When you hear the words "South Beach," you think endless sunshine, expensive outings, and voracious parties. But what about bagels and lox? Believe it or not, there’s a good chunk of Jewish food history in our backyard, and Florida International University’s Jewish Museum of Florida is showcasing it. The museum created a Jewish food walking tour, mixing burekas and falafel with decades of food history by guiding guests around Miami’s historic South of Fifth neighborhood.
Tour guide Howard Brayer takes visitors on a two-mile adventure through the streets of South Beach, stopping at historic sites such as the building that once housed the restaurant Nemo, Goldstein & Gilbert’s, Famous and Friedman’s, and four handpicked restaurants with a connection to Judaism.
“One of the reasons I love doing this is the fact that you walk around South Beach and have no idea that it used to be mostly Jewish,” Brayer says. “For some guests, it brings back memories, and for others, it informs them about the history of the neighborhood.”
The first stop is Aroma Espresso Bar, Israel’s largest coffee chain, which has expanded to New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Florida. Here guests can indulge in a bureka, a popular Israeli pastry filled with potato, spinach, or feta.
Next on the list is Pita Loca, one of only two kosher restaurants remaining in South Beach. The restaurant is known for its Middle Eastern fare, and guests can try the signature falafel and traditional Israeli-style salads with tomatoes and cucumbers.
Then Brayer leads the way to My Ceviche. Though the food doesn’t have a direct connection to Judaism, the eatery has been Jewish-owned since it opened in South Beach in March 2012. Guests have a chance to sample the specialty fish tacos with pickled red onions, queso fresco, radishes, cilantro, and thyme-spiced chips.
The last stop on the tour is Joe’s Stone Crab, whose founders, Joe and Jenny Weiss, were among the first Jewish residents in the history of Miami Beach in 1913. Attendees are treated to the restaurant's famous key lime pie.
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“The Jewish neighborhood in South Beach has dramatically changed in the last 30 years,” Brayer says. “This tour is really to make sure the Jewish history is not totally forgotten.”
About 260 residents and tourists have explored SoFi's Jewish roots since the tour launched in November 2013. The next tour is scheduled for July 9, and tickets can be purchased at fiu.edu. They cost $36 for museum members and $46 for nonmembers and include the exhibit tour and museum admission.