For my big birthday weekend I had the idea to revisit a place I used to go to in my younger years, South Beach, Miami. I knew I didn’t want to replicate the past, that would be silly, but rather to create some new memories. I have to say I initially thought I had made the biggest mistake ever! 10 women in their 40s and one turning 50 (me) during a Hip Hop weekend in South Beach as opposed to my first idea of a relaxing spa weekend certainly made for memories none of us will ever forget. Our weekend revolved around sunbathing and eating and everything met my expectations.
ACCOMMODATION – Avalon Hotel
I wanted to find a place that was not going to break the bank for any of my friends, so between myself and my friend, Lauren we settled on the Avalon Hotel right on Ocean Drive. Arriving on a Wednesday late evening, I was to spend an evening and day on my own in South Beach. The staff at the hotel are probably the most welcoming of any hotel I have ever stayed in. They are all hands on deck for helping their customers. The room was small and clean, however, incredibly tired and in desperate need of TLC. I have been spoiled in my later years with having the luxury of staying at some seriously high-end hotels. The Avalon is directly across the street from the beach so if you can handle the Ocean Drive street noise and a bit of shabbiness it is the perfect location. The rooms do come with small folding chairs and beach towels. The cost of the room also comes with a small breakfast of coffee and a pastry.
DINING – A Fish Called Avalon. On the first night I decided to take myself to dinner at their restaurant, A Fish Called Avalon, which brought back some lovely memories. I sat on the patio and watched in awe and an occasional jaw drop at the Ocean Drive passersby. Again, the service of the Avalon staff far exceeds your expectations in addition to offering fresh and delightful seafood cuisine. I think I got to know almost all of hotel and restaurant staff during that first night and day.
Yardbird Table & Bar. Travel a little further inwards from Ocean Drive and you will find yourself at the extraordinary Yardbird Table & Bar. Yardbird offers exceptional southern fare and inventive cocktails in a high ceiling, loud bustling environment. We dined on deviled eggs, fried chicken and shrimp n’ grits while enjoying cocktails of Watermelon Sling with fresh sprigs of rosemary and Blackberry Bourbon lemonade. The whole evening was a culinary southern, fun adventure.
News Café. One of the places I had to go back to was News Café. I first enjoyed breakfast at this Ocean Drive icon more than 20 years ago where I sat seats away from Versace on multiple mornings! This time I dined on their sidewalk café many times over. Breakfast is consistently great, service is efficient and the history and stories behind the café continue to be heard 24/7 around the patio.
Larios on the Beach. Larios on the Beach is a wonderful place to go to with a large group of friends. Owned by singer Gloria Estafan, this restaurant has had a gorgeous renovation since I was last there about 10 years ago. Famous for its freshly made Mojitos and traditional Cuban cuisine we enjoyed pitchers for 10 and dined on fried green tomatoes, crispy plantains, paella and fresh seafood to share.
Lolos Surfside Cantina. With quite possibly the best grilled corn with cotija cheese I have ever tasted, Lolo’s Surfside Cantina is a must for casual Mexican dining. Fantastic margaritas, Mahi Mahi tacos and a Chilaquiles (tortilla casserole with fried egg) you may want to die for. This is definitely a place you will see a lot of South Beach locals.
Leynia, Delano Hotel. On the Saturday 10 ladies from all over America dressed up to the nines for a very special dinner at Leynia at the sumptuous Delano Hotel. It’s hard to put into the words the flavor sensations of this outdoor Argentinian and Japanese dining experience… the whole evening was extraordinary. We spoiled ourselves with specialty cocktails and taste experiences ranging from sushi, grilled octopus, empanadas, lamb parpadelle, sea bass and duck comfit risotto and my FabDishFriday worthy favorite, Tuna Pizza. We had to order more of these! After dinner we headed over to their Beach Club bar for poolside Rosé and people watching. The Delano is fantastic for stepping outside of reality for just a night.
Beachcraft Seaside Grill & Restaurant. Sunday was upon us the weekend was almost over but not before we experienced Beachcraft at the 1 Hotel’s Brunch extravaganza. At $60 a person this is a pricey brunch but if you can make it worth your while you can dine on omelets made to order, smoked salmon, a meat bar that would make you weep or get some serious meat sweats, gumbo and for those with a sweet tooth a dessert station of pretty little chocolate and cream puff bites as well berry cobbler and sticky buns. You can also enjoy bottomless Sunday cocktails of Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas for $25.
Joe’s Stone Crab. A fond dining memory I absolutely wanted to revisit was the historic Joe’s Stone Crab. Joe’s has been around for almost 100 years and has a wonderful family story of how they became established. The knowledge, care and efficiency of the well-dressed waitstaff is astounding and the enormous restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine. Joe’s by name is famous for its Stone Crab Claws where you can dine and get messy on just these sweet meaty delights all night. We had the most fun dinner of my weekend. I was a little obsessed with their house-made slaw so that is exactly how we ended our dining weekend… the ladies put a candle in the slaw and sang Happy Birthday. Oh and don’t leave without tasting their signature key lime pie!
For a woman turning what society tells us is an old age, I have never felt younger, happier and more loved as I did this weekend.
Thanks to my friends and the incredible weekend they made happen for me!