The 38 Essential Miami Restaurants, Spring 2017
Your essential Miami spots
We now present you an updated version of Miami's Eater 38 for spring of 2017. Your answer and ours to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This highly elite group, which is listed in alphabetical order, has been culled from a panel of experts and covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines, histories, locations, and, collectively, satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those who are never happy.
Every couple of months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (being open for more than six months — but closer to a year), or have stepped up their game.
After much reflecting and pouring over reader emails and comments, we've decided to drop Quality Meats and The River Oyster Bar. The good news is that in their places we've added Bachour Bakery + Bistro and Ariete.
Think we missed something? Temper tantrum not necessary- just nominate your favorite restaurant in the comments section or drop us a line. Pop-up restaurants, however, do not qualify.
Note: Restaurants are listed alphabetically. The numbers are not rankings.
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Bringing a sleek update to the traditional steakhouse, executive chef Aaron Brooks has successfully set his sights beyond just the mastery of your standard filet mignon at Edge, Steak and Bar. His menu features a variety of unique dishes like Aussie lamb shoulder, kangaroo empanadas, and steamed stone crabs tossed in hot butter. And while it might be housed in the ritzy Four Season Miami, you don’t have to empty your wallet to enjoy it.
The best fritas in Miami. Hands down.
Cheap Cuban food, fresh fruits, veggies and a bakery known for it's fresh-squeezed sugarcane, tamales and perfectly salty chicharones cut to order. Sort of like Miami's version of Grey's Papaya and very high on pork fat.
Like the Madonna of restaurants, Joe's needs only one name and little explanation. It's a South Beach stone crab institution that's always mobbed and home of the original Miami Beach power lunch.
Long before Guy Fieri discovered it, La Camaronera was one of Miami's best kept secrets for fresh fish and the best fried fish sandwich you may ever eat. And while it may be no secret anymore and on the to-do lists of every hungry tourist who watches his show, it still offers up some of the best priced grub in Miami.
A Stephen Starr restaurant in Bal Harbour Shops where what's on the plate is more important than who's sitting in front of it sounds almost as implausible as a half off sale at Gucci, but alas, thanks to chef Makoto Okuwa, former Head Sushi Chef at Morimoto New York and Philadelphia, it's the real deal. In addition to the raw stuff, Makoto's modern Japanese dishes and bincho charcoal robata have even the most finicky fashionistas fawning over the fare.
Design District trailblazer featuring groundbreaking, contemporary American, organic fare by Michael Schwartz. And even as it celebrates its 10th year in business, Michael's remains a celebrity and foodie favorite.
After shutting down his spot on Sunny Isles, Sushi chef Kevin Cory relocated his acclaimed NAOE to Brickell Key and he hasn't missed a beat. The tiny eight seat NAOE constantly puts out the best sushi experience in Miami, always fresh and never disappointing.
One of the few restaurants where the word fusion doesn't mean 'we're not sure what we are,' Ortanique's seamless blend of Latin, Caribbean and Asian cuisines translates into an exceptional culinary experience. Boozehounds praise the place for their mad mojito making skills, too.
Typically, serious food fans would laugh off the notion of an Asian-inspired gastropub in Miami, but when it comes to Pubbelly, it's no laughing matter and a serious statement of what happens when people know what they're doing. This is the one that started it all, now many more siblings in the restaurant "family."
Overnight sensations are a dime a dozen (see: Justin Bieber), but when it comes to Miami restaurants, Sugarcane is a success story like no other. Chef Timon Balloo is a cool, culinary renegade, leading a talented team that works the restaurant's three kitchens to delightful effect.
Rainer Becker's modern Japanese inspired by traditional, informal Izakaya-style dining may seem almost oxymoronic, but the sleek, chic crowd of culinary mafia, celebrities and scene-chasers who eat and drink here don't care. After all, it is the first Miami restaurant whose London and Hong Kong siblings made the Top 100 listing of The S.Pellegrino World's Best Restaurants.
The best Greek and Turkish food in Miami is tucked away in the intimate, understated courtyard at Mandolin. Transport to the Greek Isles with a menu of elegant small plates (no over-fried falafel here) and entrees like lamb and beef meatballs and the exceptionally grilled octopus with refreshing Greek wine to complete a great meal.
What started as a hit pop-up by chef Giorgio Rapicavoli partner Alex Cassanova quickly turned into a permanent drool-inducing Miami go-to. Several years after going permanent, the spot continues to churn out creative dishes that summon taste buds all ‘round. Think pasta carbonara like you’ve never had it, playful desserts like the ‘dirt cup’ and, yep, cap’n crunch pancakes.
Macchialina, which comes from the words "Macchia" meaning "mark or spot" and "Maialina" meaning piglets, aims to be reminiscent of a "small rustic eatery in the heart of any Italian town." Under the chef and owner Michael Pirolo's lead it creates Italian classics (braised shortrib lasagna, pork chop Milanese, etc.) with some interesting twists, like beet-filled ravioli that is a favorite amongst many.
Located in Brickell at Mandarin Oriental, La Mar by Gaston Acurio offers a combo of well-executed upscale novo-Andean fare and Asian-Peruvian fusion dishes. Think classics like lomo saltado, local offerings like yellowtail snapper and several ceviche options.
Arguably some of the best Indian food in the city, this Coconut Grove staple is always packed. Luckily for us, it moved to a much bigger space down the street than its original location so getting our hands on some of the restaurant's signature dishes like crab samosas, lamb vindaloo, tandoori chicken and mango lassi is much easier.
This South Beach staple offers some of the most authentic and fresh French sandwiches and salads around, topped with the restaurant's signature sauce that people still go crazy for. Not to mention it's also the perfect after hours spot, staying open until 5 a.m. on weeknights and 6 a.m. on weekends.
This NYC import has been a hit since the day it opened its doors. The pizzas and calzones are made with handmade dough, wheeled into thin sheets by empty wine bottles before it enters the wooden oven. Simplicity is key here, but the devil is in the details, as the restaurant uses some of the freshest ingredients around. As for the toppings, we suggest you go all out. Pile up and enjoy.
Miami's premiere dim sum palace, Tropical Chinese is a bit of a schlep for most, but worth the trip when it comes to old school, pick off the cart Chinese small plate and dumplings.
Owned by Craig DeWald and wine-obsessive Heath Porter, this Coral Gables’ European-style wine bar and restaurant has gathered a following for its rare bottles and laid-back attitude. Food isn't an after thought, however, with a menu that features small plates as creative and unique as the wine it serves.
This South Miami staple has been flying under the radar for years, long before the whole local, sustainable, organic craze really blew up. Executive chef Brendan Connor was a sous chef at Charleston's Hominy Grill and started Whisk as a catering company with his sister. The family affair became a dine-in love affair amongst locals and those who travel quite a distance for the seasonal, home style and yep, gourmet, fare.
The southern belle of South Beach, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar brought comfort food to Miami when it opened in October of 2011and quickly became the star of the 50 Eggs Restaurant Group empire. Close to five years later, people from all over are still flocking to the restaurant for fried chicken and green tomatoes, washed down with one of its many bourbon concoctions.
A modern take on the classic seafood restaurant by Blue Collar chef Danny Serfer and partner Ryan Roman. Described by many as a "plain and fancy" oyster heaven, it also features tons of other seafood items, too, as well as non sea-dwelling options like prime rib, chicken and veggies.
Sure, Miami Beach has plenty of taco shops, but authentic taquerias? Not so much. But that's where Taquiza comes in. This grab-and-go restaurant in the heart of Sobe features traditional tacos like pastor, chicken and even tongue, served on top of handmade blue masa corn tortillas so good that it now supplies them for half of the restaurants in town.
The first full-service restaurant and bar from the guys that brought us the Broken Shaker, 27 Restaurant plays homage to Miami’s diversity with an eclectic menu filled with signature dishes from South America, the Caribbean and even the Middle East. Located in a historic two-story house adjacent to the Broken Shaker, it features the same laid-back spirit and inventive drinks of the Broken Shaker in a hip (and air conditioned) setting.
Odds are you will find your favorite chef having dinner at Cake Thai on his night off – and there is a reason for that. The small restaurant located in a strip mall has gained a cult-like following in its year or so in business. Sure, it may not have a bathroom. Or a liquor license. But if you can look past those quirks, then you will find some of the best Thai food in the city made by a former Makoto chef. But if you don’t want to brave the elements then there is always takeout or delivery available.
Alter has helped put Miami’s artsy neighborhood of Wynwood on the radar of food-lovers near and far, proving that is it is worthy of all the hype around it — and there is certainly a lot. Running the kitchen is Brad Kilgore, recently named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2016, who at just 30-years-old has worked in some of the best kitchens in the world like Alinea and L2O, and brings those cooking chops to Alter. On the menu think beautiful, high-end, Florida-inspired cuisine utilizing flavor combos you won’t see anywhere else, all served in an unassuming and purposely industrial warehouse setting that perfectly aligns with its hipster ‘hood.
The Southern-inspired menu features classic Americana dishes by Phil Bryant that are a rarity in South Florida, like hot browns, homemade pimento cheese, fried chicken and boiled peanuts, that could convince anyone they are dining in the deep South. Pair that with an inventive, booze-forward bar program — something needs to cut all that rib stickin’ cuisine after all — and you’ve got yourself a stellar combo that is sure to live on for years to come.
Seeing the word “tapas” on a menu is almost as common as hearing “dale” in the Magic City — it happens more often than it should. And while there are plenty of middle-of-the-line, traditional Spanish restaurants in this town, the gem of the bunch in NIU Kitchen. Tucked away in Downtown Miami, this 26-seat restaurant showcases Catalan cuisine by Barcelona native Deme Lomas the way it should be: simple, light, flavorful and fun. The plates and menu rotate frequently but you’d be remiss not to try the cold tomato soup with mustard ice cream, the truffle and egg-filled potato foam and any and all of its tartare.
Good Thai cuisine can be found in Miami, and Lung Yai Thai Tapas is proof. This small, unassuming, Little Havana spot has been peretually packed since its debut featuring a menu filled with duck salad, curries and some of the best fried chicken around — just be prepared to wait, since reservations aren’t accepted.
Arguably one of the most stunning restaurants in town, Byblos also serves food that worthy of writing home about. While the menu is described as Mediterranean, don’t expect to find any hummus on it. Instead this dishes feature a more Middle Eastern and Northern African slant like duck kibbeh, lamb ribs, Cornish hen in lentil sauce, served with a variety spiked tea cocktails.
This homey, neighborhood spot serves up some serious cuisine thanks to executive chefs John Gallo and Rene Reyes, who’s resumes read like a who’s who of the Miami restaurant world. The menu features twists on American classics like pork secreto, roast chicken with local veggies and rum cake topped with thyme gelato. Combine that with a stellar beer list, unpretentious vibe and reasonable prices and you’ve got yourself a winning combo.
The brainchild of two former Zuma alums, KYU features Asian eats with a barbecue twist, think wood-fired meats, unique dishes like brisket lettuce wraps and duck “burnt ends,” sushi, all housed in a hip Wynwood setting. Oh, and don’t you dare miss that Coconut Cake for dessert.
What do you get when you Top Chef champ and James Beard award-winning chef, Paul Qui, with Miami’s most opulent hotel, The Faena? You get Pao by Paul Qui, serving up a high-brow mix of Filipino, Japanese and Texas barbecue cuisine, creating a unique dining mishmash that the Magic City never seen before in a see-and-be-seen setting that we are more than familiar with.