Travel

Where to Eat and Drink at Miami International Airport

A lot has changed.

Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
Miami International Airport | Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

You don’t even have to walk out the doors of Miami International Airport to know you’re in Miami. Sure, that first blast of humidity once the sliding glass opens is the way we all know we’re home. But just stepping into the concourse feels distinctly Miamian. You’ll probably hear Spanish before any other language. It takes forever to get from one place to another. There’s slow-moving tourists blocking everything. And it has some really nice areas, right next to places that look like no one’s been there since 1987.
 
But much like the city itself, MIA’s also got some incredible food. Loads of local restaurants have outposts inside the terminal, where you can sip Cuban coffee, scarf ceviche, or fill yourself up on ropa vieja before getting on a plane for nine hours. As COVID-19 has slowed nearly every airport in America, some spots may be temporarily closed until traffic picks up. And you’ll be wearing a mask from the time you walk in until the time you sit down. But here’s where to eat and drink during your time at Miami International Airport.

PRE-SECURITY

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Café Versailles

Terminal F
You don’t even need to have a plane ticket to try some of Miami’s most iconic Cuban food, as venerable Versailles has a full-on restaurant pre-security. This version of Versailles has the same over-the-top décor as the Little Havana original, and the food’s pretty close to the real thing.
 

Villa Italian Kitchen

Terminal F
Airport pizza, pasta, and lasagna at its finest, loosely based on the Manhattan original. Though around here, we know it better as “the pizza place on the Turnpike.”
 

Gilbert’s Food Bar

Terminal J
Pretty simple grab-and-go sandwiches, but literally your only pre-security option without having to walk half a mile to the other terminals.

D TERMINAL

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Concrete Beach

Baggage claim
Once one of Wynwood’s hottest drinking spots, the original brewery has closed its doors and left its lone live location as a few taps at MIA baggage claim.
 

Islander Bar

Closest gate: D7
It’s not exactly sitting on a beach in Barbados, but at Islander Bar you will find plenty of fruity drinks and people changing planes on their way to the Caribbean. Probably yelling something about “starting vacation early!”
 

Icebox Café

Closest gate: D8
If you want a little glimpse into the healthy food scene in South Beach, grab a table at Icebox where stuff like kale and quinoa fritters and buffalo cauliflower wings highlight the menu. If you wanna delve into the not-so-healthy, the desserts here are to die for. So good, in fact, Opera named it her favorite cake in the world a few years ago.
 

Jose Cuervo Tequileria

Closest gate: D12 
This is MIA’s best option for Mexican food, where you’ll find a menu on par with any mainstream Mexican restaurant with plenty of tequila to boot. There’s even “outdoor” seating on the concourse so you can watch people go up to the Amex Centurion Lounge next door.
 

Shula’s Steakhouse

Closest gate: D17 
The original Shula’s is still one of the top steakhouses in Miami, and if you’re the type of person who goes to the airport for the prime steak dinners, this is your spot.
 

Ku-Va 

Closest gate: D19
Though you won’t be sipping mojitos with a cool island breeze here, at least you can drink in the relative dark, and enjoy some Cuban food if you get hungry. If the name is a little confusing, say it out loud—that’s how most Cubans pronounce the island nation just south of Miami. The food here is all Cuban classics. There’s also a café counter if you want your lechon para llevar.
 

Spring Chicken

Closest gate: D22 
Miami’s best fried chicken has an airport outpost, where you can enjoy oversized chicken strips, buttermilk biscuits, and even watermelon salad just past security. It’s got the added bonus of one of the most impressive bourbon collections in all of South Florida at the bar.
 

Corona Beach House

Closest gate: D24 
The Corona Beach House stands as the sort of post-security incentive, a bar visible from TSA Checkpoint 2 that you can gaze at as you shuffle through the line. Once through, you’ll find breezy, beachy, Mexican-inspired stuff like chicken tacos and fresh salads. Priority Pass members get a $30 credit here with your membership cards, too.
 

305 Pizza

Closest gate: D27
The smell of this stuff fills up the concourse for about three gates, and the line for it can sometimes stretch just as far. The big, square slices are reminiscent of local late-night fave Pizza Rustica, but are far gentler on your stomach.
 

Fig & Fennel

Closest gate: D28
This grab-and-go Mediterranean spot is an offshoot of Icebox Café, where you’ll find the best healthy options in the airport. Think kale smoothies, whole wheat vegan wraps, an organic juice bar, and colorful salads. For travelers who don’t use airports at “cheat days,” this is the go-to.
 

Half Moon Empanadas

Closest gate: D29 
This empanada stalwart has been around a dozen years, and somehow worked its way into airports and stadiums around the city. But its success makes sense, as Half Moon’s combination of quality of flaky, savory turnovers are unrivaled. It’s got the classic beef and chicken, but also offers more interesting creations like chicken cordon bleu, chimichurri bacon, eggs and pinto beans, and other stuff that’ll give you a taste of Miami without stepping outside.
 

My Ceviche

Closest gate: D29 
Airport ceviche isn’t nearly as sketchy as it sounds, especially when you get it from the king of Miami fast-casual seafood. If you’re not so into citrus cooked fish, you can also grab one of Miami’s best burritos, or a big poke bowl to protein load for the flight.
 

Clover Irish Pub

Closest gate: D33
This bar’s about as Irish as the guy on the Lucky Charms box, but it’s a great place to grab a quick pint between flights, or before shopping in the Miami Heat team store next door.
 

TGI Friday’s

Closest gate: D36
This is the only bar in the airport where you can smoke, as in addition to its location next to D36 you’ll find an outdoor section complete with its own bar. Just note, if it’s raining, there’s not much cover. And your cigarette will get damp.
 

La Carreta

Closest gate: D39
The original location of La Carreta on Calle Ocho might best be described as  Cuban Denny’s, where laminated menus with big pictures show you exactly what to expect. The airport location is a little more laid back, but still the best in-terminal option if you’re looking for a sit down Cuban food experience.
 

Bacardi Mojito Bar

Closest gate: D53
Located just up the escalator from the “bus station” gates where flights to places like Tallahassee and Greensboro depart, you’ll find all the mojitos, cuba libres, and other rum-based specialties you expect in Miami.

E TERMINAL

Air Margaritaville

E Central Terminal
Make sure not to get too into the spirit of “wasting away” here or you’ll probably miss your flight. But plenty of Buffet-inspired fun if you set an alarm to leave.
 

Chef Creole

E Central Terminal
Chef Creole is probably one of the more underrated restaurants in the airport as its location makes it easy to miss. But here you’ll find Caribbean specialties like conch fritters, griot, jerk wings, and oxtail at prices that seem downright cheap for an airport.
 

Sergio’s Cuban

Closest gate: E5
Miami’s most prolific Cuban chain can also lay a pretty good claim to being its best. Though this location is only a cart near the main terminal E-gates, you can still grab a solid Cuban sandwich to take with you on the plane.
 

Sam Adams

Closest gate: E7
If you’ve been to a Sam Adams airport bar, you’ve been to this one. Plenty of beer and limited seating.
 

World Wide Café

Closest gate: E10
It ain’t much, but this bagel and panini place is about the only option at the E gates that’s not called Pizza Hut. And not to knock Pizza Hut, but sometimes that kinda grease just isn’t gonna fly.
 

Craft Beer Cart

Closest gate: E11 
This little cart seemingly dropped in the middle of the E gates is actually the easiest place in the airport to sample local craft favorites.
 

Wynwood Warehouse Bar

E Satellite
If you’ve got to take MIA’s other (and original!) train, you’re headed out to the lightly trafficked satellite terminal. Oddly, it might be home to the airport’s most local feeling bar at this Wynwood-themed spot where parking is much easier than in real-life Wynwood.

F TERMINAL

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Half Moon Empanadas

Closest gate: F11
Same great savory turnovers you’ll find in the D Terminal – or on NE 79th Street. Beef, chicken, three cheese, and vegetable options are available.
 

Budweiser Brewhouse

Closest gate: F12 
As the only viable drinking spot in the place where F stands for “Forgotten,” lines here can get long. But the beer is still cold and delicious.
 

Guava & Java

Closest gate: F14 
For morning flights, skip Dunkin and Starbucks and go here instead for a classically Miami experience. Mix guava pastelitos with Cuban coffee, or any other number of fresh bakery items and coffee drinks.

H TERMINAL

Heineken Bar

Closest gate: H6
This bright silver bar near most of the Delta gates is probably the easiest place in the airport to just walk up and grab a drink. Just understand as the name might imply, the beer list is long on Heineken.
 

Subway

Closest gate: H7
The H Terminal dining options are limited, which you’ll realize when you step up on this Subway counter and see it has an inexplicably long line. If you’ve got time to kill, and promise not to bring your three-meat trio on the plane with you, it’s a solid choice.
 

Nathan’s Famous

Closest gate: H9 
Listen there, Joey Chestnut, scarfing as many of these as you can before your flight is probably gonna lead to a pretty miserable three hours back to JFK. But stop at one and maybe throw in some crinkle cut fries, and you’ll fly home satisfied.
 

Bongo’s Cuban Café

H-J Connector
Though you won’t be able to get up and dance to burn off your ropa vieja like you can at the American Airlines Arena original, you can still sample Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s take on Cuban cuisine in the mall between Terminals H and J. The mojito here is also hands down the best in the airport, too, if you just want to stop for a drink.
 

La Pausa

H-J Connector 
MIA’s quintessential “meal with a view of the airplanes” is at La Pausa, where you can watch jets from two different terminals take people all across the world. The menu is simple—think panini sandwiches, ahi tuna salads, and burgers—so you won’t have to think too hard while deciding what to order. The food’s still solid, but  happily takes a back seat to the view out the window.

J TERMINAL

Earl of Sandwich

Closest gate: J8 
This Florida Turnpike favorite has landed in the airport, too, offering hearty deli sandwiches for those who need to eat in a hurry. They’ve got a long list of specialty sandwiches made both hot and cold, but you can also customize whatever you want if you’re deathly opposed to condiments.
 

Corona Beach House

Closest gate: J11
It might seem a little odd to have a Mexican-themed beach bar in the terminal where the bulk of Air Canada’s flights depart. But, hey, maybe all those Canadians want one last taste of the tropics before heading back home. Either way, look for light stuff like chicken tacos, salads, and seafood entrees on the menu.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.