On Sunday, September 13 I turned a year older. While the milestone is a miracle in its own right, this year's birthday celebration was cursed from the beginning (perhaps, again, due to Mercury being in retrograde) and a challenge to execute. On the big day not only were most of our friends and family indisposed with various other commitments but, as you know well by now, I was also out of commission with an illness, unable to eat and in bed rest. Alas, it took mini-miracles and serious cunning to execute a celebration. Luckily, these days birthdays seem to be a week-long, if not month-long, affair so no one blinked when we unofficially changed our birthday this year to this past weekend, starting on Saturday night with a birthday dinner amongst friends and ending on Sunday afternoon with a family birthday brunch.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the cause and recovery time of my illness, the planning process got off to a rocky start. Nevertheless, with less than a week to work with, I compiled a list of South Beach's culinary hotspots—those that caught our attention off of Eater Miami's Hottest Restaurants, September 2015 list—and began systematically requesting reservations. I started by requesting brunch reservations at The Continental (I'm obsessed with Stephen Starr restaurants) and easily scored reservations for 5 on Sunday afternoon.
Finding a place for dinner on Saturday night was a much more complicated process. The two restaurants that did not shudder at our party of 15 didn't have any reservations before 10 p.m. with such short notice. A few more phone calls revealed that the rest of Miami's restaurants consider parties larger than 10 people (8, in some places) a "special event" and have special rules for accommodating them. We're talking prix fixe menus or signed contracts to even consider accepting a reservation that size. Luckily, after a few desperate phone calls, our friends at Tongue and Cheek were willing and able to accommodate all 15 of us at a reasonable time but it was an absolute hail Mary.
The lessons learned? If you can, be selective and keep your group small. You will have access to more convenient reservation times and more restaurant options without the added contractual complications. Alternately, call at least two weeks in advance so you have a better chance at an earlier reservation. If you opt for a prix fixe option, it will also give you and your guests ample time to prepare your bank accounts for the dining expenses to come. If, despite this advice you find yourself in a pinch like the one I was in, make a list of places with large dining rooms. They are more likely to have space for large parties and will therefore be more willing to work with you.
Yes, the planning process was complicated and extremely nerve-wracking but nothing beat the feeling of celebrating another year of life with the people I love. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Tongue and Cheek for being so welcoming (and for sending us a round of shots during dinner!) and to The Continental for the delicious chocolate-on-chocolate birthday cake they sent at the end of brunch. I couldn't have done it without their help. It was refreshing to see that, even against all odds, we could count on our favorite Miami businesses to pull out all the stops in honor of our birthday.
Have you ever celebrated a birthday or other special occasion in a pinch? What tips do you have for getting through planning obstacles? What restaurants are easy for planning birthday parties? What places are good for large groups? Where do you like to celebrate your birthday? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!