There is no worse feeling than turning onto the highway after a long day at work and seeing nothing but brake lights for miles and miles. It doesn’t matter if you have the most interesting podcasts in the world queued up and a glove compartment full of your favorite snacks. In a matter of minutes, you’ll be in a screaming match with a rusty Toyota Camry, wishing you were anywhere else but in that car.
These days, though, we have technology that can warn you that the highway you need to take home is an absolute sh*tshow. Of course, it’s no fun to just wait around in the office or a parking lot until things clear up. Instead, hit up one of the 11 places on this guide. They range from quiet coffee shops where you can catch up on emails to restaurants serving cheaper-than-normal oysters during peak rush-hour time - and they also happen to be in some of the city’s most nightmarish traffic neighborhoods.
Getting to high ground is a great strategy for floods, battles, alligator attacks, and traffic. That’s why it’s a good plan to hide out from Downtown gridlock at Mike’s at Venetia - a random yet endearing Irish dive bar on the roof of an apartment building right by the Venetian Causeway. From this perspective, you’ll be able to see whether or not the MacArthur Causeway and bits of Downtown Miami are still an absolute nightmare. If they are, chill out at Mike’s with a Happy Hour beer and some decent fried pub food. It certainly beats going three inches per hour down Biscayne.
For such a laid back neighborhood, Coconut Grove can have some nasty traffic during rush hour. Luckily, this is an area that respects a good leisurely meal, and Chug’s is a great post-work spot to hang out while the streets cool off. This laid-back Cuban diner serves excellent food, like the duck medianoche, Chug burger, and a frita, which comes with a beer for $7 every Thursday in a special they call a “Cuban Happy Meal.” Chug’s also has great small bites that won’t spoil your appetite, like PB&J pastelitos, croquettas, and enough Cuban coffee to have you tearing through that spreadsheet you put off all day. There’s some outdoor seating too so you can see when it’s safe to leave.
When the causeways to leave Miami Beach are jammed up, it feels like it would actually be easier to just train a manatee to carry you across Biscayne Bay. Of course, the proud and noble manatee serves no man, so instead hunker down at Sweet Liberty. This cocktail bar feels more like a restaurant when the sun is out, and there’s a daily Happy Hour from 4-7pm. The best part are the $0.95 oysters, but the rosé on tap and $5 cocktails (get the daiquiri) are a welcome bonus. The incredible piña colada is sadly not any cheaper than normal, but it’s still so worth the $14 you would have spent anyway on the express lane.
Happy Hour at Michael’s Genuine overlaps perfectly with the peak anarchy of Miami traffic. Monday-Friday, from 4:30-7:30pm, the reliable and delicious Design District spot serves its classics pretty cheap. Deviled eggs are $3, oysters are $19 for a dozen, and you can get a beer for $3. The catch: Happy Hour is only offered at the bar, so try and come early or stare menacingly at someone until they get up.
Glass and Vine is one of the prettiest spots to sit outside in Coconut Grove, which is saying a lot since just about every restaurant in the area has some sort of sidewalk seating. Its outdoor patio dips into Peacock Park, where you have to worry about sneaky squirrels more than aggressive drivers. In addition to some good drink deals during Happy Hour, Glass and Vine has $4 snacks - like sweet potato tots and jamón serrano croquetas - and $7 small plates, including a very good watermelon salad and crispy yuca.
You know where there’s no traffic? A book. Unless the book you’re reading takes place in a traffic jam, which sounds kind of interesting and is still a lot more fun than being in actual traffic. Books and Books in Coral Gables - the original location of this bookstore chain - has a very solid cafe that serves soups, salads, and sandwiches with indoor and outdoor seating, and it’s a lovely spot to chill out with some food, wine, and a good read. There is also, of course, a great selection of books, which is exactly what you need after eight hours of staring at a white screen.
Hiding in a dumpster full of angry crabs is more enjoyable than dealing with Downtown traffic at its worst, which happens just about every day around 5pm. Luckily you don’t have to experience either if you beeline for Mignonette. This slightly upscale and very tasty seafood spot is a lot more casual during Happy Hour, when they have $2 oysters, $2 lobster deviled eggs, $1 raw clams, and $7 popcorn shrimp, conch, or clams. The floor-to-ceiling windows also give you a lovely view of the sunset - and the 100-plus-year-old graveyard across the street, which you could also fill with angry crabs and it would still be a more pleasant place to hangout than Downtown at 5:45pm.
The stretch of Biscayne Boulevard between 61st and 87th Street deserves to be punched in the face. MiMo generally sucks during rush hour, and if you don’t have the patience, your best bet is to pull over and hide out at Panther. It’s Miami’s best-known coffee shop and they have locations in Wynwood, Coconut Grove, Little Haiti, and South Beach. Honestly, all of the above will work for hiding from traffic, but the MiMo location is the best bet along this particularly hellish road. The coffee is excellent, you can see the road from inside, and the WiFi is strong in case you need to work.
The Spillover is another great Coconut Grove option for the hours of 4-7pm, when they do a very good Happy Hour for both humans and canines who really don’t want to battle I-95 right now. The casual seafood spot does $1 oysters, $4 beers, and $5 bites (get the fried snapper scraps) while the rest of the city is busy flicking off strangers who didn’t use their turn signal. Dogs also get free dog food, like chicken and rice or treats. Ask to sit outside because it’s prettier out there, especially at sunset when the last thing you want to worry about is merging.
You could spend 15 minutes inching past tourists taking photos in the middle of NW 2nd Ave, only to do the same thing on North Miami Ave for 20 minutes, until you finally reach I-95 and see that the two right lanes are shut down because someone was trying to peel a hard-boiled egg while merging. Or you could just take a seat at Beaker and Gray and enjoy a few small plates that’ll cost you $5-$7 from 4-7pm. The grilled cheese, yucca fries, and pork rib fried rice are going to be so much less stressful.