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Flashy Miami has unpretentious local flavor, too

  • Story Highlights
  • Miamians line up for Cuban coffee at David's Cafe
  • Joe Allen serves fresh comfort food on the Biscayne Bay side of Miami Beach
  • Garcia's Seafood Grille and Fish Market offers its own freshly caught fish
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By Patrick Oppmann
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- The Miami area seems to be enjoyed most by people who live somewhere else.

The beach at Collins Avenue and 87th Terrace is a favorite for those who like to relax with the Sunday paper.

Garcia's offers freshly caught fish and a great view from a deck overlooking the Miami River.

More often than not snowbirds, the yearly visitors who winter in South Florida, and other tourists appear to take over. But there are plenty of places that are beloved by locals and won't cost you a fortune.

A good first stop is Lincoln Road, the pedestrian boulevard that runs almost the width of Miami Beach. A farmers' market each Sunday is a weekly meeting point for many locals, and although the area has lost some of its identity to chains, there are plenty of unique restaurants and shops to sample.

Start your stroll on Lincoln with coffee at David's Café (1654 Meridian Ave.). From a large open window facing the street, the cafe keeps the Cuban coffee flowing 24/7 to a wide mix of Miamians who line up for their caffeine fix. Not too much English is spoken here though, so practice the following: cafecito (a shot of sugary Cuban coffee), cortadito (sugary Cuban coffee cut with milk) and café con leche (a Latin latte).

A block west of David's is The Frieze (1626 Michigan Ave.), which devoted regulars will swear serves the best ice cream in the world. A taste of one of the many flavors of ice cream or sorbet -- made from fresh local fruits -- may make you a convert as well. Flavors such as wasabi or tamarind have to be tried to be believed. Whether it's the best in the world is open for debate, but for sure The Frieze serves the best scoops in Miami.

At Segafredo's, on the West end of Lincoln (1040 Lincoln Road), the real attraction is people watching. It's the place to see and be seen in Miami Beach. Customers spending hundreds of dollars on champagne and cocktails or a few bucks on coffee and simple snacks enjoy the same great view of local characters on parade and the beautiful people who act as if Lincoln Road were their own personal catwalk.

Don't Miss

North of Lincoln Road, on the Biscayne Bay side of Miami Beach is Joe Allen restaurant (1787 Purdy Ave.), a bastion of good food and service that a crowd of mostly local clientele has kept going for nearly a decade. The restaurant has locations in other cities, but walking into the low-key Miami Beach dining room you would swear you stumbled onto a well-kept secret. Joe Allen's serves really fresh comfort food: steaming plates of mussels in an Asian broth, homemade pastas, great burgers and a killer meatloaf. This is not the place for celebrity sightings and the latest trendy food, but you will eat well and not break the bank.

Many Miami restaurants boast they serve the freshest fish in town, but few have their own fishing fleet to back up the claim. Garcia's Seafood Grille and Fish Market (398 N.W. N. River Drive, Miami) offers its own freshly caught fish and a great view from a deck overlooking the Miami River. It's a trick to get there, and the restaurant is one of the few bright spots in a still run-down area of downtown Miami, so go with good directions. As you lunch on a mahi-mahi sandwich with a beer served in an ice-cold mug and watch the boats go by, the trip to Garcia's will seem well worth the effort.

It wouldn't be Miami, of course, without the beach, and every local has his or her own preferred strip of sand. The beach at Collins Avenue and 87th Terrace is a favorite for people who want to relax with the Sunday paper and a fold-out chair. The water and sand seem cleaner than most other beaches and the area is a favorite for kite surfers.

If you aren't already a local, you soon will feel like one after a few hours there with the sand between your toes.

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