The end of the year is normally a time for personal reflection - to ask questions like, “How did I do?” and “How can I do better next year?” But those questions feel particularly useless right now and it’s hard to answer them without cursing a lot. So, instead, I want to look back at the wine, bagels, and barbecue that got me through 2020 because they were undoubtedly the best part of this unbelievably sh*tty year. And I sincerely want to thank them.
Few cravings hit me as hard as bagel cravings. Sometimes when I wake up, it feels like Leonardo DiCaprio snuck into my dreams and created an elaborate bagel inception scheme. Other nights, he’s just there because I’m a fan. But regardless, there is only one place I turn to when the bagel craving strikes: El Bagel. We have written many words about the MiMo bagel shop and its outstanding selection of bagel sandwiches. Part of me wants to never write about this place again in a selfish attempt to shrink the wait times, but I would never do that to my fellow bagel cravers. Although we do have a bagel guide with more options in case you’re not near El Bagel.
Lucio Wine Shop
I have no statistical evidence, but I estimate that my wine consumption increased by 83% this year. That is largely due to the opening of Lucio Wine Shop, which is just a short drive from my place. Lucio is a natural wine store in Little River. I don’t really have enough wine expertise to get into details about the selection here. But I do know a lot about people and cats, and this place has great versions of both. Lucio himself, the shop’s owner, is quite possibly the nicest human on Earth, and was always so incredibly helpful and non-judgmental when I came in once a week and asked for “something funky.” He also has a 19-year-old cat. I know the cat’s age because every time I came in, I complimented the cat and Lucio said, “She’s 19!” And I said, “Wow!” We’ve had that conversation at least eight times.
Going to Publix this year felt a little like every scene in Mad Max: Fury Road. And this was actually a blessing because it forced me to look for local grocery store alternatives. That’s how I ended up doing about 90% of my food shopping at Proper Sausages, an outstanding little butcher shop and market in Miami Shores. They adapted to an online-ordering system during lockdown, but are back open now, which is good because I really like staring at their display case full of sausages. They have produce, wine, beer, and other great pantry items too. We have guides to specialty grocery stores, butcher shops, and seafood markets as well, in case you too are sick of feeling like Imperator Furiosa in the Publix frozen food aisle.
One thing I missed this year was going to a restaurant and sitting at a big table full of way too much food. I did this a lot pre-pandemic and sometimes I’d pretend I was a Roman emperor. It’s hard to recreate that feeling with takeout - unless you just ordered about 20 pounds of barbecue from the pop-up Drinking Pig, which I did a few months ago. I ate it all picnic-style outside my apartment, and it remains one of my most memorable meals of the year. If you haven’t tried this place yet, DM them and place an order for the weekend. There is simply no way you will regret it.
I don’t think anything could have made me happier than Mr. Mandolin moving into my neighborhood. Like, not even Dwayne Wade moving into the apartment next door. I just love having this place within walking distance, because on those nights when dinner indecision reaches its peak and I’m ready to fight my refrigerator, I take a deep breath and say, “Why don’t I just order Mr. Mandolin?” It’s always a good decision, and also gives me an excuse to eat their warm tahini bun, which is one of the greatest baked things in Miami.
“Going out” took on a different meaning this year. In 2019, “going out” meant a night bouncing from restaurant to bar to bar and so on until I started to yawn every five minutes. In 2020, “going out” meant checking my mail. However, one restaurant successfully recreated the “going out” experience in a responsible and delicious way: Jaguar Sun. Their outdoor pop-ups were literally the only thing I got to dress up for this year - and I am grateful for both the 40-day-aged ribeye and the badly-needed excuse to wear pants again.
When I get sad, I seek out cheeseburgers. It’s probably something I should address in therapy at some point, but it’s my truth for the time being. Sadly, cheeseburgers are one of those foods that have a high risk of turning into a soggy mess during the delivery process. So when delivery and takeout became my only option, I needed an alternative. Then, it hit me: the arepa. It’s a similar concept - delicious stuff held together by carbs - but the arepa, unlike the cheeseburger, travels extremely well. These things could run a marathon and still be photoshoot-ready. Another plus: I happen to live within walking distance of Doggi’s, a Venezuelan spot home to some of the best arepas in Miami. And so, on those nights when gloom fell like soft rain, and a wet cheeseburger could risk turning that drizzle into a thunderstorm, the arepa came to my rescue. Give it a try yourself next time you’re feeling a little blue. I think it’ll help.