Although my flight back to Memphis on Sunday was fairly early, one of my friends had told me that I had to try Big Pink in Miami Beach for breakfast. So I went ahead and checked out of my hotel, and headed across the causeway to the iconic diner-style restaurant, which had just opened for the day, and wasn’t crowded. Even more amazing, parking on the street was free because it was before 9 AM, so I was really thrilled. And my breakfast was really good, not necessarily the best of my trip (that honor had to go to Jackson Soul Food in Overtown), but delicious and comforting on a day when I was having to leave sunny Miami to go back home to Memphis and the everyday routine. Service was fairly quick as well, and I had no trouble in making it to the airport on time.
After the rain finally ended once and for all, people came out to party, and it became like any other Saturday night in Miami, particularly in the Mary Brickell Village area, where most restaurant patios were full to overflowing.
Brickell is another trendy entertainment and dining district south of Miami’s downtown, and in the Mary Brickell Village is a place called Burger and Beer Joint which has burgers and beer of course. Actually, they have the best burger I had during my trip to Miami, and one of the best I’ve ever had. Burgers are cooked to your specification, which is sadly getting rarer these days, and all kinds of toppings are available. The gourmet fries are delicious too, and there are plenty of TV screens, so you won’t miss the big game. There are apparently a couple of other Burger and Beer Joints in the area, including one in Miami Beach.
In a world where music has become digital and corporate, it’s great to see the independent record stores that have managed to keep going. Miami Beach’s Uncle Sam’s Music is a survivor, and is the only record store on the island. The shops new selection leans toward dance, alternative and rock, but their extensive selection of used discs and vinyl runs the gamut of genres from rap and reggae to Latin. The prices for used discs are exceptionally low. Pay them a visit when in Miami, or visit their website.
In the afternoon, my cousin and her husband and I headed to Miami Beach to do some shopping along Washington Avenue, and to spend some time at South Beach, which was especially crowded in the pretty weather. Later, we ate a late lunch at the Front Porch Cafe in Z Ocean Hotel on Ocean Drive.
Further out on 8th Street is the legendary Versailles Restaurant, where I tried my first cortadito, a Cuban espresso with a shot of steamed sweetened condensed milk. Cortaditos can be found throughout Miami, although most places use regular milk, and the walk-up window to order coffees and guava pastries is also found at most establishments. But Versailles, founded in 1971, is perhaps the most famous Cuban restaurant in the world, and worth a visit.
Until I visited Calle Ocho in Miami, I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as Cuban ice cream, but it was really hot on the Saturday we were there, and we saw a place called Azucar Cuban Ice Cream that we had to try. So what is Cuban ice cream? To me, it’s a lot like gelato as far as texture, but with a lot of unique tropical flavors. It was very good and very refreshing on such a hot day.
After my breakfast, my cousin Marcy and her husband Walter met me back at the hotel, and we went together to Miami’s famous Calle Ocho neighborhood, which is full of all kinds of Cuban shops and restaurants. I especially noticed the beautiful murals, and the brightly-painted roosters along the way. There were also a couple of record stores in the district, and we stopped briefly at Lily’s Records, which was the larger of the two.
Just up Biscayne Boulevard from the Hilton is a restaurant called Balans that actually is one of several Miami locations of what is basically a British restaurant chain. While Balans is not technically a breakfast restaurant, they do serve breakfast, and a very good one, in an extremely pleasant, tropical atmosphere, and at a remarkably reasonable price, at least by Miami standards.
The percussionists from Vodou Lakay provide the beat at a dance in Miami. The use of a stick on a liquor bottle to keep the “timeline” is remarkable, in that I have seen the exact same practice in New Orleans second-lines.