Miami, a capital of cuisine? A place to rank with Hong Kong, San Francisco, and New Orleans for its food? Hold on to your hats – that claim actually can be made. I have just returned from a short stay in Florida’s largest resort city, where I had some of the best meals of my life.
The reason stems mainly from the massive arrival of restauranteurs and tourists from Latin America. Today, Peruvian restaurants are found everywhere in both Miami and Miami Beach. High-quality Cuban restaurants are on countless corners. Catering to their own compatriots who have flooded as tourists into Miami, they serve us Yanks with the same flair, and the meals are both copious, tasty, attractive and relatively inexpensive.
To find some of the best Latin eateries in South Beach, simply go to Espanola Way off Collins Avenue (E.W. is one of the world’s most beautiful streets), where Cuban restaurants are alongside Spanish varieties serving tapas, alongside Peruvian restaurants and, yes, Italian restaurants, too.
Miami, as you will quickly see, is booming in the number of its tourist visitors, as it never did in the economic slowdown from 2008 to 2011. Frigid weather up north has brought an unprecedented number of guests from the Northeast and Midwest. Hotels and condos are packed with escapees from subfreezing temperatures, and these visitors wander about in near-ecstasy, in a Miami of temperatures that rise to the low 80s on many winter days.
Your best bet for finding Miami accommodations are the apartment listings in VRBO.com and AirBnB.com. Using the latter, my daughter recently snared a spare room in a decent apartment house just off Lincoln Road (for less than $100 a night) in the heart of the trendy and highly desirable South Beach portion of Miami Beach.
Apart from offering an escape from freezing blizzards and ice, Miami today provides a considerable degree of culture to supplement life on the beach and at swimming pools. Miami’s famed Art Museum is in a brand-new building. Other specialized museums – ranging from one displaying erotic art from around the world to another documenting the Jewish presence in Miami and Miami Beach – abound. Every night in winter, visitors have an abundance of attractions that compete with those long, lingering dinners in Peruvian, Brazilian and Cuban restaurants.
A great many visitors combine time in Miami and Miami Beach with several days at the theme parks of Orlando, a five-hour drive north from Miami. In about a year, they may be able to make the same trip in only three hours aboard a privately run train traveling at “higher speed,” not “high speed,” from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach to Cocoa to Orlando. Tired of waiting for the federal or state construction of high-speed rail along the east coast of Florida, these business interests presently are working on creating a train system called“AllAboardFlorida” to operate hourly departures along the above itinerary by trains proceeding at 80 mph, a speed roughly equivalent to that achieved by the popular East Coast Amtrak trains between Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. It is hoped that the new service may become available, largely using existing tracks, sometime in mid-2015.
Florida in general, and Miami in particular, clearly are on the brink of even greater expansion and popularity.