Miami Design District: "Shop til you Drop"...then Eat

Shop till you Drop…then EAT! Miami’s Design District Cafes

So when were you last in the Design District?   The high priced oasis for interior designers and decorators has been overtaken by chic (and equally pricey) designer apparel and accessories companies that rival Bal Harbour, Rodeo Drive and Madison Ave.  Prada, Vuitton, Hermes, Louboutin, Harry Winston…the list goes on and on as a stroll down 38th and 39th between NE 2nd and 3rd reads like a menu for Fashion Week or the Red Carpet.

A number of long-standing top restaurants like Michael’s Genuine and MC Kitchen continue to thrive as the dining anchors in the area, and have weathered the shift in retail mix without so much as a hiccup.

But it is the cafes that are finding their place in the Miami sun, as both shoppers and retailers alike search for light fare from am to early pm.  

After a couple hours of frenzied shopping, there is nothing better than strolling into a brightly lit casual café for lunch, a light bite or cool drink.  The intimidating retail shops with their somewhat severe, black-attired employees are a stark contrast to the casual, t-shirt clad servers at these cafes, and it was a welcome relief to sit back and enjoy what they had to offer.  And each of the cafes I visited was different in food selections, ambiance and attitude, and helmed by some of the most popular chefs in Miami dining, hitting them up all in one day was enjoyable and quite entertaining.

MERCATO Opened last year by MC Kitchen’s Chef/Owner Dena Marino, Mercato offers a cozy, casual setting with glass cases featuring a variety of lunch options with Chef Dena’s signature Italian twist, including crab cakes over greens or on brioche roll, Nonna’s Meatball Parm, mozzarella, pesto and Parma prosciutto on ciabiatta, eggplant caponata and always a couple daily specials including a light a flavorful sweet chili shrimp salad with ripe grape tomatoes, cilantro, and green beans.  Lavazza coffee, cold drinks and fresh pastries are also available.  Popular with both shoppers and local employees, Mercato is a good choice for a “grab and go” meal. Hours: Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat 9-3 pm. Mercato 4141 NE 2nd Ave. Miami, FL 786 332 3772

CRUMB ON PARCHMENT: Crumb On Parchment, created by Chef Michelle Bernstein offers a completely different vibe and menu.  Located in the atrium of the Melin building, Crumb feels like an outdoor café in a plaza, but with air conditioning.  The funky courtyard has a huge ceiling skylight, weathered wooden tables, orange sofas and is bordered by Prada and Marc by Marc Jacobs.  The menu is on a big chalkboard behind the counter and varies from a kale quinoa salad to the B.L.A.T, bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato on 7 grain bread.  The crowd here looked like they planned to stay a while, as laptops seemed to be the fashion accessory of choice.  I suspect that meetings/interviews are held here over lunch often.  I choose the kale quinoa salad with grilled chicken, which was marinated in a cilantro garlic olive oil marinade and light and refreshing.  A new addition and very popular was the Bowls, warm quinoa tossed with faro and bulgur with your choice of Asian or Middle Eastern influences.  Breakfast is also popular as a new gym, just opened around the corner is bringing in patrons searching for protein rich egg sandwiches and breakfast burritos. Hours: Mon-Fri. 8:30-5 pm Closed Sat/Sun.  Crumb On Parchment In the Melin Building 3930 NE 2nd Ave. Miami FL 305 572 9444

ELLA POP UP CAFE- The newest addition to the café scene in the Design District is Michael Schwartz’ ella café, conceptualized and named for his daughter.  Located in the chic and very glamorous, Palm Court, ella is the most casual of the cafes and probably the least discovered as much of the Palm Court is still finding its occupancy mix.  A huge Bulgari store feels intimidating as you enter the courtyard, where you are greeted with the art installations of a reproduction of R. Buckminster Fuller's Fly's Eye Dome and a huge light blue Le Corbusier torso. 

I was distracted so much that I almost missed the white tables and umbrellas in front of ella.  But once inside, a sense of calm came over me.  The staff is wearing light blue ella t-shirts that match the light blue of Le Corbusier.  The menu is simple as the café does not have access to a full kitchen, so dishes change daily, many times coming from Chef’s other restaurants like The Cypress Room and Michael’s Genuine and offers an assortment of tapas, salume and cheese plate, and light fare supplied by numerous other resources, like veggie tacos from Taquiza, a turkey sandwich with bread from True Loaf, and Gluten free cookies from Zak The Baker.   Fresh bagels with lox and cream cheese and maple glazed donuts were popular items. The rock shrimp summer roll was light and came with a thick peanut sauce.  It was very fresh and good, although it could have used a little more shrimp and little less shredded veggies.  Fresh lemonade was just what I needed to wrap up my visit to the NEW Design and Fashion District.  Hours- Mon-Sat 9 am to 7 pm Sun.12-5 pm.  ella cafe 140 NE 39th #136 in the Palm Court. Miami FL.  

As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, these three spots will offer a welcome respite. 

"Shop til you Drop"…then Stop into Mercato, Crumb On Parchment and ella Café.