MIA

Miami International Airport

Just about everyone has a colorful opinion of Miami International Airport. Many despise the place. I am among those that love it. The airport is the perfect representation of Miami. Lots of glitz and glam, part bus terminal, absolute chaos and full of flavor. Cuban food and Caribbean fare abound and should be at the top of any travelers must-eat list here. MIA is my home airport, so I have lots of tips and tricks to share. Here’s where to Eat MIA:

Café Versailles (D5, D20, D44, E30 & Terminal F)

The iconic Little Havana Landmark has multiple locations throughout the terminals at MIA. Versailles is a true taste of Miami. I love their Empanadas (Spinach & Cheese, fried), Croquetas de Jamón, Pastelitos de Guyaba y queso, Papa Rellena  and of course the Cafe Cubano is not to be missed. Anytime I’m on an early morning flight, I can count on a Empanada de espinaca, 2 Croquetas de Jamón y un cafe con leche to power my way to lunch or beyond! Located by gates D5, D20, D44, E30, Terminal F before security.

La Carreta (D37 & Terminal F)

Another Miami staple, La Carreta is the spot to get a more substantial Cuban Meal. Order from the cafeteria style service line and treat yourself to Cuban classics like Vaca Frita, Ropa Vieja, Picadillo, Arroz Moro, Platanos Maduros, Tostones…do yourself a favor and make a meal out of it! Near Gate 37 and pre-security Terminal F.

Estefan Kitchen Express (D29)

Emilio & Gloria Estefan are Miami’s power couple. This small spot can easily be missed, it’s a small bar with just 6 seats in the corridor right in the middle of busy concourse D. Pop in for a Mojito and some Croquetas for a great pre-flight snack, make some new friends and enjoy the friendly service. If you’re really hungry, go for the Lechón flatbread- tender Lechón (roasted pork) mozzarella, Platanos Maduros (sweet plantains) topped with a drizzle of truffle honey- qué rico! Find it Near D29.

American Express Centurion Lounge (D8)

By far my most valuable travel resource, the Platinum Card from Amex has allowed me to step into the light and enjoy this exclusive perk. Available to AMEX Centurion and Platinum cardholders, this lounge is a sight to see. Perched high above the airfield, the views are incredible, especially for Avgeeks like me. The food is spectacular, with a full selection of hot and cold dishes by Michelle Bernstein, one of Miami’s most celebrated chefs. The dishes are ready made in individual portions, just grab and go. Several fresh salads, cookies and fruit are readily available. There is a full bar with both service at the bar and at tables throughout the lounge. There are even complimentary spa services available. Did I mention the open bar!? Veuve, Chivas and Goose on deck- no cutting corners here. This place puts any US Based carrier’s lounge to shame! Run, don’t walk, to D8 with that pretty AMEX in tow.

Manchu Wok (D44)

Hear me out in this one. There are two Manchu Wok’s at MIA. One is great, one is terrible! The great one is near gate D44, so it’s a good spot if you are anywhere between D40-60, which have pretty scarce options. This is my favorite spot for a quick bite on the fly. What’s my go to here? When I’m feeling like I can afford the calories, I go for Lo Mein, General Tso’s or Orange Chicken, and Kung Pao Chicken. I try to make sure there are a few veggies on the plate so I don’t totally screw myself.

T.G.I. Fridays (D36)

Not my normal go-to, but here’s a tip for any smokers out there. You can smoke in a section of Friday’s that actually has an open roof. So if you’re jonesin’ for a smoke, head over to the TGIF at D-36. Another tip- try to quit! I did 3 + years ago and it was the best decision I’ve ever made!

Bongo’s Café (H/J Connector Food Court)

I haven’t shown much love for the H/J concourses, there is just too much good eating in D! Bongo’s is another Miami Classic. Great for a quick Mojito or glass of wine on the go. I can’t speak for the food, the atmosphere and set-up is  more enjoyable for a cocktail. Find it in the connector between Terminals H & J.

Take-away

MIA has a bad rap and I get it. Not too long ago, the airport was an embarrassment that fit the reputation of “tacky Florida”, filled with loud tropical floral patterns, polished brass, smoked mirrors and lots of cinderblock walls. It has transformed to a global gateway that is a proud representation of the Magic City, so give it another chance,  there is no place in the world quite like Miami! Final tip, if you have more than 3 hours here, you can get to Downtown Miami easily on the Orange Line Metrorail. Catch it from the Transportation Center at MIA- venture in to the city and easily check out great spots like the Vizcaya Mansion, Little Havana, Merrick Park and Brickell. A ticket costs $2.50 each way. Welcome to Miami!