Food & Drink

Miami's Hidden Waterside Restaurants You Didn't Know Existed

Published On 08/16/2016 Published On 08/16/2016
Diplomat Miami
Courtesy of Diplomat
Juniper on the Water

Juniper On The Water

Hallandale Beach

Driving through the condo canyons that mark the beachside county line between Aventura and Hallandale, you’d never expect to find a modern Mediterranean restaurant decked out to look like a Hamptons summer beach house. But it's there. In Juniper you'll enjoy fresh seafood paella, whole fish a la plancha, filet mignon, and burrata flatbread. Gaze out at the Intracoastal as you sip on specialty European wines and forget you’re, like, 20 yards from the condo swimming pool.

Boater's Grill

Key Biscayne

The only way you’d know about this tiny restaurant nestled under the lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is if you had to park really far away from the picnic areas and wandered by its tiny cove on your way to the beach. But this former pirate’s hideaway is now one of the best-kept waterfront secrets in Miami, a spot right on the bay serving up fresh seafood at the end of the park for reasonable prices. It’s also the perfect place to still grab lunch when all the barbecue shelters are taken.

Red Fish Grill

Red Fish Grill

Pinecrest

Want to impress your date with a spot that’s totally off the beaten path AND one of Miami’s most romantic restaurants? Head to this spot on the edge of Matheson Hammock Park, a fresh seafood joint housed in an old, historic stone building that was once the Matheson Hammock Pavilion. The views are spectacular, but be warned: if you find yourself out with that rarest of breeds -- a Miami Native -- they won’t be nearly as impressed, since they absolutely went here already for a quince or graduation dinner.

Black Point Ocean Grill

Cutler Bay

Anyone from South Dade knows there’s nothing better after a long day on the boat than a big dinner at Black Point Ocean Grill. Of course, if you’re not from South Dade, there’s no reason you would have ever heard of this place, as it's situated right on the water in the area’s busiest boat ramp, far from public sight. Do yourself a favor and make the trip down, if for no other reason than to try the tuna ponzu, which -- without exaggeration -- is often made from fish caught that very morning.

Portico Beer & Wine Garden

Portico

Hollywood Beach

One of the best new bars of 2016 is hidden in Diplomat Landing, long considered the tourist dining offshoot of the mega-resort across the street. Therefore, it’s often overlooked by locals looking for a bite by the water. But the food here matches perfectly with the extensive selections of wines, and makes this place a little slice of the Mediterranean on the Intracoastal. Dishes like arugula and stuffed prosciutto flatbreads, or kale, grapefruit, and avocado salad, are a perfect, light accent to the warm, watery breezes… and pair surprisingly well with a waterside game of cornhole.  

Thrillist/Matt Meltzer

LOL on the Bay

Brickell

When condos get built right up to (and pretty soon, under) the coastline, waterfront dining is hard to come by... unless you enjoy looking at water from 27 stories in the air. And sure, the Mandarin Oriental has a couple of great waterside spots. But if you’re in Brickell and want to eat by the water, hit this place between the two pools at the fabulous Four Ambassadors. A meal here is like a trip back to the 1980s, where the eerie, crystal-adorned lobby leads out to the retro pool deck. You can absolutely eat at LOL’s Tiki bar in the middle, but for a leisurely waterside experience, take a seat at the white tablecloth-covered tables and order up some Argentine specialties like empanadas or palomilla steak. Then wash it down with wine and beer that’s often under $5 a pop.

Cantina Beach

Key Biscayne

Finding good food at the Ritz-Carlton is about as surprising as finding good herb at a Phish show. But the fact that one of Miami’s best Mexican restaurants is far behind a grand hotel set way off Crandon Blvd is precisely why it’s such a hidden gem. One wouldn’t think to head all the way back to this secluded property for the best slow-braised enchiladas in salsa verde in the city, but that’s assuredly what you’ll find. Along with an extensive menu of Mexican favorites that are just as good, the meals are served oceanside, with the largest selection of agave-only tequilas in Miami.

The Rustic Inn Crabhouse

Rustic Inn Crabhouse

Ft. Lauderdale

“Rustic” is a term often used as a nice euphemism for “one missed bribe from being condemned.” But this isn’t a place one goes for fancy fixtures and white tablecloths. This one-time divey roadhouse is now one of the top spots in Broward for fresh shellfish, served out on the dock with little more than a piece of lemon or some pasta. The seafood here is so fresh, it doesn’t need much more. But the highlight of the menu is the garlic crab, a dish many a South Floridian has spent a Sunday devouring canalside.

Palmeiras Beach Club

Coconut Grove

Don’t let that big, intimidating gate arm fool you. Anyone with an appetite can drive right onto Grove Isle, pass the clay tennis courts, and enjoy a meal that’s as close to the Amalfi Coast as you’re getting without a TSA patdown. Dinner here is plenty romantic, as the small waves from Biscayne Bay softly crash onto the rocks whilst you enjoy your pollo limone. But this hidden gem is best experienced under the sunshine, when you can get a secluded table atop those rocks and look out across Biscayne Bay, sipping on rose and snacking on swordfish crudo.

Rusty Hook Tavern

The Rusty Hook Tavern

Pompano Beach

Though the wide beach at Pompano might be so inviting that you just speed right past this place on your way over the Intracoastal, make a quick left after you cross the last bridge on Atlantic Blvd and stop into Rusty Hook, tucked into the Sands Harbor Hotel. Here you’ll find far and away the most inventive food in North Broward, with stuff like Cheetos-crusted catch of the day (just trust us), graham cracker calamari, and the RH Burger, topped with short rib, brie, and steak sauce.

Southport Raw Bar

Southport Raw Bar

Ft. Lauderdale

They say always go where the chefs go, and when a local chef known for serving up some of the best oysters in town tells us there’s a hidden gem by the water in Lauderdale, we have to go check it out. Southport doesn’t disappoint. It would be easy to miss this tiny shack buried among canalside condos and boat storage centers. But a trip here is one of those relaxing Florida experiences where you munch on shellfish, wash it down with a cold beer, and enjoy the fact that you live in paradise. An added bonus: it’s open super-late, and is a slightly healthier alternative to other stuff you might eat after a long night of… canasta.

Cap's Place Island Restaurant

Lighthouse Point

There are some pretty remote, hidden spots on this list. But do any of them require a private boat ride to a pine and pecky cypress island? Absolutely not. Which is why historic Cap’s Place, while known fairly well by longtime locals, is still a hidden masterpiece. The spot was once a rum-runners’ hangout, a desperado’s island in the middle of the Intracoastal where nefarious characters gathered to drink, gamble, and eat fresh seafood. You can still do two of those today, as Broward County’s oldest restaurant serves up fish caught that day with spectacular views of the water... and even better views into South Florida’s checkered past.

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1. Juniper on the Water 1975 S Ocean Dr, Hallandale, FL 33009

Offering a direct view of the Intracoastal Waterway, Juniper on the Water delivers on its name's promise by way of seafood and American classics-packed menu served in a resort-like setting. Diners can mix and match to create their own fancy mediterranean experience, choosing between sunny, covered patio seating or a classically decorated interior dining room, and a menu boasting everything from fresh seafood paella and filet mignon, to burrata flatbread.

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2. Boater's Grill Restaurant 1200 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

The only way you'd know about this waterfront restaurant is if you paid the entrance fee and cruised through Bill Baggs State Park. The semi-secret spot is located right on the bay, and once you do identify its location under the lighthouse (at the end of the park!), you'll be treated to Boater's Grill's signature locally sourced whole fried snapper, and other fresh seafood finds served at mysteriously reasonable prices.

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3. Red Fish Grill 9610 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables, FL 33156 (Pinecrest)

Cozily nestled in Matheson Hammock Park, Red Fish Grill is a Miami staple. It’s widely regarded as one of the most romantic dinner spots in the city: palm trees swaying in the breeze, twinkling lights, and striking views of the coastline sunset that only get prettier as you work your way through the well-stocked wine list. The seafood-obsessed menu features brightly flavored favorites like tuna tartare with yuzu-soy vinaigrette and Caribbean bouillabaisse with coconut milk.

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4. Black Point Ocean Grill 24775 SW 87th Ave, Homestead, FL 33032

This waterfront spot in South Dade combines open-air dining, live music, and and a marina view, fortunately avoiding a tourist clientele thanks to its inconspicuous location in one of the area's busiest boat ramps. The seafood spans the casual selection of grouper sandwiches, shrimp po'boys, and crab chowders, and if you're lucky, your dinner might even include a dolphin sighting.

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5. Portico 3460 South Ocean Drive, Hollywood, FL 33019 (Hollywood)

This waterfront beer and wine garden benefits from close proximity to the Diplomat Landing Marina, offering drinks with a side of ping pong and corn hole. The light aperitif menu spans the Italian category, with savory picks like porcini mushroom and chive pizza and shaved fennel and salami spread.

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6. LOL on the Bay 901 Brickell Bay Dr. Pool Area, Miami, FL 33131 (Brickell)

Located at the Four Ambassadors, this retro waterfront spot classes up the breezy dining experience with white tablecloth tables and white fabric chairs that'll make delicate sips of red wine a must. You can also dine in the centrally located tiki bar, but wherever you settle, an order of the empanadas or palomilla steak is recommended.

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7. Cantina Beach 455 Grand Bay Dr, Key Biscayne, FL 33149 (Key Biscayne)

This oceanfront Mexican restaurant with an outdoor cabana, plush couches and tiki torches offers a menu of fresh latin eats, like chicken fajitas, Mexican burgers, and over 100 tequila options. And if your most recent Tequila experience is from college, take heart that a Tequilier is on staff to help you pair your meal with any margaritas on offer.

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8. Rustic Inn Crabhouse 4331 Anglers Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312 (Fort Lauderdale)

Despite its sprawling size, Rustic Inn still manages to feel like an authentic crab shack with weathered wood, nautical decor, and of course, water views. The seafood-obsessed menu boasts heavy-hitters like jumbo fried shrimp and Alaskan queen crab legs accompanied by buttery potatoes and a wooden mallet so you can better access all the good stuff. Once you’ve ordered an ice-cold craft beer, make sure your bib is adjusted and ready for action -- if you’re doing it right, feasts here can get messy.

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9. Palmeiras Beach Club 4 Grove Isle Dr, Coconut Grove, FL 33133 (Coconut Grove)

The rich flavors that about at Palmeiras Beach Club are paralleled only by the romantic, refined ambience that the restaurant cultivates (intimate beach-side dining by candlelight, champagne flutes clinking as the tide of Biscayne Bay rolls out into the night). Crafted by Chef Alfredo Alvarez, the menu marries Mediterranean fare with French and Spanish influences, resulting in savory favorites like swordfish crudo with topped with passionfruit, lime, and speckled with coriander and fennel; with entrée highlights including whole grilled branzino and pollo limone -- both of which pair wonderfully with a crisp glass of rosé and a seaside sunset.

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10. The Rusty Hook Tavern 125 N Riverside Dr, Pompano Beach, FL 33062 (Fort Lauderdale)

Even the most resolute homebodies of Miami trek north to Pompano Beach for this harbor-side spot, especially for its popular happy hour deals. The ambience is relaxed, between the casually maritime-themed décor and outdoor patio overlooking the docks, and the pub fare here proves wholly satisfying: coconut shrimp with mango salsa and sweet ponzu chili sauce are crispy and perfect for snacking, and there’s no way to wrong with any of the rotating “daily catch entrées.”

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11. Southport Raw Bar 1536 Cordova Rd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316 (Fort Lauderdale)

Seafood reigns at this neighborhood nautical dive. Conveniently located on the waterfront, bordered by bright blue umbrellas and a patio of lively locals, SRB is beloved by Floridians for its shucked specialties: oysters and clams on the half-shell, delicious whether raw or fried, with tasty bites like cream cheese-jalapeño poppers to boot. To fit in the with the crowd of regulars, we suggest hitting up happy hour for its killer deals and beers that are as affordable as they are crisp, cold, and perfect for harborside hanging.

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12. Cap's Place Island Restaurant 2765 NE 28th Ct, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064

The seafood at this secluded spot is super fresh, and it’s evident before you even peruse the menu. For starters, Caps is only accessible by boat, which is a pretty good indication that the kitchen takes their daily catch pretty seriously. It’s a backwoods -- err, island -- cottage, originally a rum-running eatery and gambling casino frequented by the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Al Capone back in the day, and the photographs peppered throughout depict a more shadowy side of Floridian history. Locals and tourists in the know trek here for popular dishes like the bacon-wrapped scallops and Maryland-style crab cake, as well as the vibrant sunsets and relaxed ambience.