I grew up in unincorporated Dade County. That basically means on the wrong side of Red Road (not in the classy Coral Gables). It was a very interesting neighborhood at the time. There was, of course, the rich Gables with its magnificent golf courses and mansions. Less than a mile from my house was the once-decrepit Biltmore Hotel, abandoned and all but forgotten (it is now one of the most luxurious hotels in Miami if not in the Southern US with the largest swimming pool in the USA as far as I have read). There was also the Crandon mansion – a huge tract of land just on the other side of my street complete with a forest (very, very rare in Miami) and a haunted house (with a strange Nazi-ish dude that me and a friend talked to one that lived there). That is now a subdivision of condos that cost probably 10x what my parents’ house was worth at the time. There was also the canal running under Red Road into the golf course in one direction towards Biscayne Bay (an acquaintance allegedly motored his way on a small boat all the way out there but I never made it past the golf course where I got busted stealing golf balls out of the muck). The other direction, the canal meandered through increasingly working-class, Spanish-speaking neighborhoods (the entire neighborhood including my block and old house is now 100% hispanic now). It was like my own Coté de Germantes and Coté de Chez Swann in some weird way.
Anyway, I lived on SW 58th Ave which stretched from the Canal on one end, paralleled Red Road (SW 57th Ave) and ended abruptly at Bird Road (SW 40th St) at a LUMS restaurant. Now, I cannot remember from my last trip to Miami what is there now, and I read on Wikipedia that the chain went bankrupt in the mid-90′s but I clearly recall this restaurant. It was like a crappier version of Denny’s if that is even possible. And yet, as a kid, it was like a “nice” restaurant (we didn’t get out much). What I remember in particular was the parsley. LUMS seemed to have had an obsession with that kind of parsley that looks like a green version of some nasty skin disease and tastes horrible. They would put this monstrosity on burgers. They’d put it on fries. They’d put it on chicken-fried steak, sirloins, pork cutlets…hell I think even on pancakes. Perhaps that’s why they went out of business. All I know is that living over here in France, it took me YEARS to get over a natural repulsion from parsley: they have two or three different parsley varieties here that are all just a little more bitter than, say, coriander, but all far more edible that whateverthehell that LUMS was forcing on its customers. The other funny thing is that, outside of this one in Miami and the “original” LUMS in Miami Beach, I don’t recall ever seeing another LUMS despite the fact that at some point they had 200 of these parsley-obsessed restaurants across the country.
Miami is like that though. My mom, dad and sister still live there and until one arrived on the edge of Broward and Dade County, they’d never even heard of IKEA. I mean I thought that since the late 80′s, IKEA had become as ubiquitous as McDo and KFC. Not so in Miami. Like Whole Foods – still none in Miami. I believe they got their first Starbucks about when we did here in Paris about 5 or 6 years ago. Miami is a funny place…more in a future post.