Far from the knockoff Downtown Abbeys located off the banks of Ludlum Road in our beloved Pinecrest lie the maddening crowds on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. All of us, at one time or another feel compelled to make the journey to the beach, and especially if we have visiting relatives in town, inevitably, we exercise an obligation to pop in on the pedestrian mall between and parallel to 16th and 17th Streets.
There was a time when Lincoln Road was in its heydey with Bonwit Teller, Saks Fifth Avenue and Burdine’s. Then there was a time when Lincoln Road was in decline, a strip only Scarface could love. Then, it began to rebound in the late ’90s. Now, it’s hard to tell what’s going on there. Dylan’s Candy Bar, H&M and Taschen have outposts. So do GNC, Bikini Village and Payless. Draw your own conclusions.
There is, I suppose, looking at the bright side, something for everyone there. Old timers still ride their cruisers with parrots or Speedos on. Locals roller skate by. Folks that resemble the cruise boat crowd that frequents Bayside are in evidence. You hear Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, Chinese, and Hebrew routinely. Tomato-faced English loiter on Lincoln, walking like Frankensteins to keep the sunburn from chafing too painfully. Shirts unbuttoned to the navel broadcast hairy chests and gold rope chains as if Donna Summer and the Bee Gees are still in concert. The Rolex still lives on Lincoln Road. Last, but not least, every failed plastic surgery victim seems to teeter-totter by sooner or later, everything stretched and protruding. Forgive me, but it is not as uplifting for us as it is for you.
New World Symphony has relocated to new digs. Ghirardelli is gone. So is almost all the sophistication which Carl Fisher envisioned when he created Lincoln Road as Miami Beach’s version of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. In its place is a gallimaufry of people, places and things; a hodgepodge, a confused mess. Don’t get me completely wrong, it’s still enjoyable at times, especially if you hail from Wilmington, North Carolina, Huntsville, Alabama, Youngstown, Ohio or Topeka, Kansas.
Around the perimeter of Lincoln Road, you see these folks in hundreds of red rented Mustang convertibles circling the area, radios blaring, teenagers occasionally standing and screaming. Forgive them, they know not what they do. It’s worse when they are walking, but better when they sit in the bad restaurants seducing them nearer Washington Avenue.
There is some quality remaining on the eastern reaches of Lincoln, but not much. Paul Bakery, straight out of Paris, still has a good product. Rosinella received praise, most ending a decade ago. Nearly all are despised by any local clientele.
On the western or Alton Road side of Lincoln Road, there is hope. The designer parking garage is a marvel; Juvia drains only the best of credit cards from its gorgeous penthouse. Check out the website, and I guarantee it will give Gone In 60 Seconds new meaning thanks to an insufferable soundtrack. Alchemist on floor five in the garage will stop you in your tracks, but you will need the fattest stacks to buy anything there. Picasso prices! The Nespresso store below is like Crayola for adults.
Nearby Banana Republic is housed in a gorgeous old bank. Base USA succeeds. Books & Books always dignifies itself. The Frieze, a few steps off Lincoln on Michigan is sublime. Juicy Couture, Victoria’s Secret, Mac and Kiehl’s trump the cosmetic appeal more than those of Perfumania and CVS, both closer to Washington and Collins. At its worst near Collins, Lincoln Road is the new Ocean Drive.
All said, the further west you go, Lincoln Road becomes the road less traveled, and if you stay at that end, it will make all the difference.
Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to firstname.lastname@example.org