We all know Québecers love Florida. But do Miami and Montréal in particular have any kind of bond? A week ago, I would have said no.

But sometimes it pays to rent a car and follow your stomach. The first stop on my namesake quest took me to Schwartz of Miami, a surprising discovery which I discussed last week.

Here’s the rest of the rundown.



How odd. Here I am in Spring Break Central, a town where 70% of the local population is Spanish-speaking, and a local Google search for Copacabana yields nothing. Meanwhile, I am reminded of the near-legendary status of Montréal’s booty-shaking venue de Maisonneuve Blvd.

I persist. And with some effort, I uncover Boteco Copacabana, a newish Brazilian resto with mixed reviews online. I track it down on foot, landing smack in the middle of Miami Beach’s less-glamorous, tourist-trappy pedestrian street, Espanola Way.

I approach with caution. Visions of our own flamboyant, booming Copa quickly recede as I spot a lonely man played guitar in a front window—Boteco Copacabana’s sole indoor patron.

Sad guitar playing manAnd while the streetside has customers, the food looks sad and the prices outrageous. As much as I’d love to waste $30 of my hard-earned dollars for a lousy plate of chicken, I need to save up for the journey.


Montréal’s Grumpys is a cozy and cavernous joint whose vibe—intentional irony?—is so good-natured that I always stay too long. There’s no Grumpys in Miami, but there is a long-lost-brother: Gramps.

IMG_3529Crusty on the exterior while remaining honest, loveable and addictively fun inside, Gramps is a last remnant of grunge in Miami’s quickly-gentrifying Design District. The city’s de facto dive bar radiates screeching guitars, is housed in a crumbling warehouse, and is even guarded by ZZ Top’s eldest grandson.

Casa del Popolo

It seems like a safe bet: generic Spanish name and all. So imagine my joy when, after a hot thirty minutes on South 22nd Street, I spot Casa Felipe. My joy turnes to disappointment when (instead of a café I could compare with our own) I realize I am approaching a cigar emporium. But then I turn the corner and suddenly, it was all worth it. Thanks, Obama.

Obama smokes a stogie in Miami

Le Cheese Truck

Just outside Gramps, I stumbled upon a southern sibling of Le Cheese Truck. I almost did a double-take! It was called Ms. Cheezious.

IMG_3521Even the down-to-earth dudes who ran it mirror the sweet, bubbly proprietors of Le Cheese. They are super nice and obviously have a loyal following. Sandwiches such as grilled blue and bacon, apple-pulled pork, all sounded tantalizing—if a bit unoriginal to me. Sadly, they are not up to par with our own boys’ endeavour. My “Shaved tavern ham” with spiced apple and sharp cheddar with tomato on sourdough was sloppily satisfying—great for après-bar. But frankly, I was struggling to see why anyone would pay $10 for that when the same price would yield something much more flavourful and original chez Le Truck (such as the chili with cheese curds or their fabulous mac n cheese).


In rush-hour-induced moment of contemplation on our two towns, I was struck with the fact that throngs of Montréalers escape to Varadero on a whim while Miamians—whose roots extend far deeper into the country than, uh, Sunwing—have no such luck themselves.

To make up for it, they have places like Varadero II, a run-of-the-mill Cuban bakery somewhere near nowheresville, (I later learn it’s called Tamiami).


Handing my fate over to the lady behind Varadero‘s counter, I am summarily presented with a pastellito de guyaba. What a revelation. The flaky, unsweetened exterior gives way to muted, silky cheese. All fine and good. But then: the sweetish aftertaste of that mild queso suddenly bleeds—miraculously—into a gooey, ultra-sweet guava jam. Insane! At 75 cents, my blood sugar will be thankful that I won’t be able to find this in Montréal.

But I include this anecdote only to conclude that, subtle bonds aside, Montréal needs more Cuban food. While my stop at this and this Cuban cafeteria were both exceptional, it was that tiny bakery on SW 8th Street that truly tipped the scales.

More Cuban flavours on our frigid streets can only make this a warmer, happier, healthier place.


* This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

Since the stand your ground law was introduced in 2005 by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the NRA, one thing has become abundantly clear; if you’re black, but try and stand your ground in Florida, you’ll be punished.

The stand your ground law was created by, passed by and only accommodates white people. If you want proof, look no further than the Zimmerman/Trayvon case.
Zimmerman’s trial defense relied on his claim of self-defense, but his act of self-defense was initially an offensive act under Florida law; you are not allowed to stalk someone.

Under the stand your ground law, if you’re being stalked (as Martin was) you are allowed to confront your stalker. Under this law, if Trayvon felt threatened enough, he had every right to attack Zimmerman first (assuming that’s what happened). In fact, under the stand your ground law, Trayvon would have been allowed to shoot him if he weren’t too young to carry a gun.

Why did Zimmerman’s right to stand his ground trump Trayvon Martin’s? Because he was black? Quite possibly, but in retrospect I don’t think the prosecutors even brought that up. Wasn’t Trayvon guaranteed the same rights under the law or do the same laws not apply to African American teenagers?

If the situation had been reversed and Trayvon had stood his ground and shot Zimmerman first, are there people out there so naive to think Trayvon wouldn’t be rotting in jail for the first half of his life? A black man shooting a neighbourhood watchman… That would not have gone over well.

Marissa Alexander

Remember Marissa Alexander? She’s an African American woman who decided to stand her ground against her abusive husband. No, she didn’t kill him; she fired a warning shot into the air to keep her slimy husband from hurting her.

She was recently sentenced to twenty years in prison for that. Imagine what she’d have gotten if she killed him (aside from a little satisfaction).

No, black people aren’t allowed to stand their ground, we expect them to keep running just like the old days of slavery, before the civil rights movement and long after Trayvon is gone.

According to a study by John Roman, in states with stand your ground laws, a white shooter who kills a black victim is 11 times more likely to walk free than a black shooter who kills a white victim. So much for the theory of Zimmerman’s lawyer.

No one should have the right to stand their ground in the first place. It was a diabolical idea cooked up by the fascists in ALEC and signed into law by Jeb Bush, both of whom have Martin’s blood on their hands.

ALEC and the NRA have spread this law to just about every state with a Republican Governor, 31 states so far, all in an effort to sell more guns. After all, it’s immoral to settle problems with just our fists and it’s not very profitable.


I have a legal question I’d like answered. If I were in a Floridian and I intimidate someone who then threatened me back… Can I legally shoot this person? After all, he threatened me. Where is the line drawn?

Everyone is taking advantage of these ridiculous laws to get away with murder; criminals, drug dealers, cops and everyday people. The Supreme Court of South Carolina is even looking at a case where a burglar broke into a home and shot two residents, he claims he was standing his ground.

While I’m sure that last case will be dismissed, it’s clear these laws have to go. As tragic as Trayvon’s death was, it was but a tiny drop in the stand your ground sea.

What worries me is the precedent the Trayvon case sets for racists, white supremacists and their ilk now that they know what they can get away with. Unfortunately they also know their potential victims can’t stand and fight back.

A little over a decade ago, George W. Bush with help from the Supreme Court became the 43rd President of the United States. He won by winning the hotly contested swing state of Florida, a state he won by a mere 537 votes.

Back in the year 2000, over 12 000 eligible voters were purged from the voting rolls as they were wrongly identified as being convicted felons. 41% of those purged were African American even though they represent only 11% of the population. It just so happens that African Americans in Florida that did vote favoured Bush’s opponent Al Gore by more than 80%.

Fast-forward twelve years and we are now seeing not a replay, but a more hardened stance against the right to vote in Florida. Despite warnings from the Department of Justice, Florida Governor Rick Scott has vowed to continue the purge of up to 182 000 eligible voters.

Scott justifies the purge as necessary in order to stop tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from voting this coming November. However, the purge list is ripe with errors and inaccuracies and targets Latinos and other minorities disproportionately.

In early May, the State sent out 2600 letters to Florida residents informing them that they are not a United States citizen, but are registered to vote. If recipients of these letters do not reply within thirty days and confirm their U.S. citizenship, they will be dropped from the voter rolls.

Although the number could be much higher, Think Progress noted that “an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as ‘non-citizens’ in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens.” If the purge list is off by 20%, that means that a minimum of 35 000 legal voters will be turned away in November.

The recipients of one of these letters just happened to be a 91 year old World War II vet who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Just imagine fighting for your country in the bloodiest of wars, then being told years later that you’re not a citizen.

Governor Rick Scott started this latest round of voter suppression last year by banning ex-convicts from voting (a rule that had been rescinded in 2008) and by shortening the early vote period. However, Scott has not been acting alone; he has been financed by the Koch brothers and ALEC, who until recently implemented voter suppression laws across the country.

Florida is just one of a dozen states that have approved new obstacles to voting in the past year:

• Kansas and Alabama now require voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering.
• Maine repealed Election Day voter registration.
• Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida cut short their early voting periods.
• Iowa and Florida barred all ex-felons from the polls.
• Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots (all six of these states are Republican controlled).

When Bush was President, he spent over $75 000 000 to investigate voter fraud in the United States. In the end, they established that fraud was virtually non-existent. They found the only two types of fraud taking place were by ex-felons who voted not knowing they were ineligible to vote in their State. The other was by people like Mitt Romney who claim residency in one state, but actually live in another.

Immigrants are just a smokescreen that Florida Republicans are using to increase their chances in the general election. The fact is, illegal immigrants don’t vote, they don’t even register. No illegal alien is stupid enough to put their name on a government document; the risk of getting caught and later deported is simply too high.

Every state that has passed an ALEC model anti-voting bill has done so with the intention of repeating the fiasco of the 2000 election. Of course, this time around when the votes have been counted, Republicans won’t need to rely on the Supreme Court.

Follow Quiet Mike on Facebook and Twitter