While the National Football League's Super Bowl is about the game, it is a culinary event as well. This week in Miami, several restaurants are featuring Super Bowl specials to cater to fans in town to see the game. VOA's David Byrd traveled to the South Beach area of Miami to see what chefs have on the fire for Super Bowl 41.
Walk through the Art Deco district of Miami Beach, with its pastel colored houses, palm trees and manicured lawns and you might be excused for thinking that the residents don't care who wins Super Bowl 41 in Miami.
But the big party that is the Super Bowl becomes evident as you cross Collins Avenue in South Beach. Music blares from huge speakers both in restaurants and from some of the exotic automobiles that snake their way through the snarled traffic.
On the Friday before the game, along Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue and especially along Ocean drive, the party is in full swing. Upscale restaurants are packed with diners, and the smell of steamed seafood and grilled steaks mingles with cigar and cigarette smoke in the open-air dining areas.
Along Espanola Way, a slightly quieter street that intersects with Washington Avenue, New York native Dave Ryan is the assistant manager of Chocolate. Sitting under an umbrella at one of the couches outside the restaurant, Ryan told VOA that while his restaurant caters to upscale clients, it is counting on catching some Super Bowl revelers as they make their way through South Beach.
"We specialize in drinks mainly. We do have some special plates," said Ryan. "We have a lobster-crab chocolate ravioli, which has chocolate mixed into the sauce. It is actually a big hit. It surprised me. But it is a big hit. Also we have another plate that is a dark chocolate salad. It's mixed greens, mixed baby greens, with the chocolate around the edge of the plate."
Ryan says that his restaurant plans to have special outside seating and a big-screen television set up so diners can watch the game.
Meanwhile, down the street at Café Nuvo, the manager Angel Paez says that his restaurant is planning to make a special Mojito drink for the Super Bowl. He described, and then made, one of the drinks.
The smell of spearmint and fresh lime juice fills the bar as he crushes the mint leaves with a pestle. A little rum, a little club soda, a sliver of sugar cane and the signature drink is ready. It is as refreshing as it sounds.
Paez, a native of Havana, came to the United States six years ago. He says that his restaurants want to convey the spirit of celebration and excitement of Miami to football fans.
"The tourists who come here from the north for the Super Bowl, we want to show some of the Latin and mainly Cuban stuff that we got in Miami, in South Florida," said Paez. "So, we are the cradle of the mojito in Miami, in South Beach actually, so we want to show them, and teach them how to make it and how to drink it and how to good is it."
For one of Angel Paez's Mojitos, it is usually $9, but he plans a Super Bowl Special for the street party outside his restaurant.
Not every business is benefiting from the Super Bowl crowd. At Miami Ink tattoo parlor on Washington Avenue, which has its own television show on the Discovery channel, there are no customers on a Friday night.
Morgan Pennypacker, a Baltimore, Maryland native who has worked in Miami about 18 months is one of the artists. A large man with strawberry blonde hair and beard, gold teeth and of course tattoos, he has designed a special Super Bowl tattoo, but he says no one has bought one yet.
"No one has gotten anything Super Bowl related anything tattoo- wise," he said. "No good fans I guess coming to see the Super Bowl this year. I'm guessing on Monday. We'll see who come gets the most. Whoever wins will probably get the most Super Bowl tattoos."
While the tattoo business might be a little slow, the street is crammed with revelers. Along Ocean Drive, all the restaurants are full. Crowds throng the area, while music pumps into the street. A laser light emits fiery green bursts into the thick, humid air. Immaculately dressed couples walk the street, mingling with more casually dressed partiers, and even a few diners wear team colors - Colts blue or Bears Orange.
This is also Stone Crab season in Florida, and if the 1999 Super Bowl in Miami is any indication, the crustacean will be in high demand this year as well. In 1999, Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in South beach served nearly 2,000 meals on its best day.
The Miami area also has the Taste of the NFL, with chefs from all 32 league cities presenting signature dishes. And at Oceans 10 on Ocean drive, diners can choose from lobster, filet mignon or combine the two in a surf-and-turf starting at about $59.