When you imagine Miami nightlife, you immediately think of South Beach. Now, you can also add downtown Miami, which has come a long way from crickets, Crockett, and Tubbs. Miami Vice‘s urban core, once a muted soundstage after the last employee clocked out at five, is now a bustling metropolis of high-end hauteness after dark. To be clear, while there are indeed late-night dance clubs à la Club Space, where you can boogie until the crack of dawn, and risqué burlesque clubs of a Las Vegas kind of pedigree, such as the 24/7 E11Even, downtown also offers a much more sophisticated brand of Miami nightlife that’s shaken and stirred with the precision of a master mixologist.
Start your evening (if you can snag a reservation) with dinner at London-based Zuma, where Chef Rainer Becker’s mod Japanese cuisine never fails to stun—just like the sight of the celebrity clientele walking through the doors. The menu includes exceptional dishes such as the signature rice hotpot with wild mushrooms and Japanese vegetables—a grown-up gastronomical porridge of sorts, with earthy flavors—and the black cod marinated in saikyo miso with homemade hajikame, a sensational fusion of sweet and tangy that will have you wanting to lick your plate when you’re done. If it’s too busy to secure a table, consider cocktails at the bar, which is no shabby second choice. There, you can try any one of 80 different sakes, including Biwa No Choju, brewed exclusively for the restaurant from the waters of Japan’s famed Lake Biwa and said by sake connoisseurs to have a rich and flavorful profile.
For after-dinner drinks, consider staying close to Zuma at the EPIC Hotel’s Lilt Lounge, which offers live music in partnership with the National YoungArts Foundation Tuesday through Saturday—not to mention a snazzy circular bar whose namesake cocktail is a dreamy concoction of botanical gin, aperitif wine, rose water, sparkling red, and grapefruit peel. There’s also a champagne cart and small-plate menu with meats, cheeses, oysters, caviar, and an assortment of tidy, trendy tasty-stuffs.
If you’re not in the mood for high-end Japanese and sweet jams, consider a fancy French dinner across the street at db Bistro Moderne, star chef Daniel Boulud’s modern French-American bistro where well-bred escargots are served next to a magnificent plate of Florida Key Shrimp Al Ajillo. (This is Miami, not Montmartre, after all.)
Nightcapping it all off with a Bellini at nautical-chic Cipriani isn’t a bad idea either, unless you’re more in the mood for a bit of a hipster scene. If so, your spot is The Corner, a postmodern saloon-slash-speakeasy where Oscar-caliber actors have been known to sneak in, toss back a few (try the classy vieux carre made with rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, and bitters), and bask in the anonymity of being in an unlikely hipster bar in a once-never-ventured-to corner of downtown Miami. Crockett and Tubbs would look completely out of place—which is exactly why you want to be here.