Miami, Florida, a capital of cuisine? A name to rank with Hong Kong, San Francisco, and New Orleans?
So help me, it's true. 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.
And why has this occurred? It's because of an obvious influx of restauranteurs, visitors, and new residents, from Latin America. Today, throughout the city, are Peruvian restaurants, Brazilian restaurants, high-quality Cuban restaurants on every corner, all catering not only to their compatriots, but to us Yanks as well, with meals that are both copious, relatively inexpensive, and wonderfully tasty.
To find them in "South Beach" (the most popular area of Miami Beach), simply go to the attractive Espanola Way off Collins Avenue, where Cuban restaurants sit alongside Spanish restaurants serving tapas, alongside Peruvian restaurants and, yes, Italian restaurants, too.
You'll have plenty of company. Miami is booming in the number of its tourist visitors, as it never did in the economic slowdown period starting in 2008. Frigid weather up north has brought an unprecedented number of guests from the northeast and midwest. Hotels and condos are packed with escapees from sub-freezing temperatures, and visitors wander about with goofy, pleased expressions on their faces, happy to be in a place enjoying temperatures in the low 80s on most days.
(Your best bet for finding Miami accommodations this winter are the apartment listings in VRBO.com and AirBnB.com. Using the latter, my daughter recently snared a spare room in a comfortable apartment located just off Lincoln Road (for about $100 a night) in the heart of the trendy and highly desirable South Beach portion of Miami Beach where similar hotel rooms are at least $200 to $300 a night.
Apart from offering an escape from freezing blizzards and ice, Miami also provides (and perhaps for the first time) a considerable degree of culture to supplement life on the beach or at the swimming pool. Miami's famed Art Museum is now in a brand-new and quite impressive building. Other specialized museums--ranging from one displaying erotic art from around the world (don't miss it) to another documenting the Jewish presence in Florida, abound. Every night in winter, as I quickly saw, visitors have an abundance of other attractions that compete with those long, lingering dinners in Peruvian, Brazilian, and Cuban, restaurants.
A final note. A great many visitors obviously combine time in Miami and Miami Beach with several days at the theme parks of Orlando, a near-five-hour drive north from Miami. In about a year from now, 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 are presently creating a train system called "AllAboardFlorida" to operate hourly departures along the above itinerary by trains proceeding at 80 miles an hour, a speed roughly equivalent to that achieved by the popular east coast Acela trains between Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. It is hoped that the new service may become available, largely using existing tracks, sometimes in mid-2015. Hallelujah, Florida at last approaches the 21st Century.
Florida in general, and Miami in particular, are clearly on the brink of even greater expansion and popularity.