I would consider myself to be a local when it comes to Miami. I moved here when I was 4 years old, so I was pretty much raised here. So when I decided to go on a food tour of South Beach this past weekend, I did not think that there was much that could be taught to me about the area, let alone the food scene. I’m usually the one that helps other people find good eats, so when I was told about the whole concept of the tour and how we would taste things from different destinations, I did not expect any surprises. Little did I know, that even though this tour is meant to show tourists what Miami is all about, it is definitely worth it for a local to go experience it as well. I left the tour with a new appreciation of what the city has to offer and even got to add a few places to my repertoire of where I can munch on when hanging down in the Deco area.
The tour began with The Angler hotel as a rendezvous point, where Anna, the tour guide, very graciously introduced herself and asked everyone else to do the same. Once everyone got acquainted, Anna explained the whole purpose of the tour and began building anticipation by telling us what was in store for the day but did not reveal exactly what we would be doing. For example, she would tell us what we would be eating but not where or she would tell us that we would be getting a little treat from a certain place but would leave the “treat” as a surprise. As she was speaking, the employees of the hotel brought out an upscale take on a Hispanic classic. Short –rib empanadas were brought out with an accompaniment of a chili sauce, which paired well with the appetizer. The slight spiciness of the sauce countered the fried dough and richness of the meat within the crust.
Next, we headed to Bolivar, a Latin restaurant where we got to try a Colombian drink called refajo, which is sort of like a mix of beer and cream soda. Being Colombian, I was very appreciative that food and drinks from my hometown were being represented in this tour. The facts given by the tour guide were very accurate and she was educated in the food and drinks being offered. In this restaurant, we got to sample a papa rellena, wish is a mashed potato fritter filled with meat and spices. Along with this sample came a ceviche, which was made from swai and acidic fruits. Although the typical ceviche is usually cooked using acid from citruses such as lemon and orange, this particular restaurant made theirs with passion fruit. This change was very welcomed among the group, since it added a sweetness to the dish that made it more appealing to people trying ceviche for the first time. I appreciated the fact that the tour was offering more modern and fun takes on classic dishes since this is a way of representing what Miami is all about. We get things that are typical throughout the country but add our own Hispanic twist to it, so the fact that this was represented in the tour was very appealing. One of the treats we got to try came from an Argentinian/Uruguyan bakery called Manolo. Here, we sampled a Dulce de Leche filled churro. The churro was perfectly fried and covered in sugar and very minimal salt. The salt accentuated the sweetness from the other ingredients and made it palatable and not too overbearing.
At this point, we took a break from food and walked over to Ocean Drive, where the tour guide gave us information on what Art Deco was and showed us some examples. Anna was very informed and made sure that everyone understood the history of the area. Even as a person who has lived here most of their lives, I learned many new things in this portion of the tour. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and funny when she had to be. She highlighted the quirkiness of what Miami beach is by pointing out how some of the locals behaved. She did this is a manner where people understood what makes Miami Beach such a fun place to explore.
At this point, we went back to the food portion of the tour by heading over to David’s Café for a quick cafecito stop. We stopped at the window to order, and the fact that we got to do what locals do was good to see and experience. It made the tourists in the group feel welcome in the city and provided them with an idea of what a typical day for a local is. We then headed to Polo Norte to try some Cuban food. Here we got Vaca Frita sliders drenched in chimichurri with a large plate of plantain chips to share. One of my favorite parts of the tour occurred here, since by this point the group was starting to feel comfortable with each other. The plate of chips was placed in the center of the table for everyone to share and the sliders also came in groups of three. The fact that it is sort of a communal activity was something I enjoyed since it showed the hospitality of the people of this wonderful city. Next came a delicious pizza pocket from a place I had never been to before. Blocs Pizza is a destination that I am sure I will return to, since this was a new place for me. It served extremely good food, and although not Hispanic, it is a nice hole in the wall type of place that I am surprised I discovered through a tour. It was definitely impressive. We finished the tour at Milani Gelateria, where Anna again explained what we were having and surprised me with her knowledge about the difference between gelato and regular ice cream. Just like everything else in the tour, the gelato was of very high quality and did not disappoint.
Overall, this tour was one I would not mind taking again. The food was plentiful and incredible (especially the ceviche, churro, and pizza pocket), the tour guide was charming and educated, I met wonderful people, and it was a blast. I have no issues with recommending this to anyone, even if you are a local. You will leave with a new appreciation of the South Beach area, and you may even leave with a new favorite restaurant in the city.
By Food Blogger Santiago Cardona