I just came back from South Beach for a conference. To be honest, I am not a big fan of Miami… I was there for a conference. Fortunately, my husband was able to work remotely and came down with me sparing me from taking on Miami alone. The conference was held at the Loews hotel, which is a really nice hotel. They have lush landscaping and an awesome pool right by the beach. The rooms are very pricey so in kindness to my boss, I booked the Hyatt Centric boutique hotel across the street. Hyatt offered an opportunity to prepay for the room at a discounted rate.

The Hyatt Centric is a really chic little hotel. The bartenders were really great, and offered me a huge pour of champagne after asking me to taste a wine that had soured in their fridge. The pool is small, but since it’s a boutique hotel, it was never too crowded during my visit. I booked a Deluxe King suite, which was a bit on the small side. I had a corner unit so I did get a good view of the city and a glimpse of the ocean in between the oceanfront hotels.  The bathroom is only partitioned by a floating piece of frosted glass, which didn’t offer much privacy for anyone using the facility. The room was nice, but lacking storage. Fitting two people’s items for a five day conference proved to be difficult in cramped quarters. The room was nice and the bed was comfortable but the floors were filthy. Keith got jiffy foot just walking around the room barefoot for a few minutes. The window has someone’s greasy face marks from the previous guest admiring the view apparently by smearing their face all over the panoramic windows. The room was lacking in storage, but of course had a fully stocked mini bar.

We brought our long board skateboards to cruise around town, but this place is way too busy to cruise around on a skateboard. Luckily, we were in the heart of South Beach so everything was within walking distance or Uber drivers were all over the place. I am a very casual person, and searched up and down Yelp to find places that would not make me feel uncomfortable rocking a pair of Vans and a baseball hat.  For Day 1 of my conference, I was kind of in a rush to eat before the conference started so we ran to The Front Porch Café. We got there at 11:45 and wanted to order lunch. They don’t accept some lunch orders from the menu until noon, and they are very firm with that. From the looks of what everyone else around me ordered, I should have ordered breakfast. Their breakfast game is strong. My lunch was sub-par, an overly greasy grilled cheese and flaccid French fries that were undercooked. Keith, having to wait 15 minutes to order his meal, got the blackened mahi sandwich and crispy French fries somewhat redeemed our dining experience. Also, make sure you pay attention to the check as they automatically add a gratuity.

That evening after being pounded with information at the conference, my husband and I walked eight blocks to The Abbey Brewing Co., which is the only brewpub in the South Beach area. This place is definitely my kind of place. It’s dimly lit, modestly decorated, classic brewpub. I felt completely at home in casual clothes without feeling underdressed. I ordered a flight of all of the beers that they brewed in house. The bartender, Jersen, was very friendly and offered other beer and food venues to visit while we were in town and was very attentive.  The flight was HUGE and only $20. For a really good deal on really good beer, I definitely recommend visiting this place. (Click here for a more detailed description of The Abbey Brewing Co. and their delicious beers).

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After a huge flight of awesomeness, I needed food. It just so happened that Yardbird was right next door, boasting a Miami take on Southern style cooking. We were seated in the outdoor area and made good friends with a Golden Retriever named Rufus.  I ordered the cast iron mac and cheese and green beans with smoked yogurt. The green beans tasted so smoky and amazing and complimented my meal perfectly. Keith (my husband) opted for the shrimp and grits. The shrimp were huge and he loved every bite. After dinner, we stopped by the “Young Members” cocktail reception hosted at Liquor Lounge Café. They had a great selection of beer to choose from, but there wasn’t any rare gem that I am super stoked about. At this point I did notice that Miami allows smoking in bars. I am not a fan of this allowance, but fortunately only a handful of people were smoking. Again, be careful… they add an automatic gratuity to their checks as well. In an effort to maintain full brain function the following day, we strolled up the block to Pizza Bar and snagged a humongous slice of pizza to snack on along with a huge bottle of water before turning in for the night.

The following morning, I strolled up the block to a cute French bakery called La Provence. I grabbed a tasty parfait and an omelet that helped shake out the rest of the beer that was enjoyed the night prior. This little hole in the wall is very charming and one of the most reasonably priced places I’ve been in Miami so far. I was in a huge rush for lunch so I ordered Fajitas from Jalapeno’s Mexican Grill through Grub Hub. The food was pretty good but in true Miami fashion, way overpriced. That evening, upon to suggestion of Jersen, we visited Wynwood for beer at Wynwood Brewing Co. and Concrete Beach. The Wynwood location is an old clothing factory area and it’s being revitalized as an art community. I highly suggest visiting this place if you are into street art and don’t even get me started on the beer! Wynwood Brewing Co. was a great low key operation with a great mix of their own brews and they also host other local breweries on a few of their taps. Concrete Beach was a brewery we just happened upon on our way to the Wynwood Walls. We popped in and I honestly loved every beer and the venue is REALLY nice! We ordered two flights, which covered all of the beers they had on tap. The beer flights were served in playful art pallets.  There is street art on almost every wall. Being an artist, I was in heaven! There is a place called the Wynwood Walls, which boasts art from very famous street artists. At this point in the trip, Miami began winning me over. We ended the night per the suggestion of our Italian Uber driver.  He recommended an authentic Italian restaurant called Fratelli La Bufala, and it was an amazing experience.  The staff was welcoming and they were indeed authentic Italians.  We had the pizza because we were told it was as authentic as you can get without going to Italy (they even import the cheese!), and it certainly did not disappoint.

The next day was another full day of conferences, but I did break away for lunch at a cool spot by the Little Havana section of South Beach called Oh Mexico. The service was not very good. There was a table to four cute girls right next to us, which took all the attention from the other tables. We had to wait a goof ten minutes before someone took our order. I would not have cared as much if I wasn’t on a time crunch. This place also automatically charges a gratuity so it wasn’t a surprise that the customer service wasn’t the greatest.  The food was way better than the service!  They had awesome guacamole and make four difference salsas to try with your meal. I got nachos and Keith got the flautas and said they were amazing. We also sipped on some margaritas before heading back to take on the rest of my conference sessions. That night, we just strolled down Ocean Drive, taking in the chaos of a Friday night. At this point, we have been in South Beach for three days and we had not stepped foot on the beach, so we took the opportunity to walk along the ocean for a bit before heading to dinner at Zen Sai. We just happened upon this place and we were starving. Luckily, it wasn’t busy at the service and food were both fantastic. They served food tapas style so we shared the tempura asparagus and edamame and each got an order of udon noodles as our main meal.

Overall, this was definitely the best experience that I have ever had in Miami, but I can certainly say that it’s not a place that I would want to visit on a regular basis. I did learn a lot in my conference, which was the whole point of the trip! There were too many sketchy areas for me to completely feel comfortable walking around South Beach, but I was a huge fan of the Wynwood area.  The next time fate brings me down to Miami, I think I will opt to stay more in the downtown area than the South Beach area.