Miami wrapup

We drove up to Miami Friday morning, with stops along the way to feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina, and to have lunch at Mrs Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo. (It’s this adorable old diner-style place whose menu includes EVERYTHING. All the food.)

We had a free room at the Courtyard South Miami, which, like nearly everything in the Miami-Dade-Broward metro area, is in a mall off Highway 1. (Fun fact: the road we know as the Overseas Highway is called the Dixie Highway on the mainland.) We checked in around 5, discovered they’d given us a huge suite with a two-person hot tub and walk-in shower, and then headed off toward town for the evening.

We were hoping to eat at the restaurant attached to Broken Shaker (which is not in a mall – it’s in a hostel in Miami Beach), but they didn’t have tables available til 11pm. As it was 7pm, we weren’t going to wait around for that. We had snacks and a couple cocktails while sitting by the pool.

We were planning on getting dinner at our favorite taco place on Lincoln Road, but while mapping the route there we noticed that there was a Shake Shack a block away from it. So we headed there instead. And yes, Shake Shack is also in a mall.

We didn’t want to hang out drinking in South Beach all night since our hotel was 20 miles away, so we headed back that direction after dinner. We decided to stop at Yardhouse in South Miami (or possibly Coral Gables) for a beer. Guess where it was? Yep, a mall!

Saturday morning, we went to have brunch at Town Kitchen, which was not actually in a mall, but across the street from one. (Their brunch was amazing, by the way.) Then we drove to Key Biscayne, because I’ve never been there and have always wondered how similar it is to our Keys. It’s really not – it’s more like coastal California. We drove to the state park at the far end, and went to see the lighthouse. From the sea wall you have a pretty good view of Stiltville, the small community of stilt houses in the ocean off the coast. I was shocked at how far out in the ocean they are. I can’t imagine how they’ll deal with a major hurricane.

We walked over to the lighthouse, and Matt (who is not a great lover of heights) waited while I climbed to the top. It was a lot taller than any other lighthouse I’ve climbed, and the spiral metal staircase narrows and vibrates as you near the top. When you emerge on the platform, the people already up there cheer and yell, “you made it!”Awesome.

I walked around the narrow walkway and got photos all the way around, then headed back down to the bottom. We went to the car and drove back into Miami, parking downtown near Bayside Park, which is very much like Millennium Park in Chicago.

We had tickets to the bay tour I mentioned yesterday, and found the booth in the middle of – wait for it – yep, a big mall on the waterfront. The tour was awesome, and even though I don’t care too much about what celebrity occupies which mansion, it is always awesome to be on a boat. We passed by the gigantic cruise pier, where there were SEVEN ships docked, and also the working port where they were loading containers full of what I can only assume were dead Russian hookers. I know this, because I’ve seen The Wire.

After the boat cruise, we headed up to Wynwood to J Wakefield’s taproom. The neighborhood was mobbed with the pre-party festivities for Art Basel next weekend. (Wynwood is an area full of old warehouses that are being renovated for studios, restaurants, and breweries, and it’s known for its insane quantity of graffiti art. It’s really amazing. Happily, it’s also the exact opposite of a mall.)

We hung out there for a bit, and then it was time for our dinner reservations at Blue Collar. I hadn’t expected that one of Miami’s most lauded new restaurants would be in a tiny diner attached to a really dodgy-looking motel, but there it was. We had a table on the patio, and EVERYTHING WAS DELICIOUS. Holy crap.

Post-dinner, we went back to Wynwood to hit up the only other brewery we hadn’t yet visited there, Concrete Beach. We had a drink on their patio, and then headed back to our mall-hotel to sit in the hot tub.

This morning we went to Trader Joe’s and Costco to stock up on the things we can’t get here, then headed south. We stopped at Robert Is Here, the giant fruit stand in Florida City. Not only do they have fruit that we’ve seen before, they have shakes and smoothies made with any variety of fruit you could want, and a miniature zoo out back with birds, a donkey, turtles, emus, and iguanas. There’s apparently also a waterpark. It’s pretty fantastic.

On the way back down the Keys, we noted the traffic jams heading northbound, which is one of the benefits of always going the opposite direction from most people here. We stopped at MEAT for lunch, did some more Christmas shopping in Islamorada, and then stopped at Islamorada Brewing Company (where we met their bar dog, Henry) before heading home.

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