Deep Sea Fishing in Miami with Chef Spike Mendelsohn
By Jessica Poitevien
Certain experiences are quintessential to the Miami life: surviving road rage, going to the beach during “winter,” feeling ashamed of the weird crime stories that come out of South Florida, and of course, enjoying a boat ride a few miles off shore with views of the Miami skyline floating in the background.
Throughout my few years of living in South Florida, I’ve checked these experience and others off my list, but the boat ride always eluded me since… well, since I don’t have a boat and neither do my friends. So when I got the invite to go on a fishing charter with chefs from a new, local restaurant, I jumped at the opportunity. Going on a boat ride and fishing? Might as well knock out two first experiences in one day!
Spike Mendelsohn is a D.C. based chef/restauranteur who recently decided to bring his talents to Miami when he opened up Sunny’s, a casual seaside restaurant inside The Hall Hotel in South Beach. Spike is most widely known for being a season four Top Chef competitor but on the day we met, I knew him and Mike Colette, Spike’s longtime friend and Sunny’s chef, as my fishing buddies.
We boarded the boat shortly before 7 a.m., and I listened closely as some of the crew members from Double Threat Charters, our fishing guides/gurus for the day, gave us a rundown of how things would go once we were out on the water. And with that, the engines were revved up and we pulled away from the dock and watched the sun rise over the water as skyscrapers of Miami got smaller and smaller in the distance.
After several minutes of driving deeper and deeper into the ocean, we made our first stop. To my untrained eye, it seemed like a random place in the middle of the water. To the Double Threat Charters crew, it was the perfect place to catch some small fish that could be used later on as live bait for the bigger fish.
I stepped up to the edge of the boat was handed a fishing rod next to my other fishing buddies. I had pretty much zero idea what I was doing, but luckily besides being an excellent chef, Spike also knows a thing or two about fishing. He taught me different ways to cast the line and how to strategically reel it back in. In true beginner’s luck fashion, I was the first one to catch a fish, an unlucky sardine. The fish kept rolling in and before long we had all caught enough bait to continue on our fishing trip.
We drove further and further out to sea, making a few stops along the way. We saw the biggest and scariest jellyfish I have ever seen in my life, a small shark and of course, lots of fish. We learned about kite fishing, shipwrecks and the different types of rods they had for different fish. Our first big catch of the day was a sailfish reeled in by Spike himself. After our group photo op we released it back in the ocean and continued our search for more fish, especially ones we could actually keep.
We caught Blackfin Tuna, Grouper, and Remora (a ray-finned fish, also called suckerfish) . The coordination and hard work it took from almost everyone on the boat to catch each fish was incredible. It was like watching a ballet with so many complex moving parts all working together. When the fish moved, we moved, and when one person had to slide over then another had to move the extra fishing rods out of the way. Sometimes we reeled the fish in right away, and other times we let it run with the line for a while. It was a coordinated group effort, and it was fascinating to watch and participate in.
It was a productive morning/early afternoon of fishing, and the lulls between moving from one spot to another or waiting for a fish to bite the line gave me the opportunity to get to know both Spike and Mike and hear a little bit about their vision for Sunny’s.
Sunny’s opened in November 2015 and has been whipping up dishes influenced by the cuisines of seaside towns and cities across the world ever since. Spike drew inspiration for the menu from his own travels including a stint of studying in Vietnam, but always stayed true to the relaxed, beach vibe of the restaurant. He wanted everyone to feel welcomed there whether they were just coming back from the beach or they were on their way out for a night on the town.
Don’t confuse relaxed with simple, though. The Sunny’s menu is filled with bold flavors and interesting food combinations, and there’s even a raw juice bar on site. Spike and Mike were kind enough to bring us some breakfast on board so I got to try Sunny’s Multi-Nut Banana Bread and their Jersey Shore Sandwich made with Taylor ham, yellow American cheese, and a sunny side up egg all served on a brioche bun with a side of potato hash. They were both incredibly delicious and just the right fuel for a long morning out on the boat.
Another thing I learned that morning… All the fish served at Sunny’s is locally sourced so only fresh fish from Florida is being served to its patrons. As I got off the boat, hearing Chef Spike Mendelsohn, Mike and the Double Threat Charters captain discussing how much fish they needed for the restaurant was a more than fitting way to end our trip.
Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s Sunny’s is located inside The Hall South Beach Hotel on 1500 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, FL, 33139. For more information, visit: jdvhotels.com/restaurants/the-hall/sunnys