Jose Mendin shows his talents to visitors
Miamians are well familiar with chef Jose Mendin and his Pubbelly empire of restaurants, but despite five James Beard nominations his places hadn’t been huge destinations for tourists. But this new spot in The 1 Hotel along Collins Ave will have our temporary neighbors realizing what all the fuss is about, with Mendin’s trademark mix of Asian, Spanish, and Latin American flavors. The space is the same clean, crisp décor that was here when it was Beachcraft, but the menu is more complex, split among “land,” “sea,” and “fire” sections. Try the pine nut-crusted octopus a la planxa from the sea, jamon iberico-wrapped croquetas from land, and the pork ribs with gochujang sauce for the fire. And bring your wallet. The food here’s great, but it’s definitely priced to splurge.
Authentic Italian best experienced outdoors
These are the glory days of outdoor dining in Miami, and the best new place to take advantage of our ideal weather is this Italian spot on a quiet corner south of Fifth. The sprawling patio is filled with comfy seats and big umbrellas, where the warm night air sits perfectly over fresh burrata and tomatoes imported from Italy. It’s the perfect preview for the stellar pizzas to come, which rise for 72 hours before getting hand-tossed and wood-fired. The pastas are no slouch either; go for the homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola cream, and the fiocchetti alle pere e tartufo -- handmade pasta filled with truffle cream, caramelized pear, Parmigiano Reggiano fondue, and balsamic vinegar.
Fresh Florida food in a classic mid-beach hotel
The Carillon Hotel has transformed itself into a wellness resort, and its crown culinary achievement is the big, open, warm-restaurant headed up by Beachcraft’s Stephen Ulrich. Strand’s menu is varied using Florida ingredients, with starters like a squash trio with yogurt and jalapeno culling popular produce from local farms. Main courses keep the fresh food going, with short rib, corn and piquillo pepper pizza, and polenta agnolotti with salsa verde topping the choices. The vibe inside isn’t nearly as touristy as one would expect in a hotel this far up in the beach, and you’ll find just as many locals sitting among the beach wood and big windows as you will folks from out of town.
California-style beachside tacos by a Florida beach
There’s nothing quite like spending the day in the ocean, rolling off the sand, and sitting down to a nice plate of tacos. At least that’s what anyone from south of Fresno will tell you. Get a little bit of the surfer vibe that SoFi’s had for years and stop in this narrow little taqueria, where chef Michael Castino (formerly of Estiatorio Milos and Komodo) puts creative combinations on fresh made tortillas. Of course, there are still the favorites like grilled shrimp, filet mignon, and marinated chicken. But if a day on the sand has you feeling adventurous, try Korean BBQ with gochujang sauce, kimchi, and crispy shallots.
Michelin-starred sushi spreads to South Beach
Who better to tell us where to eat seafood than a tire maker, right? That’s why there’s so much buzz about the Michelin-starred Azabu opening its first South Florida outpost at the Stanton Marriott in SoFi. Pass through the curtains here and it feels like you’ve saved yourself the 16 hour flight to Japan, as the dimly lit space serves Izakaya-style specialties like robata-grilled meats, udon noodles, and fresh-from-Japan sushi. For special occasions, get the omakase in The Den, an 11-seat sushi counter made from an Hinoki Cypress tree. For not-as-special occasions, grab a seat at Bar Azabu, where you’ll find Miami’s best selection of Japanese whiskey.
Miami’s most exclusive Italian in a fast-casual setting
Not that anyone would besmirch the fine cuisine at Casa Tua, but unless you’re rolling there in a Phantom from your condo at Continuum it can be literally impossible to try. Until now, where the same fresh pastas, pizzas, and savory Italian dishes are spread throughout a massive food hall at Saks Fifth Avenue. Hop around ten different dining stations, ordering salmon crudo, fresh cacio y pepe, and wood-fired pizzas before settling down at the bar and ordering a glass of rare imported Italian wine. The communal tables and counters might not have the same you-cant-sit-with-us feel as the South Beach original. But if you’re more about being fed than being seen you’ll be here multiple times a week.
A hearty steakhouse by the ocean
The stylish Acqualina resort has struggled to find a main restaurant to compliment Il Mulino, so this time they went straight to the source. The new AQ Chophouse is the creation of Il Mulino executive chef Michele Mazza, who takes the same detailed approach to steaks as he has to high-end Italian. Here you’ll feel the warm air off the Atlantic with uninterrupted ocean views from the terrazza patio, as you dine on branzino crudo and sheep’s milk ricotta, then move on to short rib ravioli with sage and butter. Though said ravioli are tempting to fill up on, limit yourself to two; the steaks at AQ are prime cuts up there with any of the South Beach stalwarts. It’s absolutely the best new steakhouse of the year and and the new go-to for an impressive meal up north.
Daniel Boulud goes a little lighter, stays just as delicious
Not that the venerable DB Bistro wasn’t a magical spot for dinner, but it felt like the kind of place you’d only go if someone else was footing the bill. So mega-chef Daniel Boulud has made his new spot in the JW Marriott Marquis a little more approachable, lightening up both the décor and the prices while keeping the food up to expectations. The menu’s big on Middle Eastern flavors, with lamb and pine nut flatbreads and carrot veloute setting the stage for chicken tagines with couscous, or arroz bomba with sepia, chorizo and saffron rice. The desserts are still works of art, and the cocktails are smooth and delicious, effectively creating a downscaled version of his old gourmet hotspot.
Hand-crafted Italian food hidden behind the Betsy
You could almost call this brick oven pizzeria an Ocean Drive restaurant, though sitting in a light-draped alley half a block off the main drag almost deserves an asterisk.Though it's right near one of the most famous streets in America, it has the feel of a hidden little trattoria you might find in Bologna, with friendly service and tables set just inches apart. The fresh daily pasta specials all come from noodles made fresh that day, complementing an intriguing menu of Neapolitan-style pies. It’s as close to a cozy Italian restaurant as you’ll find in that neon jungle, and is the best of this winter’s crop to bring out-of-towners.
A Vietnamese deli in Wynwood’s Asian food hall
After proving his mettle slinging Miami’s best tacos at Coyo, chef Scott Linquist has moved on to conquer yet another exotic cuisine, this time bringing Miami its first full-on gourmet banh mi shop. This one sits in the far corner at 1-800 Lucky, the bustling Asian food hall that’s changed how we eat in Wynwood. Here you’ll find some uber-authentic stuff like homemade Vietnamese head cheese and lemongrass chicken feet. For the less adventurous, you can get a sandwich on bread from Sullivan Street Bakery filled with meatballs, pork belly, or a custom-made sausage from Miami Proper Sausages.
Miami’s best steakhouse has more than just meat
When almost every season a new high-end steakhouse opens up and serves prime cuts with great service, it’s tough to stay on top. But despite expansion into other cities Peter Vauthy still maintains the best steakhouse in the city by offering a menu that extends far beyond his trademark filets and tomahawks. Red also has some of the best tapas and the best donuts, plus a menu of Italian offerings that would make it a standout without a single cut of meat (try anything with the “Red Lead” sauce, trust us). Despite all that, the place has zero attitude or pretentiousness, and strikes the rare balance of fine dining and a relaxed atmosphere that’s so rarely found in South Beach.
Gourmet Peruvian and sushi with Miami’s top waterfront view
The hottest chef in Peru put his first American outpost right on the water at the Mandarin Oriental, serving up the best ceviche in Miami plus Peruvian favorites like lomo saltado and an insanely extravagant seafood brunch. Daytime dining here means enjoying the breeze blowing off Biscayne Bay as you sip pisco sours and gaze out at the Rickenbacker Causeway. At night it’s a front row seat to the expanding Brickell skyline, a restaurant where both the food and the environment let you know exactly where you are. Eat here when the weather is nice and it’ll remind you why, despite all the irritations, you still live in Miami.
An affordable way to experience Miami’s best Italian
Debates about the best Italian food in Miami can rage on for hours, but it seems the one name both fine dining foodies and shorts-and-flip-flops pasta junkies always agree on is Macchialina. Here, Michael Pirolo plates thick red sauces and house-made pastas, accompanied by a rotating menu of craft cocktails in a space that feels more South Italy than South Beach. All that makes this a homey standout among sometimes snooty feeling Miami Italian joints. Much of the local love stems from the legendary Thursday night special, when the homemade pastas are all only $10 so even Miamians who recoil at menu prices can afford to eat at one of the best restaurants in the city. Or, more likely, spend all those savings on wine.
A meat-heavy restaurant that also boasts a fine selection of veggie options
Don’t have a heart attack, Danny Serfer! Never mind you’ve probably given them to half the city with your potato latkes, Corben sandwich, one of the best breakfast sandwiches in America, and an entire menu of stuff our cardiologist warned us about. We still included you on the list. But like we do when there’s no tables at Blue Collar on a hot summer night, we just wanted to make you sweat.
The most complete, approachable Asian experience in Miami
“We don’t mess around” spicy food is harder to find in Miami than one might think. Since our idea of Asian cuisine seems to be either high priced sushi or fill-in-the-blank fusion, the authentic stuff is few and far between. So thanks go out to Chef Bee for opening up this spot in Sunset Harbour, where he’s plating sweat-inducing curries, rich noodle bowls, cured beef jerky, and jerky-infused whiskey cocktails. Even if you don’t love the hot stuff, the regular menu is the best Southeast Asian in the city, and chef is always adding new stuff like he recently did with Sriracha garlic chili ribs and tuna tostones with hot sesame oil and guacamole. Pro tip: If you’re feeling strong ask for your dinner “the way the chef eats it.”
Simple seafood that’s still the best in the city
Seafood is as much of a staple on Miami menus as kitschy takes on the Cuban sandwich and an 18% automatic gratuity. But like with so many things in life, the ones who do it simplest, do it best. Case in point: Danny Serfer’s seafood outpost, where the menu starts off with the best selection of fresh oysters in Miami, then graduates onto a lobster heavy-list of appetizers highlighted by the croissants with lobster butter. The “plain” entrees are great here too, as Serfer lets the selection of local fish speak for itself. The place has been so successful it’s launched an uptown version, this one set in an old diner car and offering the same fantastic food in a completely different atmosphere.
The ultimate Wynwood foodie experience
If there is a restaurant that is completely emblematic of what Miami’s art district has become, it’s Alter. The place is hipster and casual at first glance, but upon further examination is sophisticated and upscale. The big, light, warehoused area is full of causal seats, waiters in jeans, and tropical plants. The food however, is as fine-dining as it gets. Menus are of the five-and-seven course variety, and because Brad Kilgore is constantly creating new plates, you’ll have a different experience every time you go. This season’s selections include sake-cured duck breast grilled over pinecones, and snapper sashimi peta, cucumber and lime vinegar. But enjoy it while you can, your next experience will be significantly different. Since every time here varies, it’s ideal both for a special night or, or to take out-of-towners who think everything great in Miami lies in South Beach.
The best restaurant value, perfect for dates or large groups
In an era when Miamians have been conditioned to say unconscionable things like “$22 for a pizza seems fair,” Crust has somehow cracked the code. By mastering the art of high volume Downtown delivery, this place is able to offer inhumanely-large portions of family-style pasta dishes, gourmet pizzas, and humongous cuts of meat, all served for the price of small entrees at other places. This family-run Italian spot on the Miami River has a homey atmosphere that can be energetic and exciting at the big tables, then intimate and fun in smaller corners. It’s a throwback to the Italian restaurants of your childhood, where the owners always make you feel at home and you never leave disappointed.
A multi-course, interactive journey through modern Colombian cuisine
The word “experience” gets thrown around the restaurant world a lot to justify charging $28 for a chicken breast. But at El Cielo, that’s the only word to describe it. The tasting menu here can be either four, ten, or 13 courses, taking you from carrot and guava soup with cardamom plantain to “chocotherapy,” where your server bathes your hands in chocolate and you lick it off. The menu varies but generally includes a fresh catch of the day and the Tree of Life, a traditional Colombian cheese-covered bread served to look like the El Indio Desnudo tree. It’s the odd meal where you’ll drop triple digits and say it was absolutely worth it, and it is without a doubt the most unique dining experience in Miami.