iconic nightlife. Miami’s scene is unique for trendy bars, nightclubs and rooftop lounges. Everglades tours and Art Deco District visits are among others that are unique to Miami. Besides, it is the only place where you can have cortadito and pasteles on just about every other block.
I’m looking for a low-key brunch. Where to?
Among my favorite places to have a low-key brunch will be Abbale Telavivian Kitchen. Another great option will be Prime Fish, where there is not too much and never too little, with bottomless mimosas.
Best place to eat a meal or have a beer outside when the weather’s better?
What’s the best way to get around town?
Scooter and moped. You can skip all the traffic in either of those.
What’s the one thing everyone forgets to pack? Or the one thing everyone should remember to pack when visiting?
Pants for gentlemen. Feels like they always forget to pack long pants. A big hat for ladies to help cover the sun and avoid ruining the vacation with a bad sunburn.
Finally, what’s the best book to read about the area before I come?
If you wish to understand our culture, that will be Miami: City of the Future by T.D. Allman. The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami by Jen Karetnick will offer a great overview of the city and places to visit, even if you are a local.
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