What We’re Looking Forward to in Miami in 2021

Things are looking up already.

Cafe Kush
Cafe Kush | Photo Courtesy of Cafe Kush
Cafe Kush | Photo Courtesy of Cafe Kush

The cynical among us might poo poo our collective excitement at kicking 2020 to the curb. And, yes, an arbitrary changing of the calendar won’t make all the things that made this past year the most effed up in memory go away. But it does make us one day closer to things getting better, and ushers in a potentially very exciting next 12 months. Some are as simple as a new ice cream shop opening close to home. Some are bigger deals like massive hotels and world-renowned festivals. Or just the Marlins finally giving us something to cheer about. But 2021 should bring some cool new stuff to South Florida, and here’s what we can’t wait to see.

Puta Madre Punch
Puta Madre Punch | Photo Courtesy of Cafe Kush

Trying out some new restaurants from Fabio Viviani

Though Siena Tavern wasn’t quite the Miami hit celebrity-chef Fabio Viviani had hoped, the undeterred Italian is giving South Florida nother go when Riviera Ft. Lauderdale opens at the Maren Hotel in January. It’ll be joined that month by Heaven Mykonos, a wine-forward Greek food and live music spot in CityPlace Doral.  Kush expands into MiMo at the new Selina Gold Dust hotel with Cafe Kush. But perhaps most importantly, everyone’s favorite affordable, casual Tex-Mex joint Chuy’s makes a SoFla comeback when the new Pembroke Pines location opens in early February.

Salt and Straw
Salt and Straw | Photo Courtesy of Salt and Straw

Staying cool at new ice cream shops

Not that we’re ever at a loss for great ice cream in Miami, but next year two big names will open up new shops. Portland-based Salt and Straw was slated to arrive in 2020 and finally graces us with two stores in Wynwood and Coconut Grove. From the home team, Sweet Melody, the delivery-only ice cream who wowed us during quarantine with flavors like marion blackberry and Richards Out for Harambe, opens a brick-and-mortar store in Palmetto Bay in January. So those down in Southwest Dade will no longer have to endure US-1 to get great ice cream.

Firestone finally opens with three delicious new concepts

The landmark Art Deco Firestone store on Alton Road has been threatening us with a good time for over a year now, trumpeting the cool new food concepts that’ll fill the walls that once overflowed with tires. Word on the street is it’ll be open early 2021, led by Winkler’s Diner and its classic diner fare. Sushi Fly Chicken will offer fried chicken and raw fish, plus a “secret behind the counter,” which we can only hope is a Gonzo-esque cannon that sends puppet chickens flying through the air. And Toothfairy Bakery will serve desserts guaranteed to keep its namesake imaginary fairy in business.

Flying dinosaurs come to the Frost Museum

Even if there aren’t any flying chickens at Firestone, you’ll be able to learn all about way-cooler flying animals at the Frost Museum of Science starting on May 15. That’s when Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs opens in the museum’s rotating exhibition space. Though technically they were only closely related to dinosaurs, Pterosaurs were winged reptiles and the first vertebrates to develop powered flight. The exhibit is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, and features life-sized models, videos, and interactive exhibits—including one that lets you power a Pterosaur through a prehistoric landscape.

Cervecería La Tropical
Photo Courtesy of Cervecería La Tropical

Cindy Hutson returns in a legendary Havana brewery

Cervecería La Tropical was the quintessential Cuban beer for decades after it opened in 1888. And though its trademark Ambar Lager has been impossible to find stateside that all changes in January when Tropical’s 28,000-square-foot space opens in Wynwood. In addition to brewing up the legendary Cuban cerveza, it will also boast a botanical garden, live music stage, and rotating art installations. But perhaps best of all the brewery’s Latin-Caribbean restaurant will be helmed by Cindy Hutson, whose sad departure made the front page of The New York Times, and whose return has been eagerly anticipated.

Feeling good about all our sports teams, for maybe the first time ever

Not that we were attending any Zoom parades in Miami this year, but literally all of our major teams gave us hope that 2021 could be a year worth watching. The Heat made the NBA Finals just a few years removed from losing the Big 3, and returns nearly everyone for another run at LeBron and the Lakers. Tua Tagovailoa has made the Dolphins exciting to watch for the first time since Dan Marino left. Ditto for D’Eriq King and the Hurricanes, who if they can field a defense in 2021 might give Alabama a run in their opener. Even the Marlins got us excited for next year, making the playoffs and winning a series with a young core that’s almost all back for 2021. And, hey, with this much winning going around maybe the Panthers can catch on, too.

Moxy's Rooftop Pool & Outdoor Screening Room
Moxy's Rooftop Pool & Outdoor Screening Room | Photo Courtesy of Moxy South Beach

Enjoying a staycation at one of many new hotels

This year’s crop of new hotels look to have lots for the locals. The biggest name on the list is the Moxy, which will feature six different bars and restaurants from the people behind Coyo and 1-800 Lucky. Among them: An outdoor rooftop bar and a mezcal lounge. Also on tap for next year is the Goodtime Hotel, brought to us by noted hotelier Pharrell Williams and David Grutman. It’ll fill some of the massive void around 6th and Washington and feature a poolside restaurant called Strawberry Club open to everyone. Up in Aventura, a massive new 208-room Hilton opens in January with MuseBar offering panoramic views of the city.  That same month  in Ft. Lauderdale, the new Hyatt Centric will feature a prohibition-era cocktail bar called 901. And the new Gale Hotel and Residences will open at the Natiivo in downtown, giving residents places they can own and rent out to tourists without dealing with Airbnb. 

Dancing at a new outdoor superclub

What do you get when the people who defined Miami nightlife in the 2000s join forces with the folks who crafted our cocktail scene in the 2010s? A place where you might opt to forego your traditional Space intoxicants and actually order drinks. Space Park is a COVID-era collaboration between Club Space and BarLab in the Magic City Innovation District that opened New Year’s Eve. It will mix the cocktail magic of Broken Shaker with the booking power of Miami’s most legendary nightclub, and at its peak will hold 6,000 revelers. It’s gotta stick to 25% of that until the pandemic is over, so it may be a minute until this becomes the new “it” spot for the party-til-sunrise set. 

Watching our favorite popups get brick-and-mortar homes 

Old Greg’s, the Instagram sensation that made you wait 700 times longer than you would for Domino’s for its deep-dish deliciousness, finally gets a physical location this year, though the time and location haven’t been specified yet. Naan Indian Eats, who took up Taquiza’s South Beach store this winter will also be opening its own spot in 2021, potentially near Little River. And the Jaguar Sun popup at Lot 6, serving steak under breezy banyan trees with delectable cocktails, shows no signs of slowing down.

The Underline
The Underline | Photo Courtesy of Robin Hill

Embracing green space at the Underline

When you have world famous beaches and two National Barks within your county borders, sometimes urban green space gets left as an afterthought. Some of that is about to change with the opening of the Underline, a 120-acre urban park under the Metrorail running from Downtown to Dadeland. Its first phase will be Brickell Backyard, a half-mile stretch of the 10-mile tract set to open in winter of 2021. In addition to the trail, it’ll give Miami the River Room, a dog-friendly butterfly garden with views of the Miami River. It’ll also have an outdoor recreation space with a basketball court, running track, stretching and fitness equipment, and space for group classes. And a promenade featuring a game room, music stage, and eating area with a 50-foot communal table.

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival will be on in May

With a hearty “barring any unforeseen circumstances,” it looks like our beloved South Beach Wine and Food Festival will actually happen May 20-23. Yes, it could be like eating pork belly bao buns in a steam bath. Sure, Tacos After Dark could easily be Tacos Under Water if a storm rolls in. But if SOBEWFF is, in fact, the first major festival to return after the pandemic then it should give us all a landmark to look forward to. Just remember to drink a LOT more water than you do in February.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.
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