Courtesy of Naiyara

NaiYaRa

South Beach

Lesson No. 1 in eating at NaiYaRa: if chef Bee asks, "Are you sure?" when you request the "authentic"-style curry, it's a serious warning. Because while the house-made beef jerky, curries, noodles, and jerky-infused cocktails all make this one of the best restaurants in South Beach, nothing brings the fire like the special-ordered hot stuff. And when it comes to combining diverse Asian flavors and intense Asian heat, no place in Miami does it better.

Courtesy of Spring Chicken/Torrey Johnson

Spring Chicken

Coral Gables

Yeah, we know, the fried chicken at Yardbird is some of the best in the nation. Of course, getting it also involves time and money, something most Miamians don't have enough of. Wouldn't it be nice if you could get that same legendary fried chicken, biscuits, chicken biscuits, and watermelon salad in, like, 10 minutes? And cheap? Behold Spring Chicken, 50 Eggs' new fast-casual offshoot whose location, adjacent to UM, is only the beginning of several planned stores that will serve Yardbird-quality food quickly, and for a fraction the cost.

Courtesy of Sarsaparilla Club

Sarsaparilla Club

South Beach

The guy who invented that famous Yardbird chicken? His name's Jeff McInnis, and he's back on the beach with this new spot in the Shelborne, teaming with his wife Janine Booth to put some Eastern spins on Southern cuisine. The culinary power couple begins with an "American dim sum" -- carts that circle the restaurant with items like pork belly buns and short rib dumplings. They continue with entrees like a new take on fried chicken, made with coconut curry and sprinkled with kaffir lime.

Courtesy of I Heart Mac and Cheese

I Heart Mac And Cheese

Ft. Lauderdale

For a place full of people who use every store window as an excuse to check themselves out, South Florida sure is obsessed with mac & cheese. So it was only a matter of time before somebody opened a whole restaurant devoted to it, and that person is chef Michael Blum. His new spot on SW 17th St is plating up all the usual gourmet creations, like lobster mac and short rib cheesesteak, then going a step further with offerings like Cuban sandwiches and buffalo chicken. Don't like any of those? Create your own mac & cheese from over 30 different toppings, and wash it down with a variety of local craft beers.

Courtesy of Barok

Barok Café

North Miami

There are natural places you'd expect to find a romantic French bistro: the banks of the Seine, for example, or... a strip mall in North Miami. Yep, just across from the 127th St. Publix sits this nondescript little French joint run by longtime South Beach caterer Ruby Cohen. Once inside, you'll completely forget you're on Biscayne Blvd, and instead be transported into an intimate, tranquil setting. You'll start out with a plate of house-cured charcuterie and move on to the house special, filet mignon au poivre, or the cheeseburger, which is flame-broiled and served on brioche.

Courtesy of Zest

Zest

Downtown

Some things in life are worth the wait... definitely not a sticky bun doughnut, or entrance to LIV, but absolutely enjoying the long-awaited second Miami outpost from super-chef Cindy Hutson. After crushing the Gables for 17 years with one of Miami's best restaurants at Ortanique, Cindy and Delius Shirley have opened this new spot Downtown, where diners can get their famous food -- like the "big ass meatball" made with Niman ground lamb and Certified Angus Beef -- at business-lunch speeds, or opt for a more leisurely meal at dinnertime.

Courtesy of Antica Mare

Antica Mare

North Bay Village

Miami has about as much a shortage of water as we do of Instagram "models." What we do have a severe lack of, however, are romantic Italian restaurants on said water to take said "models." That problem is solved at this Miami outpost of Atlanta's acclaimed Antica Pasta, tucked away on the ground floor of a condo building just before the 79th St bridge. Here, you're best bet is to dine al fresco and enjoy the house-made gnocchi with ragu, or the black truffle chicken. Even if your date opts not to eat, the selection of Italian wines is one of the best in the city.

Courtest of Kaori

Kaori

Brickell

Completely defying all Miami logic, this new spot from "million dollar chef" Walter Martino is completely unremarkable on the outside. But inside, it's as intricate, nuanced, and well-thought-out as any concept we've ever seen. The purple-lit interior is broken through by rotating projections of art -- both still and moving -- that make your experience entertaining before the food even comes out. When it does, you'll get an array of sushi and seafood dishes served in everything from a candelabra to a purse... or, if you know the secrets, a women's stiletto heel. 

Courtesy of Talde

Talde

Miami Beach

Shy, demure Dale Talde doesn't like to take much of the spotlight, and prefers to let the food here speak for itself. And what it says is "our chef has a giant mural of himself at the entrance, and makes stuff like pretzel pork dumplings and kung pao chicken wings, plus the best Korean fried chicken in Miami." The '90s hip-hop and R&B classics are bumping pretty much nonstop inside this spot, which feels like it was taken from the set of The Warriors, and the monthly themed brunches are as hilarious as they are delicious. The most recent: Bel Biv DeBrunch, featuring unlimited fried chicken and waffle towers paired with collard greens, watermelon salad, and mac & cheese.

Courtesy of 33

33

Coconut Grove

Remember back in, like, 2005, when Miami had all of ONE ceviche joint, and it was Jaguar in Coconut Grove? Well, now we've got more Peruvian restaurants than Peru. But the best new one is... in the Grove! A sure sign the neighborhood is on the rebound, this little family-run spot on Commodore Plaza is serving up a rotating selection of fresh ceviches and Peruvian staples like chicken saltado, plus an extensive collection of local craft beers to wash it all down.

Courtesy of Villa Castelli

Villa Castelli

Surfside

Surfside, if nothing else, keeps it real. A stroll down A1A here is a reminder of what Miami Beach was years ago, right down to this old-school Italian joint that just opened up on 95th & Harding. Inside you'll find big arches, red seats, and Italian art alongside formally dressed waiters who treat you like you're family. The food is a combination of gourmet cooking and red-sauce nostalgia, with everything from prime filet with mushrooms & Barolo sauce to homemade fettuccine bolognese. All of it is served in an atmosphere that reminds you of what Italian restaurants were before they were trendy.

Thrillist/Matt Meltzer

1111 Peruvian Bistro

Brickell

It takes some serious stones to open up a Peruvian joint a mere shouting distance from stalwart SuViche. But what El Bulli alum Diego Munoz is doing here is on another level altogether. Start with the presentation: a simple tiradito is spiraled and topped with mint leaf over coconut cream, and a calamari is topped with sweet potato and served in a crescent shape. The seafood is all caught within three days of service, and the sous chef (with a Nobu pedigree) has inventive daily takes on exotic ceviche. Even Peruvian staples like lomo saltado are served with elegance, substituting simple sirloin with filet mignon.

Courtesy of Kyu/Juan Fernando Ayora
 

KYU

Wynwood

First off, it's pronounced "Q," as much as you wanted it to rhyme with your go-to character from Street Fighter. Now that you've got the pronunciation down, you're ready to order at Wynwood's latest take on gourmet barbecue. The in-house smoked meats are the star of the show here, so don't miss the duck breast burnt ends or the wagyu brisket. But not everything it smokes is grilled: the Korean fried chicken goes from the smoker to the fryer for a flavor you've never experienced. And the crispy crab buns are an adventure in eating, even if they're not smoked.

Courtesy of Dragonfly Doral

Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market

Doral

A collective "OMG!" rang from every former UF sorority girl living in South Florida when word that Gainesville's preeminent sushi spot was opening a Miami outpost. In addition to giving Ryan Lochte somewhere to take ALL his dates, this spot is also plating its trademark Classic roll with tuna, yellowtail, scallion and eel sauce wrapped with seasonal white fish, alongside an extensive selection of robata-grilled meats, noodles, sashimi, and something called a "neck-to-tail tasting menu." But we all know you're ordering the Classic roll, anyway.

Courtesy of Komodo

Komodo

Brickell

If we told you the dude who owns LIV (who your date TOTALLY knows) opened a restaurant in Brickell, whatever you're picturing is Komodo. David Grutman's venture into the mainland culinary scene begins with a window of hanging Peking ducks, then on to the requisite statuesque hostesses and opulent, animal-printed dining room. The upper floor is home to a series of "nests," wooded enclaves where diners can enjoy a view of the scene below and enjoy the black cod skewers and namesake Grutman pastrami eggroll with pickled cabbage & Chinese mustard.

Courtesy of Sunny's/Star Chefs

Sunny's

South Beach

Most celebrity chefs come to Miami to try and make a big splash by opening a restaurant where an entree costs more than your car payment. Spike Mendelsohn, however, is making a splash by opening his Miami spot next to a swimming pool. This fast-casual joint at The Hall hotel offers up the kind of inventive beach food one would expect from a Top Chef alum -- fried avocado tacos, a soy-glazed chili poke bowl -- but does it at prices that are accessible to anyone. To drink, it's pressing fresh juices and serving craft cocktails in glasses shaped like seahorses, parrots, toucans, and other things Opa-locka city officials may or may not have been bribed to illegally import. 

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1. NaiYaRa 1854 Bay Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (South Beach)

Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, aka Chef Bee, is doling out street food-inspired eats from his native Thailand at this cool and airy Sunset Beach restaurant. Expect an extensive menu filled with spicy curries, noodle dishes (pad thai, drunken noodles, you know the drill), and untraditional sushi rolls. As for drinks, NaiYaRa's bar serves up Thai beer and cocktails that come with a definite Asian touch.

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2. Spring Chicken 1514 South Dixie Highway, Coral Gables, FL

From the same restaurant group that brought us Yardbird is this fast-casual Southern home-style concept in Coral Gables. Expect the food that made Yardbird so legendary -- fried chicken, biscuits, watermelon salad -- served in 10 minutes, for half the price. A small but carefully curated beer selection featuring local brewers and wine on tap rounds out the menu. You heard it here first: Spring Chicken is a win win.

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3. The Sarsaparilla Club 1801 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

From Jeff McInnis, otherwise known as the guy who invented Yardbird chicken, is this stylish Asian-meets-Southern restaurant in South Beach's Shelborne Hotel. The beachfront spot stands out for its "American dim sum" concept where carts tote fusion items like pork belly buns and short rib dumplings. As for entrees, expect that famous fried chicken and plenty of curries.

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4. I Heart Mac n Cheese 1489 SE 17th St, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

Michael Blum's mac & cheese-focused fast-casual spot in Ft. Lauderdale is plating up gourmet takes on the iconic comfort food. Menu items include over-the-top creations like lobster, short rib, and truffle oil mac & cheeses, but the most enticing part of the counter-serve operation is the make-it-yourself option. Choose from over 30 toppings and cheeses (fontina, provolone, bacon, Philly cheesesteak, plus vegan and vegetarian options) and experience the most satisfying bowl of cheesy goodness you've ever tasted. So much more than a fast-food joint, I Heart Mac n Cheese has a rustic interior with wooden furniture and a chandelier made with vintage milk bottles.

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5. Barok Cafe 12953 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181

Just across from the 127th Street Shopping Center in North Miami, Barok Cafe is a quaintly modern French bistro with a welcoming and intimate feel that'll make you forget you're on Biscayne Boulevard. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the all-day spot serves a mix of light and hearty fare -- think croissants and quiche in the morning, salads and sandwiches at lunch, and steak and seafood plates at dinner. Nespresso coffee and a respectable wine selection round out the drink menu.

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6. Zest Miami 200 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33131

Zest is a contemporary eatery that doesn't adhere to one cuisine but takes inspiration from all over the world. The downtown Miami restaurant is the brainchild of Cindy and Delius Shirley, best known for their mind-blowing food at Ortanique in Coral Gables. Zest serves up food of Ortanique quality for brunch, lunch, and dinner, so prepared to be amazed by seafood and meat entrees unlike anything you've tasted before (exhibit A: oxtail and lobster ravioli).

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7. Antica Mare 7999 NE Bayshore Ct, Miami, FL 33138

Tucked away on the ground floor of a condo building in North Bay Village is the Miami outpost of Atlanta's acclaimed Antica Pasta. Contemporary Tuscan cooking is the name of the game, which means house-made pastas, roasted meats and fish, and an extensive wine collection. No matter if you dine indoors or al fresco, expect plenty of ocean views at the sleek waterfront space.

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8. Kaori 1250 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33130 (Downtown)

This high-end sushi restaurant in Brickell looks relatively normal from the outside, but inside, it's a futuristic purple-lit space with electronic music faintly bumping in the background and art projecting onto the wall. The over-the-top hotspot could only come from Walter Martino, a former private chef in Dubai famous for creating the most expensive dish in the world (which he reportedly sold to an Arabian prince for 2013). Kaori's sushi is colorful, bold, and so pretty you almost don't want to eat it...until you do and it tastes unlike any fish-and-rice duo you've had before.

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9. Talde 4041 Collins Ave, Miami, FL 33140

Chef Dale Talde’s Asian-American restaurant in The Confidante Hotel lets the food speak for itself. The crazy inventive menu includes one-of-a-kind dumplings (pretzel pork & chive!), noodle dishes that take a cue from Japanese, Thai, and Chinese classics, and Talde's infamous Korean fried chicken. Concrete floors, graffiti designs, and '90s beats make the restaurant feel extra cool. Be sure to check out the monthly themed brunches whose past hits have featured chicken & waffles towers and similar Southern-inspired eats.

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10. 33 Kitchen 3195 Commodore Plz, Miami, FL 33133

This family-run Peruvian restaurant in Coconut Grove serves a rotating selection of fresh ceviche and Peruvian classics like chicken saltado, plus an extensive collection of local craft beers. The space is cool and rustic with reclaimed wood, a copper bar, and mason jar light fixtures. The menu has a back-to-basics mentality (most dishes have around five ingredients) that lets the flavors, many of which are Asian-inspired, stand out.

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11. Villa Castelli 9472 Harding Ave, Surfside, FL 33154

Villa Castelli in Surfside is an old-school Italian joint decorated with big arches, red seats, and Italian art alongside formally dressed waiters who treat you like family. The food is a combination of gourmet cooking and red-sauce nostalgia, with everything from prime filet to homemade fettuccine bolognese. Everything about Villa Castelli reminds you of what Italian restaurants were before they were trendy.

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12. 1111 Peruvian Bistro 1111 SW 1st Ave Ste 106D, Miami, FL 33130 (Brickell)

For starters, this Peruvian restaurant in Brickell is helmed by an El Bulli alum, so you can expect next-level food. The seafood is all caught within three days of service, and the daily ceviche is completely new and exotic every day. The food is presented beautifully too, and the space, sleek and elegant but casual, is perfect for date night or small group dinners.

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13. KYU 251 NW 25th St, Miami, FL 33127 (Wynwood)

KYU, pronounced "Q," is an Asian gourmet barbeque at its finest. The in-house smoked meats are the star of the show here, so don't miss the duck breast burnt ends or the wagyu brisket. However, not everything it smokes is grilled: the Korean fried chicken goes from the smoker to the fryer for a flavor you've never experienced. And the crispy crab buns are an adventure in eating, even if they're not smoked.

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14. Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market 5241 NW 87th Avenue, Doral, FL 33178

The fact that this Japanese small plates spot is located in Doral should not deter you from paying a visit. With a sushi bar and binchotan grill visible from nearly every seat in the house, it’s no coincidence that the raw and grilled items are the menu’s gems. Sashimi offerings like the golden eye snapper (kinme-dai) or the Japanese sea bream (madai) grant you a glimpse into the impeccable, naturally occurring flavors the sea has to offer before soy sauce is poured, spicy mayo is slathered, or raw fish is cached behind any other fix-in in a too-complicated roll. But if it’s soy sauce you insist on, request Dragonfly’s three-year-aged version, which is deeply savory, earthy, and, above all, an acceptable accoutrement. From the grill, opt for the salted mackerel, whose mildness is brightened by a splash of ponzu.

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15. KOMODO Restaurant 801 Brickell Ave, Miami, FL 33131 (Brickell)

Komodo, brought to you by the owner of infamous nightclub LIV, David Grutman, is an Asian restaurant that echoes his South Beach party spot. It's stylish, swanky, and muli-leveled, with an animal-printed dining room. The upper floor is home to a series of wood enclaves where diners can enjoy a view of the scene below and enjoy the black cod skewers and namesake Grutman pastrami eggroll with pickled cabbage and Chinese mustard.

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16. Sunny's 1500 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (South Beach)

Sunny's, brought to you by celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn, is a casual indoor-outdoor joint at The Hall Hotel offering up gourmet snack bar food like smoothies, tacos and poke bowls at accessible prices. For drinks, the tropical resort-like joint presses fresh juices and pours craft cocktails in cups shaped like seahorses, parrots, and funky toucans.

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