Tag Archives: florida road trip

Miata Fiata Radio: New Episode Talking Florida Road Trips with Chris

It’s been a loooooong time since Chris and I did a Miata Fiata podcast episode… at least since January. So now that we’re both back in New Jersey it was time to catch up and talk about our recent road trips down to Florida. Chris had a family emergency requiring him to drive the rental van down to Miami for a few months, while I drove my Miata down to Central Florida to volunteer St. Pete GP and Sebring 12 hour.

 


Miata Fiata Radio – Episode X Migrating to a New Service, Road Trips to Florida in Miata vs. Rental Cars

We met up in Union City, NJ which is a really cool area overlooking the New York City skyline where Chris’s family has a property. Chris keeps his awesome 1970’s Fiat in a garage there. I got a chance to snap a crappy photo of my Miata with it.

Funny story about that… my car refused to start before heading out to Chris’s house. Why? I don’t know but it would crank and not fire. I immediately assumed that my used ignition relay from eBay I had just installed the day before was faulty. So in the pouring rain I popped the hood and swapped it out for the old one. In the process I cracked the plastic cover on the eBay purchase which was the main reason for getting it in the first place, the plastic cover on my original fuse was broken off. That whole procedure did absolutely nothing, so I broke it for no good reason.

Asked my father for advice and he suggested that water was a factor, possibly creating a poor connection on the battery. So I kept on turning the key until it started and the problem hasn’t replicated since… ¬†shame I handled the situation the way I did. Now I’m going to shop around for a new replacement Ignition relay.

Anyway… have a listen to the new Miata Fiata Radio episode. We’ll be moving all our older episodes from Shout Cloud to Shout Engine to avoid storage limits. And in the process I’ll be amending the name from Miata Fiata Talk to “Radio”

Comments and opinions are welcome. We’d also love to have guests on future podcasts so reach out to get yourself on!

Foodie Tour of Florida: Trying Watermelon Rind Pickles (and Loving it!)

Every Road Trip presents an opportunity to try something new and delicious. My Motorsport Foodie Tours are a highlight of my volunteering career and this Spring Break trip to Florida was no exception… I discovered a new food I love: Watermelon Rind Pickles!

Ironically I was so busy stuffing my face with delicious seafood and the endless salad bar, I didn’t really take any close up shots of this tasty goodness…

The whole atmosphere of the dinner where this new food was sampled might have contributed to the pleasant experience. While staying in Daytona Beach my host John Gamble and I met up with our CFR flagging friend Captain Morgan who I had the privilege of working with the previous year both at St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour. He’s an amazing person and someone I really admire and truly respect. Even when our political views differ ūüėČ

The restaurant, Aunt Catfish’s on the River is a really happening spot even on a weekly night for dinner. There was wait time to get a table. But we used the opportunity to get a mason jar or beer and shoot the breeze on the dock. It was pretty awesome and very relaxing.

Once inside, the main attraction is the unlimited salad bar. Both cold and hot versions, where you can help yourself to a serving of the Watermelon Rind Pickles… the first time I missed this altogether trying not to overload my plate with other delicious food. But at recommendation of Captain Morgan I went back and stocked up.

I didn’t take any close-up pix of the watermelon rind, but you can see the little green cubes in the picture above, all the way to the right of the plate… they are amazing!

I felt like licking the plate when dinner was done, it was so good!

But then Captain Morgan recommended desert:

I literally had to wobble out of the place… I was so full. But happy!

Thanks to Captain Morgan for introducing me to Watermelon Rind Pickles, so now I could promote the food to others. Do add it to your Foodie Tour experiences next time you visit Florida or South in general. You’ll probably love it too!

Foodie Tour: Sampling Minorca Clam Chowder Along the A1A in St. Augustine and Florida’s Atlantic Coast

Today was an interesting day that turned out fantastic.

The First Coast Miata Club in Jacksonville was having their monthly meeting which I wanted to attend. I also wanted to use the opportunity to visit Tom at The Parts Group which is on the way driving North from Daytona Beach… but that did not materialize. So instead I decided to take a really enjoyable ride up the A1A, Florida’s scenic route along the Atlantic Coast towards St. Augustine to sample some of their delicious Minorca Clam Chowder.

What is Minorca Clam Chowder?

It’s a red soup similar to Manhattan Clam Chowder but with added taste of Datil Pepper. According to legend the datil pepper only grows in St. Augustine, Florida and on the island of Minorca off the coast of Spain where the initial settlers to the area came from. (btw. Minorca’s neighbors are Majorca and Ibiza if you were wondering). St. Augustine was on my to-do list after the first time I visited it last December. I drove the VW Bettle rental in the opposite direction, from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach and really enjoyed that experience although it was a bit sight to see with all the damage to the buildings from hurricane Matthew.

Some readers may also remember my Connecticut lobster roll foodie tour where I complained that this was an expensive endeavor and that I should do a clam chowder foodie tour… Voila!

So multiple birds, single stone. Ticked all the boxes on this trip!

The drive along A1A was really beautiful. It’s amazing how quickly the area rebounded post the hurricane and in today’s sunshine everything looked absolutely beautiful. There are still some damaged beach access steps in Flagler Beach, but overall everything looked in tip top shape. Really makes me want to move to Florida!

I loved the “Welcome to…” signs so I stopped a few times to take a shot with each of the scenic A1A signs.

Lots of beautiful palm trees, and tons of bikes since it is Bike Week in Daytona Beach currently.

Besides the ocean the views of the Matanzas River were stunning.

First Stop: O’Steen’s in St. Augustine

Got there at about 2pm and the place was packed. I overheard there was a 30 minute wait for tables, but I was able to place an order for a bowl of Minorcan Clam Chowder at the window. It was ready quickly. I went for a short drive towards the river and ate it in the car

The soup was obviously tomato based, but unlike Manhattan clam chowder that taste wasn’t overwhelming… at least at this place. The chunks of clam were quite large, and the potato was very tasty. The pepper spice wasn’t too strong and on a cool day like today was quite refreshing actually.

I cruised around St. Augustine taking in the sights, enjoying the view like the countless tourists walking around. Much like St. Pete the old city had cobble stone streets, tight… very similar to those in Spain.

The tide on the river reminded me a little bit of Cairns in Australia.

St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, established in 1585.

Lots of Ponce de Leon references. Famous Fountain of Youth, etc.

The castle looked a lot like the one in Puerto Rico…

Lots of Spanish flags around the city.

Next Stop: Schooner’s Seafood House

The Schooner’s version was a bit more watery. The chunks of clam were much smaller, but chunks of potato and tomato were much bigger.

Onwards!

Oooo… what’s that? Martini Racing…

Final Stop: Singleton’s Seafood Shack

Unlike the first two places in St. Augustine this one was some 30 miles north, past Jacksonville Beach in a town of Atlantic Beach where to cross the St. John river to continue onwards on A1A you must take a ferry. (Oh how I wanted to take that $6 ferry ride with my car… but unfortunately my next destination was in South Jax not in the Northern part).

I was basically running late for my next appointment, so I didn’t immediately dive into this Minorcan Clam Chowder… but interesting observation… it cost a few bux more than the others and was about half the size. I had a bite when I got back to the house in Daytona Beach and the texture was good. I still prefer O’Steen’s out of all the three I sampled.

Driving back I noticed the Martini Racing trucks actually offloaded some interesting machinery on the shores of St. John river.

I pulled over. Asked one of the people standing around there if it was OK to take some pix… the person said “Sure!” and so I did… and them some bloody British wanker voiced his objections… so I said Alright… and walked away. Some dude followed me explaining that they paid a lot of money for those cars to be in a photoshoot for some magazine… go figure! So here’s a low budget, iPhone shot of these cars long before you’re meant to see them in some publication:

Voila… next stop the JAX Miata Club meet at yet another seafood place… stay tuned!

Mazda MX-5: Windshield Chip Repair

I brought a souvenir from Florida, a fresh new chip in the windshield resulting from a rock I caught shortly after leaving Daytona Beach.

I think this is something anyone who drives their Miata or any car for that matter on a Road Trip should almost expect to happen. Other than getting a flat tire or being involved in a fender bender catching debris with the windshield is likely and very possible. Though where it happened caught me by surprise. I talked about this issue in my Miata Fiata Radio road trip episode, saying that catching a rock to the windshield in the Northeast of the US is entirely likely, I would expect it. But catching a rock to the windshield in Florida where the roads are nice, pot holes are less likely due to weather, it was a surprise. Nevertheless the chip was not the end of the world. It didn’t crack the windshield, it just put a little dent causing the glass to chip and turning glass into little sandlike material that was clearly visible when I pulled over to inspect the damage.

Since this happened more than 1,000 miles from home I wasn’t able to fix it right away. Likewise when I arrived home the weather was first freezing and then rainy for a few days and it took me a little while to receive the repair kit I ordered online. But once the temps started climbing upwards of 50F and a little bit of sun came out, I went and tackled this problem. The end result was pretty good, and I am very much satisfied with this repair.

some pix:

Instead of following instructions in the little card included with the kit I watched a few YouTube videos to see how to do this correctly. I have done a chip repair a few years ago on my dad’s Grand Caravan minivan which caught a big chip in the windshield the day we bought it at an auction in Pennsylvania. That repair was a bit of a disaster, and the chip is still visible but has not spread. The most useful how-to video was that of Chris Fix from NJ who had a very good DIY video on his Mazda pick up truck. I was very happy to see the bubbles form in the syringe and then disappear when I pushed the air in. That was great. I left it on for 20 minutes which is ¬†longer than what Chris said in his video. And then when I scraped things off I noticed the little imperfection in the glass still visible, so I put another layer of resin over it for another hour. It was a cool 50F day with overcast skies, so the two hours of curing I think were absolutely necessary. Hopefully the imperfection doesn’t cause streaks when the wipers are on in rainy weather.

Miata Fiata Radio: Episode 2 the New Jersey to Florida Road Trip

A short and sweet episode talking about the recent New Jersey to Florida Road Trip I just took to volunteer for the Roar before the 24.


Miata Fiata Radio – Road Trip from New Jersey to Florida in January to Volunteer Roar before the 24 at Daytona

Summary:

The goal was to talk about the logistics of the road trip. The route I took was the longer of two options, instead of the more direct i95 along the Eastern Seaboard I took i81 instead. It added about 40 miles more to the trip, but I saved $40 or so in tolls (and a lot of frustration of sitting in traffic along all the major cities on that route, like Philly, Washington DC, Richmond, etc.)

Discounted gas cards are discussed. I purchased Sunoco, BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil cards to save on fuel and used the GasBuddy app’s map feature to see the cheaper stations ahead on my route. I played a game to calculate how far I could go and arrive at the station with the Low Fuel light lit up.

Foodie tour was mentioned. I said this trip was fueled by BBQ. I tried an amazing place in Rock Hill, SC called Dixie Pig and fell in love with their Pig Wings. And Due South BBQ in Christianburg, VA who had an amazing selection of BBQ sauces and some freebie bone bags for my fake beagle back home.

Things to watch out for. Checking tire pressure to avoid getting a flat or a blowout. Being careful with window chips, which I got… caught a rock to the windshield. Getting plenty of rest along the way so you don’t crash.

I completely forgot to talk about my Miata meet up in Jacksonville where a few First Coast Miata club folks came out to have dinner with me. Sorry about that.

Stay tuned for more!

Mazda MX-5: 2,000+ Mile Miata Road Trip and Foodie Tour from NJ to Florida in the Winter

2,355 miles to be exact.

It’s been a mild winter so far, and I had this genius idea to drive my Miata from New Jersey to Florida to volunteer the Roar before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway this January. The plan was to drive during the day so I minimize the possibility of hitting black ice in the Northern States and arrive Daytona Beach in time to have dinner with some friends there. It almost worked.

I got to meet with some folks from the First Coast Miata Club in Jacksonville along the way which I already wrote about. That was awesome, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about the drive part of the road trip and the foodie tour I got to do in different states along the way.

This trip was completely and totally BBQ based when it comes to food. I divided my driving in two stints. Home to Rock Hill, SC on the first day which covered about 680 miles and the rest on second day for the first trip. And Daytona Beach to Christiansburg, Virginia on the first day which again was about 640 miles and the rest on the second day which was around 500 miles. The Rock Hill stop was convenient because there was quite a few restaurants in town, I tried Cook Out chain for the first time since I was starving when I arrived. But since it was still early in the day I researched something more substantive to try. The Dixie Pig came highly recommended online and through the front desk at my hotel, so I went to give them a try and boy am I glad I did. The food was absolutely delicious. Their ribs kept on repeating on me for several¬†days after I had them, but my favorite menu item was their “Pig Wings” which was on the appetizer list just below Chicken Wings. What are Pig Wings? Apparently they are baby pig (under 250 lbs) upper legs, succulent and juicy and served smothered in a variety of sauces. I tried the garlic sauce option first time. But liked them so much I made sure to stop by Dixie Pig on the drive home too and tried BBQ sauce option. Mmmmm mmm! I highly recommend both this restaurant and especially the “pig wings” menu item. Well worth the $10 bux price!

On the drive home the stopover in Virginia was near to another barbecue joint called Due South BBQ. I had googled it in advance and wanted to go there after I check in at my hotel, but since I missed my exit I ended up going directly to the restaurant. It too was amazing, especially all their sauce varieties! I got a pulled pork sandwich and another brisket sandwich which seemed like a good idea at the moment when I arrived hungry… but turned out to be way too much meat for the night. The sign outside the restaurant did say “Come Pig Out With Us” and I certainly did. My favorite feature of the restaurant was a display stand near the counter full of bones that were neatly sealed in individual bags with a sign: “Take One, FREE” for your dog. Which I made sure to do… and my fake beagle Maxi Max really enjoyed chewing¬†on them for a few days now.

With the Jacksonville Miata club we hit up Metro Diner which is apparently known for their Chicken and Waffles… a typical southern dish. Several of the Miata guys ordered the fried chicken option, while I went with a New Orleans Shrimp and Grits dish where the grits were prepared differently (they were in solid block not running like they typically are). Great stuff!

While in Daytona I was limited to the track food which the Central Florida Region SCCA didn’t skimp out on. We were offered delicious sandwiches every day and had a tasty pizza party one of the nights. They had so much pizza we were asked to take a ¬†bunch of it home, which I did… so we had pizza for a few days that weekend.

The race weekend (without any actual real racing, it was all practice sessions) went by super quickly. And I departed Daytona Beach bright and early Monday morning. No sooner did I settle onto the highway at a comfortable cruising speed when all of a sudden I heard and felt a massive rock smashing into my windshield. It was weird because there were absolutely no cars in front of me other than a pick up truck in the right lane some distance away putzing along, and another car that had passed me like half a minute earlier in the left lane at a high rate of speed. That rock put a tiny chip in my windshield, right in line of sight on the driver’s side of the glass. Boo!

I was a bit concerned driving through the Carolinas because on my way down the Charlotte news was in panic mode… they were predicting 2 to 6 inches of snow over the weekend (& actually got 8). I knew it wouldn’t be snowing on my drive home but I also knew that ice was a possibility… a little side note: while in the hotel room listening to the news freak out about winter weather (which apparently the Carolinas don’t normally get) I quickly researched and booked a flight for my second trip to Florida at the end of the month to volunteer the actual race – Daytona 24 hours. But back to the drive, there was a lot of snow on the ground as soon as I crossed into North Carolina. The roads were nicely salted and fairly clear. The snow however started melting which meant my car got absolutely sprayed with that salty slush. But I made it through OK. The scary part was actually about an hour closer to home in Pennsylvania. All the road sings were lit up with “Warning, Winter Weather” and there was very fine but dense snow making visibility limited. But what worried me was the fact that about half an inch of that slush had formed on the travel lanes of the highway. It wasn’t enough to plough. And no snow trucks were out yet. So I backed off the accelerator and started following one of the many semi-trucks on the road who cleared a path for me. As soon as I arrived my home area in New Jersey I went right to the car wash to hose off all that salt off the car.

It was an excellent trip, even when my car sustained some minor damage with the chip in the windshield. I ordered a repair kit on eBay for about $10 bux and will seal the chip so that it doesn’t spread and form a bigger crack.

Some photos from the drive:

The cheapest gas I found was in South Carolina shortly after I got on i95 from i26. The prices did swing wildly for 93 octane premium gas with $2.43/gal price at this location and $3.25/gal at another Sunoco just a few miles down the highway (same state and probably same county, just different town). It was interesting to say the least and I used the GasBuddy app to check prices ahead of time when I was running low on fuel.

And some foodie tour pix:

The sandwiches from Due South BBQ in Virginia.

Pig Wings from Dixie Pig in Rock Hill, South Carolina with an old Mazda pick up parked outside.

Chicken and Waffles and Chicken and Mashed Potatoes from Metro.

I think I will repeat this road trip again come March to volunteer the St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour… it’s a lot of fun!

Three Trips to Florida in Three Weeks, the debrief

I love Florida!

I love Miami Beach… specifically South Beach or SoBe for short. I like to go every opportunity I get. Last year I got incredibly lucky with some cheap $35 each way flights to Miami International with American Airlines… this year JetBlue had a similar promo flying to Fort Lauderdale in the neighboring Broward County for $39 bux so I jumped on that offer. I booked one two day round trip, followed by another a week later… and then realized that if I book one more flight on JetBlue I’d qualify for the 5,000 point bonus which they award for any 3 round trip flights booked with the airline in the calendar year (I already had 1 JetBlue flight under my belt flying to Oakland, California for the Miatas at Laguna Seca a month earlier).

The Daytona Beach road trip I wrote about a little earlier and the fiasco I got to experience with Hertz and their Black and White VW Beetle’s I was blessed with. It wasn’t a perfect trip because of a few glitches along the way, the most disappointing of them all turned out to be the weather. The seas were especially rough a week or so after Hurricane Matthew blasted through the area.

Miami Beach wasn’t that much better. The first trip was a dud… seas were super rough even when the weather was nice and sunny. I didn’t get a chance to do what I specifically came there to do: swim! Luckily second and final week in SoBe was almost perfect and I swam, and I swam, and I swam.

But there’s only so much swimming one could do in a day so I totally worked the schedule around to optimize my foodie tour opportunities and I didn’t waste any time to enjoy some of the finest cuisine US has to offer… specifically very authentic Latin cuisine from the huge Cuban community in Miami and Little Havana around Calle Ocho. Below are some pix from those visits… and recommendations along with captions:

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I used a different NYC area airport for each one of my trips. Daytona Beach flight arrived at JFK in Jamaica, Queens. The first Ft. Lauderdale flight used LaGuardia in Queens and the final Ft. Laud/Hollywood International flight used Newark Liberty in NJ. Both LaGuardia and Newark departures saw a real traffic jam of flights on departure, we were something like 10th in line to use the runway, so each flight departed about an hour late. Both of the return flights experienced close to an hour delay because of ground holds in Newark. The LaGuardia flight was especially interesting because shortly after leaving South Florida and while I was watching CNN on the JetBlue IFE system, the vice-presidential candidate’s Boeing 737 crashed at LaGuardia… the airport we were flying to. Luckily the only issue was that the plane overshot the runway, so the airport re-opened and we arrived there eventually. For a moment though it was looking pretty hairy… I was wondering where they were going to re-route us to. Upon landing it took the pilot a few attempts to negotiate the landing. I haven’t done an aborted landing before this flight yet.

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Upon arrival in SoBe the red flags were out. And much like in auto racing, red flag means no racing… or in my case no swimming! Boo…

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So on the first trip the alternative was a foodie tour of Calle Ocho in Little Havana… a short bus ride across Miami.

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The cocks are obviously very uniquely cuban “thing” and are running around on the streets pretty freely.

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Sopas at Rey de las Fritas are outstanding!

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And so are the little Cuban Hamburgers with the little fritas sprinkled in… a pretty unique taste and very filling.

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No trip to Calle Ocho could be complete without some Guarapo… or freshly squeezed sugar cane drink. I ordered a whole bucket which was a bit pricey at $7 bucks… but oh so delicious!

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A short drive down 8th Avenue is Brickell Mazda… I got off the bus to check out their ND Miata’s on the lot. While Miami looks amazing in post cards and on TV in shows like CSI Miami, the reality of it is it’s hard to maintain the exotic image, especially with a dark colored car. The mix of dust and recent rain drops made this car look a little neglected…

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Back to the beach…

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and it was still red flagged… so I continued with the foodie tour!

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One of my favorite dishes in South Florida is ceviche… and I got a real nice octopus version on Washington Ave between 2nd and 3rd. It’s a take-out only place next door to a hostel, very tasty!

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Next time give them a try… look up My Ceviche, Miami Beach

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Though I tried to organize a little mini meet with the local Miata community absolutely nothing materialized, which was disappointing especially since this little “Mazdaspeed” gem was parked outside my hostel both weeks I was there.

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So instead I went car spotting along the streets of Miami Beach, and the local PD always had something interesting parked outside their HQ… like this pink CVPI cruiser

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Or this one the next week… Police Car or Taxi?

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Lots of interesting cars driving by also… plenty of Maseratis, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls Royces… the Bugatti was probably one of the few I got to see out in the wild though:

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Funny enough, plenty of exotics are available for rent, even as short as 1 hour period… saw a few beat up Ferraris, Lambos and Rolls’s:

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I went in asking if they had any Mazda Miata’s available, and the answer was NOPE!

So a Mazda Miata is a more rare car in Miami than most exotics!

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For some reason they really love Trump in Florida. kind of surprising!

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For another surprising reason I really drink a lot of Cuban coffee whenever I’m in South Florida… I don’t know what it is, I never drink coffee at home… but whenever I’m in Miami, cafe con leche is a must!

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One of my favorite places to get cafe con leche in Miami Beach is Playa Cafe on Washington Ave between 16th and Espanola Way. The other is Las Olas Cafe on Euclid and 6th Street.

Playa I visited especially frequently, trying many things on their menu:

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Most had some kind of combination of rice and beans as well as beef, pork and chicken. You really can’t go wrong, whether rice or yuca, it’s all finger licking good!

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But after a few days of Cuban I was ready for a change and sampled a few other places… like this Vietnamese on Washington called either Miss Saigon or What the Pho… depending what sign you read. The Pho was outstanding and so were the summer rolls wrapped in a thin condom-like rice pancake and lubricated by peanut sauce… Yum!

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Super delicious!

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More Trumpism!

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A french sandwich place behind a Walgreens on 14th Street was an amazing find. I had a “frenchie” sandwich with french salami and brie and all the fixings and it was a really excellent value. All the green stuff was super fresh, though the baugette was not. I should have come there earlier in the day rather than evening so it was my own fault. I would highly recommend this joint!

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One place that did disappoint me was South Beach Sushi on Washington and 17th. It was basically supermarket sushi quality even when the price was below typical SoBe prices. I was not a fan.

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The night I went for sushi it almost didn’t happen as I got caught out in a bit of a tropical rain storm… I wish I would have missed it!

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But like most rains in South Florida it went as quickly as it came after dumping a whole lot of water on unsuspecting tourists (like me). I waited it out over a coffee at a Mediterranean joint, on second thought I should have ordered a shawarma instead of going for sushi. There’s always next time!