Twist Gay Bar, on Washington Avenue
Gitzy and ritzy Miami Beach has been an international gathering place, with a particularly big following among Latin Americans and Southern Europeans, for decades. For a time, it seemed poised to become South Florida's top gay resort destination, but since the late '90s, nearby Fort Lauderdale has emerged more along these lines. Still, South Beach has sexy gay beaches, see-and-be-seen clubs, glam art deco hotels, and high society galore. Here's a visual gay guide to South Beach.
11th Street Diner
It's fitting that South Beach's world-recognized Art Deco Design District is home to a shiny, stainless-steel, handsomely restored deco diner. The 11th Street Diner (1055 Washington Ave.) is also a fixture in Miami's gay and lesbian community, open 24 hours and serving breakfast all day within its glimmering shell, complete with glass bricks and a neon "cocktails and dinners" sign (in fact, there's a full bar till midnight, Thurs thru Sun).
The diner was actually built in New Jersey in the 1940s, before being situated on a street in Wilkes-Barre, PA, for more than 40 years. In the early 1990s, it was bought and moved to South Beach, where it's become something of an icon, as much for it's tasty, unfussy, greasy-spoon cuisine (along with quite a few more healthful, contemporary options) as for its authentic design, inside and out.
A few notable picks from the lengthy menu include Monte Cristo sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, a pear salad with Gorgonzola and walnuts, a wide array of impressively large burgers with creative toppings, Argentinian-style skirt steak, New York cheesecake, and such breakfast edibles as breakfast burritos, salmon and eggs, and eggs Florentine (available only on weekends, during the 11th Street Diner's popular Sunday brunch).
Books & Books, Indie Bookstore
A terrific indie bookstore with an airy sidewalk cafe along pedestrian-only Lincoln Road Mall, Books & Books (927 Lincoln Road Mall) is the best source for GLBT titles in South Beach. You'll find similarly excellent branches in Coral Gables and Bal Harbour (plus a branch on the Cayman Islands). This is one of the better spots for people-watching (especially of the erudite ilk) along the Lincoln Road Mall.
Espanola Way Shops, Galleries, Cafes, and the Clay Hotel
A charming and comparatively quiet lane with a bohemian, artsy flare, Espanola Way lies right in the heart of South Beach, the most interesting section between Washington Avenue and Drexel Avenue.
Here along this stretch that's appeared in such projects as The Bird Cage and even an Elton John video, you'll find a block of colorful Spanish Colonial-inspired structures that offer a bit of a contrast to the neighborhood's more famous Art Deco look. Highlights along here include A La Folie, a diverting French cafe, and creperie; a few notable art galleries; and the Clay Hotel, which functions as both a budget hotel and a hostel.
Rooms are basic, but this gay-friendly property exudes character - it was built in the 1920s and later earned a reputation both as a gangster hideaway (for the likes of Al Capone) and the home of a famed Latin nightclub presided over by none other than Desi Arnaz (who helped launch the popularity of the rumba here).
Lincoln Road Mall Promenade
A palm-shaded pedestrian mall that extends west from Washington Avenue for eight blocks (the beginning is two blocks west of the beach), the elegant Lincoln Road Mall is one of the most glamorous people-watching promenades in Florida, if not the country - it's a constant parade of buffed and tan beach-goers, well-coiffed fashionistas, and plenty of hunky gays and stylish lesbians.
Walk the entire length, to Alton Road, and you'll pass swish outdoor cafes, posh clothiers, theaters, and fine art galleries - many of these businesses are set inside handsome art deco buildings. Also, keep your eye out for Books & Books bookstore and cafe.