The ‘Griselda’ Creator’s Miami


The ‘Griselda’ Creator’s Miami

The magic of Miami is that “you can still discover places,” said the writer and producer Eric Newman. “It doesn’t feel like people have a chip on their shoulder. There’s a healthy civic pride and gratitude.”

Mr. Newman, who created the Netflix show “Narcos” and produced “Griselda,” starring Sofia Vergara, has, over the years, spent months at a time on location in Miami. To Mr. Newman, a California native, the appeal of this southern Florida playground isn’t just what it is — it’s also what it’s not. “There’s an appreciation in Miami that you don’t see in other places,” he said. “Maybe it’s because a lot of people here came from somewhere else. Maybe you came to escape East Coast winters, or you came to escape Castro, or you came to escape taxes. People in Miami are genuinely happy to be here.”

Mr. Newman, 53, produced the Academy Award-winning movie “Children of Men” and, more recently, was the executive producer of “Painkiller” and “Narcos: Mexico.” He favors a side of Miami not easily found in guidebooks. An after-hours salsa club, a Xanadu hiding in plain sight, the best Cuban sandwich around: These are the secrets that Miami has slowly revealed to him.

“The diversity of Miami makes it feel like the least American city, which is kind of what makes it incredibly American,” Mr. Newman said. “It feels wonderfully foreign and yet uniquely American.”

Here, his five favorite spots in the city.

“La Trova is a show,” explained Mr. Newman. “The waiters are all immaculately dressed, they dance. You can tell that working there is a career, not a job.”

La Trova, owned by the master bartender Julio Cabrera and the chef Michelle Bernstein, is beloved for its impeccable drinks and its theatricality. Although the establishment, in the middle of Little Havana, has a robust menu that leans heavily toward empanadas, croquetas and Cuban fare, the specialties are mojitos and other cocktails — made with all the flare of performance art. (La Trova was a James Beard semifinalist for its “Outstanding Bar Program” in 2022.) The décor, like the uniforms, is deliberate — a long bar lined with red barstools, low lighting and an impressive wall of spirits.

“You feel like you are in Havana in 1958. It reminds me of ‘The Godfather Part II,’” said the showrunner. “It’s a place where you go to drink and end up eating, or go to eat and end up drinking.

“These sandwiches are phenomenal,” said Mr. Newman, of the offerings at Sanguich.

He favors the house specialty: the pan con lechon, a sandwich of shredded pork, pickled onions and garlic cilantro aioli on Cuban bread.

“I don’t know how many of these sandwiches I have left in my life. You don’t want to eat one every day or even every week at this age. But I have decided that any more that I’m ever going to have are going to come from Sanguich.”

The sandwich shop, its menu inspired by “pre-revolutionary Cuba,” has locations in Little Havana and in Little Haiti. The stars of the menu are, not surprisingly, the sandwiches, all of which have beef or pork (vegetarian options are basically milkshakes and fries). And the limited hours serve a very useful purpose, at least for Mr. Newman: “Thankfully, it closes at 6 p.m. — because I would get into horrible trouble if they were open late.”

“It looks like something that belongs in Newport, R.I., surrounded by beautiful gardens,” said Mr. Newman of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a sprawling estate built as a vacation home in the early 1900s by a wealthy businessman named James Deering.

In 1953, Vizcaya, which sits on the water in Coconut Grove, officially opened as a museum. A sort of American Versailles, Vizcaya has acres of outdoor gardens, a dozen buildings inspired by Italian Renaissance and Mediterranean styles, a cafe, event spaces and, naturally, secret passageways throughout.

“There’s something kind of melancholy about it for me, like Xanadu in ‘Citizen Kane’ or the Hearst Castle — sort of monuments to oneself. But it’s beautiful,” Mr. Newman said.

Vizcaya has had many notable guests over the years, including Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth II. “As much as I appreciate the exhibits, I love to sort of wander around the gardens and get a bit lost,” Mr. Newman said. “You can look out at the bay from this Gatsby-esque house and just lose yourself. I remember liking the way that felt very much.”

“I went here for the first time last night, and it was amazing — kind of this weird, strange, wonderful experience. My wife and I walked into what appeared to be a hostel. There was a guy behind a desk who was going over a bill with some backpacker, and my wife and I were like, ‘this cannot be the place.’”

In fact, 27 Restaurant is part of the Freehand Hotel, an upscale hostel a couple of blocks from the Miami Beach. “Then we’re in this pool area lit by tiki torches, and I finally asked someone, ‘Is there a restaurant here?’ Around the corner, as you got closer, you heard how alive it was,” Mr. Newman said.

The menu borrows from American South and Afro-Caribbean food. The décor is eclectic and mismatched, the tables are communal, and “the oyster mushrooms are amazing,” Mr. Newman said. “So are the shrimp dumplings. We had three orders of them.”

“I’m 53, I don’t really go out anywhere anymore, but Miami has a different energy,” said Mr. Newman, whose favorite after-hours spot is Siboney Night Club in West Miami. The salsa club, open Thursdays to Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., is “very no frills,” he said. Its authenticity makes him a repeat visitor.

“It’s not one of those places that you would walk by it and go, ‘Oh, we’ve got to go in and see what’s going on,’” he said. “It’s entirely Latin and there’s something transportive about it.”

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