TIPS

Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport: Yes, there is a such a thing as a free lunch

March 5, 2016
Fresh ingredients for salads at Centurion Lounge at MIA
Living wall behind the reception desk at the Centurion Lounge at MIA

Living wall behind the reception desk at the Centurion Lounge at MIA

The Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport offers high-quality food and other perks for eligible Amex members.

The Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport (MIA), the fourth Centurion Lounge we’ve visited, offers many of the same benefits and amenities as its sister lounges. There are currently six in this group (at Dallas Fort Worth, Las Vegas, LaGuardia, Miami, Seattle and San Francisco airports) with a seventh scheduled to open in Houston later this year.

But like the one at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, it seems as if the architects were forced to squeeze this one onto a too-small footprint—probably due to expensive airport real estate. During our mid-day visit on a Saturday, it was getting heavy use, which isn’t surprising since this lounge is housed in the tenth busiest airport in the U.S.

The Miami lounge has been open since June 2015. Located on the fourth level in the North Terminal on Concourse D (an elevator ride two levels above the departure gates), it is especially convenient if you are flying on American Airlines. An attractive living wall sits behind the welcoming reception/check-in desk.

The layout

The space is comprised of two concentric circles. Just beyond the entrance, the outer circle is light-filled with a number of small seating areas, a work space with computers, a buffet counter with tables, and the bar. The attractive windowed wall provides guests with sweeping views of the runways.

Windowed exterior wall of the Centurion Lounge at MIA

Windowed exterior wall of the Centurion Lounge at MIA

Work space in the Centurion Lounge at MIA

Communal work space in the Centurion Lounge at MIA

Stepping back from the reception area, the inner circle is a narrower arc-shaped room comprised of quiet seating areas with ample outlets (both USB ports and electrical) facing an architecturally interesting contoured wall. In-between the two is the Exhale spa. Guests can register upon arrival for free 15-minute massages, mini-facials, manicures or use of the showers.

Guest leaving for plane through inner circle of the Centurion Lounge

Guest leaving for plane through inner circle of the Centurion Lounge

The grub

After departing our downtown hotel, we had no time for breakfast or lunch before a 4PM flight so we were delighted, once again, to find that high-quality complimentary food options were available at the lounge.

The menu at The Centurion Lounge at MIA is overseen by celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein, recognized as the James Beard Best Chef of the South in 2008. Bernstein is well-known regionally and nationally. She is the chef at Crumb on Parchment, a café located in the Miami Design District and at Seagrape, the signature restaurant at the Thompson Hotel Miami Beach. In addition, Bernstein is the author of Cuisine a Latina, and hosts the PBS television series, Check, Please! South Florida. Her cuisine is influenced by both Latin and Jewish roots.

The food offerings at this lounge were more limited than those at San Francisco Airport. At lunch, there was one warm entrée: small plates of zesty braised chicken thighs with pizza spices, served with tomatoes, fennel and confit potatoes.

Michelle Bernstein's Chicken Thighs with Pizza Sauce

Michelle Bernstein’s Chicken Thighs with Pizza Sauce

It was complemented by a buffet with a warm corn-chipotle chowder and a variety of cold salads, vegetables and fresh fruits. We especially enjoyed the barley salad, and arugula with beet and goat cheese.

Buffet counter at Centurion Lounge at MIA

Buffet counter at Centurion Lounge at MIA

Fresh ingredients for salads at Centurion Lounge at MIA

Fresh ingredients for salads at Centurion Lounge at MIA

Braised swiss chard

Braised swiss chard at the Centurion Lounge in Miami

For dessert, the buffet also had an interesting (and delicious) deconstructed key lime pie. The coffee bar had a tray of fresh-baked soft cookies.

Michelle Bernstein's deconstructed key lime pie

Michelle Bernstein’s deconstructed key lime pie

The drinks

The bar, overseen by Anthony Giglio (an expert on wines and spirits, who has authored FOOD & WINE’s Wine Guide; the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, and Cocktails in New York) offered complimentary wines, beers on tap, premium spirits, juices and soft drinks. One of the two mixologists on duty prepared one of my favorite drinks, an Italia 77, to perfection.

Recipe for the Italia 77

In case you’re curious, this delicious drink is made with:

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces Prosecco, and
  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce St. Germain (an elderflower liqueur)

Directions:

  • Stir and serve chilled.

Other complimentary amenities: high-speed Internet access; L’Occitane toiletries in well-maintained restrooms; and a sound-proof play area for kids.

L'Occitane soap and lotion in the Centurion restroom

L’Occitane soap and lotion in the Centurion restroom

Bottom line

Our visits to Centurion Lounges have spoiled us; they set a new standard for domestic airport lounges. While the one at MIA was a bit crowded, we were able to find seats. (Other travelers report that they weren’t as lucky). The gourmet food options, while more limited than other lounges in this class, were fresher, healthier, and tastier than those at almost any other airline or Priority Pass lounge.

The Centurion Lounge, indeed, offers a welcoming oasis for frequent travelers and their guests. It’s an especially nice perk to enjoy a free lunch (or breakfast or dinner) with drinks, which would cost a considerable chunk of change at most airport restaurants.


IF YOU GO:

Information on access to the Centurion Lounge Network

Tips:

  • When entering, don’t forget to ask for the Wi-Fi password.
  • Bring singles to tip the expert bartenders (not mandatory, of course).
  • Massage and manicure appointments can booked quickly so be sure to sign up as soon as you arrive.
  • The lounge is open from 5AM-11PM daily.

Also on More Time To Travel:

Follow Irene S.’s board Best Airport Lounge Food on Pinterest.

  • Reply
    barbara blake
    March 8, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Is there a charge to visit?

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 8, 2016 at 11:44 am

      From the website:

      Access to The Centurion Lounge is complimentary for global Platinum Card® and Centurion® Members. To access The Centurion Lounge, the Card Member must present The Centurion Lounge agent with the following upon each visit: his or her valid Card, a boarding pass showing a confirmed reservation for same-day travel on any carrier and a government-issued I.D.

      For additional information, see:
      http://thecenturionlounge.com/info/access#q-who-is-eligible-to-visit-the-centurion-lounge

  • Reply
    Jo
    March 14, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    The Italia 77 looks divine, and something I’ll definitely try for our next dinner party! The Centurion Lounge looks like a fabulous place to while away a few hours between or before flights – just the ticket when you need a bit of peace and headspace.

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    March 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I’d love to try the Italia 77! What’s not to like in that lovely combination? I can see what you mean by the compressed amount of space in your photos. Our tactic for long, international layovers is to do the lounge thing. Staking a claim in this one might be a challenge, but looks like it’s worth it.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 14, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Guess we were spoiled by the one at SFO – that is my go-to lounge!

  • Reply
    Janice Chung
    March 14, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Nice! Especially the seating by the window and the key lime pie. I wish more lounges were like this. Some unfortunately don’t even have windows. But to have windows, great food AND massages….it would make the trip so much more enjoyable.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 15, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Yes, windows and natural light make such a big difference!

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    March 16, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I love the living wall behind the reception desk that’s really different. We’ve been to the Centurion Lounge at Laguardia and I have to agree that although these lounges have much better amenities they are very small. We also wish they were in more markets. I have to say that the food is far and above the best lounge food out there. We had some burrata at Laguardia that was amazing!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 18, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Uniformly, the Centurion Lounge menus are really a cut above!

  • Reply
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    March 17, 2016 at 3:19 am

    Good food, fast Wi-Fi and comfortable seating? I’ll have to check out the Centurion Lounges and see if this is something that fits into our kind of travel. If I had a lounge like this to visit between flights I might not dread long distance flights quite as much! 🙂

  • Reply
    Billie Frank
    March 17, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Sounds like a great AmEx perk. I’m a big fan of free food that’s well-done. I’d love to try the Centurion Lounges.

  • Reply
    Denis Gagnon
    March 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed and always use airport lounges when we travel. I can’t wait to check out and have a meal at a Centurion Lounge but it may have to wait till American Express decides to open a Centurion Lounge at Washington Dulles. Thanks for a great post!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 18, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      You never know where you will be flying from Dulles! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    March 18, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Love seeing these lounges, so keep the reports coming. We’ve recently had the opportunity to use Business Class lounges at a number of international airports and are consistently surprised at the varying levels of food and drink quality.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 18, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      You hit the nail on the head. All of the Centurion Lounges, while some better than others, have been consistently first-rate.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    March 20, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Sounds enticing, but I’m still not ready to sign up for the AmEx card.

  • Reply
    jenny@atasteoftravel
    March 20, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I’m very impressed with this lounge and must remember them for when we travel in the States. Usually the credit card lounges are not that flash but this is definitely an exception. I’ll be looking for a Italia 77 too!

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