My Two Blocks of Paradise

Story by staff writer Ann McElfresh. Photos Copyright © Ann McElfresh.

Honey Bunny and I went on a cruise recently.  It was delightful and I look forward to telling you all about it. But let me tell you about the day before and the day after our cruise—where we spent our time in a two-block radius—and it was paradise.

Miami: a study in opposites. There were high rises on one side of the street and fishing boats on the other. Beach and city beautifully combined. Cosmopolitan and Margaritaville . . . and BLUE! The city is positively tinged in blue. The sky, the ocean, the glass buildings. Stunning!

Miami boat scene

One of Miami's gorgeous shades of blue

We stayed at a hotel right by the port to catch our cruise ship. Across the street from the hotel was a mall—but this was  no ordinary mall. It had a food court and shops, but it also had the thumping beat of Cuban music with a DJ at night, a mojito bar, outside restaurants and boats.

Bayside at night

Bayside at night

Miami mojito bar

Mojito bar

At night, this place is what most people picture Miami to be: people dancing everywhere there was space, free-flowing drinks, neon lights, and the smell of amazing food and the ocean.

During the day it was sunny, bright, and much like a regular mall with a touristy twist: Hooters, Bubba Gump Shrimp, lots of T-shirts for sale . . . and a view! 

Bayside during the day

Bayside during the day

Bubba Gump's Miami

Bubba Gump's

Tradewinds Restaurant, Bar and Grill, Miami

Tradewinds Restaurant, Bar & Grill

We decided to try two restaurants to match the mood of Bayside Mall day and night.

At night, we went to Los Ranchos. We ate one of the best meals I’ve ever had!  The restaurant wasn’t crowded but had just enough people that the place was hopping. The service was stellar and the waiters knew they were serving something good!

We had a quick-seared steak positively BURIED under sautéed onions. Waiters come around with large platters of beans and rice along with fried plantain chips.

Steak buried in sautéed onions

Steak buried in onions

Plantain chips, beans and rice

Plantain chips, beans and rice

Chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri sauce

But the STAR of the night was their chimichurri sauce. It was one of the most amazing condiments I’ve had in my LIFE! They gave us three condiments for our meal, but we ate the entire bowl of chimichurri. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to duplicate it!

(Editor’s note: Ann is MT’s foodie and she’s been known to reproduce dishes from favorite restaurant meals.)

The daytime place we went to at the same mall was very much mall fare—only a zillion times better! We went to Casa Roma in the food court. I was in the mood for Baba Ganoush. Sadly, they were out. They did, however, have a delicious variety of other items. I had an eggplant and tomato appetizer, hummus, tabouleh and pita bread as well as a Greek salad. It was delicious . . and I made Baba Ganoush when I got home! 

Casa Roma, Miami

Casa Roma

Eggplant and tomato appetizer

Eggplant and tomato appetizer

Stuffed grape leaves

Stuffed grape leaves



Next time you’re in Miami, make sure you stop and see my two blocks of paradise. Walk around and enjoy the sunshine and palm trees . . . and the food. Then hop on a cruise ship and sail away.

Los Ranchos
401 Biscayne Blvd
Miami, FL 33132

Casa Roma
401 Biscayne Blvd
Miami, FL 33132


Ann McElfresh

Ann McElfresh has had the opportunity to travel and live overseas during the course of her husband’s career in the military and they didn’t stop after he retired! An enthusiastic home cook, she has an extensive “bucket list” of places to see, foods to eat and dishes to cook. A recent physical required that she focus her attention on cooking healthy foods and living a healthier lifestyle. At this time, she has lost 20 pounds and when asked how she lost the weight, she tells people, “By cooking like mad! Who knew losing weight could be so much fun?”



  1. Oh my! Blue is an understatement! Paradise indeed.

    Gonna have to google most of those food names though, no idea what the majority of them are but the photo’s make them look delicious.

    Thanks for sharing Ann. x

  2. Ann! Great article!
    We were there too! When we went on our first cruise it was out of Miami. We walked around like you, but didn’t have any meals. It was BLUE like you say…all different shades! Beautiful.
    The food looks amazing… and if I ever get back I am defiantly gonna check Los Ranchos out!
    Of coarse your pictures jump right off the page as usual.
    I really enjoyed this. Thanks!

    • I was stunned at how blue everything was, Betsy. It was incredible! I’m glad you had fun in Miami, too!

  3. Such a great article, made me feel like I was right there with Ann. I’ve never been to Miami so this is a wonderful glimpse into the foodie side of Miami. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  4. Miami is gorgeous and you captured it well in pictures and words.

  5. —–Ann,
    the Stuffed grape leaves look Utterly DeLish 🙂

    I love that you and Honey Bunny had some quality time together.

    I’ve always loved Miami.

    Love to you, Dear Sweet Ann.

    • Hiya Kim! ALL the food we had in Miami was delicious! I love when you visit a city and that happens! it was GREAT to spend some alone time with Honey Bunny, too! Love to you right back, girlfriend!

  6. Ann, I enjoyed your review tremendously — it felt like being there. Miami is a dynamic city with diverse cultures and food — you captured many highlights, thanks to your Two Blocks of Paradise. 🙂 Great post!

    • Thanks, Kimby! Coming from such a talented writer – that means a lot! I’m glad you felt like you were along with me…it would have been fun if you were!

  7. I’ve been to South Beach twice and have absolutely loved it both times. What an incredible vibe, and I can well imagine Miami is quite similar. Mojitos are one of my favourite summer-time drinks.

  8. drooling over that plate of plantain chips beans & rice! lovely write up

  9. I have not been there in years but your lovely photos make me feel like I have 🙂 Looks like a wonderful vacation 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing your mini Miami vacation with us, Ann! Sounds heavenly!

  11. This is so cool! Wish I’ve the chance to visit this paradise too 🙂 Great shots, dear!

  12. I’ve only seen Maiami in TV such as CIS Miami… lol. I can’t wait to visit and see there one day!

  13. Ann, loved the piece and I’ve only been to Miami once in college as part of a swim training program. It was a lot of fun and as I recall, there are some amazing hotels along the beach 😉

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