- Read the South Florida Master Thread on DDF
- Previous Miami trip reports:
- Trip Notes: Miami. A Trip Of Firsts.
- Trip Notes: Miami 2012.
- Trip Notes: Miami 2014. Food, Food, And More Food.
- Winter Break 2015 Trip Notes Part 1: Miami
- Trip Notes: Miami Kosher Food Scene Heats Up, Silvercar, And AMEX Centurion Lounge Report
- Trip Notes: A Quick Weekend Trip To Miami-December 2015
- Trip Notes Brazil Part 2: Flying “Private” To Sao Paulo With Miles, And A Quick Stop In Miami
- Trip Notes: Flying On A Private Jet To Toulouse And Customizing Planes At Airbus Headquarters
It’s been a while since I’ve written a trip report about Miami, though I find myself there fairly often thanks to having 2 married brothers that took their talents from Cleveland to “South Beach.” I’ll try to include a conglomerate of several trips from the past few years into these trip notes.
It’s been amazing to see the quality of food in Miami keep getting better over the years as more kosher restaurants open up. It’s truly a kosher mecca these days!
Needing some natural Vitamin D and taking advantage of JetBlue BOGO tickets for Mosaics, I asked my friend Adam if he wanted to join me for a quick 1 night trip to Miami and we headed south for 1 night 2 weeks ago.
Adam was infected with COVID-19 along with me on a trip to NYC back in February, and has become my COVID travel buddy, coming with on my first trip back to the skies to Chicago and to a nearly private showing of an NBA game.
I haven’t checked my antibody levels since June, so I scheduled an appointment for the new Roche antibody quantitative titer at Labcorp in Walgreens, which was a real pleasure compared to their old office locations. I was done within 5 minutes and learned 2 days later that my antibody count was still sky high, more than 11 months after I got infected with COVID!
My wife tested negative for antibodies, so we cancelled our family trip that we had planned for winter break.
With $20 JetBlue fares and the BOGO promotion only working on paid fares, I used up only a portion of the TravelBank funds that I got from my AMEX Platinum card’s airline credit last year to book us a Sunday morning flight to Fort Lauderdale.
American flies the only late night flight from the Miami area to Cleveland. Once again, with dirt cheap $20 basic economy fares, I used up some of the AA gift cards I have from past AMEX Platinum airline credit rather than redeem miles. Plus, I even got upgraded to first class thanks to American’s removal of basic economy upgrade restrictions!
Flying from Miami Airport means taking multiple trains and long walks, but it also means dealing with tolls. Those were supposed to have been interoperable with E-ZPass by now, but they still are not. Luckily I discovered that you don’t need to bother with a physical transponder, you can setup tolls to go to your Sunpass account online for a set period of time and have it automatically expire when you return the car.
The AMEX Platinum card gives a 4 hour grace period and had no one-way fee for a Fort Lauderdale to Miami rental, so I rented a convertible to maximize our vitamin D exposure with that CDP for $60.
Adam gave the agent at the counter a laugh and she upgraded us from a Mustang to a SLC300 Roadster convertible for free.
Adam doesn’t eat dairy or gluten, so this would be a trip heavy on the fleishigs.
We had lunch at Backyard BBQ, located on Surfside’s Harding Ave. The block of quality kosher restaurants here is one of the best in the world, located just a block from the ocean and excellent hotels. Once upon a time, Backyard BBQ was a subpar BBQ joint, but that all changed when award winning pitmaster Mendel Segal took over. I was a judge at Mendel’s 2012 and 2013 Kansas City BBQ Competitions and it’s awesome to see him transition that passion into his restaurant.
Their Sunday lunch menu is very limited, but is still fantastic. I ordered some fantastic poutine fries:
While Adam loved the Pico fries that he ordered:
The BBQ Burger, loaded with pulled brisket and crispy onions, is always a treat:
And the smores dessert was great as well:
But you really want to go here for dinner when they have their full smoked meats menu. Alas, they were closed for a private event, but I’ve enjoyed Mendel’s smoked meats several times over the past few years and it’s well worth a visit:
Ordering a delicious smoked meat platter on a past trip:
On a past trip we had this fantastic BBQ Sundae:
But it’s the KC style burnt ends that really shines as a signature dish:
Dino ribs are also a must have:
And Mendel’s signature pecan pie is a great way to cap off a meal like this one from Mimi’s birthday in 2018. Somehow it’s hard to picture going back to an era of blowing out birthday candles!
After lunch Adam and I drove down to mid-beach to checkin at the Hyatt Confidante. The category 4 hotel costs 15K Hyatt points, or you can use free anniversary nights from the Chase World Of Hyatt Credit Card.
As a Hyatt Globalist, I burned my anniversary night and got free parking and waived resort fees, so there was zero out of pocket cost.
Suites at the hotel only have 1 bed, so I took a regular room with a small balcony. The hotel has a mid-century modern retro vibe, certainly nothing fancy, but it did the trick for a simple 1 night trip with a friend.
2 queen room:
View from the balcony:
View of the hotel from the beach:
On the beach, Ohio State fans were having a good time trash talking Alabama Crimson Tide players, who were staying at the nearby Fontainebleau.
The Confidante has an adult and family pool, which are well heated. I did some laps before heading out for dinner:
For dinner I reserved seats at Street Kitchen‘s bar, so that we’d be able to watch the Browns-Steelers playoff game. We met up there with my brother Dovid, who is doing his ENT residency in Miami.
Restaurants in Miami were jammed with lines out the door just like it was pre-COVID times. All 3 of us had COVID antibodies, but I’d be very wary if I didn’t already have COVID.
Alas, we came too late in the day for one of my favorite dishes at Street, the outrageously good Bao Buns that I’ve had in the past:
Adam ordered Beef Tacos and veal dirty fingers as his apps:
I ordered chicken and waffles, which are just out of this world. Easily some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had!
Last time I had this with a thigh, so this time I asked for breast. Both are fantastic, but you’ll get more meat with the breast:
They were also sold out of the surprise steak, so I went with a truffle steak, which was also simply phenomenal.
Dovid got a rib-eye, which was a solid steak, but didn’t compare with the truffle steak:
Adam loved his lychee creme brulee:
And Dovid enjoyed his cornbread:
The molten chocolate cake was excellent:
Street Kitchen is awesome and is easily one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Service is not fast, but that suited us just fine as we were watching the most enjoyable Browns game that I’ve ever seen!
Serendipity in Surfside makes very good Cholov Yisroel ice cream, the cheesecake ice cream was delicious:
Though they didn’t have my favorite flavor that I’ve had in the past there, the sublime Key Lime:
For lunch we met up with another friend and went to 26 Sushi & Tapas, where we tried a Passion Rita (spicy!)
And a refreshing passion mojito:
In the past 26 offered their addictive Edamame with lime juice and with spicy asian sauce:
But now they make you choose just one flavor, which is a pity:
Their sushi pizza is very good, but not as flavorful as I’ve had in the past:
The trio of fries are flavorful and fun:
Tempura mozza roll:
In the past our kids have liked the fish and chips:
Adam thought his Miso Bass was excellent:
And the churros here are legendary:
Some other dishes from a past trip:
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Overall, 26 has great sushi and plenty of options for people who don’t like sushi. I’d place it just behind Chicago’s Shallots and Montreal’s Yakimono for the best sushi around.
After lunch we went stand-up paddleboarding on the intracoastal waterway:
No trip to Miami is complete without a stop at Miami Beach Chocolates, which has now moved up to Surfside. I got some chocolate covered oreos for the kids and their divine sea salt caramels and peanut butter cups for Mimi:
For dinner we went to try out Meat Bar.
The welcome was a bit awkward when we walked up to the Maître d’ and the owner started screaming at her for several minutes as we stood there fiddling our thumbs and looking away.
We asked about sitting outside where there were many empty tables, but were told those were reserved for older people. That makes sense, though we later heard from another friend who was there that evening who wanted to eat inside, but was told that only outdoor tables were available.
We were offered a little tiny table in the window, but were able to get a slightly larger table when we agreed not to spend too long eating, which we said would be just fine as we had a 9pm departure from Miami and still had to return our car.
The mojito here is not nearly as good as at 26:
The Italian Focaccia was soft and delicious:
Arais, or pita pickets filled with lamb, were good:
Several people told us to split a chef’s special prime bone-in ribeye, which says it comes with 5 sides and 5 sauces.
5 sauces is a bit generous considering several are condiments, but the real bummer was that we cut into our steak that we ordered medium, only to find it completely brown and dry as a bone, well past the point of well done.
I can’t recall the last time I’ve sent back a dish anywhere, usually I’ll just deal with it and move on, but this wasn’t edible.
The restaurant was jam packed by this point, but after several minutes we were able to point it out to our waiter, who agreed that the steak was very overcooked and brought it back to the kitchen.
The steak came back out rare, much smaller, and butchered into chunks. We were not about to send the steak back another time, so we had a couple bites and wrote it off.
Several other friends had a poor food experience there that night as well. Perhaps it was an off night as they were dealing with the rush of people? Though I’m not sure if I’d return anytime soon based on our experience.
Well, you can’t win them all!
Still hungry, on our way to the airport we stopped at The Frieze, where we had some of their incredible parve sorbet flavors like Champagne, Passion Fruit, and Peanut Butter:
As long as I’m writing about Miami area restaurants, I may as well take the opportunity to write about some other trips.
In August 2018 we went to Miami for JJ’s son upsherin. Summer in Miami is pretty brutal, but on the plus side, there’s not much traffic and you can get good deals on lodging.
I got a bargain last minute deal on a 2 bedroom Airbnb at the S. Regis Bal Harbour.
The privately owned condo is located in the main hotel building, but also has access to the owner amenities, like a private pool.
Dining room/living room:
While you can get some insane last minute Airbnb bargains, there are some big caveats about going that route. The room didn’t have any toiletries, and the hotel won’t give you any, so you’ll need to buy those.
The 2nd bedroom is a converted den, and didn’t have a doorknob inside, so you could get stuck in it if the door closed and nobody was on the outside.
But the biggest problem we encountered was when the key fob stopped working. The hotel says it’s the owner’s problem and not their problem to get you back in the room, so we were locked out of the room the whole day and couldn’t get into the room to change before the upsherin.
But later in the evening the owner arranged for us to get into the room. The battery in the lock had died and it’s apparently quite the challenge to pick the lock:
It was nice to get a beautiful 2 bedroom oceanfront view on the cheap, though I’m not sure I’d go through that again.
Alas, while the S. Regis used to upgrade Platinums to oceanfront suites, the hotel has apparently stopped upgrading to suites since converting to Marriott, despite that being against Marriott policy. So if you do want a suite, renting one on Airbnb may be the only affordable path to get one, though as with everything in Miami, winter rates are much higher than summer rates.
In July 2019 I flew down by myself for the bris of my brother Dovid’s son.
On that trip I decided to use a Marriott anniversary night at the Residence Inn Surfside.
I had Marriott Titanium status, so at the front desk I asked about a suite upgrade and was told that none were available.
I didn’t need a suite for the night as I was by myself, but I figured pictures of a suite would be nice for a future trip report.
I went up to my room and started unpacking when I decided to take a look at the app. Sure enough, there were standard suites still for sale. I called the front desk and they explained that there were suites, but they weren’t available yet. However, if I checked back later in the day they could switch me over if they were available.
So I went back a few hours later and the front desk agent said that she checked, but everything was sold out.
Not taking her at her word, I opened the Marriott app and showed her the rooms for sale. First she claimed that the app wasn’t updated, so I asked what would happen if I booked the room now?
She went to the back to talk to a manager, who said I couldn’t have the upgrade because I already checked into my room.
But I guess that’s not a surprise when the hotel has memos like these saying that they won’t tolerate upgrades without approval.
#Bonvoyed at its finest.
But it’s a great hotel if you want to see how the do not disturb sign never actually working. There were knocks on my room at 12:30am, 9:30am, and 10:30am…
The hotel charges a $22 resort fee, though it’s not located on the beach. Unlike Hyatt, that fee isn’t waived on awards or for elites. Parking adds $40 as well.
But to be fair, the room is clean (though I don’t care for the shared toiletries in the shower), the location is great, and the ability to use Marriott anniversary nights is fantastic. Just go in with the right expectations and don’t expect an upgrade.
Residence Inn Pool:
In January 2018 we stayed at the excellent W South Beach, though it’s a shlep from there to the kosher restaurants:
Never do get tired of that view:
Looking down on Mega Suites with private pools that we had on a previous trip:
One of our favorite features at the W is the secondary pool, which is rarely used by most guests:
After the W, we switched to an Airbnb in Hollywood for Shabbos, but the place reeked so bad that we bailed and squeezed into Dovid’s house. Some things you just can’t tell from the pictures…
We picked up Shabbos food at the always excellent Kosher Kingdom:
Back to Surfside restaurants, Rustiko was fantastic.
Pappardelle Truffle is delicious:
French onion soup:
Spinach and Artichoke dip is great:
Tequneo cheese fingers:
The real star here is is Mushroom Panzerotti. This is only on the dinner menu, but they made it for us at lunchtime and it was fantastic:
The oreo cheesecake was excellent on one occasion, but another time it tasted as if it wasn’t made fresh. On this trip it was fantastic:
Breakfast at Cafe Vert is great:
Stuffed French Toast:
Surfside’s Cine Citta has great food and homemade pastas, though service has been spotty for us.
Gnocchi in a pesto sauce:
Futticcine Tre Funghi:
Pizza for the kids:
Going further north, Levy’s is always excellent, though I haven’t made it to their new location in Aventura’s Waterways.
Their felafel is one of the best in North America:
The babka is amazing:
My grandparents spend the winter in Boynton Beach, and we love meeting them at Boca’s Sugar Sand Park:
Boca also has a Parve and Pas Yisroel Cinnaholic, which the kids adore:
On a day trip last month I visited my grandparents, who have been stuck in Boynton Beach since the pandemic. I stopped off at HBK to pickup some lunch for us to eat outside of their house in Boynton.
The burger and onion rings were excellent!
Flying out of Miami means dealing with tolls, long walks, and multiple trains, but at least there’s a Centurion Lounge.
Alas, the lounge has shortened hours due to COVID, so they were closed on my last trips.
But I did have a chance to check it out in July 2019, while I waited out a delay due to Miami’s daily afternoon thunderstorms. I went to their airport straight from a bris and was trying to get home in time for the Home Run Derby in Cleveland.
Most lounges have killed off their newspapers, but they were still available at the Centurion:
May as well enjoy a shot while wondering if I’d make it on time to the Home Run Derby that I was planning on taking Rafi to it that evening in Cleveland:
Gate D60, home to Miami’s regional jets, is always a long hike:
Finally American boarded our flight:
And made it to Cleveland in the nick of time:
To catch one of the best home run derbys of all time:
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Rafi even got serenaded on the way home from the All Star Game 😀
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- CS = Chalav Stam.
- CS/CY = Chalav Stam & Chalav Yisroel Option.
- Brickell kosher deli
- Holy Bagels
- Zak the Baker CS/CY
- Shirin Glatt
- South Beach & Miami Beach:
- The Frieze CS/CY/Parve
- Lincoln Eatery- TYO sushi, MED, Marble & Rye, Smoke’d
- Bagel Time
- Wok on the Beach
- Grill House
- Carlos & Gabby’s
- Pita Loca
- Pita Hut
- Lenny’s Pizza
- Tasty Beach Cafe CS/CY
- 41 Pizza
- Dunkin Donuts CS
- 41 Miami
- Florida Grill
- Kikar Tel Aviv
- Rita’s 67th & Collins CS
- Kastners kosher Marker
- Kosher Price Kosher market
- Yes! market
- Surfside & Bay Harbour:
- Harbour Grill/ Harbour Bistro
- Serendipity Ice Cream
- Rita’s CS/CY
- 26 Tapas
- Miami Beach Chocolates CS/CY
- Street Kitchen
- Vish hummus
- Mendel’s Backyard BBQ
- Cafe Vert
- Cine Citta
- The Carrot
- Chai Wok
- King David
- Meat Bar
- Subres Grill
- Grove Supermarket
- Sunny Isles:
- Mozart Grill
- North Miami Beach:
- Bubby’s fish & chips
- Jerusalem Pizza
- Grill Time
- Chai Wok
- Shalom Haifa
- Carvel CS
- Krispy Kreme CS
- Le chocolatier
- Wall to wall nuts
- Citrus Kosher Supermarket
- Aventura/ Hallandale:
- Kosher Subway
- Elsie’s Cafe
- Pita Hut
- Mama’s Pizza
- Ha Temania
- Dixie BBQ
- Ms. Dixie
- Holy Schnitzel
- Chilin Nitrogen Ice cream CS/Parve
- Cafe Cafe CS/CY
- The Fresh Carrot
- Kosher Bagel Cove
- Milk Gone Nuts
- Pita Plus
- Hummus Achla
- Nothing Bundt Cakes CS
- Kosher Kingdom grocery
- Sarah’s Tent Grocery
- Winn Dixie grocery
- Hollywood/ Fort Lauderdale:
- Hummus Factory
- Mizrachi Pizza
- Nava’s Kosher Kitchen
- Pita Star
- Pita Xpress
- Aroma grocery
- Sushi Addicts
- Grove grocery
- Sylvia’s kosher grocery
- Rita’s (on the beach) CS
- Grand Cafe CS/CY
- Cafe Emunah
- Mini Donut World CS
- Cafe Noir
- China Bistro
- Dunkin’ Donuts CS
- Gleedaz ice cream
- HBK burger
- Lenny’s pizza
- Moran Patisserie
- Carvel CS
- Sara’s Pizza
- KC market — Sid’s smoke house, bunches of bagels, roll masters, fancy plants (all in KC market)
- Red Hook Bakery
- Friendship cafe
- Sunrise/ Davie/ Coral Springs/ Delray:
- Sunrise pita
- Aroma grocery
- Carvel CS
- Falafel time
- Gelato Petrini CS
- Pita Pan
- Cheese Xpress
- Boca/ West Palm/ Boynton:
- Aroma grocery
- Grove grocery
- Boca Grill
- Century grill
- Jerusalem Grill
- Jon’s Pizza
- Lox & Bagel
- Menchie’s frozen yogurt CS
- Orchid’s garden
- Pita Pan
- Carvel CS
- Road house
- Sobol CS
- Glicks grocery
- Winn Dixie
- Coffee Ark CS/CY
- Yogurt Rendezvous CS
All restaurants above are KM or ORB besides:
- Chai Kosher: Zak The Baker, Dunkin, Milk Gone Nuts
- Sunshine state kosher (cRc approved): Sushi Addicts, Mini Donut World , Tasteful Treats, Carvel Hollywood
- Rabbi Golowinski: Subres Grill, Mozart, Mozart grill And Ms. Dixie
- Star D: Rita’s
- MDK: Lincoln eatery – TYO Sushi, Smoked, MED, Marble & Rye, The Frieze ice cream
- Rabbi Chaim Lipskar: Brickell kosher deli
Get more recommendations on activities and restaurants in the South Florida Master Thread on DDF
What are your favorite restaurant/dishes and activities in South Florida?