South Beach Trip Report

Mar 6th, 2002, 11:49 AM
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South Beach Trip Report

American Airlines
Why does American make me board the plane by "Groups"? This seems to confuse most of the passengers. Raleigh airport is dead, we find a sandwich place but nowhere to sit and eat it as we're chased from our table by a waitress. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to notice the waitress before ordering from the counter so a lot of people are standing around looking at the empty tables. Luckily, we're heading to South Beach and we look forward to good meals during the next few days.

By the way, I typically fly US Air and this is my first experience with the "more legroom" American flights. It's for real. I'm tall, and it was a HUGE difference. I'm going to try to see if I can use American more in the future!

Checked in at the Nassau Suites hotel in South Beach. The hotel is on Collins Ave, and is around 14th Street. 1 short block from the beach. Surprise! Our hotel has parking. I was informed differently when I booked, and I was actually nervous about finding affordable parking. I suppose that $12 per day may be steep to some people, but to us Northeasterners we were delighted to have our own spot with unlimited coming and going. The room was very large and had a kitchen, a full walk in closet, a bathroom, A/C, a safe, a couch, a dining table, and a TV with cable including HBO. The room did not have a king bed (as promised), rather 2 queens. We were moved into our King room when it became available the next day.

The staff seemed pleasant and was helpful but also seemed to be slightly slow - as if they had been smoking a little too much and they only spoke in whispers. The lobby of the hotel was very trance inducing - candles everywhere, low music playing (Buddha Bar soundtrack by Claude Challe from Paris - cool), rattan furniture, halogen lighting. It was our pleasant oasis when we returned from the not-so-mellow club scene. Breakfast in the morning was another bonus - they had juice, coffee, raisin bread, toast, Danish, and some fruit available in the lobby. The breakfast stayed until around one pm which gave us plenty of time to recover from our long nights to enjoy some much needed food!

The room itself was huge - about 700 square feet so we had plenty of room. We loved the fact that our room had a fridge which allowed us to chill liquor, wine and beer. We didn't use the kitchen but it was fully stocked. We really appreciated having ice for cocktails, a couch for reading, and a little table where we enjoyed cocktails. The view was non existant and we in fact kept the blinds closed just about the whole time. We booked this room for about $99/night on Orbitz (normal rack rates are $150-200).
Mar 6th, 2002, 11:51 AM
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Toni's Sushi
After arriving around 8pm, we needed some food and we were feeling rather sluggish. We wanted something light, and we didn't want too much of a "scene". Sushi was the call, and Toni's served us well. Toni's is located on Washington Street, one block further from the beach than Collins Ave, and a few blocks south of the Nassau.

Toni's took our reservation and actually held a table for us. We walked in and they took the "reserved" sign off of the table. We paid about $60 for two people, including tip, with about 1 drink each. The only disappointment was the spicy tuna roll, but everything else was fantastic. The restaurant was bustling, and music was low, allowing for easy conversation. Service was fast, knowledgeable, and friendly. People were not dressed to kill.

After Toni's we headed back to the hotel and mixed up some cocktails in preparation for the night. In true SoBe fashion we had a friend of a friend from New York put us on the list at the lounge of the moment called Mynt which was on Collins Ave a few blocks north of the Nassau. We arrived at the door around midnight to find a pretty big crowd of wannabees and trendites clamoring with the doorman to gain entrance. The crowd was mostly older men with younger women, and older women - all dressed in uber-trendy garb. White Prada pants with a blue ruffled version of the old tuxedo shirt cliché topped off with clear Gucci "moon"glasses complete the look favored at Mynt. Fur is also seen in abundance, though the nighttime sunglasses seemingly are the most important accessory.

Not having read the correct users manual, and wore black shirt with black pants, our connection fizzled and we were denied entrance. Seemingly the only people gaining entrance were the "regulars" who both knew and were known at the door.

Since Mynt is really an intimate lounge rather than a dance hall (we wanted to dance!) we moved on unfazed. But we were out of towners with no idea where to go......

Rose Bar at the Delano
After being shut out of Mynt we begrudgingly walked down Collins Avenue. We had heard of the Delano (we had business there the next day) so we decided to walk in and see what was happening. Great idea!

No doorman, no cover charge, though a fun, very trendy but very comfortable scene awaited us. The lobby in the Delano is spectacular, and they open up the entire lobby and even the deck to patrons of the Rose Bar. Drinks are expensive (around $10), but were good. Beer was warm. The lobby consists of multiple areas of unusual furniture, mostly oversized, all inducing conversation on their own. We watched people play pool, then watched people by the actual pool. The music was loud enough to be fun but allowed for conversation. We got to sit in a couch and chat away while sipping expensive drinks and watching the parade of people.

The Delano was a place that made us feel very cool without having to actually be too cool! OK, after traveling all day and staying out so late we were pleased to go home and get some rest in our undersized queen bed.
Mar 6th, 2002, 11:53 AM
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Blue Door at the Delano
We slept in the next day until around 10am and were pleased to find that breakfast was still waiting for us in the lobby. We engaged the Nassau and they let us switch rooms to a unit with a king bed. Excellent. We had big plans that day and we needed to get our beach gear as well as some nicer threads for lunch at the Blue Door Restaurant at the Delano.

The Blue Door was outside on the back terrace of the Delano overlooking the grassy steps down to the garden (with giant chess boards) and the distant pool. Our table was beneath a big white umbrella. Service was quick and prompt. The crowd was mostly families, very traditional, very upscale. I felt like I was in Palm Beach rather than South Beach, with exception at the very artistic garden below. I had the chicken Caesar salad and my fiancé had the brie sandwich with sun dried tomatoes. Both were excellent, and we left full - too full - for our bathing suits which we needed to change in to. Lunch totaled around $50 with tip, including no alcohol but a lot of sparkling water.

Be careful, all these places in SoBe seem to include a 15% tip in the bill. They aren't trying to trick you into paying double (which we did do once) but it just seems to be a common practice.

Delano Pool & Beach
Seems like there are hotel people everywhere asking for credentials. You aren't allowed to use the pool or the beach at the Delano if you aren't a guest at the hotel, or - like us - were on the "list". Seems like the "list" is everywhere in SoBe, but that's OK because we got to enjoy the beautiful beach and the stunning pool. It was about 77 degrees and we first got towels and were able to lay out on the wide chaise lounges on the beach. These chaises were all white and towels were provided. The beach was very wide. Service was fairly abrupt and had that "I'm too cool to listen to you ask for towels" even though we were tipping generously.

After about 1 hour on the beach we went back to the pool to see if any lounge chairs had opened up at the pool. The pool chairs were smaller than the beach ones, but had the same idea. A comfortable, thick, mattress allowed for ultimate comfort. The pool at the Delano really was the highlight of our trip offering luxury, fun, a drink or two, and the ultimate in people watching. The pool definitely had an "adult" vibe as we again noticed the "older man/trophy wife with enhanced flotation devices" theme. Very few children, although they had a few toys in the pool they were mostly used by the adults! Some toplessness, but the "adult" vibe was more of a certain indescribable feeling of sensuality rather than sexuality. The pool itself was maybe only 4 feet deep at the deepest, and even had an entire area of 1-4 inch water where you could sit or walk around. The people watching was immensely entertaining as everyone was definitely enjoying the beautiful day and surroundings.

The pool had a full service bar with waitstaff. Also, there were tables for lunch. The lunch tables were sitting in the sand, and pool attire was fully acceptable. At 5pm they actually even had a DJ arrive and start to play electronica/trance background music. We left the pool around 6, but we assumed that the DJ would become more and more loud and the party become more and more lively as the sun proceeded to set.

I loved the Delano and would love to stay there, but rooms are pricey.

Side note: lots of things in South Beach reminded us of New York, including the Delano. If you've ever been to the Hudson bar in NYC at the Hudson Hotel, you'll find many similarities to the Delano. Sushi Samba even used the same glassware as their store in NYC. It's like NYC-south down there.
Mar 6th, 2002, 11:54 AM
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Lincoln Road
After using the pool facilities to change into street clothes, we left the Delano (after playing a game of pool in the lobby) and headed for Lincoln Road. We stolled the entire length of this road and could not believe the number of people and the number of amazing outdoor cafes. We had never seen a cafe culture like this outside of Europe, so we were thrilled to stop at the Van Dyke cafe for some tidbits to tide us over until Dinner. We had some coffee, and I had an amazing fruit salad with frozen yogurt. My fiancé had a disappointing pita bread dip, but the vibrancy of the street was the entre du jour, and we devoured it accordingly.

I picked up some designer knockoff sunglasses at a shop, we watched people be serenaded by street singers, and I even bought a $1 bouquet of white roses for my fiance. Couldn't beat that price with a stick!

Rejuvenated, we returned to our hotel to prepare for dinner.

Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant
We arrived late at Joe's (around 9:30) and had to wait about 15 minutes at the bar before being seated. After the stories, we were pleased just to have under 1 hour wait. Drinks at the bar were good, typical pub scene, and cost about $6 per beer. The whole place had a real steakhouse atmosphere with waiters in tuxedos and lots of dark wood. The place had parking, which was a huge plus, which apparently let a lot of non-SoBe types easily enjoy the crabs. Out of everywhere that we went, Joe's had the most (for lack of a better word) normal patrons. Men were in golf shirts and khakis, blue blazers, etc. We were hoping for of a more "seafoody/coastal" atmosphere. We actually expected it to be on the water, or on a deck, with Jimmy Buffet playing in the background and people downing Margaritas....

The crabs were amazing. We each had a large order of claws (about 5 claws each) and also ordered some hash browns on the side (big enough for four hungry people). With the bread and salad, we were absolutely stuffed when we left. With one drink each the tab ran about $110 including tip. Service was very professional, if somewhat pushy, and very fast. The service was also very helpful in describing how to open the crabs, and what the traditional side dishes were. We enjoyed our food immensely, but we were hoping for a more "SoBe" experience. We've done it once so we probably won't go back.

News Cafe
After our great meal we decided to cruise Ocean Drive. We were amazed at the activity on a Sunday night! Wall to wall traffic, jammed sidewalks, what a scene! We stopped at the famous News Cafe for a couple of mojitos. We had a prime table right on the sidewalk so we could watch the parade of people and cars go by. Spring breakers, fashionistas, tourists, old timers were just some of the spice. Mojitos are about $7 each, so we just stuck to one.

Wet Willy's
Not quite quenched though, and invigorated by the bustling crowd we decided to take our party next door to Wet Willys bar. Definitely a bar for the spring break set, the crowd here was lively, young, and in T-shirts. People were enjoying maddingly strong frozen concoctions ($7 each for the jumbo size) of various flavors served in keepsake plastic cups. Wet Willy's again offered fun views of the sidewalk below as we sipped our drink from the 2nd story patio.

Tan, happy, overfed, and exhausted we headed back home to catch some sleep. No dancing tonight.
Mar 6th, 2002, 11:55 AM
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Key Biscayne
Waking up early we decided to leave the confines of South Beach and hit the softer, more desolate beaches of Key Biscayne. The drive seemed easy enough, but I somehow decided to take the local roads through downtown which cost us a lot of time. The beach was as advertised, with ample parking, beautiful soft sand, and nice palm trees coming out of the sand. We had the place to ourselves on this Monday morning! Thrilled, we took the Nassau hotel provided beach towels, set them down, and proceeded to catch some Z's under the sun.

Waking up about 20 minutes later we were covered in sand and watching my hat blow down the sand by the strong wind. A cold front had just blown through - one that would put the deep chill on the entire south. Miami had two days of record cold following this, and we had just seen the last sunlight of our brief trip. It had significantly cooled down to around 57 degrees so we had to get some warmer clothes. We changed in the car, and decided to try to find a warm place to go. We tried to find a restaurant on Key Biscayne called the "Hut" or something similar, but after our unsuccessful attempt we decided to pack it in and leave the Key.

Bal Harbour Shops
Having an idea for the fashions in SoBe we decided to head to the exclusive Bal Harbour Shops which is an exclusive mall near the beach. We assumed that the mall would be indoors - WRONG! The wind was howling through the mall, and we were in shorts and T-shirts. We sat down to eat at the cafe de l'art which was a poor attempt to make mall patrons feel as if they were not eating at a chain. My fiance's turkey sandwich was prepared in a microwave with two slices of turkey on top of a pita. The bill was about $30 and was entirely not worth it. The shops included every designer label imaginable although the size of each store was relatively small by NY standards. I suppose that if you're interested in shopping for a nice handbag this is definitely the place to go. While outdoors, the mall had a very tropical feel with lush jungle trees and fountains everywhere. Still seeking shelter and warmth, we also had coffee but soon headed back to the hotel.

Got back to South Beach and boy was it windy and COLD! Watching the news we realized that we were in for record cold temps. Putting on pants and hoping that we packed sweaters or jackets (we didn't) we settled in for a nice nap and got ready for a big night.

Sushi Samba
After much sleep the night before and a long nap, we were FULLY ready for a fun night on the town. We headed back to Lincoln Road with intentions of eating at either Pacific Time or Sushi Samba. Sushi Samba eventually won out because it appeared to be less expensive with more of a nightclub atmosphere. This NY transplant offered a very "over the top" and "overproduced" interior which was a visual delight. We also unexpectedly had a most enjoyable and helpful server. She even went as far as taking a picture of us together. In ultra-cool South Beach we found this to be very nice of her and we tipped her accordingly. The sushi was delicious, as were the drinks, and the dessert.

The interior had yellow, orange, and red walls, and a glowing orange bar with a big central sushi bar. They had music that got louder as the evening progressed, and the bar became busier and busier. Everything here tasted fantastic, and the total bill including multiple drinks and expensive dessert ($12 but wow soooo good) and tip was about $90. Patrons seemed to be fairly fashionable, but certainly not over the top, and the warm fun atmosphere should help any person feel "cool" upon entering.
Mar 6th, 2002, 11:56 AM
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After leaving Sushi Samba around 11:30 pm, we headed down Pennsylvania Ave a few blocks south to the uber-trendy eatery/supper club Tantra. Tantra has one of the most expensive menus in South Beach, and turns into a full blown party late into the evenings. We had reservations for bottle service, which helped us pass the velvet ropes. Of course the downside is that we had to buy a ridiculously expensive bottle of champagne ($210 for Veuve Cliquot - pre tip) but we did not have to pay a cover charge and we got a private table in the "VIP" section. This was important as it got later and later because the place became so crowded you could barely walk in the normal part of the bar.

Monday nights are apparently THE night at Tantra, and we were very pleased. The music was deafening trance music and they had a guy in a pork-pie hat and leathers playing drums on an elevated platform. This was very, very fun to listen to, and the strong beat of the drums really got people in a sultry mood! The floor was actually made of grass, which apparently is changed every Tuesday. People were dancing on tables, chairs, and everything else available. The dance floor is very small, and the place was packed beyond belief. Bathroom lines were unreal for both men and women.

The crowd was dressed to impress, with all the latest designer wear on display. Sultry women (working at the club) were dancing belly style, and people in the crowd were toking off of hookas. We left Tantra around 2 am smarting after paying the bill, but thankful to have experienced a full blown club scene. We were duped into paying double tip, not by the friendly waitress, but because the place was so crowded that I was unsure if the tip was included in the bill or not and I could not ask the waitress whether to include it or not. When we left the line at the door was huge - remember folks, we're talking about 2am on a Monday night!

Apparently sober enough to know when I've spent too much, but tipsy enough to want to continue, we passed Crobar on the way home and decided to drop in. After all, we were looking for dancing and Tantra really is more of a supper club. We paid the cover, and passed the velvet rope as easily as a hot knife through butter.

Crobar is your stereotypical mega club with dancing girls on pedestals, laser shows, and extremely loud dance music. Definitely not nearly as exclusive as Tantra or Mynt, but still relatively expensive ($20 cover each with $6 beer). Crobar had much more of a circus atmosphere complete with costumed people, transvestites, baseball hatted spring breakers, friends of dorothy, and the requisite SoBe trendy types. Crobar was probably filled with a few hundred people but felt relatively empty due to the size of the place. We didn't stop at the "Level" - a club which apparently dwarfs the crobar in terms of sheer size.

The volume of the music was so loud we actually felt the bass blowing our hair. Wow. Only able to take about 1-2 beers worth of crobar, we quickly walked home to take stock of our most adventurous Monday in years.
Mar 6th, 2002, 11:57 AM
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Still breaking record cold temps - but wow now the winds have really kicked in. Breakfast at the Nassau seems to be unavailable this morning, but that's OK as we want to go to a cafe on Ocean Drive.

Pelican Cafe
Walking down the beach, we're getting colder and colder. Still no sweaters to put on, I'm wearing my pants and a short sleeve shirt. It's about 50 with 20-30mph winds. Brrrrrr.... No sun.

Hit the News Cafe to pick up the newspaper. Walking back up the beach we pass the Pelican. Seems nice enough, and they have nice tables on a deck raised about 3 feet off the sidewalk. Perfect place to watch the parade of people and enjoy a hot meal. Unfortunately we were still outside,and the heating lamps weren't working well. We had a great cheeseburger (made with real ground sirloin - it tasted great) and a BBQ wrap sandwich with fries, and some calamari for appetizer. We also had some cocktails, and the total bill was about $50 including tip.

Well we were stuffed, cold and confused. We had about 8 hours till our flight home, and had intended in spending the day at the beach. No luck so I dug through my travel book looking for indoor alternatives. We decided to try to see an IMAX movie, so we headed down in the car (after checking out of the hotel) and took some awful road to somewhere by the University of Miami. We ended up at this mall, and the IMAX movies weren't running at times that were good for us, so we actually went to an arcade. Fairly depressing for us - being in an arcade in Miami, but we tried to make the best of the situation. We should have headed to the Seaquarium or the Zoo, but we didn't know any better. We wanted to go to Gulfstream Park or Jai Alai but both are closed during Tuesday. We also were interested in taking a tour of some of the neighborhoods but again we didn't have proper clothing and wanted something indoors.

After spending a while racing each other in virtual cars, we headed for our real plane with an easy 3 hour direct flight home. Our car was from EZ Rental Car, which is located in the Embassy Suites. The car was nice enough, and was certainly very cheap. It had a CD player and A/C, and was around $17/day, but it had cigarette burns and the EZ shuttle took forever to pick us up when we arrived in Miami. While the Hertz and Avis busses were available every 2 minutes, the EZ van had to be summoned and even then took a while.

Adios Miami, thanks for the good times, but next time we're going to expect better weather!
Mar 6th, 2002, 12:09 PM
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Wow. Great report. I'll save this one for my next trip to Miami.
Mar 6th, 2002, 01:14 PM
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I could have TAKEN a trip to Miami in the time it took to read this report!

Great report thought. Thanks!
Mar 7th, 2002, 08:36 AM
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Thanks - This is the type of nitty-gritty report which would be helpful for anyone going there.
Mar 7th, 2002, 11:09 AM
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finally somebody writes a useful report instead of the usual drivel that appears on this board.
Mar 8th, 2002, 07:55 AM
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Thanks for the report, I too love reading detailed reports. It gives you a real feel of the area and what to expect. We'll be there in early May, can't wait. Thanks again.
Mar 8th, 2002, 09:45 AM
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What a wonderful, detailed report. I'm going to Miami in two weeks - this was great info!

Mar 9th, 2002, 07:46 PM
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1. Thanks for further confirming for me that I have absolutely no desire to go to S. Beach

2. You should have bought warm clothing.

3. Next time, always pack a sweater and/or sweatshirt or two

4. Reasonable chance of cool of weather is one of the strongest arguments for the Caribbean, Hawaii or S. Pacific in winter.
Mar 9th, 2002, 07:49 PM
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I meant to say that the reasonable chance of having cool weather in FL during the winter is one of the strongest arguments in favor of choosing one of the aforementioned destinations instead. (Mexico, Australia and parts of S. America as well)
Mar 9th, 2002, 08:53 PM
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Gret report - Thank you

Re above - The weather is consistently quite warm in the winter in Miami. I wore shorts every single day of the year when I lived there.

A way to make Joes more caribbean is to get takeout and eat on the beach.
May 16th, 2002, 05:46 PM
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finally someone who has stayed at the nassau suite hotel - did you really enjoy the stay at the hotel?? hopefully you can respond to this

everything that you have done is similar to what we are planning - this will be my 3rd year and everytime it gets more interesting
May 17th, 2002, 06:56 AM
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I agree, thanks for the great trip report! i am going to SoBe in 2 weeks, and i would like to go to Joe's too. Where is it? Do I need a car to get there?
May 17th, 2002, 10:03 AM
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Joe's will be closed by the time you travel to Miami. Their "last supper" was Wednesday, the 15th. They will not be open again until sometime in the fall, October I think. They are only open during stone crab season. You'll just have to go on another trip. Too bad too, because I think Joes is great.
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