by Jessica Rossman
Put South Beach on your list, high on your list. The stylish, sophisticated vibe of Miami’s South Beach, with the characteristic Latin ability to transform just about any event into a fiesta, makes this groovy little enclave of international food, fashion and fun an absolute must for any festive Houstonian.
Must stay in the middle of it allAny hotel on Ocean, Collins or Washington avenues between First and 15th streets will put you in the action. Not surprisingly, the area is teeming with hotels, from major luxury chains to small, offbeat hotels. The best bang for the buck is the Whitelaw Hotel at Eighth and Collins Avenue. This art deco stay’s slogan is “Clean Sheets, Hot Water, Stiff Drinks” – how could anyone not camp there?
Must shop, shop, shopThe importance of shopping can simply not be overemphasized due in large part to the SoBe Attire Rule: Any article of clothing that you currently own stands a 95-percent chance of being not skimpy enough for South Beach. The good news is that you have plenty of shopping time; many of the clothing stores in the area are open until 3 a.m. Check out the Fly Boutique, 650 Lincoln Road, for some funky vintage fare, meticulously reconditioned couture at non-couture prices.
Must eat sushi A swanky sushi must-do is Sushi Samba Dromo, 600 Lincoln Road, the epitome of stylish multi-ethnic cuisine. A creative Asian cuisine spiked with Latin flair – the menu lists nigiri on one side and Latino cocktails on the other.
For a more underground sushi experience (literally), slip down into the basement of the Townhouse Hotel at 150 20th Street for Bond Street’s melt-in-your-mouth sushi. The ambience makes you feel like you’re in on something good, and then when you taste the sushi, you know that you’ve arrived.
Must pose in a hip barHot poser-spots change as quickly as skirt lengths. You can depend on some quality posing and poser watching at the Todd Oldham-designed The Hotel at Eighth and Collins. Open since 1998, The Hotel has been racking up prestige and notoriety ever since, culminating in this year’s ranking among Travel & Leisure magazine’s list of the 500 Best Hotels in the World. The Delano Hotel’s baseline level of hipness has not wavered since its opening in 1995. You should at least go by to pay your respects to this shrine to SoBe chic.
Must dance all night longThis one is the easy one. Opium Gardens at Second and Collins is stunning – a super-chic sushi bar that morphs late-night into a visually mesmerizing scene. Dance until sunrise on a massive octagonal outdoor dance floor amid 40-foot gauzy drapes and overseen by multiple Buddha statues. If you’re feeling less Eastern but just as hip, go for Pearl’s George Jetson-themed restaurant-cum-nightclub, a cavernous dome with bubbling-water walls and a champagne and strawberry bar.
Must grab late-night eatsLate-night eats are the reward you earn for staying up all night dancing and mingling. Nosh on hearty all-American comfort food at Big Pink, located at Second and Collins and open until 4 a.m. on weekends.
For late-night Latino fare, El Tropico at 17th and Collins serves Cuban cuisine 24 hours a day. It’s the best place for pre-dawn plantains with black beans and rice.