For travelers looking for respite from Florida's South Beach clubs and the oh-so-chic Design District, the offbeat Miami Modern district - also known as MiMo - offers a welcome change of pace.
No Segway tours here. This is the real Miami, a place to pass a lazy afternoon by the bay, peruse independent boutiques and enjoy some surprisingly delicious food at local bistros - including celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein's flagship restaurant, Michy's.
ABOUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD
The stretch along U.S. Route 1, which recently received a historic designation, lies just north of midtown, dividing Biscayne Bay's hidden residential neighborhoods from Miami's Little Haiti corridor.
"People come here because they want a real experience. . . . We're not trendy. We're not trying to be something we're not," said Bernstein, a guest judge on the Bravo TV's "Top Chef," who, like many MiMo business owners, lives in the 'hood.
MiMo is a mix of naughty and nice. A couple of the hotels, such as the New Yorker at 6500 Biscayne Blvd., have been revamped in the sleek style of their 1950s heyday and are drawing young, European budget travelers, but midnight police sirens aren't uncommon.
Still, it's fine for day-trippers with families, who can start the morning just outside MiMo's northern border at Yiya's Gourmet Cuban Bakery and Cafe (646 N.E. 79th St.). Enjoy a cafe con leche and sugar-dusted vanilla croissant or a guava cheese Danish and chat with the super-friendly staff.
Off the southeast end of MiMo is Morningside Park, where shaded benches offer tranquil views of the bay. In the summer, you can rent kayaks and visit one of a handful of the bay's uninhabited islands.
Unlike South Beach's Lincoln Road, MiMo boasts a bevy of locally owned shops, ideal for fashionistas on a budget.
On the west side of Biscayne at 72nd Street, there's the vintage store Divine Trash (305-751-1973). Two blocks north, award-winning designer Julian Chang creates samples for his international line of women's wear (786-360-2631). The Consignment Bar (305-751-9996) displays Gucci and Hermès beneath a ceiling of paper and crystal chandeliers.
On the east side next to Legion Park, Rebel (305- 758-2369) features trendy Miami styles and aromatherapy candles. Just south at Pet Mode (305-400-8784), patrons can browse sequined doggy sweaters while their pooches get their nails polished pink.
For the kids, there's the hipster children's consignment shop LoudGirl Exchange (loudgirlexchange.com) at 75th Street, which lets the wee ones play with toys while their parents shop.
The boulevard comes alive weekend nights at a host of restaurants with inexpensive valet parking. At the casually elegant Michy's (michysmiami.com), the white gazpacho and crispy duck confit draw locals, downtown theatergoers and even New York snowbirds.
Meanwhile, the patio oasis and Moroccan-inspired bar of UVA Restaurant and Lounge on 69th Street provide one of the neighborhood's liveliest happy hours.
Michael Bloise, formerly of South Beach's four-star Wish restaurant, recently opened the inexpensive American Noodle Bar (americannoodlebar.com), where patrons can choose from ingredients such as brown sugar ginger sauce and braised oxtail.
Then there's Red Light (www.redlightmiami.com), a hip eatery at 7700 Biscayne Blvd., archly named for the neighborhood's late night - and early morning - inhabitants. New Orleans' chef Kris Wessel uses local ingredients to whip up dishes such as citrus-steamed mussels, green tomatoes and crunchy plantain chips.
IF YOU GO
Miami Modern/Biscayne Boulevard Historic District runs 50th to 77th streets on Biscayne Boulevard.