Grace in Miami

I’d like to preface this post by saying my family and I took all of the safety precautions necessary before, during and after this trip in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. I actually had the virus in September, so I am currently immune from getting it again, but I still wore a mask, stayed 6 feet away from others, dined outdoors and washed my hands (as did the others accompanying me on this trip). We have taken this pandemic very seriously, and we figured we deserved some family time outside of the house after almost a year of staying put. Since our trip, everyone has tested negative. If you or your family is at risk, I hope you can get back to traveling as soon and as safely as possible.

After a long, cold, boring quarantine (minus the months I actually got to spend in Los Angeles during classes to put my pre-paid rent to use), my family decided to pack our bags and drive 10 hours from Atlanta to none other than my favorite city of Miami. It had been over two years since I visited the vibrant, beachy, culture-filled hub, but I could hear the place calling me back ever since I had departed.

We arrived on Saturday around 7pm, and my parents seemed to forget there had been a major holiday (New Years Eve) a couple days before, because they were confused why we couldn’t find a quick and easy place for dinner after a long day in the car. It was Saturday night. In Miami. January 2nd.

Lucky for them, I am their daughter. I know how to track down good food.

I recommended The Taco Stand in Wynwood, which certainly exceeded their expectations (even if it hadn’t been easy, as it was then due to grumbling stomachs). I had two chicken tacos, the carne asada fries, and I tested out the habanero and cilantro salsas, all of which I would recommend. The line was less than 10 minutes for us. There was outdoor seating, but it was unavailable due to other parties, so we ate in our car.

Afterwards, we picked up my special friend, Jake, from Fort Lauderdale’s airport (he too has antibodies and felt safe enough to fly). We then went back to our accommodation at the W Hotel South Beach.

Speaking of, our apartment suite was nice. My parents had their own entrance and hallway leading to the master bedroom, I stayed in the other bedroom, Jake stayed in the ‘den’ across from my room (it was set up with a full size bed and tv, so not really the closet you may have originally imagined) and my brother actually chose to sleep on the couch in the living area (yes, chose). We also had a kitchen and extra half bath. Our balcony wrapped around to provide views of both the ocean and the city. Plenty of space and more for the family plus one.

The next day, I popped out of bed much earlier than usual. When at the beach, I feel incredibly guilty wasting any sunlight. I changed into one of my (many) bathing suits and headed for the beach. Jake and I had a quick breakfast near the outdoor bar of the W. I had eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes. It was yummy, but overly expensive as hotel food tends to be. Then we hit the beach to catch some rays. The W had very cute beach chairs with white and pink stripes, and they were all positioned to face the sun. For lunch on the first day, we just ate in the apartment. We took a little walk down South Beach after that, exploring the pools of different hotels. We even came across a pop-up hang out area with a unicorn statue and various games (turns out I’ve gotten very rusty at ping pong). After enough time spent in the sun, we readied for dinner and headed to Fratelli la Bufala. I ordered their seafood pasta, which looked appealing, but unfortunately the overbearing taste of calamari was too much for me. Probably should have chilled on the fried calamari appetizer. Nevertheless, the wine made up for any disparates, and I’d definitely go back to try a different dish. We spent the rest of the night playing What Do You Meme in the apartment.

On Monday, Jake and I went for a little walk in the morning, checking out an art gallery near our hotel. We then decided to adventure in Wynwood. We got free tickets to the Wynwood Walls at 1pm and walked around exploring the various shops and sites the artsy area had to offer before hand. We ate lunch at Coyo Taco (yes I had tacos in Wynwood twice, and no I do not regret it), and my pollo asado tacos were *chef’s kiss* worthy. Exploring the walls was an enjoyable and picturesque time. I hadn’t dressed up for the occasion, but if you plan on going there, you should. We then headed back to spend time on the beach before walking to Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine on Ocean Drive for dinner. This meal was fantastic. I had a bite of everyone’s, but I personally got the sandwich Havana, which included grilled chicken covered in Cuban gravy with lettuce and tomato. I highly recommend the guava mojitos. Jake and I then walked down along Ocean Drive, stopping by The Palace to watch a dance performance to our favorite song Body by Megan thee Stallion before heading back home.

On Tuesday, we spent the morning tanning. Then, we rented bikes to ride back down along Ocean Drive, where we stopped at Cafe Americano to have a nice lunch. The place certainly surpassed my expectations, and the comfy lounge chairs made me want to stay an extra 30 minutes. We then walked down along the beach to go parasailing. Let me be clear. I had been parasailing before this. There were no issues that I remember. In fact it was a grand ole time. Why would I go parasailing again if it hadn’t been? Well, as it would turn out, my fear of heights must have seriously progressed since then. Jake and I boarded the first motor boat, then the larger boat, and I only experienced a little nervousness going on within me. However, as soon as the parachute took us hundreds of feet above the ocean, my anxiety levels shot through the atmosphere and right into space. Jake loved it. I really did not. I’m glad I could experience this with my special friend, but I cannot say it is something I will ever be doing again. After parasailing, we went back to hotel to get dolled up for a fancy dinner at Komodo. If you are ever in Miami, Komodo is a must. They serve sharable plates, so my family ordered crispy cereal shrimp, spicy edamame, two spicy yellowtail rolls, a dragon roll, shrimp wontons and filet tacos. The yellowtail rolls were marvelous (hence why we ordered two). I also enjoyed a guava mule, which was the best drink I had the entire trip. While at our booth outside, I saw Tristan Thompson, NBA star and Khloe Kardashian’s baby daddy, as well as David Dobrik’s assistant, Natalie. It was a very exciting dining experience, even if it hadn’t been for the celebrity sightings.

On Wednesday, Jake and I did some early morning yoga in a field surrounded by tall bushes attached to the W. We then sat on the beach for a couple of hours enjoying some drinks before our 12:30 lunch at the Versace Mansion. This was by far the best dining experience I have ever had. And Komodo the night before was definitely a very difficult one to beat! The mansion is of course, stunning. I would expect nothing less of a renowned designer such as Gianni Versace, and yet I was still astonished. We were sat right next to the pool to my delight. I had a passionfruit cocktail, and Jake had a mojito. We ordered off of the lunch menu, which provided incredibly reasonable prices – all things considered. I had the octopus carpaccio as an appetizer, the filet as my main course and a brownie for desert. Jake got the burrata, the grilled branzino and another brownie. It was seriously the best meal. Trust me, I have had many, many filets in my day, but this one surpassed them all. It was cooked to absolute perfection. I didn’t even need to use any additional seasoning. It was straight out of my dreams. We then explored and took some pictures before leaving. It was definitely a sad goodbye. Gianni’s, you will be seeing me again.

For dinner, we headed to the Rusty Pelican in Key Biscayne. After the best meal of our lives, it seemed we then had the worst. Despite making a reservation and specifically requesting a table with a lovely view, the waitress tried to place us away from the oceanside seats. After asking for a different table, we were taken to a table that was at least next to a heater, but still had a rather… ugly view. It then took us 15 minutes to get a waiter’s attention. We didn’t even get served water in that time. We ordered some fun cocktail that came out with a genie’s bottle presentation, but it was less than two sips heavy and cost much, much more than two sips worth. The short rib empanadas we got as an appetizer were the first empanadas I’d ever tried, and they honestly were decent. However, the seafood tower we split as a main course was so awful. We also didn’t get our side dish. If you are in Miami, don’t go the Rusty Pelican.

Edit: Since I published my negative review of the Rusty Pelican on my food-gram, I’ve had multiple acquaintances reach out to discuss their positive experiences with the place. Maybe it just so happened to be the service of the particular night we dined, but I still didn’t have a great enough time to recommend this to anyone I know.

We had to make up for this atrocity, so after dinner we headed back to Wynwood to get ice cream at Taiyaki NYC. The vibes at 1800-Lucky were popping, and my special friend seemed to really love the music (he took out Shazam for every song). As we ate our soft serve, I realized we probably should’ve just gotten dinner at that spot as well. Curse you, Rusty Pelican. At least now we know.

The next day was our final day, so Jake and I went for a short stroll the other way along South Beach that we hadn’t traveled yet. Part of the path was closed, so we ended up just strolling along the fronts of the other nearby hotels. Good exercise, I guess. Then, it was time to bid our farewells and we drove off to Fort Lauderdale to drop Jake off with a friend before he had to return to the airport. My family stopped by Shooters Beachside, which I originally wasn’t too excited for based on some crappy Yelp photos, but I actually left happy with a stomach full of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. We then continued on our 10 hour trek back to cold, rainy Atlanta.

Overall, the trip was definitely good for the soul, and I feel so lucky I got to spend so much time outdoors in the warm sun with my family and Jake.

With all that great food, culture and heat, Miami will definitely be seeing me again… perhaps even permanently at some point.

Check out some of my favorite photos from the trip below.

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