A colleague and friend is traveling to Miami this week for a conference and taking a little personal time afterward for some R&R, staying in Key Biscayne. Knowing that we have in our family a very recent grad from the University of Miami, since I might have bragged about him a time or three, she asked if he had any recommendations.
Of course he does! And I have a few, too.
But first, to catch you up on the bragging since I’ve been a little quiet here in the blog lately, our Musical Millennial, Thomas Wenglinski, graduated last month from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music with a Masters in Studio Jazz Arranging. He was a Henry Mancini Fellow and also a teaching assistant.
A very small group of family had a joyous time celebrating this accomplishment for several days around the graduation.
Trip #1 was Last November
I had an unfinished draft post about Miami from a trip I took there last November, when I got to see Thomas conduct one of his original tunes at a concert, so I’m just adding his recommendations to my pictures from both trips.
Thomas’ Miami Recommendations
Here are the recommendations Thomas sent me via text for my colleague and friend Sue-Ella; all of his comments are in italics; captions and other comments are from me.
Bill Baggs State Park at the end of Key Biscayne is very nice. Crandon Beach, which dominates a lot of the coastline on the key is also nice.
Along the south side, much of the road out to Key Biscayne from Miami is also sectioned off as park land with parking and concessions (hot dogs, arepas, coffee, lemonade, etc). an underrated treat for any beachgoer!
Thomas goes on:
Coral Gables is not for the thrifty, but there are some absolutely delicious restaurants there as well—Gustave is an excellent brunch spot with what very well may be the best french omelette i’ve ever had, just as one example.
heTucked into the residential Gables there’s also the historic Biltmore Hotel, which sports several different bars and live music on a few nights each week.
I’m sure my Mom has already told you about this one, but if not, one very well-kept secret just west of Coral Gables on Bird Road is a cafeteria-style building which sports a pizza shop, argentinian sandwich shop (called Fierro), a Lebanese cafe, and some of the best homemade Mexican food this texas native has found in Florida so far.
I wrote about the cafeteria-style / food-court-like site on Bird Road that Thomas described in this post, RESTAURANT RAVE: FIERRO ARGENTINE GRILL IN MIAMI IS A FIND. And I raved a bit about the empanadas, shown below.
Back to Thomas:
There are lots of parks spread out within the city, and whichever ones you check out depends entirely on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a nice botanical garden to walk around in and check out some wildlife such as swans, peacocks and maybe even an iguana or two, Pinecrest Gardens never fails.
Thomas goes on:
That being said, the section of Miami along the coast between Pinecrest and downtown boasts a half a dozen other botanical gardens that are also highly reputed. The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens are one of the most famous spots in Miami for this reason, and sit just across the bay from Key Biscayne.
Cuban food in Miami is like Tex-Mex in any major Texas city—the family-owned place nearest you at any given moment is probably going to make for a life-changing experience. if you’re looking to make a big occasion of it, head over to Little Havana and check out the options along SW 8th street. One specific place that absolutely knocked the socks off my entire family recently was an outfit called Doce Provisions, tucked away in Little Havana so quietly you might almost miss it from the street—the atmosphere in the back patio seating is brilliant, as is the food and the music.
For something completely different, if you want the “I’m-just-a-grad-student-at-UM-and-i-want-portion-sizes-that-leave-me-with-four-days-worth-of-leftovers” experience, my former roommate Travis and I would mention Havana Harry’s over on South Lejeune Road.
A Few More Miami Recommendations from Me
Thomas captured his Miami recommendations while flying to Washington DC and texted them to me to add to my draft post. I have a few of my own recommendations based on the wonderful experiences Miami provided in my two recent trips.
For instance, there’s a lot going on and a lot to look at in downtown Miami. Gaping at the architecture alone is worth the trip. Be sure to get out and walk, and maybe grab a coffee or an ice cream.
Downtown Miami is situated by the water, and Thomas and I sat on the seawall for a while last November. It’s surprisingly peaceful by the water given the hustle and bustle of the downtown just behind you.
The vibrant downtown area has restaurants, galleries and museums, and tons of shopping, like the Bayside Marketplace, which is a giant mall right on the bayfront. We got touristy gifts and T-shirts there on the graduation vacation trip, and combined mojitos with people-watching at the Mohito Bar. It was GREAT people-watching.
Thomas’ Dad is a great restaurant picker, and one of the restaurants he chose for us was Cafe La Trova, which is described on their website as having “retro Cuban flair”. Yes! There will be a longer post about this gem in Little Havana later for the Restaurant Rave series, and another for a down-home diner we found in Little Haiti called Blue Collar.
I can also highly recommend Panther Coffee, which has a handful of locations across Miami and was described in a review in Bon Appetit as not only the best coffee in Miami, but some of the best coffee in the country; and there’s also El Bagel in Little Haiti, where we got amazing bagels and schmears to take to enjoy during our trip to Pinecrest Gardens.
No Bad Times / No Bad Bites
We are all convinced that you can’t have a bad time or a bad bite in Miami.
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