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Friends of Eater Share Their Biggest Dining Surprise of 2018

What shocked them all

Fried chicken from Federal Donuts
Fried chicken from Federal Donuts
Giovanny Gutierrez

As we put a cap on 2018, Eater surveyed a group of friends, writers, and all around experts for their take on the past year. We asked them eight questions: from top standbys to top newcomers, from best meals to restaurants they’ve broken up with. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2018. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Responses do not necessarily reflect the views of Eater and Eater Miami.

Amber Love Bond (Eater Miami contributor): Downtown Miami is finally starting to have a new really cool identity. So many awesome spots have opened this year -- Lost Boy, Mama Tried, Jaguar Sun <3 -- it’s become a fun locals bar scene and I’m loving it! Can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for the area!

Evan Benn (Indulge Miami): The back-to-back-to-back March closures of Federal Donuts/Dizengoff, Proof and Jugofresh were all like punches to the kidney.

Giovanny Gutierrez (Chat Chow TV/Eater Miami photographer): How Cacio e Pepe became so trendy.

Becky Randel (PEOPLE Magazine, The Daily Meal, South Florida Luxury Guide): Kind of random, but I’d say 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen: At first I thought, ‘oh, Dwyane Wade threw his name on a random pizza & chicken place’. But, it was great pizza, really good food, and it has a real chef behind it (Anthony Carron, who studied under Michael Mina). The casual Aventura setting is a nice break from the Miami hustle.

David Rosendorf (Food For Thought): That the menu at Thomas Keller’s Surf Club Restaurant is so boring. The space is gorgeous, the service is outstanding, the execution is precise, but the choices are just ... so ... dull. I get the whole “throwback” theme, and it provides some highlights (the Oysters Rockefeller are second only to Galatoire’s IMO, and I thought the Lobster Thermidor was great), and I like going there. But when I heard we were getting a Thomas Keller restaurant, and when he brought in a creative, talented chef like Manuel Echeverri, who was doing great things at Bazaar Mar, to run the kitchen – well, I was hoping for something more.

On the positive side: Jose Ramirez-Ruiz’s pop-up at All Day. I’d heard so many great things about his Brooklyn restaurant, Semilla, but never got there before it closed. So I was thrilled to hear he’d made camp in South Florida, and even more thrilled when he took over All Day for a two-night pop-up earlier this month. I ate about 2/3 of the menu in one sitting, and it was one of the most interesting meals I’ve had all year. He does things with local ingredients I’ve never seen before, and has a knack for finding flavor combinations that are unique and different without being confrontational and weird.

Stacy Moya (Eater Miami Contributor): Plant Miami’s cacio funghi blew my mind. Not because it’s vegan but because it was raw and oh-so-good. The kelp noodles and cashew truffle bechamel sauce are addictive, and gorgeous plating, too.

Virginia Gil (Time Out Miami): The abundance of seafoodcentric Mexican and/or Latin spots was a huge surprise. I’m all for uni, octopus and other marine creatures but I think restaurants pushed the pescatarian agenda a little too hard this year.

Alona Martinez (Eater Miami Contributor): Jackson Hall closing before it had barely opened.

Dara Lynn Smith (Eater Miami Contributor): Some of the restaurant closings - Swine, Hank + Harry’s, Jackson Hall, Wynwood Yard soon, Jugofresh, etc.

Sara Liss ( That the Aventura Mall would reinvent its dining situation so well. Call me a desperate soccer mom (no, really, do it) but I love being able to take my kids to that amazing three-story slide and then tuck into sushi and a cocktail at Pubbelly Sushi or hang out in the “Treats” food hall after a movie and take advantage of great spots like ZUUK Kitchen and Shake Shack.

Olee Fowler (Eater Miami): The sudden closing of Jugofresh. They were the OG juice company in Miami (and my personal favorite) and just overnight — poof, they are gone. Also, Proof closing, but it took them all of a month to find a new home so not all was lost.