I love a good story, especially when that story comes with the disclaimer “based on real events”, that is the butter on the popcorn.

Enter Faruk Bishevac of Food Tours in Miami, a true Miami researcher and semi-historian in his own right. Armed with old photographs of Miami Beach, connections to the yummiest local spots, and enough knowledge of South Beach’s History to stump even the nosiest busybody most curious tourist, Faruk walked us through the Art Deco lined streets and truly lectured on this food tour. Taking breaks in between multi-cultural meals and clever photo ops, we ended up tasting foods from four different countries which have influenced Miami’s cuisine at five of South Beach’s best restaurants.

Here were my top five moments on the tour:

  1. The Bench: Legend has it, there is only one city bench to sit on at Lincoln Road. It’s interesting because in the late 1980s when art began to thrive in Miami, the Miami City Ballet moved to Lincoln Road. And the story goes that anyone was allowed to pull up a seat and watch from outside. As tribute to this tradition, the sole bench left on Lincoln Road is conveniently in front of the store windows of a very famous lingerie franchise (wink, wink).
  2. The Ocean Plaza Hotel: Here’s an embarrassing secret: this Girl in Her 30s has always been fascinated with the organized crime of the 1930s. Well, if you don’t know what you’re looking for when you walk into the lobby of The Ocean Plaza Hotel (affectionately nicknamed “The Diva”) you’ll miss the way the lobby floors point to a secret hidden bar that dates back to the days of prohibition. Might Al Capone have sat at one of these original bar stools? We don’t know, but this recently renovated place is full of sophistication, elegance, and wonderment both old and new.
  3. Marañon Juice from Rio Station: While our tour guide, Faruk, goes on about South Beach’s fascinating history and how the influx of recent migrations have influenced Miami’s culture, I sip on marañon juice, which translated is cashew fruit juice. Yes, cashew! Tasting like a pineapple-grapefruit-mango hybrid fruit, this is the most exotic juice I have ever had in Miami. Sitting outside the restaurant, people-watching, while discussing history and sipping on this juice is quite literally the most refreshing part of the food tour.
  4. The Trolley Ride: There is walking on this tour; light walking but in Miami weather. The chance to hop on an air conditioned trolley for free cannot be passed up. The design of the trolley hints at Art Deco, making it charming. The trolley is a welcomes break from walking in the sun. Rumor has it the City of Miami Beach is looking to suspend this service due to funding, so riding it comes with the added bonus that you’ll get to be a part of Miami Beach’s History.
  5. The Church: Self-proclaimed self-made American, Carl Fisher married wife Jane when he was 20 years her senior (she was 15). That alone is scandalous. The Fishers move to Miami and eventually Carl Fisher falls to the vices of the prohibition era. It is said that Jane insisted on his building a church as retribution for his sins (which included his infidelities). He is quoted as saying “I’ll build you the best goddamn church there is”. Ninety-five years later, the church Miami Beach Community Church is still standing, Carl Fisher was said to have ended up losing his wife, fortune, and dying of cirrhosis. We assume the church did not sell him his redemption, but it makes for quite the scandal.

Everyone loves a good scandal. We are all either proud gossips or undercover listeners. Either way, we love to know about forbidden paramours and dangerous love triangles, and prefer to believe in the endings we imagine rather than the realities we are living. We indulge in romantic movies because they provide us the chance to judge the evil doers and sympathize with victims, without the guilt of harming any real person. For this, and many other reasons, I love history.

For details on the tour: Contact Faruk Bishevac at 305-537-8531  or online at http://foodtoursmiami.com/

These are all the places we visited on the tour and my recommendations:

David’s Cafe- Cuban cortadito with Cuban guava pastries
Panizza Bistro– Homemade oven-baked Argentinian empanadas
Rio Station– Marañon juice and bolinha de bacahlau
Tides Hotel– Crab Meat Salad (made with fresh real crab)
Ferli Gelato and Espresso Bar– homemade Italian gelato

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