One of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, Overtown is brimming with Black history, lively entertainment and great eats. Yet it often gets overlooked compared to other neighborhoods, despite it offering up a one-of-a-kind experience for locals and visitors alike.
For a bit of backstory, Overtown was a thriving Black community and a mecca for Black entertainers like Josephine Baker and Ella Fitzgerald to dine and entertain, especially at a time when Black people were not allowed to stay in Miami Beach hotels that they were being called in to perform at.
But that was until the 1960s when new highways and an interchange crisscrossed through Overtown, displacing many of its residents and causing buildings to shut down or be demolished. Nowadays, there are new efforts to preserve parts of the community and regenerate the area with local businesses.
There is plenty to do in this interesting corner of the city, whether you want to immerse yourself in the local culture or indulge in the best soul food the city has to offer. What Overtown once was and how it’s being transformed is enough to want to spend a day in the neighborhood! So, without further ado, here are eight of our favorite things to do in Overtown, a.k.a. the “Harlem of the South”:
1. Start off your day dining at Red Rooster
Red Rooster, the Miami location of chef Marcus Samuelsson’s beloved Harlem restaurant, is a neighborhood favorite. Sink your teeth into delicious Southern comfort food at this restaurant — which explains why they’re always packed — and enjoy ice cream from its Creamery and drinks from its speakeasy-style Pool Hall. The spot hosts a variety of nightly events like Mellow Dramatic Mondays, Groove Theory (Fridays), The Shrine (Saturdays) and Jamrock (Sundays).
Where: 920 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33136
2. View art at the Ward Rooming House
The two-story structure, built in 1925 by Shaddrack and Victoria Ward, served as a safe haven for both Black and Native American travelers that visited the city back in the day. Today, it houses a gallery that pays tribute to Black history and art, curated by Christopher Norwood of Hampton Art Lovers. Get a glimpse of history and stroll through various works from renowned artists like Elizabeth Catlett and John Biggers. The gallery also rotates its exhibits and holds special events throughout the year to highlight new artists and installations.
Where: 250 NW 9th St, Miami, FL 33136
3. See the D.A. Dorsey House
If you’re interested in more history, look for the all-white house located directly across from the Ward Rooming House. It belonged to Miami’s first Black millionaire, Dana A. Dorsey, who built the home for his wife in 1915. Dorsey also helped to establish the first Black-owned hotel in the city, as well as South Florida’s first Black bank. The house — now turned museum — is owned by the Black Archives in an effort to spotlight its history and keep it alive in the years to come.
Where: 250 NW 9th St, Miami, FL 33136
4. Have lunch at Jackson Soul Food
The second-generation owned restaurant has been serving hungry Miamians (and beyond) for seven decades! As its name implies, you’ll find soul food here, but it’s important to note that they only open until 2 p.m. so make sure you make your way over for breakfast or lunch. With an extensive menu, visitors can order everything from shrimp & grits to fried catfish & fries.
Where: 950 NW 3rd Ave, Miami, FL 33136
5. Check out the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum
Delve deeper into the city’s Black history by visiting the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum, which offers tours and lectures. The only museum of its kind, it showcases historical memorabilia of the City of Miami’s first Black officers. The building itself once served as a separate police station before Black officers were integrated into the police department, as well as a municipal court where defendants were tried before an African-American judge.
Where: 480 NW 11th St, Miami, FL 33136
6. Catch a show at the Historic Lyric Theater
From jazz concerts and spoken word performances to festivals and film screenings, this neighborhood crown jewel puts on fantastic events year-round. Opened in 1913, the 400-seat venue is considered to be the oldest legitimate theater remaining in Miami, with iconic performers like Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, James Brown and Ella Fitzgerald once gracing its stage. Check out upcoming events here.
Where: 819 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33136
7. Enjoy dinner at Lil Greenhouse Grill
Pull up a chair at Lil Greenhouse Grill and go for a healthier twist on classics like BBQ ribs, chicken and waffles, baked mac n’ cheese, collared greens and more. Founded by co-owners Nicole Gates and Karim Bryant, the restaurant began as a food truck under the same name before setting up shop at its current location, which has been visited by Oprah and Gayle King among others.
Where: 1300 NW 3rd Ave, Miami, FL 33136
8. Party at The Urban
If the weekend is rolling around and you’re thinking about what to do, The Urban is the place to be. Everybody knows that Miami is where the nightlife is at and this musically-driven, open air venue is unmatched. Anchored by a restaurant and centralized bar, this energetic spot hosts DJs, artists, parties and pop-ups. With guests like Cardi B, Jamie Foxx and Lil Wayne, you might even come across a celeb! Stay up to date on the latest happenings on their website and Instagram.
Where: 1000 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33136