For our 2021 foray into the finest our city offers, we decided to search for the best in 120 categories of Food & Drink, Shopping & Retail, Arts & Entertainment, Sports & Recreation, and Architecture & Public Places. Naturally, since Coral Gables is nothing if not a moveable feast, almost half of our BEST OF choices are for Food & Drink.
To produce this monumental probe into what makes living in Coral Gables so spectacular, we enlisted the help of 38 local luminaries, in addition to what our staff could discern through diligently traversing the city at all hours of the day and night. You may agree or disagree with our determinations, but we think this is a worthy look at some of the best things Coral Gables has to offer. If you would like to offer your own take on THE BEST, please reach out to email@example.com.
OUR “BEST OF” BOARD OF ADVISORS:
Patrick Alexander, author & lecturer; John Allen, Coral Gables Museum; Veronica Villegas Baldwin, Kreps PR; Greg Barnes, Bill Ussery Motors; Bradley Barreto, Barreto Group; Rodney Barreto, Barreto Group; Terre Bernace, Shelton & Steward; Bill Bonn, philanthropist; Karelia Carbonell, historic preservationist; CL Conroy, Conroy Martinez; Ray Corral, The Mosaicist; Meg Daley, The Underline; Sissy DeMaria, Cultivate PR; Swanee DiMare, philanthropist; Wayne Eldred, Outlier Institute; Danny Guiteras, The Globe; Sara Hernandez, First Citizens Bank; Jill Hornick, Jae’s Jewelers; Rishi Kapoor, Location Ventures; Ben Mollere, Baptist Health; Patrick O’Connell, BHHS/EWM; John O’Rourke, First American Bank; Jose Ortega, Maven Realty; Silvia Ortiz, Americas Collection; Judy Mangasarian, Coral Gables Garden Club; Virginia Miller, Art Space; Tony Newell, Resorcity; Julian Perez, Coral Gables Economic Development Department; Kim Rodriguez, personal shopper; Patricia San Pedro, Frost School of Music; Marc Schwarzberg, Maven Realty; Don Slesnick, Slesnick & Casey, LLP; Mary Snow, Coral Gables Community Foundation; Christopher Spuches, Agentis; Venny Torre, Torre Companies; Mark Trowbridge, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce; Francesca Valdes, Retail Strategist, City of Coral Gables; Jose Valdes-Fauli, retired banker; Jeffrey Wolfe, Wolfe’s Wines.
In Front of City Hall
The city’s founding father, George Merrick, stands proudly in front of City Hall, holding a rolled-up blueprint like it was a sword. His name took a lot of heat this year for a few racist comments he made late in life, but the city still reveres his vision and his memory.
Best Historic Garden
The H. George Fink Studio
2506 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Kudos to the city for acquiring and restoring the studio of original Coral Gables architect H. George Fink. It looks like a small church, an appropriate honorarium to the man, and this year will finally be reborn as the home to the Department of Economic Development and small public museum.
Best Place to Drink Beer Outside
Bay 13 Brewery
65 Alhambra Plaza
Just the fact that they are brewing fresh beer in the vast tanks inside would be enough. But the open-air plaza next to Bay 13, which faces the amazing fountains at Galiano and Alhambra, takes this beer drinking experience to a whole new level.
Best View from a Terrace
Riviera Country Club
1155 Blue Rd.
Okay, so it will cost you $30,000 to join, even without a golf membership. Or you can find a member who will invite you for cocktails on the veranda. Either way, the feeling is straight out of Tara, in the newly rebuilt clubhouse restaurant, with its vast view down the fairway.
Best People Watching Spot
It is a pedestrian plaza, after all. But Japanese tourists taking selfies? With its now ever-changing installations hanging overhead, and pop-up performance artists, and late night-night eateries like Coyo Taco, you’ve got a whole new flow of humanity strolling the cobblestones.
Best Historic Landmark
The Biltmore Hotel
1200 Anastasia Ave.
Few places are more magical than the Biltmore Hotel, with its central tower rising above Coral Gables’ majestic residential canopy like a sentinel and its massive lobby with arched ceilings and stone pillars. With its nearly century old beauty impeccably restored and maintained, this is the living icon for the City Beautiful.
Best Places We Miss the Most
Ortanique, John Martin’s Irish Pub
Both Formerly On Miracle Mile
One provided an amazing new range of flavors, based on Caribbean cuisine, the other a great selection of Irish whiskeys and nights of musical mayhem. Both had been with us for decades, and both will be greatly missed.
Best Secret Garden
Montgomery Botanical Center
11901 Old Cutler Road
This 120-acre collection of thousands of palms and cycads is a living monument to Robert H. Montgomery, the man behind the adjacent Fairchild Botanic Tropical Gardens. It is actually a working research center and is only open to the public on an appointment basis.
The DeSoto Fountain
Intersection of Granada Blvd. Desoto Blvd. and Seville Ave.
Every time we drive past this magnificent fountain, with its obelisk and streams of water, we think that we are in Paris. Or Rome. Or anywhere but the U.S.A. Strategically placed between the Venetian Pool and the Biltmore Hotel, it also anchors the largest roundabout in the city.
Best Park for Kids
1120 Andalusia Ave.
First, there is a green, shady field with playground gear for little kids, and then there are thirteen lighted clay tennis courts for when they get older – all in the midst of a densely canopied neighborhood. This is why you move your family to the Gables.
Best Gables Entrance
800 Douglas Rd.
Yes, the road through its grand archway is no longer an active entrance to the city, and yes, it’s now dwarfed by adjacent residential and office towers. But of all the entrances planned and built for Coral Gables, none has the magnificence of the Douglas Entrance.
Best Neighborhood Park
4650 Alhambra Circle
This is the kind of neighborhood park we all wish we had nearby. Transformed with city money by the Coral Gables Garden Club, the park is named after beloved local citizen Betsy Adams. Two lots were repurposed into an utterly charming and sweet open space with a play area for tots.
Best Place to Meet Men
The Gramercy Miami
220 Miracle Mile
Great food and great drinks, and there are eligible men to be met here, especially at the bar. But while The Gramercy is the heir apparent to the great singles scene that used to take place at its location (Tarpon Bend, remember?), we will take no responsibility for the kind of men you might meet here.
Best Place to Meet Intelligent Men
Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave.
What does it say when a man is perusing the section with classic literature or poetry? How about if he is looking at the mystery books? A good time to meet the unattached but intellectually curious man is during the live book readings, soon coming back. Just avoid the children’s section.
Best Place to Meet Women
There are at least a half dozen good yoga studios in the Gables, as well as yoga programs in places like Fairchild, the Biltmore and the Youth Center. Most of them are populated with women who care about their bodies and souls. Just remember the Buddha’s advice, that patience is the best virtue.
Best Place to Meet Intelligent Women
Coral Gables Museum, First Friday Night
Where else would a smart woman go on the first Friday night of the month? And if she doesn’t respond well to the question of why that particular painting is a) quite interesting b) beyond anyone’s comprehension or c) shows that the artist is a shameless narcissist, then she is clearly not smart enough for you.
Best Parking Place
Do you really think we would reveal this?