Sunny Isles Beach marks two decades of incorporation this year, and it’s come a long, long way from its modest history as little more than a sandbar on the northern tip of our most famous barrier island. Now the 1.5-mile strip of land just north of Haulover Park, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal, is experiencing a revival. Luxury high-rises stretch along Collins Avenue and restaurants offer a variety of food for its increasingly diverse population.
Here are five facts you may not know about SIB, the Miami-Dade city that bills itself as Florida’s Riviera.
It's also known as Little Moscow
About 10 percent of its 22,000 residents are of Russian origin, according to the U.S. Census, earning it the nickname of Little Moscow. Some of the county’s better-known and longer-lasting Russian eateries have settled there to service this community. These include Kalinka Euro Deli, a small grocery store and Russian-specialty deli with a casual eat-in area at 18090 Collins Ave, and Matryoshka, which bills itself as the Russian food headquarters two blocks north, at 18220 Collins Ave.
It's home to an Uzbeki jewel
Chayhana Oasis, at 250 Sunny Isles Blvd., may be the only restaurant in the county specializing in Uzbeki cuisine. This is the place to try a poppy-seed bread called non and an appetizer called cheburek, an empanada-style pastry dough with ground lamb meat, onions and cumin.
Development hasn't dampened beach access
Though high-rises have taken over Collins Avenue, there are 18 beach access points and almost a dozen parks, many of them with incredible water views.
It has ties to the prez
Two New Yorkers have played an important role in the city’s history. In 1918, Harvey Baker Graves of Rochester, New York, became so enamored with the beauty of the place during a boating trip that he purchased 1,900 acres. About eight decades later another New Yorker, developer Donald Trump, lent his name to a handful of towering buildings along the strip.
It has a notable architectural history
In one year alone, 1950, at least 12 motels opened along Collins, historian Seth Bramson said, ushering in the Motel Row era as well as welcoming one of the more interesting architecture styles in U.S. history. One of the first two-story motels in the country, if not the first, was designed by the late Miami Beach architect, Norman Giller. The Ocean Palm was built in 1948.
BONUS: It's celebrating 20 years!
To celebrate its birthday, SIB is hosting Taste of Sunny Isles Beach. It’s also sponsoring monthly bus tours of Sunny Isles Beach,led by historian Seth Bramson. Check the schedule at www.sibfl.net.
When: Saturday, Feb 18
Time: 5 to 8 p.m.
Call 305-792-1706 for additional information.