Miami Muddles Manhattanization

I’m playing with alliteration.

Eternity Coffee Roasters, 117 SE 2nd Avenue, Miami FL
Cvi.che 105, 105 NE 3rd Avenue, Miami FL

There was this interview with Spike Lee that I had read in the New Yorker Magazine a few days ago. He suggests that the younger population currently living in Brooklyn is disgracing his old neighborhood because they don’t know the games he used to play on the streets as a child.

One could argue… well, why would they? Times change. People adapt. Technology’s advanced so much that we don’t even need to leave our houses to be entertained. We’ve become fatter and lazier, with much less appreciation for an understanding of our community that could have only been obtained through the open street forum attempting to create and disseminate neuro-discharge across the community. The online forum has become the most sincere forum, if only because everything we do in our actual lives outside is either governed by or presented to the online community. Ranting about politics on a news feed has taken the place of playing Red Rover and any possibility of ramming your face against somebody else’s. At least, that’s what I took from Lee’s interview.

There’s nobody complaining about this in Miami and because of it, its attempt to manhattanize its Downtown district has become muddled. It’s my belief that a city needs to be called out on its own bullshit before it’s ever able to understand what it is that the people need- especially those living in the area. Miami works quite in the opposite way, by building for the sake of building without ever realizing that what is being built is entirely unnecessary.

On some sides: we’re looking at some semblance of a decent transportation system. They’ve finally developed another line of the Metrorail that’s going to link the International Airport to the rest of the city. The Metrorail was originally completed in 1985. Granted the transit tax and lack of ridership led many to believe the project was a hell of a boondoggle- so the originally 50 miles (an additional 28 mile of track) was cut back to the existing 22.

As of right now, there has only been a bus center with 5 routes coming in every forty minutes- but because there are bus stops every other block, the trip to Downtown (no more than 3 miles), takes nearly an hour. I suppose I wondered why there were so many bus stops so close together. Couldn’t people waiting an average of 40 minutes in the sweltering heat at least be able to walk an extra block or two? With that alone you could’ve cut the number of bus stops in half, as well as the commute time, as well as the upkeep and construction costs of said bus stops- maybe you could’ve added a couple more buses to the only route that commutes people from the Airport to the train. Additionally, there isn’t a centralized transportation depot at all in Downtown Miami. There is potential: the ‘Government Center’ station on the metrorail also links to the Metromover- which connects most commuters to the Downtown, Omni, and Brickell sectors of the city. Why there aren’t more buses departing from this location- beats me. Why there isn’t more public parking in this location- beats me. 

After nearly a two hour commute (following a two hour flight from New York to Miami…), we get to my Ma’s office. Outside it’s muggy and dirty and desolate. We drop off our bags and head on over to get some necessary coffee.

I read another article not too long ago. It was ranking the top five Miami coffeeshops. The first two were closed. The fifth was Starbucks and was described as ‘not local, but damn good’. 

Starbucks isn’t even local to Seattle anymore. It’s an enigma, even when tasting it- when swigging in that burnt rubbery taste you can nearly grasp the sensation that somewhere deep in that cup there’s an ounce of liquid that tastes like actual coffee.

But luckily for Downtown Miami, there’s Eternity Coffee Roasters.

It’s Williamsburg meets Miami, with Cubans instead of Yuppies and Red Velvet Cake instead of Ginger Molasses Cookies. There’s free WiFi too and a big ol’ coffee roaster that greets you as you enter the store.

There’s an enthusiasm to the place that is absurdly contagious. The baristas there let you know that they really do use the coffee roaster, and are more than happy to describe to you variations of coffee. it’s exciting to witness: we’re finally seeing a Miami establishment starting to look at coffee in a different way other than Starbucks or Cuban Espresso. Coffee is no longer a shot within a ice and milk puree topped with whipped cream and caramel. All of the coffee beans are individually stored in airtight canisters, ground up, then dumped into of the Hario Coffee Drippers before it’s brewed via the slow pour method and drips delicately and patiently into your cup.

There’s about five variations of Columbian brews, not including their full espresso menu featuring Americanos, Iced Coffees, and more.

We take our coffee to go and take a stroll around Downtown. It feels like a lost cause sometimes. At some point or another Downtown Miami decided to build dozens of brand new skyscrapers that would accomodate hotels and offices and apartments- sometimes all three varieties in one building. These were destined to be top of the line, multi-million dollar estates overlooking Dodge Island and the bay. However, even to this day, the problem still remains that there isn’t enough in the city to live off of. There are no supermarkets at all. There are gyms that cost over $300 a month to utilize. 80% of the restaurants close after five P.M. and Corporate America migrates to West Kendall. High-Rise condos are being taken over by University of Miami students who discovered it was cheaper to live in Downtown than it was in South Miami. For all of the evidence presented… downtown feels dead.

Almost.

Recently, there’s been some undercurrent; a gentrification of the two-year old drywall. Many say it started in Wynwood and the Beach and has been fumbling its way down towards Downtown Miami. On the mass scale- there’s plans to build a Whole Foods smack in the middle of the district. On a smaller (though arguably, more essential) scale however is cuisine.

Downtown is being bombarded by it.

There’s already several restaurants in the area that appeal towards the daytime work crowd: Indigo at the Inter-Continental, Morton’s and The Capital Grille in Brickell…

…but now Downtown is undergoing a shift where all those restaurants that were built for the sake of being built are running out of business- being dragged out and scraped away from existence, then replaced with something that actually matters.

Take Cvi.Che 105. 

 

Here, Juan Chipoco has redefined Miami Chic by finally providing what Miami establishments have been fabling to provide customers for years. Chic, sleek, and sexy dining experiences with smart food and a wait staff that replaces mumbling with attentiveness. Polished cement pillars work synergistically with ceramic white panelling and crystal chandeliers while kitschy, colorful cats illuminated on pedestals contradict it all to playful shame. Giant Glass showcases mounds of raw fish and red onion cooling and awaiting preparation while a man stands at the counter wiping off any outlying drop of creole dressing that’s speckled its way to the rim of any plate.

They actually care here, and it is as humbling as it is humiliating to that Dadeland Village where the Irish Pubs were built and decorated at the same time as the Sushi Bar.

First up is a Stuffed Potato Causa.

Mouthwatering yellow Potato cake stuffed with a fresh chicken salad with vegetables. It’s topped with peruvian creme that’s just as inspired by lemon as it is creole spice.

Following that- the signature ceviche; Pucusana. 

 

Again, the plate borderline contradicts as much as it humbles. Savory, cool, mouth-watering fish bathed in lemon and spice. It heats as much as it cools, making devouring the entire plate as essential as it is delicious and gratifying.

Stomach full, tastebuds still zinging from that spice while being cooled from that lemon and potato, we head home.

Riding the metrorail to my house, I take in the cityscape of Miami the way I used to three years ago before I moved.

They say it’s changed. And it hasn’t. It has only grown, probably in the same way that eleven-year-old does one summer but his voice is still the same in the Fall.

There is promise, I suppose.

But there’s also the illusion of it- the promise of a city that will flourish, one day. Maybe the city will fill into everything that has already been built for it. Or maybe everything being built with the promise of cosmopolitan expansion will be ruled out, and it will be understood that all cities aren’t meant to be great, no matter how hard you try to make it seem that way. Maybe we need to wait, and marinate in what we have in order to recognize what we need- to stop playing it the opposite way, and to stop with the contradictions.

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