Loews Miami Beach

“Miami is a city of dreams. You can come here and be anyone you want and be anywhere you want and make it happen.”

            -Linda Villafane, Loews Miami Beach and Coral Gables Hotels

Danny, my breakfast server at Preston’s Market Restaurant in Loews Miami Beach Hotel, embraced and embodied his hometown’s vibe.

“Would you like a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa with fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice? After all, it is Saturday in Miami Beach!”

Danny’s suggestion and reminder excited and enabled me. I was already thrilled to start my day at the corner table on the veranda overlooking the beach and Loews elaborate swimming pool. So, I embraced Danny’s advice.

“How about a Mimosa…hold the orange juice,” I responded.

“Perfect,” he remarked, leaving me with the menu and the view.

Miami skyline scenery from Loews rooftop pool
Miami skyline scenery from Loews rooftop pool. Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels

Table With a View

While I waited for the mimosa-minus-the-orange-juice, I noticed the Loews tiered pool below was fanciful, with three covered cabana chairs looking like giant clamshells on the private deck above an elongated waterfall to massage the swimmers.

My veranda table looked over the grand entrance to Loews swimming pool: a long, gradual walkway descending from the hotel’s breezy Palm Court between fountains and rows of royal palms. It is like watching the Academy Awards red carpet as swimmers and sun worshippers make their way down in designer bathing suits, colorful cover-ups, and clam-digger, patterned trunks.

During the day live musicians performed Latin jams and pop hits on a perch above the swimmers – a duo for which I loudly applauded from right in the middle of the pool. I was near what I swear was a six-foot-tall, dark-featured brunette who pulled her Bluetooth earbud out of her ear to hear me tell her I liked her glitzy, one-piece bathing suit, which was bejeweled with a stringy, beaded skirt.

“You like the bling, eh?” she asked me. 

I nodded.

“Then it did what it is supposed to do,” she said, smiling and putting her earbud back in.

Super-sized Paws artwork fronts Loews
Super-sized Paws artwork fronts Loews. Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels

Breakfast Miami-Style

I knew a morning eye-opener would do its’ job, too when Danny delivered my “Miami Mimosa-Minus:” a flute of only champagne. He set a sidecar of a bowl of berries beside the stem.

“Sir, if you have the lobster eggs benedict, I think you will find our hollandaise sauce uses tarragon with key lime,” Danny revealed. “So, if you taste something different, it is a Miami flair.”

Danny told me he is Romanian and has worked at Lowe’s for 17 years.

“Before that, I drove a taxi in New York City and worked in Palm Springs and Las Vegas. But living in Miami Beach is good for me,” he proclaimed.

I told Danny I had always wondered what it is like to live in Miami Beach.

“It is not cheap,” he admitted, “but I can walk anywhere, any time of day safely. It is like I live on vacation.”

The couple at the table next to me must have had too much vacation the night before. The humidity clumped the salt together when I tried to tap some onto my breakfast potatoes. To free it, I banged the salt shaker on the side of my table. It did not take long for the young man in sunglasses to silently walk over and place his salt shaker in front of me.

“Oh, right. Sorry. That must have been noisy,” I winced as he sat back down in front of his “hair of the dog:” a half-empty Bloody Mary.

Versailles is Miami’s most famous Cuban restaurant
Versailles is Miami’s most famous Cuban restaurant. Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels

Another Miami Beach Resident Behind the Bar at Raos

That evening I met another Miami Beach local.

“My girlfriend wants to move to California, but I love it here in Miami Beach,” said Max, an animated bartender at Rao’s, which is not the premier restaurant of Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

Max, like Pope Francis, is an Argentinian who also speaks Italian, which serves him well in Rao’s, which is an homage to the legendary, red-sauce, traditional Italian restaurant in East Harlem. There, Rao’s, founded in 1896, is New York’s oldest restaurant in the same location.

Also like the Pontiff formerly known as Jorge Bergoglio, Max was candid.

“I can buy Rao’s sauce in jars in stores, right Max?”

He shrugged a little and said, “You can, but it is never quite the same as having it here. Campbells Soup just bought the Rao’s label and recipe for a huge amount.”

As for my “primi,” the pasta Max recommended was the Gemelli veal ragu: with braised veal sauce, cream and Pecorino Romano. “It has nice, short noodles.”

He did not stop there, thank goodness.

“Michael Patrick, you must not leave without having a Rao’s meatball. On the appetizer menu, it comes as two meatballs, but we can order one for you so you do not get filled up,” Max advised. I already knew I would leave Rao’s filled up in any case, but I took his advice, as I did for the rest of the menu.

Max encouraged another server to grate as much fresh Reggiano Parmigiano onto the meatball as I wished.

“Basta. Grazie,” I finally said as the friendly fellow shaved just a touch more.

The meatball was decadent – and I could not decide whether it was the texture of the all-beef meatball or the sauce.

“Both,” Max answered.

Fauna with a French feel outside in the courtyard
Fauna with a French feel outside in the courtyard. Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels

Loews Hotel Makes Miami a City of Dreams

The 10 tables at the original Rao’s in New York City have been sold out for more than 40 years.

“Rao’s customers in New York have ‘table rights,’ which are kind of like season tickets. It is a little easier to get a reservation and have that exclusive experience here in Miami,” explained Linda Villafane, who represents Loews Miami Beach and Coral Gables hotels. “A lot of New Yorkers come here to grab a seat.”

If the priceless pasta of Rao’s Restaurant is on your bucket list, your odds at Rao’s in Miami, which can seat 160, are much higher.    

“Miami is a city of dreams. You can come here and be anyone you want – and be anywhere you want – and make it happen. The foundation of the city is people from all cultures, and you can see it as you walk down the street,” Villafane said.

Walking from Loews is easy due to its perfect Miami Beach location in the center of the action (evidenced by another hotel brand’s “centric” lodging property across the street.)

“Loews is on the beach and located on the famous Collins Avenue next to South Beach’s Ocean Drive and a block from the shops, outdoor cafes and boulevard boutiques of the classic Lincoln Road Mall,” said Villafane. “You can stay on property in a tropical getaway and still be close to even midtown and downtown Miami.”

Indoor, outdoor dining on Loews veranda
Indoor, outdoor dining on Loews veranda. Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels

A Curious Question on Ocean Drive

I took a one-block walk from Loews along Collins Avenue to the neon, art deco, dynamic, Ocean Drive, which you can also do from the hotel’s other side via the now paved, shaded Miami Beachwalk.

On the east side of “Deco Drive” is the grass and palm trees of Lummus Park bordering the beach. The west side of the street, which is sometimes closed to traffic to form a pedestrian mall has boutique shops and countless lively bars and restaurants with live music, dancing and colorful, streetside people-watching.

On just a two-block stretch you will find the parrots-on-shoulders at Mango’s; bar-top dancers at The Clevelander; and sidewalk drag shows at The Palace as the zaniest examples of Miami Beach flair.

In front of The Clevelander, on this stretch, I saw influencers Kelly Jane Caron and Savanna Cannon, each of whom have over a half-million Instagram followers, taping video segments in aquamarine and pink bodysuits asking passersby if they wanted to “kiss or slap?”

Loews grounds are a hub of Coral Gables beauty
Loews grounds are a hub of Coral Gables beauty. Photo by Michael Patrick Shiels

Another Miami Mixology Twist

Beauty is prevalent at South Beach where there are plenty of smiling hostesses placed out front of the cafes and bars beckoning strollers in for a sit. I am an easy mark and like to practice my Spanish, so this time it was a long-haired woman wearing a magenta, slitted cocktail dress with black army books who drew me into Ocean Bistro, toward the north end of the stretch near 13th Street.

Given my location, I was set to order a mojito from the happy hour drink menu, until the bartender, a mixologist in an apron who was also serving tables, steered me otherwise.

“I suggest you try the Mai Tai,” she said, in an accent.

“Mai Tai? This is Miami, not Hawaii,” I responded.  

The tall woman, her brown hair pulled back, looked at me with her restful, kind eyes and said, “I can make a mojito if you want, but I think the Mai Tai is better.”  

She agreed that the Mai Tai originated in Hawaii, but she gives her version a Miami twist. This reminded me of the localized version of the eggs benedict hollandaise sauce I had at Loews, so I went with it. And I sure am glad I did.

A Funny and Interesting New Friend

I learned a new drink and got a new friend: Alfonsina Medina – the Argentinian mixologist who, it turns out teaches craft cocktail classes, creates gift boxes, and serves as a special, seasonal bartender presenting at private events. Before she moved to Miami and Orlando, she had opened her own restaurant in Argentina at age 19.

Alfonsina was sipping on a Mate – a South American herbal tea-type drink.  

Eventually, she brought the Mai Tai out in the traditional tiki glass, but the potion appeared not brown, but red instead.

“I use a cherry flavor to make it red because everything in Miami is so colorful,” she explained. “Your eyes, for instance…they match the color of your shirt.”

The Miami Dolphins top I was wearing was aquamarine, so I took her comparison as a compliment. Her creative cherry on top of the Mai Tai was the charming, note she’d hand-written and wrapped around the glass. It read:

“This Mai Tai was made by Alfonsina at the Ocean Bistro…in Hawaii  😊”

She saw me smile broadly.

“Yes, I am funny, I know,” she said. “It is an Argentinian thing.”

And a Miami thing.

Read more of Michael Patrick’s work at The Travel Tattler and contact him at [email protected] Order his book Travel Tattler – Less Than Torrid Tales at https://amzn.to/3Qm9FjN 

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