By Josie Gulliksen
Places to visit, where to eat, where to stay, entertainment, and the annual not to be missed event on July 13: here’s your guide for a day exploring Overtown, one of Miami’s most historic areas. There’s no better neighborhood to find authentic soul food or experience an amateur night showcase that’s modeled after the historic Apollo Theater’s long-running one in New York City. And rivaling Wynwood’s famous street murals are those of the late artist Purvis Young, born in Overtown. The building façades and architecture harken back to the early 1900s when black performers played, ate and stayed here. A new B & B, too, a bargain at rates starting at $100 a night.
Overtown: Where It Is
Adjacent to Downtown Miami, the geographic boundaries of Overtown are to the north, NW 20 St.; to the south, NW 5 St.; to the west, the Miami River and SR 836 and to the East, the East Coast Railway and NW 1 Ave.
Places to Visit
The Historic Lyric Theater – 819 NW 2 Ave. https://www.bahlt.org
The 400-seat theater which opened in 1913 was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 when renovations and restoration efforts began in phases. Those were completed in 2004. Although new construction continues, the venue is the host site of the Amateur Night monthly showcase every First Friday at 8 p.m. And operating inside the Lyric Plaza is a temporary pop-up of the Art Africa Gallery. Famed New York Chef Marcus Samuelsson is set to open an Ethiopian restaurant in the gallery’s former space.
Purvis Young Murals – NW 11 St. and 3 Ave. Metrorail overpass
The late Purvis Young left his indelible mark on Overtown with his colorful, impactful work of which is showcased in murals on the east side of Overtown along the I-95 corridor. A self-taught artist, Young’s work was inspired by documentaries, American history and urban landscapes. Depicted in the colorful landscape are scenes that inspired Young who was actually born in Liberty City but moved to Overtown as a kid. Make it a point to take a moment and examine the close attention to how these murals capture Young’s painting style which incorporates his poignant life. This local legend’s work has been featured in exhibitions in New York, California, Italy and Mexico.
Overtown Folk Life Village (events held every First Friday of the month) – NW 9 St. and 2 Ave. at the Ninth Street Pedestrian Mall http://experienceovertown.com/event/folklife-friday-outdoor-market-2/ On the First Friday of the month, this corner comes alive with the Folklife Friday Outdoor Market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food vendors, arts and crafts people and live entertainment make lunch time fun. Dig into favorites like conch fritters or salad, barbecue favorites like chicken and ribs and other Caribbean and soul food favorites.
D.A. Dorsey House – 250 NW 9 St. http://experienceovertown.com/portfolio_page/historic-d-a-dorsey-house/
The historic landmark was home to Miami’s first black millionaire Dana A. Dorsey. The lovely architecture needs some love and will be undergoing renovations to the siding, roof and overall exterior appearance. It is definitely worth a look.
Where to Eat
Jackson Soul Restaurant– 950 NW 3 Ave. http://www.jacksonsoulfood.com/
The area’s best known and most popular soul food restaurant, Jackson is the place to stop in and experience soul food at its best. The Jackson family’s restaurant history dates back to 1946 when they established Mama’s Café. Shirlene Jackson Ingraham was entrenched in that family business and now runs this new incarnation, the soul of Overtown, serving up catfish prepared several ways, smothered pork chops, fried conch, pigeon peas and rice, collard greens and okra and tomatoes. The menu is quite extensive, but you get the idea. They also have a location in North Dade and an outpost at Hard Rock Stadium.
Lil’ Greenhouse Grill (new one that’s creating lots of buzz) 1300 NW 3 Ave. 786.277.3582 https://www.lilgreenhousegrill.com/
Well on its way to gaining Jackson Soul Food status, Lil’ Greenhouse Grill is serving up soul food classics with a healthier twist. The charming 20+ seat restaurant has an attentive staff and hands-on management, ready to serve up delectable seafood cakes with a homemade aioli available as an appetizer or entrée, mac n’ cheese and all kinds of barbecue including rib tips, smoked chicken wings, chicken or ribs. They’re also serving up craft beers and wine.
Where to Stay
The Copper Door B&B – 439 NW 4 Ave. https://www.copperdoorbnb.com/
The 22-room bed & breakfast, once home to the Demetree Hotel, was opened by Jamilo Ross and Akino West, veterans of the hospitality and restaurant industry, who have lovingly restored the historic hotel. An inviting lobby is bright and features tropical style cushions, rotating art exhibits and a communal table where breakfast is served. Guests can sit and enjoy homemade signature items like biscuits benedict, a homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with roast pork and rosemary hollandaise or the roasted mushroom and soft scramble toast topped with garlic chips, parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.
The original wood and terrazzo floors and louvered doors have been restored to their original beauty. They’ve kept the 1950s feel in the bathrooms which feature vanities that were once in the Miami Beach’s Raleigh Hotel. This summer they plan to open up a lounge area on the second floor. And because West is a trained chef, the in-house breakfast prepared fresh daily, is sure to be a delight. Prices are around $100 a night.
Don’t Miss Yearly Event
Overtown Music & Arts Festival yearly event, July 13 – between NW 2 and 3 Ave. and NW 8-10 St. https://www.overtownmusicartsfestival.com/
July 13 is the date for the annual Overtown Music & Arts Festival! Free to the public, it features ethnic cuisine, vendors showcasing their artwork, unique crafts and jewelry for sale and the highlight, the musical performances. Past year’s line-ups have included Sherry Moses, Tito Puente, Jr., Cee-Lo Green, Inner Circle, Eric Benet and Monica. Keep an eye on the website for info on this year’s Sixth Annual event.