My job requires me to show face at Art Basel Miami Beach, and I am not happy about this development, not one bit. That said, how can I survive the onslaught of poseurs, imposters, and dealers of every type? And is staying at the Faena a good idea?
I recently overnighted at the Faena for the fourth time since it opened, in 2015. It’s an extravagant gilt-and-leopardskin fantasy dreamed up by its namesake, Alan Faena, an Argentinean fashion designer turned real-estate developer. (You’ll likely see him sashaying through the premises, wearing a white Norma Desmond–like turban.) The Faena is ridiculously over-the-top, as evidenced by Damien Hirst’s golden sculpture made from a gilded woolly-mammoth skeleton and the $750-per-night room rate. But isn’t such extravagance so very … Miami?
But let’s say you do want to do something offbeat, away from those teeming masses. Eight suggestions:
Check into the much more modest Casa Faena, a Mediterranean-style gem from the 30s located directly across Collins Avenue from the mother ship. It lacks both a beachfront and the sky-high rates; a standard double will run around $250 a pop.
While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Faena’s dinner-theater production—I know, I know, but trust me—of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, based on the 1989 Peter Greenaway movie. It’s deliciously malevolent; the three-course dinner from Michelle Bernstein, Miami’s star chef, is just delicious.
Visit North Beach, the hot new neighborhood of Miami Beach that’s a 20-minute drive from the chaos and calamity of South Beach. Wider beaches, minimal crowds, and the Bal Harbour Shops open-air mall explain its appeal. You’ll also find Eighty Seven Park, the first Renzo Piano–designed residential building in the Western Hemisphere, compliments of David Martin, the area’s developer of the moment. And the newish Four Seasons at the Surf Club has an ideal location, incredible beach, and dazzling Richard Meier architecture. (If you need help with anything, hunt down star employee Rebekah.)
Eat at Casa Tua Cucina, a formidable rival to Peck in Milan and Fauchon in Paris. This 18,000-square-foot food hall is located on the ground floor of Saks Fifth Avenue Brickell. Sit at the bar, where you can order from all 12 dining stations.
Drop by En Avance, Karen Quinones’s boutique in the Design District. It’s a one-stop shop for stylish women’s clothing and accessories, and décor.
Spend some quality time along Wilton Drive, the mile-long stretch of Wilton Manors, which is known as the “second gayest city in America” and is just outside Fort Lauderdale. It’s worth the 40-minute drive from Miami for the greatest vintage-design shops in the state.
Feast at Hometown Barbecue, the Brooklyn-born high-low restaurant that’s located in a big barn in the offbeat Allapattah neighborhood, which has fantastic pork ribs and craft beers.
Indulge at Mister 01. Renato Viola’s pint-size pizzeria may be the best anywhere. (Viola was forced by Visa a couple of years ago to replace the word “Visa” with “Mister.”) This 18-seater, hidden inside an office building at 17th Street and Michigan Avenue, is pure bliss. Pablo de Ritis, cultural czar and executive V.P. at Faena, says that it just might be his favorite pizza spot in the world.
Richard David Story is a veteran writer and editor based in New York