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My friend Debbie, who is a travel agent, was invited to a “Let’s Do Lunch” event by Norwegian Cruise Line. Her original partner in crime for this excursion decided to leave town for Thanksgiving week (young love had something to do with it!), so Debbie asked – did I want to ride shotgun? You bet I did! The trip involved staying overnight in Miami and and being aboard the Norwegian EPIC in the morning for a tour of the ship and lunch in one of their dining rooms. Since I’d never been to Miami before, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Are you ready for some fun? Let’s go!
Our first order of business after fighting our way through Friday evening Miami traffic over to Miami Beach was to find a place to eat. We knew NOTHING about the area, beyond where our hotel was, and that the famed South Beach neighborhood was out there, somewhere. So we asked Siri (who lives in my iPhone) to send us to South Beach, and she did. As we were driving around, we saw this funky little street, all lit up like Christmas, with lots of sidewalk seating and pedestrian traffic.
After driving around a bit more, we decided to head back to the funky little street, find some parking, and see what we could find for dinner in that area. The name of the street was Espanola Way, and it was even more delightful on foot than it had been from the car.
The name of the restaurant on the corner sparked a memory; I’d read about Havana 1957 before, and I was certain it had been a good review. We stopped to look at the menu, and ended up being seated at a table inside. It was pleasantly dark and cool inside, with lots of ambient Cuban music wafting from… somewhere. Back in time, perhaps? I kept expecting “Ricky Ricardo” to step out of the shadows, crooning a tune. 😉
We’d arrived during “happy hour” and soon had a pair of mojitos on the table, along with a bucket of plantain chips. The menu was reasonably priced and not too complicated to make a decision. The servers were attentive. Drinkable water arrived at our table unbidden, served from a frosty-cold retro green bottle. The chef actually stopped by our table at one point to see how we were getting on. The food arrived super quick!
My dinner was the house special: “a family traditional roasted chicken in our delicious (it was!) Cuban gravy, served with white rice, black beans, salad, and sweet plantains”. I ended up wishing my stomach was double the size, just so I could keep on eating!
Here’s Debbie’s dinner: “shrimp sauteed in garlic, olive oil, and white wine. Served with white rice and sweet plantains.” She was just as pleased with her meal as I was with my own.
After dinner, we rolled ourselves away from the table and out the door to take a stroll up Espanola Way. There are lots and lots of cafes and restaurants, in addition to shops and art.
One of the jewels of Espanola Way is the Clay Hotel, which has a unique story in the history of South Beach. I can totally picture coming back here at some point and spending time at this hotel. It’s only a few blocks to walk to the beach from here, and fabulous cuisine is just steps from the door.
When we got to the end of Espanola Way, I looked back to take in the scene. Yes, I will definitely be coming back this way, some day 🙂
NEXT TIME: the hotel we actually DID stay in!