This post has been updated with reviews and prices for each dish where available.
-Find dozens of trip notes like this one by clicking on the “Trip Notes” tab on top of the DansDeals banner at the top of this site.
–Trip Notes: Miami. A Trip Of Firsts (2011)
–Trip Notes: Miami 2012.
–Trip Notes: Miami 2014.
-Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 1: Miami
-Trip Notes: Miami Kosher Food Scene Heats Up, Silvercar, And AMEX Centurion Lounge Report (2015)
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OK, so this is getting a bit repetitive, I know. I’d rather be writing another trip report on a place like Palau rather than Miami, trust me.
But I’ve gotten dozens of emails from folks asking for Miami trip notes for their Yeshiva Week trips when NYC invades South Florida and reservations at kosher restaurants become essential.
You can find trip notes here, and in the related links at the top of this post you’ll find links to 5 Miami reports along dozens of kosher restaurant reviews and great activities that we’ve done like Vizcaya, boat rentals, Lion Country Safari, the Everglades, amphibious ducky tours, and more. So before you ask why I didn’t review XYZ restaurant or activity, read through those trip reports first.
And here goes yet another Miami trip report.
Read more about the trip after the jump:
Last month we were invited to cover the Kosher Food and Wine event in Miami. My maternal grandparents live in South Florida in the winter, so it seemed like a great opportunity to visit them and sample some great food.
In August I had some issues at the W South Beach, so I had a free night there with a confirmed suite upgrade lined up.
Alas Mimi came down with a sinus infection and wasn’t up to traveling. As that happened within 24 hours of travel, BA wouldn’t refund the Avios. They agreed to rebook the trip for future use with a note from a Doctor, but not a refund. There was no availability to rebook using Avios for the rest of the month, so I rebooked it for a random future date. And then called back to cancel it and the agent refunded the Avios and even the taxes 😀
But a few days later Mimi was feeling well enough to travel. And I came across this gem of a rate:
So I booked United awards for us from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale for travel from Thursday morning until Monday morning.
United’s A320 slimline seats aren’t great, though at least the WiFi was serving up pretty good speeds. The tray tables on the other hand both mocked me and inspired me for another wintertime getaway:
I walked over to Avis while the family waited curbside, used Avis Daily Getaway certificates for a premium car and got an Infiniti QX80 big bruiser, and drove back to pickup the family and bags.
Mimi was jealous of my trip to Zak the Baker back when I went solo to JJ’s firstborn son’s bris in August, so we made that our first stop.
Zak converted to being Cholov Yisroel earlier in the year and that makes for the most eclectic of crowds that I’ve ever seen in a kosher restaurant. From Hasid to Hipster, everyone enjoys the delicious fresh food and artisan breads that come from Zak’s kitchen.
The line was long, but by the time we got to the front, a table had opened up. The menu is always changing and much to my chagrin the lemon curd toast that I had last time was no longer available. But there was plenty of awesome goodness.
Delicious fresh-squeezed lemonade (9/10):
The Chocolate/caramel croissant is a must have (9/10):
Tomato and lemon toast was fantastic as well (8.5/10):
Beet and Feta Cheese toast was very good as well (8/10):
The Chocolate toast is covered in an awesome homemade chocolate sauce (9/10). Rafi was obsessed with this, though only after I picked all the hazelnuts off for him 😀
Talia loved the breakfast sandwich, which is served until 11:30am:
Before getting back in the car Mimi noticed that there were hundreds of ants on the driver’s seat of the car. Try as I could to brush them off they appeared to be like the plague of frogs, 2 more appeared for every one I disposed of.
At this point we were closer to Miami airport than Fort Lauderdale, so I drove the most uncomfortable ride to MIA ever. Talk about having ants in your pants…
They traded in our QX80 for a BMW X5 and we set off for the S. Regis Bal Harbour.
I hadn’t planned on using any tollroads thanks to flying into FLL, but MIA had 2 pesky $0.70 tolls that equaled $17.20 for the “convenience” of coming with a Sunpass. How convenient.
Of course, I would have never passed a toll if not for the infested car. That bill just came on Friday, so I’ve yet to hear back from Avis about how they plan to rectify that.
At checkin the S. Regis clerk did a double-take at the rate and said that she would have to check with her manager about an SPG Platinum upgrade beyond a junior suite. He said that due to the rate, an upgrade would be $750 for the night.
Ah, thanks, but no thanks 🙂
They did give the kids a bag full of great beach toys, which they loved.
The junior suite is really just a regular room with a small kitchenette. There wouldn’t really be any way that the 4 of us were going to get any sleep in the one room though.
Kids on the balcony:
View from the balcony:
Junior suite bathroom:
We were debating getting another room for the night, but I figured I’d try my luck in the lobby again. The previous manager wasn’t there, but another agent was happy to upgrade us to a Grand Luxe oceanfront suite. The only catch was that it wouldn’t be available until 5pm, but she allowed us to keep the the Junior suite until then, which was fantastic. I took the kids for a swim at the pool and to the beach and by the time we were done the suite was ready with a rollaway bed for Rafi in the living room:
Oceanfront suite dining room:
And our Babybjorn travel crib fit perfectly in the suite’s guest bathroom for Talia.
The suite even had a washing machine with dryer.
The S. Regis is located within walking distance of the plethora of kosher restaurants in Surfside.
Kosh makes some great appetizers and steaks, but for dinner there was no question. The restaurant we craved the most was 26, one of Miami’s most unique restaurants.
Several other restaurants have opened since our trip, including Rustiko (reviewed by JJ during their soft-opening here) in Surfside and Acqua in the Waterways, but those weren’t yet an option for us in December.
The Passion Fruit Mojito at 26 is pure perfection (9.5/10, $14):
26 only charges $4 for their soup. I’ve had their soup a couple of times before and it was always very good, but I wasn’t sure what to make of their soup of the day, Carrot Daikon Ginger Cabbage soup. But they are more than happy to bring you a generous taste of the soup and this was the one of the best tasting soups I’d ever had (10/10, $4):
Rafi was obsessed with the fish and chips ($9) from their kids menu:
While Talia enjoyed the Mac and cheese ($7) from the kids menu:
The Crispy Bok Choy is an addictive appetizer (7.5/10, $10):
Trio Fritas come with truffle fries, sweet potato fries, and salt & pepper fries (8/10, $21):
Sushi Pizza is heavenly combo of crispy rice, avocado, and fish. We had ours with salmon instead of tuna (9.5/10, $13):
Tequenos consists of mozzarella in a delicious empanada dough (8.5/10, $10):
We had no room for dessert, but we promised the kids Ice Cream and went next door to Serendipity where they got some delicious homemade ice cream.
On Friday the plan was to grab a bite to eat before driving up to Boynton Beach to spend Shabbos with my grandparents.
We walked down Harding past all of the kosher restaurants and were surprised to find all of them all closed on Friday except for …26. But we were fine with that 😀
Rafi had been begging for the fish & chips again anyway, and if the kids are happy then everyone is happy.
Two faced edamame were outstanding (9.5/10, $10). One side was spicy while the other was citrusy, but the 4 of us polished them off quickly:
The Sunshine Salad was fresh and delicious (9/10, $15):
Chiquis roll with salmon, avocado, and cream cheese was fantastic (9/10, $20):
While Mimi and I shared a delicious Cronut (8.5/10, $12):
The weird thing was they had the exact same soup as we had the night before. As happened the previous night they brought out a taster portion of it, though we didn’t expect to need it.
It’s a good thing they did, it was inedible. I don’t think I’ve ever had a soup that was a 10/10 one night and then a 1/10 the next day, but that’s what this was. Bizarre.
We stopped by Sarah’s Tent in the waterways to pickup Shabbos food before continuing north to Boynton Beach.
The lines are long, but for good reason, the food is delicious. Everything from the onion mashed potatoes to the sweet and sour chicken to the minute steaks were incredible. Their challah is very good as well
Continuing north, we picked up Shabbos dessert at Levy’s, their insane chocolate Babka (9.5/10, $5/inch). Probably the most underrated restaurant in South Florida. You wouldn’t expect a place that makes amazing ribs, felafel, and zalmyburgers to have mouth-watering desserts, but they ace it.
My grandparents live in a gated community in Boynton Beach. I always get a kick out of the tight security these places have.
Shabbos at Chabad of Boynton was great and getting to spend quality time with the grandparents is always special.
After a wonderful Shabbos with the grandparents, Mimi and I slipped out to Mozart in Boca.
We waited at our table for a while before the Maitre D’ came over and saw that we were still waiting. From that point we had very prompt service.
The house bread was spicy and delicious and went perfectly with the zaatar it was served with (9.5/10, free).
The Quesadilla Trio appetizer was pretty good. Nothing amazing, but not bad (7/10, $16):
Portabella Panini was dry and the filling was bland (5/10, $12.50):
But the Gnocchi Marsala was delicious, if not a bit too salty (8/10, $19.50):
Sunday morning we went for a long swim in their pool, always a treat in December and the best activity is often the free one.
After Talia took a nap, we went to Sugar Sand Park in Boca. We had been there in the past and it’s one of the most amazing parks around.
Unfortunately it’s closed for renovations until fall 2016! Guess we should have checked first…
But the free indoor science center was still open and the kids had a great time with those exhibits. They had even expanded the science center since the last time we were there.
The outdoor carousel was open as well and Rafi and Talia adored riding on the horses.
After putting the kids to bed at my grandparents, we went to eat dinner at Boca Butcher Block together with DDF’er JayWhy and his better half.
JayWhy had inspired me the year before to fly to Brazil in TAM first class in 2014 when we were able to book the entire 4 person cabin with miles. It was one of our favorite first class trips…I just need to get around to typing up those trip notes 🙂
The off-the-button mushrooms were loaded with delicious lamb (9/10, $12):
The Maitre D’ and waiter both pressed me to order the Beef Back Ribs, saying it’s by far the best thing they make. Until they had to sheepishly come back to let me know that they were out of them. Never a good idea to recommend things that strongly if you’re out of them…
The smoked short ribs had a nice flavor, but not much meat on them (7/10, $12):
I had a peppercorn steak (6/10, $42). It was only mediocre though. Partially do to being overcooked, but partially because the peppercorn flavor was just not great. Not even comparable to the far superior versions from Brooklyn’s Loft and Manhattan’s Le Marais.
And then one of my biggest pet peeves. I asked the waiter if the onion rings were homemade and he assured me that they were.
They were not.
I just can’t understand how an upscale restaurant doesn’t make homemade onion rings. Boggles my mind. But worse then that is having staff that doesn’t tell the truth about them.
The broccoli side that came with steak was very bland.
For dessert we had a hot chocolate souffle (6/10, $10). Unfortunately there was no souffle part, it was all liquid.
The beignets on the other hand were excellent (9/10, $12). And that hot chocolate liquid worked out pretty well as we dipped the beignets into the chocolate which was awesome. Should really all be served as one dessert together 😀
We left early Monday morning and picked up food from Boca Kosher Bagels. There is kosher food in the JetBlue terminal at FLL, but not in United’s terminal.
We stopped off in the club to use the facilities and grabbed some water and snacks before it was time to board.
This time half of us were upgraded for whatever domestic first on an A320 is worth (Not much):
I was actually impressed that the flight attendant offered to grab any snacks from coach for us when we turned down lunch. United didn’t used to do that, so that’s a nice change.
Domestic kosher meal from FLL-CLE: Amaretto with Ginger Ale, Pringles, and Kettle Chips:
Good thing we stopped for the bagels 🙂
It was a quick trip, but it was great to get some sun and spend time with my grandparents.
Speaking about sun and the extreme Vitamin D deficiency we likely have, Rafi and I went for a swim on a cloudy Friday morning in the S. Regis pool. We were peacefully enjoying our time when suddenly the sun came out in full glory. Rafi quickly darted out of the pool as fast as his legs would take him screaming, “I NEED SUNSCREEN, I’M GOING TO BURN!” Clearly, it’s been a bit too long since he’s seen that great yellow orb in the sky…I think it’s time to find another warm weather escape before summer makes it’s way to Cleveland.