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An Eater’s Guide to Miami

Unofficial, highly opinionated information about the Magic City

While the DJs playing in a restaurant used to get more attention than than the chefs cooking there, Miami’s culinary scene has finally shifted. The focus now is on flavor, not flash. Today’s Miami culinary landscape reflects that, with locals stepping up their game and pouring their diverse backgrounds into the meals they prepare. Use this guide to find the places that matter the most in Miami.


Welcome to the Melting Pot

It’s hard to deny the Latin American and Caribbean influences found throughout the city. Cuban flavors reign supreme, but influences from all over are making their presences known in the best of ways. Think delicacies from everywhere from South America to the islands of Haiti and Puerto Rico. The flavor combinations are as refreshing and as vibrant as the city itself.

For a quick Miami culinary snapshot, don’t miss the stone crabs (and sides) at Joe’s Stone Crab, a frita at El Rey de las Fritas, any of the breads or baked goods at Zak the Baker, croquetas from Islas Canarias, and a milkshake from Robert is Here.

Where to Start on Eater Miami's Best Maps

There is a cornucopia of maps on Eater Miami, detailing everywhere to eat and drink in the Magic City. The heatmaps, happy hour guides, and brunch maps are updated every month since something new is always happening here. Below are the top destinations on the site's most popular maps to help time-starved eaters prioritize which spots to visit.

Hot Restaurant: Pharrell and club mogul/restauranteur, David Grutman, have teamed up to open swanky Swan and Bar Bevy, a place that is so busy (and buzz worthy) that a Monday night there could be mistaken for a Saturday night. Down in Coral Gables the ritzy, Michelin-starred D.C. import Fiola is living up to all it’s anticipated hype, while Brad Kilgore’s new Tokyo-style lounge Kaido has quickly become the place for a creative cocktail. For a full breakdown of Miami's hottest restaurants, updated monthly, check out the Eater Miami Heatmap.

Essential Restaurant: No restaurant on the Eater 38, which is updated quarterly, should disappoint, but when trying to narrow the list, some suggestions: the tasting menu at Stubborn Seed is an experience that shouldn’t be missed, created by a Top Chef winner. Of course, head to Joe’s Stone Crab for an iconic, Miami meal (or try Joe’s Take Away next door if pressed for time).

Stone crabs
Joe's Stone Crab

Bar: The bar that put Miami’s cocktail culture on the map, Broken Shaker, is a great place to start on the Essential Bars map. But don’t miss bevy of Hot New Bars and Restaurant Bars are that are worth visiting for a libation (or six). Oh and happy hour? Eater has that covered too with our standbys to check out.

Brunch: Miami’s all about the brunch life. Head to the The Biltmore Hotel for its epic Sunday spread with a side of throwback Miami, or for something a bit more laidback, Eating House’s weekend brunch, with Cap'n Crunch pancakes and Tang mimosas, gives a fun spin on the meal.

Iconic: Miami embraces nostalgia, and the city's 25 most iconic dishes are iconic for a reason. Longstanding classics are still some of the best places in the city fish sandwich pros La Camaronera, old school Cuban diner Rio Cristal, and barbecue staple, Shorty's.

Waterfront: Let’s face it: Miami’s got some killer views and plenty of restaurants in this city have them as well. Smith & Wollensky, the Standard Hotel’s Lido Restaurant and Rusty Pelican have most beat.

Pizza: Mister O1 and Lucali are the standouts on the pizza map. For a quick bite with a lot of flavor, Casola’s, Frankie’s and Steve’s Pizza serve up delicious, classic pies that will satisfy any pizza craving.

Beer: Miami’s beer scene is on the rise, and there are many spots on the brewery map worth visiting. To get a proper tour, head to Wynwood Brewing Co. and try brews from the guys that started it all down here, then walk the neighborhood and check out Star Wars-themed J. Wakefield, Concrete Beach Brewing or Veza Sur.

Miami Neighborhoods To Know

Miami’s so much more than the beach nowadays. And while the beach is still worth a culinary visit, neighborhoods off the beach and into the mainland having been booming with delicious activity.

MiamiArtDistrict.net

Wynwood:

This unique artsy neighborhood is on everyone’s radar. While exploring the graffiti-filled walls grab a freshly made pastry at Zak the Baker, a cup of coffee at the original Panther Coffee, a Cuban sandwich at Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop, a slice of pie at Fireman Derek’s and then get in the inevitable (but well worth it) line for a doughnut at Salty Donut. For a full-fledged meal, Asian-barbecue hybrid, KYU, is the place to be — or try to snag a table at Wynwood’s restaurant king, Alter. Wynwood Yard is the place for the indecisive, housing a variety of food trucks ranging from shaven ice cream to poke bowls, with live entertainment and drinks on hand during the weekends. But the area really comes alive at night, with bars aplenty staying open until the wee hours. Start the evening off at laid-back hangout Gramps, before grabbing a beer in the sea of hipsters at Wood Tavern, then finish the night with an after-hours mezcal shot at Coyo’s back bar. Stay up-to-date on all the latest Wynwood hot spots here. Heading to the neighborhood on a weekend? Here’s how to do it like a pro.

Pubbelly Sushi

Sunset Harbour:

After falling prey to the tourism gods in the 2000s, Miami Beach has pockets of new areas that were created with both locals and tourists alike. Sunset Harbour started the locals-friendly trend thanks to the team behind Pubbelly, which debuted its popular namesake gastropub in 2010, and later expanded its talents to the whole block with Spanish tapas eatery Barceloneta and sushi mash-up Pubbelly Sushi. Around the corner is NYC import Lucali, whose Miami pies are just as good as its Big Apple counterpart's, while hot spot NaiYaRa turns out high-end Thai street food fare with a side of celebrity sightings. Sunset Harbour also serves as a breakfast hub as well with True Loaf Bakery, Panther Coffee and Icebox Cafe, featuring Oprah loved cakes, all solid choices in the neighborhood.

Alexander Demyane

South Beach:

Yes, there are tourist traps aplenty in the neighborhood that started it all. Do yourself a favor and avoid eateries on Ocean Drive, which will charge about double for mediocre food and sugary drinks. Instead, locally-owned and operated restaurants are the way to go. For a quick bite sandwich masters La Sandwicherie won’t disappoint and stay open well into the night. For a sit-down experience, pasta kings Macchialina, chic Greek eatery Milos and comfort food mecca Yardbird are solid bets. If wandering South of Fifth and wary of the wait at Joe’s Stone Crab, laid-back ceviche shack My Ceviche will satisfy a craving for stone crabs and ceviche.

Movoto.com

Coconut Grove:

This is probably Miami’s fastest growing culinary neighborhood. For years, the area was overrun with chain restaurants, but the tides have turned with plenty of local restauranteurs popping up all over the ‘hood. Local favorites include Giorgio Rapicavoli’s Glass & Vine, modern-American with a Latin twist spot Ariete, and Michael Schwartz’s Harry’s Pizzeria. But plenty of tried-and-true staples remain like brunch go-to Greenstreet Café, intimate French brasserie Le Bouchon du Grove and perfect lunch spot Jaguar Ceviche. If in a rush, go for the al pastor tacos at El Taquito or the red curry at Asian Thai Kitchen, which is hidden inside a local Kwik Stop. And don’t forget to grab a waterfront drink at Monty’s or Grove Bar Grill (formerly known as Scotty’s Landing), both equipped with awesome marina views. You can find a comprehensive guide here or an hour-by-hour guide to eating in the neighborhood here.

Kamira / 

Little Havana:

This is the epicenter of Cuban cuisine in Miami, and where a lot of Miami-adopted specialties can be found. The most famous Cuban eatery is Versailles, with a Cuban sandwich that is still one of the best in town, but if in the market for a more modern take on the classic sandwich, then make a stop at Sanguich de Miami. It’s easy to spend a day eating and drinking a path through the area. Start with a frita at El Rey, then grab a mojitio at the legendary Ball & Chain, tongue tacos at Viva Mexico, and finish on a sweet note at Azucar Ice Cream with a cup of its famous Abuela Maria ice cream or Velvet Creme for its only-in-Miami doughnuts. Then end it all with a night cap at “hidden” cocktail bar housed on top of Taquerias el Mexicano, Los Altos.

Pisa Photography/Shutterstoc

Downtown Miami/Brickell:

In the land of banks and steakhouses, there are still plenty of unique meals to be had. For those enjoying an expense account dinner, perpetual sushi hot spot Zuma, Peruvian mecca La Mar, and modern-day steak house Edge Steak & Bar will impress the bosses, while La Petite Maison is perfect for date night. For a more low-key option, get a well-made espresso drink at All Day, the spicy bucatini at Fooq’s, or the gazpacho at modern Spanish eatery NIU. Finish the day off with a drink at popular rooftop hangout Sugar, or one of the area’s new watering holes like craft cocktail bar Jaguar Sun, American Southwest-influenced drinking den Lost Boy, or retro-dive bar Mama Tried. For a comprehensive guide to dining in Downtown Miami, visit here.

The Rebroker.com

Coral Gables:

Consider this area classic Miami. Plenty of locals love to eat and drink in the City Beautiful. For breakfast, Australian-inspired Threefold Café is the spot to go. Lunch is a toss-up between a toston burger at Pincho Factory or the fish and chips at Seven Dials. For a night on the town, start with a glass of wine chosen by the sommelier at the city’s best wine bar, Uvaggio, followed by a meal featuring an upscale mash up of Caribbean flavors at Ortanique on the Mile. For a more low-key meal, try the always buzzed about Eating House, serving inventive, eclectic eats. For a comprehensive guide to dining in the Gables, visit here.

Miami Glossary of Terms

Frita:

Pastelitos from Vicky Bakery

A Cuban-style burger made with a thin, very seasoned pork and beef patty, topped with shoestring potatoes, diced onions and ketchup and nestled inside a Cuban roll. Debates rage on where to find them but these are your five best bets.

Croqueta:

While the term is used liberally nowadays, traditional croquetas are filled with diced ham and béchamel and devoured around breakfast time. Eat them like a local on top of a saltine cracker with a squirt of lime juice. Here are the best 14 spots to find traditional and untraditional varieties.

Pastelito:

Known in other parts of the country as a turnover, these flakey pastries are usually found in Miami filled with guava and cheese. Find the nine must-try versions here.

Cortadito:

A Cuban espresso made with roasted coffee and a sugary, creamy concoction poured in.

Arepa:

A Venezuelan import, this hand-held item features a corn-based bread that can be filled with just about anything, though meats and cheeses are preferred. Best eaten late at night after bar hopping, so make sure to keep this guide handy.

Stone Crabs:

The beloved jewel of the sea here in South Florida, these savory crustaceans are only available from October 15 to May 15 of each year. Best served cold with plenty of mustard sauce for dipping.

Homestead:

A region of south Miami-Dade county, this area is where most of Miami's farms reside and where most of city’s local produce is grown — and some of the best milkshakes are made.

Cubano:

A Cuban sandwich, which is a local spin on a ham and cheese made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and pressed inside Cuban bread. And don’t you dare suggest to put salami on it — that’s Tampa’s shtick.

Mamey:

A local fruit that is similar in size to a melon and has a unique flavor that can best be described as a very sweet baked sweet potato. It’s extra tasty in milkshake form.

Medianoche:

The sister sandwich to the Cubano, it’s also filled with pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles, but housed on a much sweeter, egg-based bread.

Pubbelly Boys:

The team that helped bring gastropub fare to Miami. It all started with Pubbelly and they've expanded their empire with multiple locations of Pubbelly Sushi, plus eateries PB Station and Barceloneta.

Michael Schwartz:

Miami’s most popular food personality and widely credited for bringing the farm-to-table movement to South Florida, he is involved in half a dozen restaurants (and counting) with his flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink still going strong in the Miami Design District 11 years after its opening.

Bar Lab:

The team behind The Broken Shaker, The Anderson, and half of Miami’s cocktail menus. They helped grow Miami’s drink scene from laughable to internationally-recognized in a matter of a few years.

Reservations To Make in Advance

Prime 112

Alter, KYU, Bazaar Mar, NAOE, Prime 112, La Petite Maison, and Eating House (for weekend brunch). But, unlike other major metropolitan cities, Miami is very much a last minute town — meaning with even some light planning ahead you're likely to score a restaurant reservation anywhere you desire. If a special occasion is in the works, check out this guide.

Follow the News

Eater Miami is updated multiple times every weekday with breaking news stories (restaurant openings, closings, etc.), features, guides and more. Here are a few ways to stay in the loop:

  • Keep an eye on the Eater Miami homepage. New stories will always show up near the top and flow down toward the bottom of the page as they get older, while important recent stories will stay pinned right at the top. Also, check out our big sister, Eater.com, for national and international food news.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter, which goes out several days a week and includes links to South Florida's top news stories.
  • Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates on new stories and more throughout the day.
  • Interested in upcoming restaurant openings? Here's our fall 2017 openings guide and all restaurant openings are tracked here.

Get In Touch

Have questions not answered here? Want to send in a tip or a complaint or just say hello? Here are some ways to get in touch with the Eater Miami staff:

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