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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Best Barber Shop
Well Groomed Gentleman
130 Miracle Mile
This place harkens back to a time when men were men, and went for hot towels and razor shaves, at places where you could also get a shot of booze. Just layer that with modern metrosexual tweaks, like manicures and lattes, and you’re here.
Best Friday Night Barbershop Hangout
Mankind Grooming & Services
290 Aragon Ave.
Friday night at a barbershop is a thing now, so what better place to hang than one with a lounge area, complete with a full-sized pool table and a full bar. At Mankind, which occupies the old Books & Books location, the first craft cocktail or local beer is complimentary with any service.
Best Place to Buy a Nanny Cam
96 Miracle Mile
Are we being paranoid? Are we saying you can’t trust the hired help? Maybe. But in this day and age of craziness, sometimes you might want to sooth your nerves with a little camera posing as a Teddy Bear belly button. Good for nursing homes, too.
Best Wine Store
Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe
124 Miracle Mile
This is the kind of shop that makes Coral Gables feel like a small town. Owned and run by the extremely knowledgeable Jeffrey Wolfe, this is where you come to get the right vino advice. I mean, he vacations to vineyards. Plus, on weekends the Golden Retrievers come to the shop.
Best Shoe Store
4310 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Gucci? Jimmy Chu? Nordstrom’s legendary shoe department at the Shops at Merrick Park is where you would expect to find Carrie Bradshaw hanging out. Great selection. And if you want to shave on prices, hang on till the store’s annual sale, which starts in late July and includes the shoe department.
Best Hair Salon
Avant Garde Salon and Spa
155 Miracle Mile
Avant Garde has been servicing Coral Gables women since 1976. That’s a lot of hair styles. What we love is the extensive list of what they provide. We couldn’t find a service they don’t offer. Microblading, yes. Eyelash extensions, yes. Mermaid Unicorn Hair, yes. Balayage hair color. Yes.
Best Cigar Shop
Galiano Cigar Room
2310 Galiano St.
You can buy cigars in lots of places, but where can you also sit down in a lounge by the bar and smoke them while imbibing a drink? Two years old, Galiano is the gold standard for cigar smokers: A roomy walk-in humidor and lockers for members to store their stash.
Most Acccessible High-End Fashion Boutique
4217 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Among the city’s elite Haute designers, Maritza Fernandez is also a woman close to our cost-conscious hearts. In her upstairs boutique, she offers her Spring and Fall lines as prêt-à-porter blouses, dresses, and slacks that should cost vastly more. Too bad you won’t need her designer face masks any longer.
Best Teen Clothing Store
258 Andalusia Ave.
We love this small boutique where you can shop for the family (some adult sizes, too) and enjoy a personal experience with owner Ana Mari Fuentes. It’s also an emporium of styles for the often neglected “tween” and young teenage market.
333 Alacazar Ave.
Owner and creative florist Mario Fernandez could not be more accommodating in this pleasantly crowded shop, suffused with wonderful smells. It feels old world, a quiet compartment protected from the outside, where the beauty of flowers still means something.
Best Gift Shop
221 Miracle Mile
Ok, so who’s on your list? Teachers, friends, colleagues, service providers, a dinner hostess? If these gifts require delving into boutiques, Violetta’s is your place, especially if your budget has no restraints. A wonderland of designer home objects, like glassware, throw pillows, wall art, vases, and even Fornasetti plates.
Best Children’s Store
Macanoco & Co.
2344 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
What we like here is the spread. Everything from trendy art pencil sets shaped like an avocado for less than $20 to hand-made prams from England for your child’s dolls, for more than $500. Dress your toddler like Little Lord Fauntleroy or buy him a small plastic dinosaur.
Best Men’s Clothing Store
357 Miracle Mile
Do you want a suit off the rack? That will cost you $1,500 to $3,900 and will then be smartly altered by Pepi “Bertini” Gonzalez, who has served the rich and famous at his Gables location for nearly three decades. If you would like something hand-tailored from scratch, that is another matter.
Best Eyewear Boutique
Edward Beiner Eyes
Shops of Merrick Park
You can book your next eye exam here. Or you can book your next private style consultation here, to see which of the ultra-cool glasses in this shop are perfect for you. Can you get away with a pair of Barton Perreira for $405? Or do you need those Jacques Marie Mage for $685?
Books & Books
265 ARAGON AVE.
Books & Books is another cornerstone shop that makes Coral Gables feel like a small but very smart town. This is a cozy destination bookstore with a great kid’s selection and large number of autographed tomes you won’t find elsewhere. Can’t wait for their regular author chats to go live again.
Best Bike Shop
220 Aragon Ave.
Store manager Isreal Rodriguez is an avid biker, frequently taking part in weekend runs to South Miami-Dade. The rest of the time he’s showing riders one of 800 bikes they have in stock, for $280 to $12,000. They will also test your foot for the right athletic shoe.
Best Place to Buy a Roman Coin
Gables Coin & Stamp Shop
82 Miracle Mile
Okay, so it’s also the only place where you can buy a Roman coin in the Gables. But how amazing that you can buy a 2,000-year-old object for less than $100? Lots of other ancient and U.S. coins as well. Or what about a gold coin to horde for Armageddon?
Best Antiques Store
3160 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
They carry early 20th century decorative arts, so if you are looking for a vase or statuette from the 1920s French Art Deco period, this is the place. You can buy a ceramic for $600, but want to dazzle with your collection? Buy the 1925 Russian Dancers by Demétre Chiparus for $936,000.
Best Furniture Store
4077 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
From its beginnings in an 800-square-foot second-floor showroom on Ponce, Victoria’s Armoire has spread out to include a complex totaling more than 20,000 square feet in two separate buildings, with unconventional yet elegant cabinets, coffee tables, sofas, lamps, benches, baskets, mirrors, ottomans, rugs, desks, and chairs.
Best Bank Coffee
Capital One Café
50 Miracle Mile
Okay, so it’s not hard to beat the tired coffee machines in your typical bank lobby with a free-standing Peet’s Coffee location in your lobby. All part of the bank’s strategy to lure unsuspecting Millenials into opening their first bank accounts. Latest job offer: Café Ambassador, to work the lobby.