Welcome to our First Annual Best of the Gables Issue
For our inaugural foray into the finest that our city offers, we decided to search for the best in 120 categories of Arts & Entertainment, Food & Drink, Shopping & Retail, Sports & Recreation, and Architecture & Public Places. Naturally, since Coral Gables is nothing if not a movable feast, half of our “Best Of” choices fell in the area of Food & Drink.
In order to produce this monumental journalistic probe into what makes living in Coral Gables so spectacular, we enlisted the help of 25 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 guide to some of the best things that Coral Gables has to offer. If you would like to offer your own take on the best, please reach out to us at email@example.com. Now, read on…
Our “Best Of” Board of Advisors
John Allen, Coral Gables Museum; Veronica Villegas Baldwin, Kreps de Maria; Bradley Barreto, Coral Gables Title & Escrow; Rodney Barreto, the Barreto Group; Greg Barnes, Bill Ussery Motors Group; Grace Carricarte, Ganely Foundation; Mayda Cisneros, Mayda Cisneros Couture; Stacy Conde, Conde Contemporary Gallery; Jack Firestone, Firestone Capital Management; Pamela Fuertes, City of Coral Gables; John Harris, Coral Gables Trust Company; Maria Higgins-Fallon, City of Coral Gables; William Holly, Patton Realty; Israel Kreps, Kreps de Maria; Ben Mollere, Baptist Health South Florida; Belkys Perez, City of Coral Gables; Olga Ramundo, Express Travel; Carolina Rendeiro, Connect2Global; Frank Rosell, Studio- Becker; Adam Rosenblum, the Palace; Don Slesnick, attorney and former Mayor; Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, former City Manager; Venny Torre, Torre Construction; Mark Trowbridge, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce; Francesca Valdes, City of Coral Gables.
Arts & Entertainment
Best Saturday Night Jazz
John Martin’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
377 Alhambra Circle
Three cheers to Danny and Lorraine Guiteras for keeping this local institution going for more than two decades. Top jazz trios and quartets, curated by musical director Rodolfo Zuniga, in a Euro style café and bar with good food. And you thought there were no hip places in the Gables!
253 Miracle Mile
So, it’s Friday night at midnight and you’ll be damned if you’re going to go home before belting out a soulful version of Last Dance by Donna Summer. Or was that Brick House by the Commodores? Fortunately, you’re someplace where everyone’s had enough Jameson not to care.
Best Night to Dance
Open Stage Club
2325 Galiano St.
It only happens once a week, but after the disco ball descends at 10 p.m. every Saturday night, you can dance your heart out until 2 a.m. It’s like Brigadoon for people who like the hustle.
La Taberna Giralda
254 Giralda Ave.
Maybe it’s because it feels like you’re in a neighborhood hangout in Salamanca, but the Flamenco at La Taberna feels as natural as a folksinger in a coffee house. It’s like part of the fabric of Saturday night, rather than something exceptional. Which it is.
Best Place for a First Date
Outside on Giralda Plaza
Seriously, at any outdoor café. Then you aren’t enclosed, staring at each other in some restaurant booth wondering what to say. Here there are plenty of distractions from people walking by; plus, his or her observations can be revelatory.
Best Movie House
Coral Gables Art Cinema
260 Aragon Ave.
This is the place to go to see independent or foreign films you won’t find elsewhere in Miami. Intimate, with 140 seats, they also have delightful showings of period films from Hollywood’s golden age (think “Gone with the Wind”) as well as a series of remarkable “filmed-live” presentations from the British stage. – John Allen
Best Live Music Venue
Open Stage Club
2325 Galiano St.
Never a dull night at the Open Stage, where owner Juan Della Torre programs an amazing array of music for his oversized stage. Lots of new programming, so check their sched., but usually it’s jazz on Mondays, rock on Tuesdays, Latin on Thursdays and Sundays, and karaoke on Wednesdays. Excellent acoustics.
Best Night Out for a Mystery Nut
The Great Escape Room
2315 S. Le Jeune Rd. #200 786.322.6619
Figure out how to escape from Sherlock Holmes Library before the clock runs out – or you flip out from claustrophobia. And just when you thought there was nothing fun for geeks to do on a Saturday night!
Best Theater Experience
280 Miracle Mile
For live theater, the indominable Barbara Stein has taken Actor’s Playhouse to a new level year after year. A real treat is their mezzanine-floor stage, where you feel you’re part of what’s taking place just yards in front of you.—John Allen
Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
This assumes your guest is not from South Florida, and does not understand what it means to live in a semi-tropical environment. In which case, the flora of rare palms, cycads, flowering trees and vines – not to mention the butterfly house – will blow their minds.
Best Place to Learn Ballroom Dancing
Fred Astaire Dance Studio
45 Alhambra Plaza
World Champion Ballroom Dance partners and husband/wife team Vladimir and Vera Kosarev opened Fred Astaire Coral Gables eight years ago. Since then they’ve built a community of ballroom dancers that compete and hold monthly dance parties. You don’t even have to know who Fred Astaire was.
Best Art Gallery
3155 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
An unfair category really, since Conde Contemporary and the Americas Collection have wider appeal, and Virginia Miller has artists from the U.S. and Europe. But if you are in the market for Cuban art, nothing else comes close, and their two-building, two-story gallery presents the grandest showcase.
Food & Drink
Best French Bistro
2618 Galiano St.
This casual spot doesn’t pretend to look French, but it’s got that Paris café thing, where a truck driver can feel comfortable sitting next to a professor from the Sorbonne, ordering good French food from the chalkboard menu until it runs out.
Best Vietnamese Restaurant
Miss Saigon Bistro
148 Giralda Ave.
The readers of New Times voted this café the best restaurant in Coral Gables last year. And while we would not necessarily agree, it is nonetheless a perfect place for what it delivers – great Vietnamese food, excellent service, and authentically dressed wait staff. The pho is a must.
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
Sawa Restaurant & Lounge
Shops at Merrick Park 305.447.6555
Maybe it’s because the owner hails from Lebanon, but you won’t find any fresher hummus or baba ganoush, made from scratch daily, or any better moussaka or lamb kebabs. Forgive them for carrying a parallel Japanese menu. Most of the seating is outside, where belly dancers cavort on weekend nights.
Best Indian Restaurant
Taste Buds of India
2624 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
This is the place to learn about Indian food. Just come at lunch and try their buffet, which changes daily. Okay, so you don’t want goat curry on Tuesday. But Wednesday, the tikka masala will make you a convert. Very fresh, the central kitchen for the growing chain.
Best Peruvian Restaurant
Aromas Del Peru
1930 Ponce de Leon Blvd. 305.476.5885
For those who thought that ceviche was the only dish worth trying from Peru’s gastronomic war chest, start with their ají de gallina, Peru’s answer to yellow Asian curry. This is haute Peruvian, and reasonably priced.
Best Thai Restaurant
157 Giralda Ave. (Plaza)
Other Thai restaurants have come (and sometimes gone) but Bangkok, Bangkok has stayed the course with traditional Thai cuisine. Best part is their “authentic” dining section, where you sit cross-legged on an elevated platform in a dark room with cushions and carvings.
Best New Asian Restaurant
Malakor Thai Isaan
90 Miracle Mile 786.558.4862 You can stay safe at this new house of Thai street food, which manager Yotin Keeriang describes as “Pork skewer, noodles, sticky rice, very local.” Or you can go bold with grilled fatty pork neck, sliced and tossed with lime juice, mint, cilantro and ground roasted rice. Already a local favorite (the place, not the neck).
Best American Restaurant
2001 Granada Blvd.
(Granada Golf Course)
First, it’s American. Other places claim to be American, but Burger Bob’s is “real American.” There are no frills at Burger Bob’s, only homestyle cooking. All the food has gluten, fat, calories, and flavor. No acai or quinoa here! – Rodney Barreto
Best Argentine Restaurant
394 Giralda Ave.
Graziano’s is the Argentine answer to Fogo de Chão, where the greeting is meat on a skewer roasted by an open flame. Same here. Argentines won’t even buy meat from the same stores as the rest of us. Plus, walls of Argentine wine.
Best Coffee at a Bank
Capital One Cafe
50 Miracle Mile
Is it a coffee house? Is it a bank lobby? Is it proof that not all coffee at banks is terrible? It’s all of these things, and a unique statement about financial institutions looking to make human connections.
The Eating House
804 Ponce de Leon Blvd. 305.448.6524
There’s just something about the Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli’s pancakes. Maybe it’s the Captain Crunch cereal added to the batter, or the way they sit in a pool of condensed milk, or the slab of butter on top. Served during weekend brunch so you have time to nap afterwards.
Best Power Breakfast
Riviera Country Club
1155 Blue Rd.
On any given day, you will find the City’s movers and shakers in the Founder’s Lounge enjoying breakfast while overlooking the picturesque Riviera golf course all while congratulating themselves on being masters of the universe. And you know it’s a power breakfast because many people are dressed in golf attire… on a Tuesday morning! – Rodney Barreto
POC American Fusion Buffet & Sushi
2121 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
This is the upscale version of an all-you-can-eat buffet, the only place that Gables diners will stand in line for lunch except Hillstone. How upscale? How about Waldorf salad, lobster bisque, and a plethora of sushi. They claim to have 100 different dishes every day; we stopped at about a dozen.
Best Bar Food
The Shops at Merrick Park
At most bars, the happy hour food selection is pretty weak. But at Yard House, they slash the price on all the best appetizers like fried mac and cheese, boneless wings, queso dip and poke nachos. Oh, and half-prized pizzas. There’s just no competition.
2525 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
With places like Christy’s, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse nearby, this is a tough category. What puts Fleming’s over the top besides superb steaks and service is a deep wine cellar of wonderful reds for pairings – along with beef at the bar and great seafood dishes.
Best Sandwich Shop
Gusto Fino Italian Deli Cafe
271 Alhambra Circle
Go figure that an Italian sandwich shop just happens to have a killer hot pastrami sandwich, the Brad-Bino! Granted, it’s not traditional (BBQ sauce?). But, patrons come from miles around for it. Also have a slew of other non-Italians, like corned beef and a wickedly good New York Reuben. But hey, not bad with the Italian classics, either.
Best Ice Cream/Fruit Bar
Morelia Gourmet Paletas
76 Miracle Mile
When it’s over 100 degrees for an entire week, this is vital information. Morelia Gourmet Paletas is the perfect antidote for the torrid summer and any craving. Need a pick me up? Get the coffee filled-with-cream paleta. Feeling fruity? Get the strawberry filled with condensed milk. Want something richer? Dip it in dark chocolate.
Best Power Lunch
318 Aragon Ave.
Maybe it’s the service, or the walls with their acoustic dampers, or the sense of protection from having no windows, or the warm greetings from owner Nino Pernetti that make you feel like family. However it works, this place remains the go-to lunch choice for the city’s power elite.
Best Noodle Bar
Ohho Noodle Market
1100 S Dixie Hwy
Across the street from UM’s main entrance, Ohho has an amazing menu laden with all different types of noodle dishes. Pad Thai, Lo Mein, Pad See Eiw, Ramen, Wonton soup, Pho – you get the picture. Although not in the noodle family, the steamed BBQ pork buns are so darn delicious. The steamed ones. Not baked.
Best Caesar Salad
3101 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
What goes with great steaks more than the best Caesar salad anywhere in Miami-Dade, let alone Coral Gables? This is the real deal, old school, with full-on anchovies. The recipe is of course a secret, which keeps locals coming back for more – including buying it by the quart, to go.
Best Place for Tea
205 Aragon Ave.
In a city peppered with coffee houses, this is the tea oasis. Cool interior space – we’d call it Scandinavian chic – with a collection of teas that would make even a Brit quiver. Has a ‘scent station’ with 84+ choices to sniff and sip. Good sandwiches, too.
Best Secret Place to Eat
Tinta y Café
1315 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Don’t drive too fast on Ponce or you’ll miss this cozy neighborhood spot tucked in one block east on Salamanca. This is Cuban comfort food at its best, and the mismatched furniture makes you feel like you’re in someone’s home. Great eggs, all the sandwiches on baguettes, perfect coffee.
Best Bento Box
Su Shin Izakaya
159 Aragon Ave.
Part of the fun here is how owner Chika Abe yells across the place to seat you and say goodbye, like an air traffic controller at Tokyo Inter- national. Lots of interesting daily specials, but nothing beats the $11.50 bento box with soup, sushi, tempura, teriyaki and salad with killer gin- ger dressing.
Best Hardcore Bar
172 Giralda Ave.
If you are a bar purist, The Bar is for you. It’s just a bar. Nothing else. Established in 1946, with a large following of regulars. Reasonably priced, with a wooden bar and wooden walls that haven’t been replaced in forever. The bar-food menu’s leftover from yesteryear? The pie of the day.
Best Bar to Watch Sports
60 Merrick Way
It’s cavernous, their big screen is humongous, and the wall of beer tells you all you need to know about their selection of brewskies. Live loud or go home!
Best Chocolate Shop
248 Andalusia Ave.
Other chocolate shops have come and gone, but not this 15-year-old shrine to the sacred cocoa bean. It’s also a nice little café, and one of the busiest breakfast spots in town. Their chocolate comes from Switzerland and France, of course.
1411 Sunset Drive
Raised in the Gables, Kristine Graulich and Jose Cuellar opened their shop in 2008 next door to the popular Whip & Dip Ice Cream on Sunset. It was an instant hit: 18 cupcake flavors, baked fresh daily, offered full size and mini. We worshipped the chocolate peanut butter until we tried the chocolate orange.
Best New Restaurant
1500 San Ignacio Ave.
The fact that chef Fabio Trabocchi chose Coral Gables to expand his high-end restaurant group from Washington, D.C. is a nod to the city’s growing rep for fine dining.The fact that it arrived as a fait-accompli, with gorgeous dishes and a cracker jack staff, didn’t hurt either. The best lobster ravioli you’ll ever taste.
Best Rice Bowl
2330 Salzedo St.
This is an industrial casual, perennially millennial hangout, and while it is actually a ramen restaurant it has the best rice bowls anywhere. Their $16.50 Gyudon bowl with beef brisket, onions and two poached eggs will feed you for a week.
Best Seafood Restaurant
264 Giralda Ave.
Seafood lovers have found their shrine. Where else do they show you your fish before cooking it, except maybe in Hong Kong? And those lobster
tacos make everything in the universe right.
Best Lunch Bargain
117 Miracle Mile 305.640.5547
There is no better return on investment for a $10 bill than Salumeria’s lunch special, which consists of the soup of the day, a handsome salad and half of one of their amazing paninis. Ciao bella.
Best Chicken Wings
1559 Sunset Drive
The secret is in the name of the place. These wings are never exposed to the indignity of the fry basket. These babies are all grilled, and you’d be amazed at what that does for the flavor. The Miami Heat style wings – they have eight varieties – are a slam dunk.
Best Affordable Brunch
301 Giralda Ave.
What’s not to love about Tap 42’s brunch? The prices, the food, the vibe and especially the bottomless mimosas. You know it’s affordable just by the customers: everyone is in their 20s and 30s. No one here is leaving and driving their brand-new matte army green Mercedes G Wagon home, mostly just stumbling into Ubers.
Best Unaffordable Brunch
1200 Anastasia Ave.
At $90 per person, it’s the most extensive spread we have in the city. Traditional items like omelets and Eggs Benedict are just the tip of an iceberg of delicacies, from caviar, extensive grilled meats, an incomparable salad bar and an array of desserts you won’t believe. You will only need one meal on a Sunday when you go, so pace yourself and enjoy. – John Allen
Best Early Evening Happy Hour
2500 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
After 5 p.m., you know where to find us. Bulla has such an eclectic happy hour menu that there’s something for everyone. As a Spanish restaurant, it’s only fitting that they have killer sangria – but they have three different types! We’re obsessed with the beer sangria.
Best Late Night Happy Hour
The Shops at Merrick Park
Sometimes it’s hard to leave work in time for happy hour. Which is why you go to Yard House. Sunday through Wednesday they offer a late night happy hour from 10 p.m. till closing, offering the same food and drink deals as the daytime happy hour. We also love the Sunday time, because sometimes just thinking about the week ahead can require a drink.
Best Family-Style Italian
264 Miracle Mile 786.452.0068 It’s narrow and dimly lit, with lots of old photos on the wall, like at your Italian grandmother’s house. And the food, it’s so homemade, like the fettuccine alla papalina, or the risotto ai funghi porcini. Family run, with a fanatical following, so reserve early.
Best Turkish Food
223 Valencia Ave.
Maybe it’s the music, or the paintings of belly dancers and pashas with their red fez hats. Or maybe because there is no other Turkish restaurant in town. But you have to love the tea glasses with their gold metal handles. And their baklava with cinnamon.
Best Northern Italian
162 Alcazar Ave.
Now into its third year in the old St. Michel Hotel, Zucca continues to dazzle with sophisticated food from the region around Milan, where Chef Simone Mua was raised and where he learned to cook from his family at an early age. Think rice and polenta rather than pasta.
Best Pasta Night
2504 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Originally opened in 1985 as a retail shop for pasta freshly made, pasta is still their thing. The regular menu carries tagliatelle, spaghetti, linguine, penne, ravioli, tortellini, etc., but on the first Wednesday of every month it’s lasagna night. Mama mia.
1430 S. Dixie Hwy
Come to Madruga and you will understand why Oprah Winfrey has sworn to never give up bread. Their bread and pastry menu includes everything from sourdough to babkas, but they pride themselves on craft bread baked from fresh-milled heirloom wheat on a stone hearth.
Best Dog Menu
Sawa Ristorante & Lounge
The Shops at Merrick Park
One of the advantages of having tables in the courtyard of The Shops at Merrick Park is that you can accommodate patrons with dogs. And okay, it may be about the only dog menu in town, but you have to love the filet mignon kebab for Fido.
Best Gourmet Lunch Deli
2525 Ponce de Leon
This gourmet hideaway sits in a courtyard down a breezeway from Ponce. Find it and you won’t forget it. Daily specials like carrot ginger soup, pan-seared salmon steak with couscous and greens, or turkey and brie with honey mustard on a baguette.
Ortanique on the Mile
278 Miracle Mile
Who knew that Caribbean food could reach such heights? Under the skilled direction of culinary master Cindy Hutson, you can enjoy such delights as West Indian Curried Fresh Jumbo Lump Crab Cake or Jerk Chicken Penne Pasta with sun dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and roast garlic cloves. Pass the Red Stripe.
808 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Packed with patrons, this home to the Original Cuban Taco goes way beyond Tex-Mex. Start with the lechon taco ($5) for seven-inches of flour tortilla stuffed with “Abuelo’s pulled pork.” It’s a family affair.
Best Mexican Restaurant
Talavera Cocina Mexican
2299 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
On the corner of Giralda Plaza at Ponce, this is the Gables’ answer to Mexican food: an elegant, festive setting with high ceilings, a rustic orange and cobalt blue color scheme, ceramic vases and a bar wrapped in paintings of famous Mexicans. Yes, we knew about Salma Hayek and Frida Kahlo, but not Santana.
Best Spanish Restaurant
Bellmont Spanish Restaurant
339 Miracle Mile
Very neighborhood feeling, but when you see that roasted baby pig coming out of their 14,700-pound iron oven, you’ll know it’s a neighborhood in Madrid not Miami. Owner Sergio Bellmónt personally carves the Jamón de Jabugo, truly the world’s best cured ham from Spain, more valuable than gold.
Best Overall Breakfast
141 Giralda Ave.
Don’t try showing up for dinner here. Like myriad places in proprietor Nick Sharpe’s hometown of Melbourne, Australia, this is an all-day breakfast place. And home to the first smashed avocado toast in the Gables. Plus, great coffee.
Pasion del Cielo
100 Giralda Ave.
No, it doesn’t have a folk singer in the corner. This is Coral Gables, after all, and not San Francisco. But you go there just for the coffee, and not a meal, and the clutch of comfy couches are about as close as you’re going to get to a traditional coffeehouse hangout.
Best Cafe Courtyard
300 Alhambra Circle
On the inside of this historic landmark building there is a standup piano frequently put to use. And the patrons are deeply into the joy of great coffee, pastries and sandwiches regardless of where they sit. But its shady outside courtyard is a gem.
Most Romantic Restaurant
Fontana at the Biltmore Hotel
1200 Anastasia Ave.
When you are sitting in the courtyard of the Fontana Restaurant, ensconced by the pillars and arches of the Biltmore, listening to its massive Renaissance Italian fountain bubbling away, it’s hard to be anything but enchanted.
Terre del Sapore
246 Giralda Ave.
Owner Angelo Angiollieri will tell you that it’s all about the ingredients that go into his Neapolitan-style pizzas, which basically means everything comes from Italy – including flour that is far less processed, and hence easier to digest. Fantastic flavor.
Best Local Vibe
The Cafe at Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave.
This Gables institution feels like a community center, with cozy seating amidst the books and an outdoor courtyard where you can read and nosh. And the café’s wine bar, located at the entrance to the courtyard, sells bottles half off on Wednesdays.
Best Fried Chicken
The Local Craft Food & Drink
150 Giralda Ave.
Chef Juan Bedoya wants to create a “local” feeling with comfort foods. His comfort fried chicken is brined then dredged in flour mixed with BBQ spices, fried and served on a short stack of cheddar cheese pancakes with bourbon maple syrup and watermelon jelly on the side.
Best Breakfast Beer
Fritz and Franz Bierhaus
60 Merrick Way
Yes, you read that right. Fritz and Franz serves a light and refreshing grapefruit infused beer, called a breakfast beer. I was introduced to this by the former German Consult General in Miami, Jurgen Borsch. – Stacy Conde
2020 Salzedo St.
This relative newcomer, while it serves a full menu, was really created to showcase the creations of Antonio Bachour, voted last year by his colleagues as the best pastry chef in the world. That’s why Armando Codina lured him to the Gables. The desserts are displayed in glass cases that rival Tiffany.
Best Oyster Deal
House Kitchen & Bar
180 Aragon Ave.
In a city that has, for some mysterious reason, no exceptional raw bars, the oysters here make up for it. The secret is to arrive between 3 and 4 p.m. when they’re half off.
Best Haute French
1200 Anastasia Ave. (Biltmore Hotel) 305.913.3189
Exquisite, understatedly elegant, intimate without feeling crowded, it has hosted everyone from heads of state to film stars. Their eight and 12-course tasting menus are works of art. Throw in the wine pairing menu and you’ll leave a little poorer, but with a most memorable dining experience.
Best Restroom Music
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
2320 Salzedo St.
Most people don’t really listen. We did.
Shopping & Retail
Well Groomed Gentleman
130 Miracle Mile
This place harkens back to an era when men were men, and went for hot towels and razor shaves, at places where you could also get a shot of booze and a copy of the Police Gazette. Just layer that with modern metrosexual tweaks, like manicures and cups of latte, and you’re here.
Best Liquor Store
Crown Wine & Spirits
1590 S Dixie Hwy
Crown is essentially everything you would imagine a liquor store in Coral Gables to be, with customers buying top notch brands of all kinds of liquor and restricted wine tastings in the back room. For our underage readers, they’re very strict on IDs, so don’t even try.
Best Brooklyn-Vibe Hairdresser
1001 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Maybe it’s the raw, industrial chic. Or the chihuahua that runs around. Or the coolness of the proprietors Milanka and Jose. But so New York!
Best Place to Buy a Nanny Cam
96 Miracle Mile
Hey, we’re not saying that you can’t trust the hired help. But in this day and age of craziness, sometimes you might need to calm your paranoia 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
Does anyone know more about wine than affable proprietor Jeffrey Wolfe? He vacations to vineyards. Plus, on weekends he brings his Golden Retrievers into the shop. Feels more like some country village store in Europe.
Best Dog Boarding
Miami Pet Concierge
We get it, your dog is family, and when you leave home you want him/her to have the best care. We wouldn’t even call Miami Pet Concierge just a kennel. Your pooch stays with owner Nicole Packin to be loved and cared for – or at your home while you’re away – by a team of true dog people.
Best Dog Walking
Equipaws Pet Services
The philosophy here is that “a tired dog is a happy, well-behaved dog.” Not only will Equipaws take poochie for a daily walk, they’ll take him (or her) for a daily run. So, get your pet fit for the next 5K, or just break the tedium, while you’re putting in a long day.
Best Shoe Store
4310 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Nordstrom’s annual sale starts July 19 and it includes the legendary shoe department. Easy access to all your favorite brands makes this sale a must. Carrie Bradshaw watch out.
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 hairstyles. 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.
Just three months old, already the gold standard for cigar smokers. A large smoking room with bar and plenty of easy chairs to lounge in, plus a glassed-in humidor where the goods are kept. Buy ‘em and smoke ‘em right there with a good drink.
333 Alcazar Ave.
Walk into the pleasantly crowded shop, and you are suffused with wonderful smells. It feels old world, a quiet compartment protected from the blab of the outside world, where the beauty of flowers still means something. Owner Mario Fernandez could not be more accommodating.
Best Manicure for the Money
My Time Nail Bar
460 Biltmore Way
Mondays and Tuesdays, you can get a manicure-pedicure combo for $35. We can’t think of a better way to spend the money.
Best Time Machine
1800 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
In the Old West this would be called a general store. It’s a post office. It’s a coffee shop. It’s a locksmith. They sell hardware, canned goods, religious icons, dresses, suitcases, silverware, house wares. etc. You would expect to find Coulter at a whistle stop depot in the middle of nowhere.
Most Accessible 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.
Best Teen Clothing Store
258 Andalusia Ave.
Featuring clothes for the often neglected “tween” and young teenage market, 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.
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 handmade 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 Sign and Print Shop
146 Madeira Ave.
Who says you can’t have something that is fast, cheap and good? Rosella at FastSigns will deliver on their name with a custom sign quickly made – or an entire stock of marketing materials. Their online reviews are off the charts. Delivers on every job with attention to detail and great customer service.
Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave.
Books & Books is one of the foremost independent booksellers in the U.S. Founder Mitch Kaplan has weathered the storm in the book business (remember Borders?) and carries a huge number of autographed coffee table volumes you won’t find anywhere else. It’s also a great place to meet the intelligentsia at one of their regularly-held author’s lectures. – John Allen
Best Eyewear Boutique
Edward Beiner Eyes Forward
Shops at Merrick Park 866.375.4954
We forgive Edward Beiner for keeping his HQ in South Miami. That’s because we can buy his ultra-cool glasses in his Gables shop. Beiner is one of the nation’s few independent eyeglass designers; he also carries brands like Barton Perreira and Mykita, but we covet his latest 3D-print collection made in France ($390 a pair).
Best Men’s Clothing Store
357 Miracle Mile
Pepi “Bertini” Gonzalez has been at his Gables location for three decades, hand tailoring suits. He can sell you a suit off the rack from a couple of hundred dollars or stitch you a custom one for more than $1,000. Pepi’s other passion is vintage bicycles, which he often incorporates into his window treatments, along with tribal masks.
Best Gift Shop
Coral Gables Museum
285 Aragon Avenue
Aren’t the best gift shops always in museums? Like the Metropolitan in New York or LACMA in Los Angeles? Ours is no different. Instead of plastic baubles you’ve got hammered metal art from Haiti, dreamcatchers from the Navajos, wooden dolls from Russia. Think anthropology.
Best Bike Shop
2710 Ponce de Leon Bvd.
Gables resident Oliver de Abreu launched SunCycling on Ponce Circle two years ago, selling bikes that range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000. His biggest customers? Those who want an alternative commute. Trending: foldable bikes for apartment dwellers.
Sports & Recreation
Best Tennis Courts
Biltmore Tennis Courts
1150 Anastasia Ave.
The 10 hard courts here are well maintained, lit at night, with shaded spots for changeovers and brief breaks. What makes it glamorous is the historic backdrop. You play in the shadow of history.
Best Yoga Studio
247 Malaga Ave.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for breath, or the life force, and it is through the control of breathing that stress is released. That is the philosophy here, that manipulation of breath can release the negative and create positive energy. It’s also a beautiful space, of wooden floors and bamboo walls, with a lovely vibration.
Best Outdoor Adventure
Coral Gables Waterway
Miami Eco Adventures
Taking a canoe up the Coral Gables Waterway takes you to a secret world, one that is filled with manatees, alligators, ospreys, cormorants, king- fishers and Egyptian geese, all surprisingly surviving – and thriving – in the midst of the city.
Equinox Coral Gables
The Shops at Merrick Park
Does luxury help your workout? We think so. Equinox is a styling place for all things fitness. Group fitness, indoor pool, cycling studio, Pilates, filtered water, saunas, steam rooms. It’s the works and great hours, so no excuses!
Best Place to Bicycle
Old Cutler Road
It’s all about the shade and trees and having a dedicated bike lane. Riding down Old Cutler is like biking through a forest with a tarmac floor.
Best Golf Course
The Biltmore Golf Course
1210 Anastasia Ave.
With its recent renovations, the Biltmore is more magnificent than ever, and welcoming for beginners as well as advanced players. Stunning views, and an ambience that only a hundred years of history can provide. Plus, starter Mike is the Godfather of Golf in the Gables.
Best Golf Bargain
Granada Golf Course
2001 Granada Blvd.
The course is in great shape and perfect for a quick nine holes. It’s within walking distance of downtown Coral Gables, is comparable to the Biltmore for a third of the price; And Burger Bob’s is on site. It’s a win/win. FORE!! – Rodney Barreto
Best Place to Walk Your Dog Off Leash
Matheson Hammock Nature Trail & Dog Park
10900 Old Cutler Rd. (Roughly)
We almost don’t want to reveal this place to you. All we can say is, park your car in that unassuming gravel lot opposite the entrance to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens and take the trail that leads into the woods. The rest is up to you.
Best Place to Windsurf
Matheson Hammock Park
9610 Old Cutler Rd.
You’re never going to be able to surf in the Gables, but on most days there is enough of a Bay breeze at Matheson to send you flying. They call it kite surfing here, and the folks at Coral Gables Adventure Sports will show you how it’s done.
Best Sporting Event to Watch
UM Baseball Games
Mark Light Stadium
6201 San Amaro Drive
There is nothing quite as much fun as watching a UM baseball game at home. The crowd alone is worth it. Overheard at the game: “Hey Umpire! Are you blind? You must be, because I saw your wife!” And everyone knows that the world’s best milkshakes are on tap here.
Best Summer Cool Off
2701 De Soto Blvd.
Everyone knows that the water for the Venetian Pool is ice cold, drained each night and then refilled from the aquafer. But in the summer, it gets crazy with kids. The secret is to wait until after 4 p.m., when the camp kids leave for the day. Then, bliss.
Best Gables Entrance
800 Douglas Road
Yes, the road through its grand archway is no longer an active entrance to the city, and yes, it is 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 Historic Restoration
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.
Best Cheap Thrill
The Glass Elevator
150 Alhambra Ave.
Ever notice those two glass elevators on the out- side of the dozen-story building across from the Alhambra Towers? So smile at the desk clerk and take a free ride to the top for a breathless view. Just don’t say we sent you.
Best Historic Landmark
The Biltmore Hotel
1200 Anastasia Ave.
Few things are more magical than the approach to the Biltmore, with its central tower rising above Coral Gables’ residential canopy like a sentinel. With its nearly century old beauty impeccably restored and maintained, this is the living icon to what city founder George Merrick envisioned.
Best Public Art
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Not everyone in Coral Gables has welcomed all of the city’s public art (giant metal flowers anyone?) But who can help but love this whimsical installation of an oversized stone couch in Balboa Plaza park, funded by MG Developer. Welcome to Alice in Wonderland.
Best People Watching Spot
It is a pedestrian plaza, after all. But Japanese tourists taking selfies? With its now ever-changing installations hanging overhead, you’ve got a whole new flow of humanity strolling the cobblestones.
Best View from a Terrace
Hotel Colonnade Pool Deck
180 Aragon Ave.
One block north of Miracle Mile, the Colonnade has awesome views of the downtown from its pool deck. It also has a community feeling to it because you don’t have to be a guest to use the pool. The deck itself is also very comfortable, with couches and pool beds for relaxing.
Best Place We Miss the Most
Formerly on Miracle Mile
The ritual Friday night mating melee – aka happy hour crowds spilling onto the newly widened sidewalks of Miracle Mile – was a staple of the Gables nightlife scene. Alas, it is no more. But just where have all these beautiful young people gone to?
Best Park for Kids
1120 Andalusia Ave.
First, there is a green, shady field with playground gear for little kids, and then there are 13 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.
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.
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. Basically two lots repurposed into an utterly charming and sweet open space with a play area for tots.
Merrick House, 907 Coral Way
Another project of the Coral Gables Garden Club, this lifesize bronze statue of the mom of Gables’ founder George Merrick was unveiled in 2010. Now you can sit next to her in the garden in back of the Merrick house and thank her.
Best Place to Meet Women
There are at least half a 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 Men
Doc B’s Restaurant + Bar
301 Miracle Mile
Great food and great drinks, and there are eligible men to be met here, especially at the bar. But while Doc B’s is a popular Gables spot, we may or may not have made this choice based on a crush we have on the general manager. Bryan, we love you.
Best Place to Meet Intelligent Women
University of Miami
If you don’t want to search for your soulmate at a bar, the University of Miami is replete with smart, attractive female undergrads who are not necessarily interested in dating male undergrads. UM is also a center for fun, intellectual activities – lectures, concerts, adult classes, museums, indie movies – for intelligent women of all ages.
Best Place to Meet Intelligent Men
First Fridays Each Month
Any Gallery in the Gables
If he 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 he is clearly not smart enough for you.
Best Parking Place
Did you really think we would reveal this?