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–Trip Notes: Miami. A Trip Of Firsts (2011).
–Trip Notes: Miami 2012
In June, I got to dance at my brother JJ’s wedding in Miami, here are some notes from that trip.
More after the jump:
Miami is heaven in the winter, but it’s no surprise that it’s the opposite in the summer. The heat and humidity made being outside more brutal than a Cleveland winter (at least in Cleveland I can bundle up!), and every afternoon there were torrential downpours for several hours. But my brothers have a thing going already, the last one got married in the middle of a Montreal snowstorm in February. I was the lucky one with 75 degree weather in Kansas City in November…though days earlier it was below freezing there. Definitely will have to have a talk with my next 3 brothers about their wedding locations and dates. 😉
So this trip report is basically a food report, as that’s pretty much all we did for our time there. In the past we’ve gone to Vizcaya, the Everglades, etc. But being outside in the Miami humidity just isn’t pleasant.
On our December 2012 trip to Miami we had several issues with the S. Regis Bal Harbour.
Mind you, we only paid 12K points a night back then, but as compensation they offered a free 3 night stay in an oceanfront suite. I don’t usually complain, but when a hotel sanctioned party keeps you and your kid up all night before an early-morning return flight it felt warranted.
We used 25K United miles per person for the nonstop flight from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale rather than fork over the ridiculous $550 per person they wanted. There were 15K Avios flights available, but the flight times between Cleveland and Miami aren’t very good for families, American only flies 50 seat jungle jets on the route versus United’s mainline jet to Fort Lauderdale, and frankly any time I can avoid Miami airport is a plus.
I got a Minivan via a Priceline bid of $11 per day (if you’ve been to a DansDeals Seminar then you already know my Priceline bidding strategy) and wound up with Avis. Which was perfect as they upgraded me to an Infiniti SUV on the house thanks to Chairman’s status.
Our first order of business was getting some food. I had been told to try out the felafel from Levi’s in Hollywood and wasn’t disappointed.
An excellent felafel plate:
The fries are thinly sliced potato chip version that were addictive:
And then it was off to our oceanfront suite at the S. Regis Bal Harbour.
I’m not sure if it’s because the hotel has had a chance to mature over the past couple years or if because our last trip was during peak season and this one was decidedly off-peak, but service at the hotel was night and day from last time.
Valet parking had been a real nuisance previously but was a pleasure this time. The pool and beach were empty in the mornings and the staff there were really great, finding lots of toys for the kids.
The suite was just awesome. It came with butler service though we only used that for the complimentary clothes pressing and shoe shining.
Living Room Balcony:
View from the balcony:
Not kosher, but a cute treat sent up to the room:
S. Regis Bal Harbour Lobby:
After getting the kids into bed and getting some last use out of JJ’s babysitting services we went to Chops, a new restaurant in Sunny Isles.
The Delmonico Steak was perhaps one of the absolute best steaks I’ve had in my life, the flavors and tenderness of the meat were just off the charts. Unfortunately the service was very unpolished even though the restaurant was nearly empty. In general service in Miami’s kosher restaurants is by far the worst in the world. My theory on that is that almost all of them have a mandatory tip policy that applies to all parties, thus killing any incentive to provide good service. Worse yet, a woman dining on the table next to us had an hourlong conversation on speakerphone.
Skip the subpar sushi. Apparently a tempura onion roll means serving french’s onions on the side of the roll.
Skip the drinks as well, they’re terrible. The chocolate mint drink was supposed to come with chocolate shavings but didn’t and just tasted like toothpaste. The passion fruit daiquiri was barely drinkable, the worst version of it I ever had.
Sliders, $18, were decent, nothing I’d need to order again.
The star of the night was the 18 ounce Delmonico Steak, $54, easily the best kosher dish I’ve ever tried in Miami:
My wife got the ribs, $48, which were very good as well.
The ribs came with a side of mashed potatoes that complimented them nicely:
There wasn’t even a printed dessert menu, which probably should have been a warning. Either way the hot chocolate cake was only barely edible.
All in all though the Delmonico easily makes this my new favorite Miami eatery. Just have to be careful which dishes you order as the menu has its share of duds.
On Wednesday after hanging out at the pool and beach in the morning we walked to Ike’s Diner and Serendipity Yogurt Cafe in the nearby Surfside strip of kosher restaurants.
Serendipity has some wild flavors of homemade Ice Cream, one more delicious than the next. And they happily let me sample just about all of them 😀
Ike’s Diner is a really cute spot, service was excellent, and there’s not even a mandaotry tip here. Though perhaps that’s why service was so attentive 🙂
The Ike’s House Pizza is thick-crusted and topped with eggplant, peppers, and caramelized onions ($32.95). It’s good, but not great.
Rafi got some pancakes ($5):
The mozzarella sticks ($7.50) were excellent as well:
Then we rushed down to South Beach to catch an amphibious Pirate Duck Tour. We brought Talia on in her infant car seat and folded up her stroller onboard. I thought Rafi would enjoy the ride, but it does run a little long with no place to run around as 2 year olds love to do. The music on board was also quite loud at times.
Views of the houses belonging to the rich and famous (They tell you who owns each one as you pass them, though for all I know they make it up on the spot 😉 )
That night I gave a DansDeals Seminar in downtown Miami which you can read about here.
After the seminar we had a DO at House of Dog with 2 guys who drove down from Boca, 1 guy who drove down from Jacksonville, and 1 guy who flew in from NYC, all just to catch the seminar!
House of Dog might have the most confusing menu I’ve ever seen. Plan to spend quite some time just figuring it all out. It’s a fun place to try once, but it’s overpriced for very greasy fast food.
I appreciated the waitress’ honesty in letting us know that the corn dogs and onion rings come right from a frozen box. Sad that a hot dog restaurant would serve frozen corn dogs though.
Chili Fries, ridiculously overpriced at $9.95, weren’t very good :
The Holy Cow Burger is also too expensive, $18.25 for just an above average burger:
Philly “Cheese” Jack Daniels infused hot dog, $7.25, was a yummy challenge too eat:
Thursday was brutally humid again, so it was pretty much being in the pool, staying indoors at Aventura Mall, and of course, eating 🙂
For lunch we went to Fuego, which the locals were raving about.
The Avocado eggrolls, $9, don’t come close to the version made by La Gondola in LA. The avocado had no spicing and they’re loaded with sun-dried tomatoes that add nothing to the dish:
Pulled brisket Empanadas, $9, are a better appetizer choice:
The pulled brisket sandwich, $16, is above average, but can’t compare to far superior versions made by Amsterdam Burger in NYC or Got Kosher in LA:
The Goldzilla Burger, $20, looks and sounds more exciting than it tastes, bland. My favorite kosher burgers? Find them at Chicago’s Milt’s, LA’s La Gondola, Vancouver’s Maple Grill, and NYC’s Amsterdam Burger.
The best dish of the day was Rafi’s, the $8 chicken fingers:
For dinner that night we went to SoHo. I’d been here once before, after Pesach when we had a DO with several DDF members. Service that night was atrocious, we waited 3 hours and still never got all of our food, but I chalked it up to being the night after Pesach.
Alas that wasn’t the case, even in low season service was a disaster. Just getting dessert at the end took nearly an hour and then the bill took forever as well…
Last time I got a mediocre steak, so we decided to try the Asian menu.
The Queen Nile roll, $19.95, is stuffed with mystery meat. Not nearly as good as the meat sushi you can find in NYC’s PrimeKo:
The JB Tempura Roll was very good though ($12.95)
The Sesame Chicken, $17.95 is decent, nothing out of the ordinary. I’d go with the New Kosher Special version at a third of the price with free delivery to Newark Airport every day.
The Pad Thai with Beef, $17.90, was the worst version of the dish I’ve ever had. If you want better versions go to Baltimore’s Umami or LA’s Beverly Hills Thai.
Somehow it took an hour to get these Belgian Waffles ($8.95). And of course the waffles were stone cold by the time we got them. They weren’t worth the wait.
On Friday we drove up to Boynton Beach where the Ufruf would be. But first we stopped at Shemtov’s for lunch:
Galric Knots ($5.95) and Pizza Fries ($5.95) are both yummy treats:
Vanilla Frappuccino, $5, was awesome:
The Split Pea Soup, $5.95, was superb. In general the soups here seem to be awesome, last time we had the cream of broccoli which was out of this world.
Mimi got a Grilled Veggie Panini, $9.95, that was very good:
And I got a delicious plate of Eggplant Parm, $10.95:
And for Rafi once again, Pancakes, $8.95. Hey it’s vacation, don’t judge 😉
We spent Shabbos at Chabad of Boynton Beach where we stayed in a nice rental house that had a private pool. I don’t usually get bit up by mosquitoes, but they were everywhere and by the end of Shabbos my arms were covered in bites.
Euro Fusion was one of my favorite dairy eateries, but alas they are gone. I had heard that they incorporated a lot of their dishes into Mozart in Boca Raton, so we went there with my Aunt and Uncle after Shabbos.
How humid was it? Just look at the windows of Mozart:
The JB Roll with avocado and tempura, $11, was fantastic:
The Frozen Blended Coffee, $5, was terrible:
The Blooming Onion ($8), which was excellent at Euro Fusion, was raw and served without any dipping sauce. We did ask for a sauce, though nothing ever did come.
Eggplant Stack, $15, was good, but wasn’t nearly as good as it was at Euro Fusion:
French Onion Soup, $9, looks pretty, though it’s runny without enough onions. Not a great version of the soup.
The Gnocchi Marsala, $17, was excellent:
The Cheese Ravioli, $15, was mediocre and doused in a bland cheese sauce:
On Sunday we stayed at the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, about 10 minutes away from the wedding in Aventura. Agents here seem to be pretty obnoxious but the hotel location is great.
They upgraded us to a suite:
We grabbed brunch from Fresko in Aventura:
Fruit and yogurt smoothies, $4.95-$5.95, were fresh and delicious:
The Sushi Pizza Salmon, $14, was excellent:
Waffles a la mode, $10, weren’t great. I’ll just have to keep dreaming of Cafe Rimon’s version in Jerusalem I suppose.
French Toast, $7, was better than the waffles:
Capresa Sandwich, $10, was excellent:
And finally, the wedding!