Day 2 and we are not waking up very chipper. Here’s where I’m going to leave that not-so-raving review of our hotel.
<<NOTE: I always promise to be honest and straightforward about the establishments we visit. If I’m giving a negative review about a hotel, restaurant or experience it’s after I’ve attempted to reconcile the issue with management. I always want to be fair in allowing them to make things right.>>
After flying all night on a red-eye, we arrived early to check-in around 10am. I politely asked the woman at the desk if it would be possible to get into our room early. She told me that our room was being cleaned at that time and to check back in about an hour. We checked our luggage and went to grab some breakfast. Wanting some rest and a shower, we went back to the hotel where I inquired about the status of our room. I was told (with much attitude), that she was no longer “handling my check-in”, and I would need to speak with the manager (whom shall remain unnamed). As it turns out, he was sitting right at the front desk, so I asked him what the status was. He told me I would need to leave my phone number and they would call me when the room was ready - He also told me (with much attitude) that check-in time was not until 3pm. I reminded him that when we first arrived, I was told that our room was being cleaned, then I tried to play the “been flying all night and really exhausted card”, I even offered to pay for a half day to get in early. He had zero sympathy and even less customer service skillset. We tried to check in one more time at 2:30pm, at which time the manager acted as if I was asking him to move heaven and earth. We checked back at 3:30pm and found that our room was finally ready, we received no call.
Add this less than satisfactory check-in experience (with “management” nonetheless), to the below list of skeezy items and you’ll see why I would NEVER recommend Strands on Ocean Blvd.
10am - Coffee on the Blvd.
So, after a less than ideal night of house music jamming so loud that it literally shook our bed; we pulled ourselves up just before 10am, threw on some sunnies and hit the road. Every cafe on the Blvd. has their big, bright umbrellas open and are luring in customers for strong Cuban coffee and over-priced breakfast plates. We grab a table on the sidewalk, a couple of coffees and sit back to do some premium people watching.
It turns out, if you don’t want to be mocked and ridiculed by the wait staff there are only four acceptable ways to order coffee in Miami:
“Un cafecito”: Do not be fooled by this coffee. Served in what seems like a tea cup from a child’s play set and placed in front of you on a saucer, this ounce-and-a-half of or so of cuban coffee is about to kick you right in the teeth. When done right, the cafecito will be sweet but not cloying, covered in a rich, creamy head.
“Una Colada”: This sweet Cuban coffee will be about 4 ounces served in a styrofoam cup. Whatever you do, resist the urge - DO NOT under any circumstance drink this as a single serving. The “ventanita” will also hand you half a dozen thimble size plastic shot glasses because the colada is meant to be shared! <Pro Tip: pinch the lip of the styrofoam cup to turn it into an easy pour spout.>
“Cortadito”: If you have a sensitive stomach or prefer a more creamy cup of joe, try ordering a cortadito. A single serving of cuban coffee “cut” with steamed whole milk or if you want something a bit sweeter order a “cortadito con evaporada”, and the milk will be substituted with steamed evaporated milk.
“Cafe con leche”: The perfect cup of warm, steamed or boiled milk with a shot of Cuban coffee. You may be asked if you want it “clarito" or “oscurito”, light or dark, or feel free to say “mediano”.
<<Pro Tip: Add the tiniest pinch of salt to your cafe con leech and not only will it heighten the flavor, it’ll earn you major street cred.>>
11am - Stroll Lincoln Road
After coffee, we begin meandering our way towards Lincoln Road. It’s just over a one mile walk from our hotel but our route is filled with plenty of great sight seeing along the way! Pastel buildings in the fashion of the areas popular tropical art deco architecture, street art and performers, boutiques, and countless restaurants that are beginning to fill with the lunch crowd.
Lincoln Road spans 14 blocks East to West between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay and a big chunk (the 8 blocks between Alton Road and Collins Ave) is a pedestrian only mall! This happening little South Beach district is home to over 200 designer boutiques, local merchants, national retail chain stores, and an outstanding selection of restaurants and bars. You can also find a number of art museums, spas and theaters here.
There’s always something going on at Lincoln Road! You can check out their upcoming events HERE.
We happen to be visiting on a Sunday, which means the Farmers Market is in full swing! From 9am-6pm you can find local vendors hawking everything from locally grown fruits and vegetables to honey and spices to fresh cut flowers and artisan baked goods! It’s a symphony for the senses with large crowds strolling around the booths and shops. A dog friendly (leashes required), community - it’s fun to see all the people out strutting their pups this afternoon!
I promised Sean that we would take a break at the next place to solicit us for happy hour, and that turned out to be Taverna. A little Italian restaurant right on Lincoln Road with plenty of tables on the patio under the canopy of bright green umbrellas. Yelp gives this place 2.5 starts, but we’re not here for the food so it doesn’t bother us in the slightest. Drinks are buy one get one free and are mixed with a heavy hand so we end up ordering a plate of calamari too!
We ended up spending a couple hours just sitting there people watching because the weather was so lovely! With people from all over the world strolling the walkways, I find it a fun little social experiment to make eye contact and share a smile. It catches most off guard but I love seeing peoples eyes light up when they realize you’re smiling at them!
After three rounds of drinks and an appetizer, we escape for under $65…so not too bad! We head back to our room for a nap and to get ready for a fun evening out!
8pm - Doce Provisions
Located in the heart of Little Havana with a Wynwood vibe, Doce Provisions immediately made my must-eat list when planning this trip! This little restaurant is plating up culturally creative cuisine (with menu items like disco truffle fries and short rib Mac and cheese) that uses locally sourced ingredients. Self described as “Miami inspired unpretentious food”, Chef owners Justin Sherrer and Lisetty Llampally are knocking it straight out of the park!
All this hype and our Uber almost drove right past the restaurant. I couldn’t believe it! We climb out and apprehensively approach the building, unsure whether or not they are open. We enter the clean, contemporary…..yet, completely empty dining room of this. Sean hits me with “the look”, you know the one. The one that says, “are you sure?”, without saying anything at all.
The friendly hostess greets us and asks if we prefer the patio, I immediately say yes! Because, if you know then you know!
We are lead through the dining room, past the open kitchen, out the back door, down a narrow alley and then we see it…..the large open air patio opens up in front of us. We take it all in mismatched tables and chairs, trees strung with twinkling white lights and a bright blue mural wall as the backdrop. People are in every corner, laughing, eating, drinking and enjoying the beautiful atmosphere.
We get a primo table right in the middle of the action and our waitress immediately greets us! She’s fantastic and already recommending drinks….she must’ve seen me coming…haha! The service throughout the entire meal was on point with recommendations, explanations and availability without over-crowding.
I start with the a refreshing blackberry mojito and Sean orders a local craft beer.
I already know exactly what we want…because like I said, I researched. We proceed to order a table full of sharable dishes and a couple rounds of drinks.
The food comes out in rounds and with every wave, our jaws drop! It’s all fresh and beautifully plated! We ordered the short rib tacos (guajillo-beer braised, chipotle crema, corn salsa, fresno relish), disco truffle fries (home made ‘merican cheese, short rib gravy, chives), chorizo croquettes (mostaza, quesa fresco), Vaca frita tostones (maduro tostones, aji amarillo aioli, pickled onion). For dessert we split what is possibly the best thing I ate in Miami: guava y queso empanadas. If they could ship these to Utah, I would order them daily!
We were tempted to visit Doce Provisions a second time during the trip but opted to try some other local digs. If you are in Miami or visiting soon, make sure this place is on your list!
You can find Doce Provisions HERE.
10pm - Little Havana
After dinner we walk the four or so blocks over to the center of Miami’s Hispanic culture, Little Havana. Known by the locals as Calle Ocho, or SW Eighth Street, this is a vibrant little area overflowing with Cuban culture. Here you’ll find locals playing dominos in the park, live music spilling out of restaurants and nightclubs, Cuban immigrants hand rolling cigars in their shops, and art galleries with everything from locally crafted pieces to unique works from famous Cuban artists.
Little Havana offers quite an escape from the lavish South Beach scene. Cobblestone streets lined with bakeries, coffee stands and fruit stands are everywhere you turn and everything is colorful: the storefronts, the modern graffiti, the abstract sculptures, and the people!
We make our way over to Cubaocho. More a cultural hall than it is a bar, Cubaocho is known as a venue where you’ll often find famous local musicians, Cuban artists and intellectuals gathered for engaging conversation. But tonight the place is jam packed - there’s not a table open in the house. Live music is dancing out the door and so are the people! We make our way to the dark mahogany bar where the bar tenders keep fish bowl size margarita glasses filled with fresh mint at the ready; we order a couple of mojitos and stake our claim to a little corner to do some tremendous people watching. The sexy latin dancing pairs well with the horns from the band and we are transported to an entirely new world!
Cubaocho was founded by Roberto Ramos, who actually came to America with his brother in 1992 on a tiny wooden boat. One of the few possessions they brought with them was a painting by Cuban painter Carlos Sobrino, the 1953 “El Saxofonista”. Ramos’ love for art and for Cuba became the foundation for the gallery. The building that houses Cubaocho was originally the Tower Theater, one of Miami’s oldest cultural landmarks. This Art Deco style building is now owned and operated by Miami-Dade College.
After a fun evening eating, drinking and exploring our way through Little Havana we head back to our hotel for what we hope will be a better nights sleep!
If you missed Day 1 of the Miami adventure, check it out HERE.
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