Discovering Vintage Miami
Discovering Vintage Miami takes you back in time to all of the timeless classic spots this city has to offer. The book spotlights the charming stories that tell you what each place is like now and how it got that way from classic restaurants to shops to other establishments like hotels that still thrive today and evoke the unique character of the city. They’re still around—but they won’t be around forever. Start reading, and start your discovering now!
Learn about the history of such classics as Arbetter’s Hot Dogs, Cauley Square Historic Village, Laurenzo’s Italian Market, and the Venetian Pool. Along the way, you’ll also learn the stories behind places you didn’t even know had a history. One thing is for sure! You’ll never look at Miami the same way again.
A Fox Walks into a Bar
(Excerpt / Fox’s Sherron Inn: Although the establishment closed in 2015, it is still one of my favorite chapters in the book.)
Scratch that – Betty Fox did not simply walk into the bar, she created the concept, opened, and ran the place until 1967. Located in South Miami and off the traditional tourist route, Fox’s Sherron Inn continues to be an institution for locals and tourists alike.
Opened in 1946, rumor has it that Fox submitted the paperwork for the restaurant and bar in 1939, but World War II put her plans on hold. It originally was a liquor store and sandwich shop and looked much different than it does now. The entrance also used to be in the front, but the expansion of US 1 took that over and moved it to the back. Can you imagine that? Eventually, it was time for Betty Fox to move on. George Andrews, a pilot for Pan Am Airways, bought the restaurant in 1967 and owned it until 2009, when current owner Rene Dahdah took over.
The restaurant was named Sherron for Fox’s daughter, Sharon. The printers messed up the spelling of her name, but they decided not to fix it. Another interesting fact is that the complex is not a hotel. They used the word “inn” in the old definition of the word, which means inviting. Fox did live upstairs, but that is the extent of it. It is funny, during Ultra Music Festival time, the restaurant receives about seven calls a day inquiring about available rooms.
“Betty’s father used to own many bars around downtown, so she grew up in the business,” says general manager Ricardo Gutierrez. “It is one of the few places around here that existed in the fifties, and it was known to be a clandestine spot for its underground ambiance, providing a one-stop shop for wheelings and dealings.”
I could have also begun this chapter with a riddle. What do a fox, Ray Liotta, and a bar have in common? As a former University of Miami student, the actor is a regular when in town and notes in various interviews that the spot never changes.
Walking into the dark restaurant is a shock to the eyes. The main room is always pitch-black. There is one small front window, but it always remains covered, no matter the hour. Reading menus by candlelight or cellphone is normal. If you ever need to hide out, they probably won’t find you here. The restaurant is divided into three rooms. The main room is cozy with circular black banquette booths and an old-fashioned, manly wood bar that features a fox mosaic on the wall and strong drinks. The two back rooms are completely different and feature regular dining tables, with exposed brick walls, fancy chandeliers, and tiled black-and-white-patterned floors. The room on the left-hand side, or the front of the restaurant if looking in from US 1, features a large window and is the room that receives the largest amount of natural light. The entire establishment boasts an overall old-fashioned, speakeasy style. Before smoking was outlawed, it was dense with cigarette smoke.
Fox’s is the oldest establishment with a dual liquor license in Miami, capable of operating a liquor store and bar at the same time. The liquor store, which can be found in the back, can remain open until 5 a.m. by law, but these days it closes at 2 a.m., still later than other liquor stores around. It has always functioned as a walk-up liquor store.
On September 1, 1977, the Miami News featured a fantastic human-interest story about a deaf-mute gentleman that worked as a dishwasher at Fox’s. Unfortunately, a car hit him, but George Andrews was by his side throughout the entire ordeal. The gentleman even rented a room from the owners, further emphasizing the strong bonds the restaurant promotes.
From the jukebox to the live bands, music has always been a mainstay of Fox’s. These days, the banquettes can easily be moved to create an open-floor format for bands to play and the crowd to dance or mosh. All steel and chrome, the famous jukebox is currently being repaired, but in its heyday it played it all. In 2010 a popular night was Shuffle Tuesdays, when music was devoted to The Smiths. It was called “A Night of The Smiths” and included two-for-one drinks.
The newest owners have made some tweaks to the menu, but here is a little-known secret: Customers that want the old menu can ask for it. “We always have some liverwurst in the back,” says Gutierrez. “Tuesday and Thursday nights are prime rib night, but my favorite night is Friday. Oh, that pan-fried snapper is absolutely delicious.”
“We have customers that come every day, some even up to two times a day. Many of our standby regulars do not like the changes that we have made, but they keep on coming back for the experience and the people. As for the die-hard customers, sometimes we will get a family after a funeral or a death anniversary come in to honor the person because it was their favorite place. Our main goal now is trying to sell an old concept to a new generation of Fox’s lovers.”