Starting at Northeast 36th Street, the 18-block Design District, formerly called the Art & Design District, used to be solely the realm of dealers and their showrooms, with interior designers working on behalf of wealthy clientele. No longer. With more than 150 art galleries, antique shops and clothing boutiques in the area—okay, so there are still a few showrooms in the mix—the Design District has become much friendlier to foot traffic. As a result, farm-to-table chefs such as James Beard Award-winning Michael Schwartz have moved into the area, with establishments such as Michael's Genuine Food & Drink and Harry's Pizzeria, and little hidden gems such as Mandolin Aegean Bistro and Buena Vista Bistro fill in without pretensions.
In fact, the neighborhood is all about reducing pretensions, and businesses have banned together for such initiatives as universal three-dollar valet parking charges. You can see for yourself every second Saturday of the month during Art & Design nights from 7-10 p.m., when businesses throw open their doors, open wine bottles and invite browsers.
A mile southwest, the former warehouse district Wynwood Arts District is grittier, both by virtue of being closer to the highway and by being less developed land-wise. It probably won't remain that way long, but for now the 70-odd galleries and displays are interspersed with some decent thrift stores, tattoo shops and outdoor graffiti art. One of the biggest examples of the latter, Wynwood Walls (and Doors), a purposeful collection of street art, was conceived by Tony Goldman, who commissioned artists to transform the warehouse landscape into something as vibrant and colorful as Miami itself. The murals now comprise some of Goldman's and his daughter Jessica's businesses—including Joey's and Wynwood Kitchen and Bar—but they're also a lure in their own right. Check them out during gallery night, held monthly.