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Platter from Joe’s Stone Crab
Joe’s Stone Crab

13 South Florida Tourist Traps That Are Actually Good

Worth the time for visitors and locals

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Platter from Joe’s Stone Crab
| Joe’s Stone Crab

Miami has been drawing in the crowds since word got out that one could be frolicking in turquoise, warm waters instead of shoveling out of another bitter northeastern storm. As with any popular destination, plenty of dining options are overpriced and underperforming, but tourists are willing to overlook that for a chance of some sun.

However, some establishments are set on catering to outsiders — because they offer a fabulous view, have a long history with the Sunshine State, or are a very buzzy place — that come through with solid food options. Here is a list of some of the biggest tourist destinations in South Florida that are worth a visit. Consider them the next time family or friends come to town.

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Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami

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Cocktail enthusiasts flocking to this award-winning bar nestled inside the Freehand Hotel will be elated to find a top-notch drink program (many prepared with elixirs, syrups, and infusions made from the on-site garden herbs and spices. Paired with tasty street-food-inspired bites and a fun vibe, it hits all the right notes for an evening well spent.

El Palacio de los Jugos (Multiple locations)

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Translated from Spanish El Palacio de los Jugos means “the palace of the juices.” It’s a nod to all the drinks made on-site from local tropical fruits like mamey, maracuya (passion fruit), and guayaba. But there’s plenty more here, like large portions of Cuban classics like chicharrones (fried pork), sandwiches, rice dishes, and sweets. At the same time, it can be daunting to order, as there are multiple counters with different vendors; diners simply need to travel from one spot to another, picking and paying for what they’d like before enjoying their budget-friendly meal.

Sugar Factory

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Ice-smoking cocktails and decadent shakes have had tourists flocking here with phones ready to capture it all for the ‘gram. For brunch, highlights include decadent ‘Insane Double Stack Rainbow Pancakes’ served with an array of toppings like chocolate chips, gummy bears, strawberries, whipped cream, and rainbow sprinkles served with a take-home rubber ducky. Its chicken-waffle sandwich features jalapeno maple syrup, while the doughnut burger pairs beef with a glazed doughnut and grilled cheese sandwich topping. Pair with a mimosa goblet for the complete experience.

Rainbow pancakes.
Sugar Factory

Gianni's At The Former Versace Mansion

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Housed inside the Villa Casa Casuarina, the former home of the late fashion designer Gianni Versace, dining in the expansive courtyard of this Italian restaurant includes enjoying dishes like Gianni’s spaghetti pomodoro and mushroom risotto while marveling at the ornate gold-lined mosaic pool that serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece.

Elcielo By Juan Manuel Barrientos (Multiple locations)

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Latin American dishes with a molecular gastronomy twist make this intimate Michelin-starred restaurant on Brickell a popular spot to take visitors. That and washing one’s hands with warm chocolate (called “Chocotherapy”), an experience most people have dreamed of doing since the age of nine. The menu rotates regularly but begin with the show-stopping Tree Of Life, an edible bonsai-looking work of art made from yucca flour. A new location splashy location inside SLS South Beach recently opened with an a la carte menu.

Joe's Stone Crab

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Open since 1913, this restaurant is an institution and is thought to have started the stone crab craze that captures Miami to this day. Ordering the namesake stone crabs, served with a mustard sauce that is a legend in its own right, is a must, but stone crabs aren’t the only notable item on the menu. There is something for all tastes, from an assortment of seafood dishes to steaks to its popular fried chicken. And don’t forget the sides: creamed spinach and coleslaw are favorites, but the hash browns and the roasted tomatoes are worth the order, too. Also, the Key lime pie is one of the best in town.

Cafe La Trova

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Those looking for an authentic Miami Cuban night out will be well served heading to the Calle Ocho spot, which boasts two bars with real-deal Cantineros (Cuban old-school bartenders) and, under the helm of James Beard Award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein, excellent food. There’s a live band that can lead to dancing, so be sure to wear comfy shoes.

Sanguich

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Everyone visiting (or living) in Miami seeks the best Cuban sandwich, and this tiny spot that got a nod from the Michelin Guide stands out as the real deal. Everything including bread, pickles, and mustard, is made in-house. The croqueta preparada sandwich (ham, pork, croquettes, Swiss cheese, and mustard) is a popular favorite, but there’s no wrong choice. There’s a location in Little Haiti as well.

Versailles Restaurant Cuban Cuisine

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The center of Cuban-American relations, the “ventantita” or little window, is the heartbeat of this Little Havana landmark that opened in 1971. Go for a Cuban coffee, croquetas, and a hearty dose of good ole’ Latin love (and politics). There’s no need to speak Spanish, although it doesn’t hurt. Inside, dine on a feast of Cuban favorites like the medianoche sandwich, ropa vieja, and chicken and yellow rice. The tres leches, or flan, have just the right amount of sugar to get through the remainder of the day but wash it down with a cortado for the extra caffeine buzz.

Rusty Pelican Miami Restaurant

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Head to this waterfront landmark on Key Biscayne for arguably the best sunset view in town. Dishes include the tomahawk ribeye steak, lobster and shrimp risotto, and herb-marinated grilled octopus. The caviar and black truffle twice-baked potato is a worthy side, as is the smoked sweet plantain mash.

Monty's Raw Bar

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For those craving a Key West vibe in Miami, head to this iconic, easy-going spot serving frozen cocktails like painkillers, mango margaritas, and rum runners. Drinks pair well with the unpretentious seafood grub — coconut shrimp, oysters, and peel-and-eat shrimp come to mind.

Frozen cocktails at Monty’s.
Giovanny Gutierrez @chatchowtv

Knaus Berry Farm

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While the sticky bun king is only open for less than half a year, South Floridians flock to Knaus Berry Farm when it does open its doors. The lines are long but worth the wait. The concept began with a roadside strawberry stand and grew into a Redland staple in 1959. Aside from the popular sticky buns, Knaus Berry Farm also sells produce, baked bread, pies, cheesecakes, and jellies. Make sure to grab a shake to-go or enjoy while picking some fresh berries on the farm. Open yearly November through April.

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand

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Those headed to the Everglades or the Florida Keys know to make a pitstop at this family-owned tropical fruit stand featuring local produce, addictive fruit shakes, and an array of honey and baked goods.

Signature fruit shakes.
Robert Is Here Fruit Stand /Instagram

Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami

Cocktail enthusiasts flocking to this award-winning bar nestled inside the Freehand Hotel will be elated to find a top-notch drink program (many prepared with elixirs, syrups, and infusions made from the on-site garden herbs and spices. Paired with tasty street-food-inspired bites and a fun vibe, it hits all the right notes for an evening well spent.

El Palacio de los Jugos (Multiple locations)

Translated from Spanish El Palacio de los Jugos means “the palace of the juices.” It’s a nod to all the drinks made on-site from local tropical fruits like mamey, maracuya (passion fruit), and guayaba. But there’s plenty more here, like large portions of Cuban classics like chicharrones (fried pork), sandwiches, rice dishes, and sweets. At the same time, it can be daunting to order, as there are multiple counters with different vendors; diners simply need to travel from one spot to another, picking and paying for what they’d like before enjoying their budget-friendly meal.

Sugar Factory

Ice-smoking cocktails and decadent shakes have had tourists flocking here with phones ready to capture it all for the ‘gram. For brunch, highlights include decadent ‘Insane Double Stack Rainbow Pancakes’ served with an array of toppings like chocolate chips, gummy bears, strawberries, whipped cream, and rainbow sprinkles served with a take-home rubber ducky. Its chicken-waffle sandwich features jalapeno maple syrup, while the doughnut burger pairs beef with a glazed doughnut and grilled cheese sandwich topping. Pair with a mimosa goblet for the complete experience.

Rainbow pancakes.
Sugar Factory

Gianni's At The Former Versace Mansion

Housed inside the Villa Casa Casuarina, the former home of the late fashion designer Gianni Versace, dining in the expansive courtyard of this Italian restaurant includes enjoying dishes like Gianni’s spaghetti pomodoro and mushroom risotto while marveling at the ornate gold-lined mosaic pool that serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece.

Elcielo By Juan Manuel Barrientos (Multiple locations)

Latin American dishes with a molecular gastronomy twist make this intimate Michelin-starred restaurant on Brickell a popular spot to take visitors. That and washing one’s hands with warm chocolate (called “Chocotherapy”), an experience most people have dreamed of doing since the age of nine. The menu rotates regularly but begin with the show-stopping Tree Of Life, an edible bonsai-looking work of art made from yucca flour. A new location splashy location inside SLS South Beach recently opened with an a la carte menu.

Joe's Stone Crab

Open since 1913, this restaurant is an institution and is thought to have started the stone crab craze that captures Miami to this day. Ordering the namesake stone crabs, served with a mustard sauce that is a legend in its own right, is a must, but stone crabs aren’t the only notable item on the menu. There is something for all tastes, from an assortment of seafood dishes to steaks to its popular fried chicken. And don’t forget the sides: creamed spinach and coleslaw are favorites, but the hash browns and the roasted tomatoes are worth the order, too. Also, the Key lime pie is one of the best in town.

Cafe La Trova

Those looking for an authentic Miami Cuban night out will be well served heading to the Calle Ocho spot, which boasts two bars with real-deal Cantineros (Cuban old-school bartenders) and, under the helm of James Beard Award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein, excellent food. There’s a live band that can lead to dancing, so be sure to wear comfy shoes.

Sanguich

Everyone visiting (or living) in Miami seeks the best Cuban sandwich, and this tiny spot that got a nod from the Michelin Guide stands out as the real deal. Everything including bread, pickles, and mustard, is made in-house. The croqueta preparada sandwich (ham, pork, croquettes, Swiss cheese, and mustard) is a popular favorite, but there’s no wrong choice. There’s a location in Little Haiti as well.

Versailles Restaurant Cuban Cuisine

The center of Cuban-American relations, the “ventantita” or little window, is the heartbeat of this Little Havana landmark that opened in 1971. Go for a Cuban coffee, croquetas, and a hearty dose of good ole’ Latin love (and politics). There’s no need to speak Spanish, although it doesn’t hurt. Inside, dine on a feast of Cuban favorites like the medianoche sandwich, ropa vieja, and chicken and yellow rice. The tres leches, or flan, have just the right amount of sugar to get through the remainder of the day but wash it down with a cortado for the extra caffeine buzz.

Rusty Pelican Miami Restaurant

Head to this waterfront landmark on Key Biscayne for arguably the best sunset view in town. Dishes include the tomahawk ribeye steak, lobster and shrimp risotto, and herb-marinated grilled octopus. The caviar and black truffle twice-baked potato is a worthy side, as is the smoked sweet plantain mash.

Monty's Raw Bar

For those craving a Key West vibe in Miami, head to this iconic, easy-going spot serving frozen cocktails like painkillers, mango margaritas, and rum runners. Drinks pair well with the unpretentious seafood grub — coconut shrimp, oysters, and peel-and-eat shrimp come to mind.

Frozen cocktails at Monty’s.
Giovanny Gutierrez @chatchowtv

Knaus Berry Farm

While the sticky bun king is only open for less than half a year, South Floridians flock to Knaus Berry Farm when it does open its doors. The lines are long but worth the wait. The concept began with a roadside strawberry stand and grew into a Redland staple in 1959. Aside from the popular sticky buns, Knaus Berry Farm also sells produce, baked bread, pies, cheesecakes, and jellies. Make sure to grab a shake to-go or enjoy while picking some fresh berries on the farm. Open yearly November through April.

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand

Those headed to the Everglades or the Florida Keys know to make a pitstop at this family-owned tropical fruit stand featuring local produce, addictive fruit shakes, and an array of honey and baked goods.

Signature fruit shakes.
Robert Is Here Fruit Stand /Instagram

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