A1A (Beachfront Avenue)

When we first got the emergency vet estimate, we debated cancelling Hampton’s birthday trip. But when our sweet Louisa didn’t make it and my mother back Home in PA fell and broke her shoulder the same day, we decided we NEEDED a vacation.

Like most Flat 493 trips, we had our fancy dinner reservations made in advance, a few other ideas for lunches and activities, and open minds. But mainly, we were looking for a healthy dose of Vitamins D and Sea.

We stayed at the Plymouth Hotel, an adorable piece of Art Deco fun in the Collins Park area. Our room looked out over the pool – where we spent plenty of time.

It was also a few blocks from the beach where we could get reserved seats. Handy!

On our first orientating walk, we discovered a family-style Italian restaurant called Sylvano that, when the time came, we just had to go back to for dinner. And, oh my goodness, are we glad we did. They had so many delectable-sounding carpaccios (carpaccii?) it was hard to make choices. And they had a wine we rarely see here in the States but enjoyed a lot on our Italian honeymoon. All in all, full marks for Sylvanos! It was definitely not on our radar, but so very very good.

That first night we also wandered into Sweet Liberty – a highly Instagrammable craft cocktail joint. Definitely fun for a round or two!

The next day, Hampton turned 40. After a birthday cappuccino at Rosetta Bakery, which we saw on our walk the day before, we kept walking toward a Cuban place recommended by a friend. But then Maps told me we had to stop somewhere else.

If you’ve ever met my husband, you know this was a no-brainer. While we could have done without the overpriced beer (ok, we needed the beer, just not the tourist prices), the food was very fun, and it was the most appropriate place for us to be at the exact minute this bacon-obsessed man hit the bit 4-0.

From there we found Abbey Brewing, just as it opened, and enjoyed the first of many vacation (beer) flights.

After that, we headed back toward our hotel, planning to hit the contemporary art museum next door. There was a detour…. or five…. Note: Miami Beach is not a perfect grid. FYI. Siri is sometimes the better bet than your instincts.

We finally made it to the Bass. The evening before there was an orchestra concert on the lawn that we enjoyed up close and then could hear by the pool at our hotel. At $10 a ticket (less for locals), what a great resource!

Contemporary art is always a conversation piece — although Hampton would be very happy to never talk about this installation ever again…. and I think the security guards agreed with him.

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there were more, too

For Hampton’s birthday dinner, we headed to Scott Conant’s Scarpetta. I am an unapologetic Chopped fan, and Hampton loves Italian and fancy food, so it seemed like a good bet. Things started off a bit uneasily as we were a few minutes early, so they encouraged us to go to the bar…. but they sat a family with young children who came in after us, and then the dining room was empty…. so it felt like a cheap way to get an extra $20 when we were already planning to spend a lot of money, but whatever.

The wine selection was good enough to distract from the fact that we saw much better service at other tables (good thing the waiter beside us was loud enough or we never would have known exactly what the dips for the bread basket were) and our primi were lovely.

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But after our meals delivered, we never saw our server (serverS, even, as it was a theoretically a team) again. Which is extra annoying because my lobster tagliatelle with herbed breadcrumbs was salty. Maybe it’s because my palate is not the most sophisticated, but… Not to mention that by this point, the place was packed and LOUD. I get that hotel restaurants are boisterous places, but some sound absorption would be a welcome addition to the décor.

We waited for a while after finishing our meals for our server to show back up and ask about dessert. We were definitely interested in gelato, but when he didn’t even bother to tell us what the flavors of the night were, we decided to get out of there.

On our walk home, we passed the Museum of Ice Cream – which I had previously decided I was not Insta-famous for (; – on our way to a bar recommended a lot on the Skimm’bassador Facebook page. As were were getting close, we passed a hotel whose bar Hampton had seen recommended online.

Yeah, you guessed it – totally the same place.

The Broken Shaker was a fun courtyard bar. Totally hipster, but we’re ok with that most of the time. It was a GORgeous night and great to people watch.

Before going back to the hotel, we went to a fantastically casual divey bar called Free Spirits. Hampton got a birthday shot and the chance to watch some sportsball. I think his birthday went pretty darn well – even if Scarpetta was meh.

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The next morning, we headed back to Rosetta before hitting the beach to study lines for our next show – The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) with The Phoenix Theatre CompanyWe narrowed down our choices to speck and cream cheese on a walnut roll and focaccia stuffed with mushrooms and some sort of other cured meat and I was once again reminded that I will never be a vegetarian because cured meat is basically the best thing ever.

We had a reservation on the mainland that night, so we planned to visit the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens… which are closed on Tuesdays. Whoops. The Wynwood Walls were on my list, so we headed that way to Wynwood Brewing where we again had two excellent flights across the beer spectrum. We then wandered on, enjoying the vivid art the area is known for.

Next we ran into Concrete Beach, which, of all the breweries we hit was probably our favorite. Their beers were more out of box, like our hometown fave, Small Batch – especially a rosé-inspired ale that was delicious AND pretty.

After a stop at Federal Donuts (whose founders’ book I totally heard about on NPR), we went to J. Wakefield Brewing, then stopped for a slice of pizza at a place called Gramps that ahad an inspiring cocktail menu. We had time for a quick choppe – and to learn what a choppe is – at Veza Sur, whose combination of greenery, books, and vintage tchotchkes was very homey.

We never did make it to the official Wynwood Walls, but the art is all around in this area. I couldn’t stop from taking photos. These are just a few of my favorites. I’ve linked artists on the ones where a signature was obvious. My apologies for not getting more names! Happy to credit if anyone contacts me with info.

Then, we were off to Glass & Vine. The chef was a Chopped Champion, and has judged (see a theme?), and Liked something I posted once on Instagram, so I had to go. We got there in time for their happy hour specials – some of which were my very favorite things in the world, so I was sold.

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olives, roasted cauliflower, and cured meat ❤

We also split a bison “tataki” and a pork belly dish that melted in our mouths.

We then shared vanilla ice cream topped with homemade magic shell, olive oil, and salt. Now, I’m not a huge sweets person, but add EVOO and salt and *drool*. Add to it that setting was gorgeous and our server super attentive and helpful, and it was a total win.

After that, we headed off to meet a friend from N.C. who happened to be in town for work. Sadly, the bar that our fantastic Glass & Vine server said his colleagues had gone to the night before was not worth writing about. But the company was great!

The next morning, we shook up our Rosetta habit and visited Shepherd Artisan Coffee. It was a very cute Parisian-style place with delightful pastries and a beautiful wall of books.

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I mean, there was an Ann Coulter book on the shelf, but we won’t judge for that. Too much.

We walked back along the beach, sticking our feet in the ocean and soaking up as much sun as possible. A bit of line-study time by our pool, and we headed off on another self-guided tour.

We started off at a sushi restaurant called Pubbelly. Everything was outstanding, but especially a “salt and pepper squid” that was not at all what we expected, but very crunch and interesting. There was also a take on a wedge salad with radishes and beets and creamy ginger dressing that we will definitely try to recreate.

From there we hit a Sardinian wine bar for flights and olives, then a bar called Jezebel where I finally got pink bubbles – since Sardinia was out. #firstworldproblems. Then it was on to a place called Meat Market. The house bar snack had wasabi peas and sweet Peruvian corn that even Sober Ann is drooling over – the sharp and sweet combined…. *kisses fingers* We also tried their escargot with chorizo, for good measure.

For dinner that Valentine’s Day night we went to Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford’s Stubborn Seed. None of the appetizers particularly called to us (due to my onion aversion. I’m sure they are all lovely!), so our server suggested we may want to share a few mains, implying they were small plates. They… were not. Especially after a day of sun and drinks! But I’m glad we tried all of them.

Our favorite was definitely the roast chicken. Much like the pan sauce on the veal our first night there, there was a jus that highlighted how the best chefs are good at the simple things. Of course, the one thing I didn’t get a picture of was the roast chicken, and my others don’t do the food justice, so just follow the restaurant on Instagram and make a reservation when you’re down there.img_4883

The day we left, we got one more Rosetta breakfast to eat poolside before heading home a few pounds heavier, a bit restored (although we never did figure out a good vacation hashtag), and ready to hit Complete Works hard and snuggle the George. Where to next??

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