Can the NYC Steakhouse Survive?
The towers of SoFi are full of people with a lot of money, and not much desire to share their dinner experience with “the masses,” and the Canadian wine gurus behind Cibo know it. So while a big group dinner in the high-ceilinged main dining room here is a boisterous, energetic experience where everyone can watch their pasta being made, the private dining options here are what make it stand out. The rooms on the main floor feel like little secluded villas -- like eating dinner in your tasteful Italian friend’s living room. And the rooftop offers pleasant alfresco group dining with a sprawling view of SoFi.
How to book: Call them at 305.442.4925 or use OpenTable.
This Mediterranean spot at the Redbury Hotel is big on savory sharable plates of which you'll only need a few to feel full. For less than the price of a 10-minute call to its namesake psychic (RIP), each person in your party can enjoy Cleo’s fresh baked bread and homemade spreads, then follow it up with clay-pot cooked meatball, lamb tagine, or lemon-basted grilled octopus. It’s a festive, laid-back atmosphere with reasonable prices, and a perfect way to start out a big night in South Beach.
How to book: Call them at 305.534.2536 or use OpenTable.
To say group dinners at this sprawling outdoor Wynwood beer garden require patience would be kind of like saying living on Fisher Island requires money. While in theory a place with big, communal picnic tables, steins of beer on draft, and a literal butcher’s case of fresh meats, house-made sausages, and specialty hamburgers would be the optimal place for group dining, the service here is so notoriously slow that group lunches can become daylong events. So, you’ve been warned. If you aren’t in a hurry to be anywhere or aren't particularly hungry, it can be a fantastic time.
How to book: Call them at 305.846.9120.
When, literally, entire tour buses can stroll in, have a gut-busting Cuban lunch, and be back on the bus in time to make their 2pm boat tour at Bayside, you know this place is doing something right. But even beyond having a private dining room in back set up perfectly for huge groups, this iconic bucket list restaurant seems to always be hosting some family of 28 who get their food quickly and seamlessly. It’s the rare place that's perfect for both visitors and locals, and a quintessentially Miami group dining experience.
How to book: Call them at 305.444.0240.
When owners Klime and Anita Kovaceski invite you in for what they describe as “an orgy of food and wine,” they’re not lying. Because the restaurant is so reasonably priced, your whole crew can go to town on the epic menu of house-made pastas, specialty pizzas, meatballs, and risottos without thinking too much about how much cash you’re dropping. And you can wash it down with a selection of wines that features some stuff you won’t find elsewhere, all priced so that you won’t have to think twice about ordering a fifth bottle.
How to book: Call them at 305.371.7065 or use OpenTable.
The Forge is about as subtle as an anvil to the face. This former blacksmith’s shop is done up like someone’s medieval fantasy of royal feasts; full of crystal, oversized chairs, and room-filling chandeliers. But the private dining rooms here are on a completely different level, whether it’s the room of kings’ chairs, the library, or even the wine cellar. It’s not a place to go for a casual group get together, but if you’re looking to splurge, no place does over-the-top like The Forge. And with one of the best wine bars in Miami, the options for drinks are as varied as the crazy décor.
How to book: Call them at 305.538.8533 or use OpenTable.
Steak is hands-down the greatest group-dinner meal, especially if you’re not stressing too much about the bill or throwing an epic bachelor party. So if you’re going to go big on steaks, you may as well go to the best steakhouse in Miami. But the cool thing about Red is that if your group has that ONE person who doesn’t eat steak, they're not stuck awkwardly nursing a mediocre iceberg salad. The menu here is also long on Italian favorites, made with Peter Vauthy’s signature "Red Lead" sauce. The VIP group dining room in the front has big windows looking out on Washington Ave, perhaps the best “Hey, look at me, I’m private dining!” venue in South Beach.
How to book: Call them at 305.534.3688 or use OpenTable.
For the odd Brickellite who ISN’T using his or her condo to hide illicit offshore earnings, and actually, you know, lives there, it’s nice to have a bar to call home. But Batch is more than just a neighborhood drinking hole; it’s the best place in Miami’s condo corridor to watch a big game with a big group, with giant padded circular booths all angled towards the massive TVs. The best part of Batch is in the middle of the table, where individual tap systems let groups pour their own beer, wine, shots, and craft cocktails right at the table, upping the peer pressure by a factor of about six.
How to book: Call them at 305.808.5555 or use OpenTable.
If you’ve never had Haitian food, Tap Tap is the way to try it. It’s not only Miami’s best-established Haitian restaurant, it’s probably also the environment where the less-adventurous in your group will feel the most comfortable. It's a clean, colorful, spacious spot with large tables designed for family dining. Because traditional Haitian meals are all about eating with family, much of the food here is served family-style, and allows everyone at your table to try a lot of new things. The seafood is the way to go, with the pwason neg (grouper in lime sauce, or blackened) and the labni nan sos (stewed conch) as your go-tos. But it also serves grass-fed beef and free-range chicken on the menu too -- if some people in your party are only up for one adventure at a time.
How to book: Call them at 305.672.2898 or use OpenTable.
The name -- pronounced “BOO-yah” -- means something like “joyful noise,” so already you know this is going to be a perfect spot for a high-energy group dinner. Add in an all-tapas menu that’s all about sharing the iberico ham croquettes, king prawn paella, or short ribs in red wine sauce, and you’ve got all the ingredients of a great dinner party. But if you want to go all out and book the rooftop private dining areas that look out over the Coral Gables skyline, you’ve got a runaway winner for the best group dining destination in Miami’s coolest suburb.
How to book: Call them at 305.441.0107 or use OpenTable.
The team behind Bulla has group dining pedigree, and instead of trying to open their Peruvian concept in a trendy, sexy, expensive area east of 95, they instead decided to make money. So they opted for Kendall, and the energy coming out of this place -- even on a random Tuesday night -- shows it’s been a roaring success. The shared-plate ceviches and giant fish here are perfect for big groups of Kendallites looking for an alternative to the area’s glut of chain restaurants, and that’s why you’ll find the long tables packed from about 7-11pm every night of the week. The new location in Doral doesn’t disappoint either, but for large-group dining, nothing beats the original.
How to book: Call them at 305.630.3844 or use OpenTable.
Korean barbecue is a time-honored group dining activity, and the best one in Miami is hidden in a nondescript Alton Rd strip mall between a Subway and a Domino’s, under a giant red sign that says “Market.” The place does the grill-your-own-meats thing with barbecues in the middle of each table so everyone can play pitmaster. But the rest of the menu here is strong, so the grilling isn't the only part of what makes it great. Throw in an extensive menu of Asian-inspired craft cocktails, and your group will almost forget it's paying a premium to cook its own food.
How to book: Call them at 305.397.8556 or use OpenTable.
Chinese restaurants ostensibly invented group dining in America, and even though Miami is more lacking in Chinese restaurants than it is in honest politicians, you’ll still never go wrong at Tropical. A dim sum brunch here is like eating on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, with trays and plates of chicken feet being tossed around in a cacophony of delicious chaos. But even for a casual weeknight dinner, nowhere serves up traditional Chinese food better, and if that’s what your group is in the mood for, it’s more than worth the trip down Bird Rd.
How to book: Call them at 305.262.7576.
1. Cibo Wine Bar200 S Pointe Dr, Miami Beach
2. Cleo - South Beach1776 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
3. The Butcher Shop Beer Garden and Grill165 NW 23rd St, Miami
4. Versailles Restaurant3555 SW 8th St, Miami
5. Crust668 NW 5th St., Miami
6. The Forge Restaurant & Wine Bar432 W 41st St, Miami Beach
7. Red, The Steakhouse119 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
8. Batch Gastropub30 SW 12th St, Miami
9. Tap Tap819 5th St, Miami Beach
10. Bulla Gastrobar2500 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables
11. Pisco Y Nazca8405 Mills Dr #206, Miami
12. Drunken Dragon1424 Alton Rd, Miami Beach
13. Tropical Chinese Restaurant7991 Bird Rd, Miami
Pasta and pizza enthusiasts with cash to burn, rejoice: with its luxuriant, industrial-chic ambience and open kitchen, Cibo allows you to watch, transfixed, as your lobster ravioli (buttery flesh deftly cut by tart lemon, finished with creamy béchamel sauce) is made to order. With multiple floors featuring over 3,000 bottles of wine, it’s a veritable vino haven of authentic Italian cuisine, bringing the robust tastes of the Tuscan countryside that SoFi has sorely needed.
There's something about "small plates" and "Mediterranean" that go well together, and Cleo is doing some of the best Med shareables in Miami. An outpost of the LA original, the swanky restaurant serves traditional mezze, but the real star of the menu is the sheer variety of small plates. The menu is split into categories for flatbreads, salads, meats, seafood, and vegetables. The drink selection is equally varied with inventive vodka cocktails, wine from all over, and a few beers, including local drafts.
All the meat (and believe us, there’s a lot of it) at this spacious Wynwood spot is butchered fresh daily and grilled to order by a father-son duo. With all the accoutrements of a beer garden (think picnic benches, beer specials scrawled in pastel on chalkboards, Christmas lights and stylized street art murals), it’s the ideal venue for grilling and chilling -- but with definite emphasis on the latter, as the immaculately tenderized meat here (especially when paired with notoriously lax service) can take awhile to get from bone to your table; fortunately, there’s craft drafts and booze-loving mango jalapeño margaritas to keep you and the squad cool while you wait.
This landmark Cuban restaurant on Calle Ocho serves up the best Cuban coffee in Miami, and it’s the perfect spot to bring out-of-towners when they’re in for a visit to show off the city’s Cuban culture. Here, you can get a heaping plate of ropa vieja for less than you’d pay for a drink in most of Miami, while listening to locals talk politics over cafecitos and tourists diving into plates of grilled meats with black beans, rice, and sweet plantains.
The husband and wife duo behind this casual Italian restaurant are doling out house-made pastas, fresh pizzas, and an impressive wine selection at very reasonable prices. The Spanish-roofed spot right by the 7th Ave Bridge is almost made for big group meals and family dinners, but Crust also delivers to downtown Miami and Brickell. The pizzas are pretty outstanding, especially when topped with sirloin tips, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.
If you think New American food tastes best when consumed in a space with all the opulence of Jay Gatsby’s mansion-meets a medieval library-meets a Tim Burton-themed wedding a la Martha Stewart, well -- you should probably try to grab a highly coveted reservation at the Forge. Regulars rave over gussied up comfort food like the black truffle macaroni and cheese pot pie, decadently tempting enough that you’ll likely ignore the server’s advice to “let it cool.” Fortunately, the cavernous wine cellar – one of the largest in Miami – features enough chilled wines to offer a cooling respite.
Once voted Sexiest Steakhouse of the Year (by Playboy, no less) and beloved by A-listers, Red delivers on all the swanky fronts. But we suggest you let the food -- from appetizers like seared foie gras and caviar with crème fraiche to the steak and seafood entrées -- do the talking. Throw in a fully-loaded wine list, and the fact that Red is one of the few places in the country to use Miyazaki beef (like Kobe but more marbled), and you've got a steak night to remember.
You know a bar is serious about keeping the party going strong when they have cocktails on tap (because really, ain’t nobody got time to mix drinks when Friday is in full swing). Boasting massive plasma TVs, ample indoor and outdoor seating room, and a solid menu of high-end pub fare, it’s a Brickell destination for boozy brunch (chicken and waffles, anyone?) and sports games alike.
If you randomly stumbled into Tap Tap, the detailed paintings and furniture-to-wall color coordination would be a dead giveaway that you're in for a seduction of the senses. The dishes would be a confirmation of this suspicion. There's first the Scotch Bonnet pepper-flaked red snapper, then there's the Malanga fritters served piping hot with a side of watercress dipping sauce. And if the shrimp in coconut sauce weren't enough to get you in the caribbean mood, the Haitian music playing throughout your meal might.
Bulla (pronounced boo-ya) is slang for chatter, and likely refers to both the bustling open kitchen at this large and light-filled space, and the conversation-inducing plates. The gastropub features tapas and a full bar, and brings the flavors of Spain to Coral Gables with courses like a calamari and king prawn paella, and a salad made with watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, and truffle honey.
A grand dining room accented in curled and gilded design flourishes serves as context for the Peruvian dishes served here. In keeping with the setting, the courses are also plated beautifully, with springy purple octopus and tart and savory ceviche making up a bulk of the orders. Thankfully, most menu items are meant for sharing, including the Chocolate Dome dessert, which is filled with ice cream, popcorn, rice krispies, and sweet potato, and drizzled in hot white chocolate.
Despite being unmarked, this late night Korean BBQ spot draws consistent evening crowds. Diners grill their own steak, fish, chicken, or shrimp at a tableside grill... or if you’d rather have them prepare the food for you, there’s an extensive menu highlighted by the rice cakes w/ sesame, ssamjang & herbs that will change the way you look at rice cakes forever. The sides dishes (banchan) come gratis, so feel free to load up on the piquant kimchi.
Just trust us on this: Tropical Chinese Restaurant has the best dim sum in Miami. The family-run spot has been drawing crowds -- especially on weekends around 10am -- for steamed shrimp dumplings, pork buns, and crispy Peking duck for decades. Though its daytime cart service is a must, Tropical's also great for group dinners, thanks to a family-style menu with hits like ginger peel chicken and pineapple fried rice. Total bonus: it's cheap.