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Love It, Leave It: The Miami Edition

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Hi There! I’m Erin Oliveri — a sarcastic, yet unexpectedly friendly native New Yorker. My obsession with travel might be borderline unhealthy, but I’ve learned to combat this affliction with my pre-flight multivitamin. I’ve been to more than 35 countries and 6 continents, exploring the finest food and drink establishments a city has to offer.

In each city, there are those “can’t miss” hot spots that locals and tourists alike are queuing up around the block for. But, let’s be honest, many of those are overrated. I’m here to let you know what’s worth the hype and what’s not. And, maybe, just maybe, there are some under the radar places that should be on your checklist instead.

Love It, Leave It: Miami Edition

Ah, the 305. It seems like Miami is an ever-bustling scene that seamlessly transitions from beautifully buff and bronzed sunseekers during the day to slick suits, stilettos, celebrity sightings and nonstop revelry at velvet-roped South Beach clubs. Somewhere between the beach and the dancefloor, it’d be advisable to hit one (or a few) restaurants; otherwise, you may not make it to last call. With hundreds of restaurants to to snag a reservation at, you have to be careful not to fall victim to the tourist-ridden, glitzy beach spots just because they’re conveniently located.

Love It: Wynwood.

When a friend of mine took me to Wynwood for the first time, I was a bit bothered that I hadn’t discovered this hipster, art-obsessed mecca earlier. The area is most well-known for its epic, hand-painted and graffitied walls. Just search #wynwoodwalls on Instagram and you’ll get the picture, quite literally. The reason why most travelers might miss this constantly evolving community is that it’s a slight trek from the beach. From the iconic Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach to the main drag of Wynwood, it’s about a 20-minute drive (or Uber, let’s get real about it).

But, much like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the hipster scene also churns out culinary works of art that compliment any budget (yes, even if only old movie stubs line your Velcro wallet). Let’s start with the budget-friendly joints – Coyo & KUSH. Coyo, a bustling Mexican spot on 2nd Avenue (where you typically start Wynwood excursion) dishes out reasonably priced, flavor-filled tacos, and also houses a hidden speakeasy in the back. Wait—is that possible? Yep. Go there. And KUSH by Lokal, sitting on the outskirts of Wynwood (awkwardly straddling the train tracks), has tons of local craft brews that wash down substantially sized, award-winning burgers. The Johnny Utah – which I had to try – is smothered in a homemade sauce and topped with a hearty handful of pastrami.

If you can tap into an expense account or you just saved up for one top-notch dinner, pull up a chair at Alter. This warehouse-turned-fine-dining-hot-spot is tasting-menu driven. Choose from the five or seven courses for $69 or $89. But, if you’re going all out, the ‘full chef’s experience’ comes in at $165. Bold flavors and artistically-plated entrees ensure the food tastes as good as it looks.

To keep you there all night long, Wynwood has microbreweries on what seems like every other street. From the popular Concrete Beach Brewery, with the kitschy “Drink art. Make Beer.” slogan, to the smaller J. Wakefield Brewing, decked out with the owner’s favorite Star Wars and superhero memorabilia, you’d be crazy to leave this trendy community without trying out a few taps.

Leave It: Lincoln Road Mall.

“The Beach” – Miami or South – is where nearly every tourist stays. With miles of soft sand surrounded by hotels, restaurants and clubs, dropping your bags here isn’t a question, it’s an innate decision. Yes, while one of these spots should be your designated ‘home base’ spot, venturing out a bit for your meals (and liquid refreshments) will be the highlight of your trip. The quintessential tourist trap, which I myself fell victim to and would certainly not blame you if you’ve been, is Lincoln Road. I don’t have many regrets in life friends, but this is certainly one of them. Jam packed with chain restaurants and shops, this road is one you may as well walk blindfolded down, since foot traffic moves at a snail’s pace. While shuffling down this mini-mall-esque street, you’ll see some names that might seem vaguely familiar: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Rosa Mexicano, SUSHISAMBA, ad nauseam. I kind of live by the motto that if you can eat dinner while staring at a Crocs store, you might want to re-evaluate some of your life decisions. How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? (All questions to ask your therapist in next week’s session.)

The week prior to my trip, my parents had gone to Miami and told me a horror story, brought to you by the aforementioned SUSHISAMBA. As far as chains go, this is a fairly reliable joint for slightly overpriced sushi (we have a couple in Manhattan). But, the service at its Lincoln Road locale was nightmarish – incorrect orders and exorbitant food wait times. Of course I didn’t dare step food in this establishment, but headed over to a meat-centric eatery aptly named Meat Market. Hello again, horrendous service. These restaurants are so overcrowded, and with a slim wait staff that has to service both indoor and outdoor tables, creating the “can you grab our waiter?” effect. You know it well. When you sit down, look at the menus, have been ready to order for 15 minutes, and no waiter is in sight. You start tapping bus boys, hostesses, even other patrons, just dying for someone to jot down your steak tartare appetizer. By the time the food is set down on the table, you’re so ravenous that cardboard dusted in truffle salt sounds appealing. The service – or lack thereof – just destroys the whole dining experience. Head to Lincoln Road if you need a few $10 tank tops from H&M, not if you’re looking for a quality dining experience.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 19:40:13.

Erin Oliveri is the definition of an adventurous nomad — from eating highly questionable street food in Bangkok to plunging off of one of the highest bungee jumps in the world — there’s nothing she won’t try when traveling. A native New Yorker, Erin has eaten her way through nearly 40 countries and six continents — Antarctica, she’s coming for you next. She’s also pretty obsessed with puns, not going to the gym, and her French Bulldog, Toulouse (Erin’s #1 eating buddy and frequent star on her Instagram).

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Trump’s Trans Military Ban

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The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in terms of equality. A person was not allowed to be openly gay in the US military until former president Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September of 2011. Gay men and women are now allowed to be out, proud, and active members of the military. Unfortunately, this is not the case for transgender individuals. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, president Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/mSw8hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How alarming! This is a clear violation of human rights and extremely detrimental to the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. (We also have to appreciate the irony of the tweets considering that on July 26, 1948, former president Truman desegregated the military).

What Trump is basically saying is that allowing transgender people in the military would be a financial detriment. I’m assuming that he is referring to the cost of hormones for transgender people. What he doesn’t realize that the cost of hormones is significantly less than what the military is paying for medications such as Viagra. According to the United Press International, the US military spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction medication than transgender care. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it may mean any number of things:

  1. Trump has no idea what he’s talking about
  2. He’s pandering to the conservative right
  3. He’s transphobic

Who really knows? Whatever the reason, it is definitely a step back for equality. However, hope is not lost as many people are taking a stand against Trump’s ban. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga had some things to say about this ban.

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/JmdNo2

 

Lady Gaga is not the only person fighting against Trump’s un-American ban. The Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, is fighting for the rights of transgender people, saying that the ban is an “all-out assault on service members” and that the ban would affect approximately 15,000 currently serving troops. This will clearly have a negative impact on the US military as it consists of millions of brave men and women who fight for the freedom of the American citizens and losing even one soldier due to bigotry can cause the military to weaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, or UCLA, is also fighting against Trump’s ban.

Image via goo.gl/RxN1n9

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give up hope! This ban is definitely a step in the wrong direction and it hopefully won’t spiral into something even more horrible which is why it is very important that we speak out against this hateful action. Voice your outrage anywhere where your voice can be heard and stand with the transgender community during this trying time, use the hashtag #protecttranstroops on Twitter, repeat the maxim “trans people are not a burden,” and fight for what is right. It may not be easy but as long as we fight, the rights of transgender individuals can and will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-07-28 21:19:21.


Also published on Medium.

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48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Mexico City

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Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis full of color and culture. You could easily spend a month there and still not get to see and experience everything the city has to offer. If you only have a weekend, you can get a taste of Mexico City’s delights, but be warned – you will probably be booking your next trip as soon as you arrive home.

With more museums than any other city in the world, amazing architecture, a scintillating LGBTQ scene, delicious street food and many other attractions, Mexico City is one of the most exciting cities on the planet.

Getting There

Juarez International Airport is located eight miles from Mexico City. If you arrive late at night, it is advisable to take an official taxi to the downtown area. During the day, the metro is a good alternative.

Getting Around

Mexico City’s metro system is extensive and one of the cheapest underground systems in the world. Having said that, it isn’t the most comfortable of transport options during rush hour. Taxis are cheap, but make sure you take one from the official sitio taxi stands or use Uber.

Day One

Start the day with Huevos Rancheros, a classic Mexican breakfast – tortillas, fried eggs, salsa and refried beans. Try Café El Popular (5 de Mayo esq Palmas, just off the Zocalo). It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists and has a diner-style ambiance.

After a hearty breakfast, head to the charming neighbourhood of Coyoacan. The number one attraction here is La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s house, which has now been turned into a museum. It provides a fascinating insight into the life of artist Frida and her husband Diego Rivera. www.museofridakahlo.org.mx

The garden in La Casa Azul

Afterwards, you could head around the corner to the house where the exiled Leon Trotsky lived the last year of his life. It was there that he was murdered by an assassin in his study. In contrast to Frida’s colorful abode, it is an austere house which has been changed little since Trotsky lived there, but is an intriguing slice of political history.

Coyoacan Plaza is a great place to sample some tasty street food. At weekends, it is particularly lively with food and handicraft stalls. There is often live music, adding to the festive atmosphere. It feels like small town Mexico in the heart of the big city.

Back in Centro Historico, take a stroll around the huge main plaza, the Zocalo, the second largest public square in the world after Russia’s Red Square. There are plenty of museums, shops and cool street art to explore in the surrounding areas.

La Catrina, the iconic skeleton lady

El Balcon del Zocalo is a perfect place for dinner. The restaurant has a rooftop terrace, bestowed with spectacular views of the cathedral and Zocalo. It has an international, Mexican and veggie friendly menu. www.balcondelzocalo.com

For a taste of Mexican style nightlife, head to Calle Amberes at Paseo de la Reforma in Zona Rosa. This area is the hub of the LGBTQ scene in Mexico City. Have a wander and take your pick of the many bars and clubs that line the street.

Day Two

Pasteleria Ideal (Calle 16 de Septiembre 18, Col. Centro) could be the largest and most heavenly bakery you have ever seen. The choice of baked goods, both sweet and savory, are a feast for the eyes and as the name suggests, is an ideal place to grab some pastries. With breakfast and coffee in hand, make tracks to Alameda Park and find a bench to sit to enjoy your first meal of the day and partake in a spot of people-watching. You can’t miss the opulent architecture of Palacio de Belles Artes, the grandest building in Mexico City.

Just across the road (Calle Revillagigedo 11, Cuauhtemoc), check out the Popular Art Museum. Housed in an ex-fire station, this contemporary museum is full of colorful Mexican folk art. It’s fun and quirky and the exhibits range from Day of the Dead skulls and skeletons to vibrant piñatas. www.map.cdmx.gob.mx

Museum of Popular Art – fun and quirky

La Ciudadela is an artisan market (Calle de Balderas, s/m Centro, 06040 Cuauhtemoc). It specializes in Mexican handicrafts from 0axacan fantasy animals to beautifully decorated skulls. Prices are reasonable and you are bound to find something that catches your eye.

Even if you have never considered attending a wrestling match before, lucha libre is a unique Mexican experience and not-to-be-missed. (Arena Mexico,189 Calle Dr. Lavista, Colonia Doctores).  Regular sessions are held on Tuesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The atmosphere is electric and whole families attend shouting abuse at the bad guys and cheering for their heroes.  

Round off your time in Mexico City with some tequila shots and mariachi music at a bar on Plaza Garibaldi. The haunting sound of roving mariachi bands echo around the square, as you reflect on two action-packed days in this amazing city.

Tequila shots at the ready!

 

Originally posted 2017-07-29 11:22:36.

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Love It, Leave It: The Portland, OR Edition

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Back to the Pacific NW, a not-so-secret favorite destination of mine. It very well could be that I’m just all jazzed up off of increased oxygen levels (man, they have a lot of trees), but I swear that everything tastes better out there. I constantly imagine tiny gnomes in tweed hats and hemp-based sweaters pulling out the freshest, organic vegetables from the depths of the soil. Albeit slightly far-fetched, this fictional scene will hopefully help you imagine just how epic the Portland food landscape is. But, there are two things (that just so coincidentally happen to be my favorite) we should focus on for now: brews and doughnuts.

Love It: Breakside Brewery. Blue Star Donuts.

(Photo credit: Erin Oliveri)

Breakside Brewery: With two locations in this quirky town, Breakside is a hipster mecca churning out solid craft brews and hearty, standout dishes. The newest spot in Slabtown (what a weird, yet endearing Portland name) is a boisterous, bi-level warehouse, that was jam packed on a Sunday afternoon. While most were throwing back some pints (most likely IPAs, since the list is bursting with them), plenty came just for the food. The brewery sources organic seasonal produce and meats; and while menus at breweries are often there solely to help combat hours of drinking, this one is a solid partner, justly accompanying the top-notch beers. The Bavarian pretzel is one of epic proportions — a woman from the table over asked if she could come over just for a photo. And, the fried chicken biscuit sandwich was gone so fast from my plate…but also from the menu since it’s only served from “3 p.m. ‘til gone.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Star Donuts: A hotly debated topic in Portland just so happens to be one near and dear to my heart (and stomach): doughnuts. I was told by locals on my first visit that these are the “grown up” doughnuts. I agreed once I took a spin around the BSD website — wooing me with phrases like “brioche recipe,” “cage-free eggs” and “the dough takes 18 hours to make.” Well, I wanted all of that, immediately. And what a coincidence, there’s one just a few minutes away from Breakside Brewery. I’d advise snagging a maple bacon or blueberry bourbon basil — or any beautifully baked ring ‘cause they’re so delicious — and sample en route to your future beer tasting. Carbs are your friends.

Leave It: Rogue Distillery and Public House

It’s not without a sad face emoji that this Rogue outpost turned out to be a big miss for me. Back east, I’ve drunk everything from the classic Dead Guy Ale to offbeat collabs with Blue Star rival, Voodoo Doughnuts. The core of Rogue was present, with plenty of beers on tap to sample, but the ambiance was non-existent and the menu was stacked with uninspired bar food. My original excitement for the poutine shortly faded after just a few bland bites. I’d say if you’re looking for the true Rogue experience and you just so happen to be headed toward the Oregon Coast, the original Public House (originally the Bayfront Brewery) and a newer, bi-level brewpub are nestled in the quaint coastal town of Newport. These locales may serve for a more authentically ‘Rogue’ experience.

Originally posted 2017-07-26 18:18:16.

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