Miami’s Greatest Hits

by Mike on July 4, 2012 · 13 comments

The Hollicks' Top Ten in Miami, FL

Oh Miami, beach days were scarce but wonderful!

Adios, Miami.

With an ant infestation, terrible customer service, dreary weather, and oh yeah, a cannibalism attack a few blocks away, Miami may very well have been a total bust if it weren’t for our good friends A.J. and Molly showing us around and helping us out with Max. They’ve lived on Miami Beach for over ten years, and know the good places to go if you’re over 25 and not wanting to spend a boatload like a typical tourist.

To be fair, we were there at the start of the rainy season, but I was told all that meant was that it would shower every day a couple of times for 10 minutes or so, and then the sun would come back out.  Not the case, at least in the downtown area where we were living.  It was grey for about 75% of our stay there. And there was a strange energy throughout the area, like a mix of recklessness and grime, mixed with humidity.

Now I feel like I’m piling it on. I have no right to complain. We had four beautiful beach days, and we ate well.  We always seem to eat well!  So I guess I’m being hard on Miami, and surprisingly enough, I was sad to leave, mainly because we had to say goodbye to Molly and A.J. There are always bright spots, and here in Miami it involved glimmers of sunshine and culinary treats.

10. South Pointe Park. This southern-most stretch of Miami Beach is a bit of a hidden gem; you’re away from the whole scene on Ocean Drive with the clubs, lounges, thongs and boobs — and sometime those are just the guys, wah-wah! Ahead of the beach, there’s a sizeable playground area for kids, with a smoothie bar and a water-park structure. What’s funny is this little “mini-bar” set up for the kids, just so they can get some practice in before getting to the real thing further up South Beach.

I grew up going to the Delaware beaches as a kid, and I really want Max to enjoy the sand and surf as much as I did — and do.

9. Barceloneta. On my last Monday off, A.J. and Molly wanted to take us to a gastropub called Pubbelly, but it was closed. So they brought us to its sister restaurant, Barceloneta, and we feasted on decadent Spanish tapas. The restaurant, in Sunset Harbor, had a rustic feel with wood paneling, chalkboard menus and long, wooden high-top tables. Much to our delight, it also had the NBA Playoffs playing on unobstrusive corner TVs! Score. The open kitchen made the place seem unpretentious, and you could tell the dining room was full of locals.

Molly and A.J. are vegetarians, and we got to sample many dishes that Ang and I wouldn’t have thought to order for ourselves. A.J. used to work in a cheese shop in New York City, and he knew exactly which quesos to order off the menu for a well-rounded course. The richest plate that we ordered was a seafood rice dish, paella-style but made with an intense roux and a risotto-textured rice. It had incredible earthy depth of flavor, with lobster, crispy calamari, shrimp and fish.

8. The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.  On Memorial Day, we headed over to this private, ritzy yacht club for a day of feeling rich.  Our good friend Nick Cordileone (Timon in The Lion King) had a friend Owen who was a member, who got his family, my family, and Lisa & Robbie Swift (Ed the Hyena) passes for the day for us to lounge by the many pools, take advantage of the beach-y facilities, and rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Below, I’m coming in from an hour on the paddleboard when Amy Cordileone snapped this shot with her iPhone.

Right at the start of the day, as Ang was rubbing sunblock on him, Max fell chin-first on the concrete next to the lounge chair and bit the sides of his tongue. There was a little blood, a lot of tears. Also, poor Ang was recovering from some bad food she had with Theresa the night before at Michy’s on Miami’s Upper East Side, but rallied to hang out with us and kept low-key all day. All in all, our problems were not awful. We were at a freakin’ yacht club, for Pete’s sake. And it’s amazing to see the progress our 22-month-old Max made in the water!

If you can’t see the video above, click here.

7. Perricone’s Marketplace and Cafe. Another A.J. and Molly hit! They took us to an early dinner in Brickell one night before I had to work, to their favorite Italian place called Perricone’s. You walk in through a charming carry-out deli which had a dessert case that I literally leered at, and Ang pulled me away further in towards the dining room.

The dining area was airy, bright, and thoughtfully decorated to look worn but full of character.

We started with an appetizer of the Burrata Caprese Napoleon, with fresh basil, vine-ripened tomatoes, and a sprig of fresh rosemary. This has to be one of the best starters on the planet. The cheese took me to another level of consciousness. There was Prosciutto di Parma on the side, for the carnivores.

While Molly’s Eggplant Parmigiana was solid, A.J.’s entree was decadent — Fiocchi Gorgonzola, which was purse-shaped pasta stuffed with fresh pear and Gorgonzola cheese, adorned with walnuts. It tasted like a savory, pillowy dessert.

I had a lasagna which was a tad salty, but Ang’s seafood cioppino was beautiful.

6. Catching a game at Marlins Park.  This was a treat — Max’s first baseball game! Jovan, our Stage Manager, organized a group to see the Florida Marlins play the Colorado Rockies at the brand new Marlins Park. The retractable roof stayed closed, covering the park because of the threat of rain showers. Everything was so spanking new and clean, that we felt bad throwing peanut shells on the floor.

We saw Giancarlo Stanton (who is on my fantasy team) hit a grand slam to put the Marlins up, and Max further developed his “Number one basketball game!” cheer.  Yes, I know, we were at a baseball game, but I didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm.  Below, Max giggles with Ben Lipitz, who plays Pumbaa the Warthog in the show nightly. Although according to Max, Pumbaa is a goat.

One of the most interesting parts of the evening was finding parking in the neighborhood streets immediately surrounding the stadium, nestled in Little Havana. We could park in the Marlin’s parking structure for about $20 and prior reservation (which we didn’t have), or we could pay $15 and slide up right on this lady’s lawn. Which we did.

5. Harry’s Pizza. Heading into Miami’s Design District to meet our good friend Theresa for lunch, we were excited to try some pizza. Although we’re from New York, some of the best pizza we’ve had was in our neighborhood in Vegas, and we had yet to find a great slice on the road. Enter Harry’s.

Down the street from Chef Michael Schwartz’s highly regailed restaurant Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (which we didn’t try), Harry’s Pizza is relaxed, unfussy and hawks simple ingredients and flavors. We were pretty blown away. We shared three pies: the short rib with gruyere, onion and arugula; the oyster mushroom with tallegio, roasted peppers and chiles; and the rock shrimp with manchego, scallion, lemon and cilantro, shown below.

4. Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill. I hesitate to write a 100% positive review of this place because our friends had some very poor service on another occasion, so I will just say this: Sugarcane’s inventive “world tapas” menu is one of the most exciting we have seen in a long time. I went there after work with fellow castmates one night, and just knew I had to bring Ang back. When we went for brunch a few days later (with A.J. and Molly of course), she surveyed the menu and decor, then proclaimed, “This is the exact restaurant I’d open.” Knew it.

The raw bar and the Robata grill were excellent, as we feasted on oysters, Korean-style short ribs, laquered pork belly and a curried cauliflower.

Mind you, we were there for brunch too — so there was a mix of Bloody Marys, Bellinis and coffee with egg and pastry offerings, which made the table a crazy and delicious hodgepodge of flavors and textures.

Sugarcane was started by the same group that opened Sushi Samba (NYC and everywhere), and an owner swung by our table to say hello. He definitely huffed and preened, didn’t address the women or shake their hands, and left us with a “How about some free tickets to see The Lion King?” without batting an eyelash. It could have been enough to turn us off the whole experience, had the food not been so stellar.

Well, I actually had to leave in the middle of our meal (just like in New Orleans) because I got the call that I was on for Scar. I was upset to tragically cut my Sugarcane experience short. Molly and A.J. got to witness an actor’s tantrum, and A.J. was kind enough to drive me to work so Molly, Ang and Max could finish brunch up leisurely.

3. South Beach. No matter what the pretense, this is by far the most entertaining beach in Miami. Everything is aesthetically gorgeous — the sugary sand, the aquamarine water, the muscles and curves on the bodies barely wearing anything. The people-watching is unparalleled. The parking is a pain! But that is the price you pay for swank, right? Molly, Ang and Max went one afternoon and camped out in back of the Delano Club.

Max called Molly “Terry” for a week, then moved on to “Monny”. She says she’ll take it.

“Ma, stop smooching me — you’re destroying my game!”

2. Boater’s Grill at No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne.  This outdoor waterside restaurant offered a beautiful view of No Name Harbor, which used to be a pirate hangout.  None of the beautiful white boats in the harbor were flying the jolly roger that day, but it was fun to let your imagination go back in time.  I doubt the pirates ate as well as we did!

Above, Amy Cordileone, Rosalie Kaplan and Tony Crane enjoy the view and brew.

We went one time with Lion King folks, and then a second with Molly and A.J., who are friendly with the family who has owned the establishment for years. The seafood was as local as it gets.  Just about everything on the menu was straight from the water we gazed upon as we ate.  We shared rounds of ice cold Presidente beer which went well with everything on the menu, from grilled lobster and shrimp to red snapper a la plancha and fries to the house specialty — a whole, deep-fried fish.

The fish was offered in medium, large, and jumbo, depending on the catch that day.  For us, we ordered a large red snapper which was then scaled, cleaned, and scored with a knife along its flanks, then plunked down into the deep fryer.  What emerged was ridiculously good.  The skin was wonderfully crispy, and beneath it was the most tender flakey white fish you could imagine.  All it needed was fresh squeezed lime juice, some flavorful rice and beans and a fresh salad.  It was an unforgettable meal.

Keep an eye out for the family of large iguanas that live at the water’s edge.  They were fun to watch as they darted through the tall grass as we left the restaurant.

1. Bill Baggs State Park at Key Biscayne Beach.  We found a little slice of heaven at Key Biscayne, thanks to the advice of A.J. and Molly (always!).  It is only a 15 minute drive from downtown and offers a pristine beach with toddler-friendly surf, a picturesque lighthouse and dunes.  We spent a reasonable $20 for a big umbrella and 2 chairs, which we promptly made into a comfy camp.  It was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and we were warned  that South Beach was like a war zone during this time.  So we, along with some of the Lion King gang, made the short drive out to Bill Baggs State Park in the late morning.

It was one of our first sunny days in Miami and we enjoyed every last ray!  The surf was gentle and the shallows extended a good 25 yards out.

As we know, Max loves the pool, but he wasn’t prepared for the beach salt stinging his eyes.

It was beautiful fine, white sand, but you would’ve sworn that Max was allergic to it.  He didn’t want anything to do with it, and when I set him down, he stood still unwilling to move.

I decided to implement a “sand immersion therapy.”  I rubbed sand all over until he was covered from the neck down.  It was hysterical.  He didn’t complain once, but I could tell he was weirded out.

It wasn’t until I started building a sand castle that he started to loosen up.  He easily forgot his aversion to sand as we both worked together.  I love the ocean, and Miami could be our last taste of it for a while.  It’s important to me that Max have an appreciation of it as well.  That doesn’t mean he has to like it.  I just want him to appreciate it, respect it and the natural world and what it has to offer.  I believe there is nothing better you can do for your child.

Below: “Enough of the sand immersion therapy! I’m good!”


Books & Books Cafe on Lincoln Road.   Molly and A.J. live around the corner and brought us to their favorite eatery, which we enjoyed outside despite the rain. It’s always the company that ends up making the meal grand, right?

Check out Molly’s meatless meatball sandwich below. Hard to believe it’s vegetarian!

Icebox Cafe off of Lincoln Road. Another place that A.J. and Molly brought us to — they said the service might be spotty, but we ended up having a great server and a great meal! The Icebox Cafe serves healthy, clean food and wonderful cakes that are all natural and worth going off any diet. It’s such a low-key place, but evidently The Oprah Winfrey Show said it served the best cake in the country. We had the Devil Dog Cake and the Butterfinger Ice Cream Cake. Word.

Haven. The drinks at this South Beach lounge are divine. Molly and Ang are having the “Fever”, which is Grey Goose Poire, jalepeño, lychee and pear Prosecco.

The Shore Club. If you want a quintessential nighttime Miami beach bar experience, complete with the fancy poolside drinks, cabana beds, open sky and romantic lighting, look no further than The Shore Club. We have no great photos of the evening there, except for the one below (sort of). You’ll just have to take our word for it and go…

Margaret Pace Park near The Doubletree Grand. One of the bright spots of our condo was the park with the nearby running track, outdoor workout area with conditioning stations, and kids playground. We really only used the latter! One day while Max and Ang were out there with Lisa, a random artist named Will offered to draw Max for $5. Ang thought it might be fun, and hired him although it had started to rain.

Lisa held an umbrella over Will to keep the paper dry, and the whole sketch only took about 10 minutes.

So… it sort of looks like Max. If you block out the mouth, it totally is Max. But Will drew in some very adult-looking teeth and I think it kind of wrecks it. But while it hangs on the fridge of wherever we’re at, Max still looks at the drawing and calls it “Max” very knowingly.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron July 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Great photos of you all. Great to see Max and pop and the ocean.


Michael July 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Thanks Ron! We will be seeing you in the fall, we can’t wait!


steve mccarthy July 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Ummm… so Miami was NOT fun? Your photos tell otherwise my friends! Perhaps your standards need to be lowered. Or not! Keep on having fun! It’s fun to keep up with you.


Michael July 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Yes, we realized after we wrote the blog post that we sounded pretty lame, saying we didn’t have fun. The photos don’t lie!


ANGELIQUE July 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm



Michael July 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Thanks Angelique! I hate zombies so much you don’t even know!


Lauren J. July 5, 2012 at 4:15 am

The funniest is the last thing you mention about the sketch of Max. It’s pretty odd but you’ll always have fond memories of that time! And although you had some hard moments, it seemed pretty darn fun with all those photos. Hopefully you’ll get to see some more beaches soon.


Michael July 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I believe we’ll be near Galveston when we’re in Houston. We might try that out. I’m glad to be near water at least!


AGS July 5, 2012 at 7:14 am

Wow, what an adventure Miami was! You can always take positive things from these travel experiences! Good luck on your next destination!


Michael July 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

We did learn a great deal, both about housing and dealing with downtowns in various cities. Thanks for reading!


Andrew Sgroi July 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm

A terrific read, my friend! I shall be a regular visitor. All the best to you and your beautiful family. Safe travels….


Michael Hollick July 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Thank you, Andrew! My favorite Nathan Detroit ever!


Michael July 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Andrew, thanks for stopping in! Please do follow us wherever we go, it would be nice to hear from you on our travels as well!


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