In our new series, "Barrios", Cafe Con Leche will be exploring neighborhoods around the country, discovering all things Latino with special attention to the people, food, beer, wine, buildings, public transportation and sidewalks.
For all the times I have been to Miami, I cannot say I ever remembering spending time in Downtown Miami. While attending the Hispanicize 2016 conference I had the pleasure of exploring downtown Miami for a week. (You can learn more about my experiences at Hispanisize by clicking here.) For the conference I stayed at the YVE Hotel on Biscayne Blvd - it was less expensive than the Intercontinental Hotel (where the conference was taking place) but a step up from the really cheap hotels in the area - a happy medium.
My first observation in Downtown Miami was the elevated trains. Public transportation is not the first thing I think of when I think of Miami, however the New Yorker in me was pleased to see elevated trains zipping around downtown. My second observation was how close I was to Biscayne Bay. Being the water baby I am, I woke up early my first morning and went for a jog along the water - it was incredibly peaceful to watch the sun rise.
The conference was everyday from about 9am to 5pm (or later), after a long day of conferencing and networking and learning I was in desperate need of some quiet time. I am always up for a walking and food adventure, I pulled out my phone and looked up restaurants closest to me on google maps. About five blocks from where I was, there were two Brazilian Churrascarias, I headed off that way. I chose to eat at the restaurant with the most people in it (always a good rule of thumb when picking a restaurant while traveling). The restaurant was called, Steak Brasil Churrascaria. For those not in the know, Brazilian Churrasco is a one-of-a-kind and delicious experience. It's like combining Peter Luger's in Brooklyn and the greatest lunch salad bar ever known with that bomb rice and beans place near your house. Basically, you get access to a full buffet of salads, side dishes, feijoada (Brazilian black beans), rice and other amazing things while also have freshly grilled meats (steak, pork, chicken, sausage, lamb, etc) be brought out to you on swords and then having pieces sliced off right on to your dish by a smiling waiter. (You can eat here if you are a vegetarian, but you may not want to.) I enjoyed a nice glass of Argentinian Malbec and chowed down on some of the best meat I have had for a while. For dessert I had a coconut cake that they make in house - which is basically like a tres leches cake except with coconut (um, yes please). Divine. After a long day and such a delightful (and delicious) meal I wandered back to my hotel room to rest and get ready for the next day of the conference.
People often think I am an extrovert, but I am more of an introvert in many ways. I may be a social person, but I need my quiet alone time to recharge. Events like conferences are a challenge for me - I am not a fan of small talk and after so much small talk, networking, learning, talking, learning....after the third day of the conference I was in desperate need of another evening solo adventure. After the conference was over that day, I began exploring the area behind my hotel. The way the neighborhood has been constructed reminded me very much of downtown neighborhoods in Puerto Rico, particularly in Ponce - tiled sidewalks, painted crosswalks, ornate buildings and glass storefronts. Many of the storefronts were empty, not sure of the economics of downtown Miami, but it looked like a cute area that had so much possibility. I imagined Cafe Con Leche having a little storefront. In between some of the empty storefronts and ornate buildings were little cafe's and restaurants. I wandered (totally by coincidence) onto the same block where I had eaten my Bazilian dinner two nights before. I found a cute little Asian fusion restaurant, called Akoya Restaurant, They had a side patio and some people eating in it (again rule of thumb, only eat places where you see others eating). I ordered a fish dinner (keeping it light after my heavy Brazilian meal the other night) and tried a passion fruit wheat beer called "Tropic Passion" by Concrete Beach Brewery. At this point I need to tell you that passion fruit is probably one of my most favorite flavors ever. As a little girl, whenever we visited Puerto Rico I would always have my mom buy a thing of "parcha" juice (Puerto Rican for passion fruit) for me. I was not sure if I would like this as a beer, especially because I am not a wheat beer person (IPA girl here), however I always like trying local craft beers and this was about as local and crafty as you get. THE BEER WAS AMAZING. I love you Miami for making this beer!!!! IF YOU LIKE PASSION FRUIT YOU SHOULD DRINK THIS BEER. That being said, everything else about the meal was good too. Akoya has a great happy from 4-7pm where it's buy one get one free, so I had the pleasure of enjoying two beers. Needless to say I left this meal feeling very good and ready for day four of the conference the next day!
All in all, I really enjoyed Downtown Miami - it had all the urban elements I need to be happy. A body of water, a running path next to said body of water, good restaurants, nice architecture, nice stores (there is a Ross and a Marshall's!), public transportation and pedestrian friendly.