Recently, we learned that Neil "I hosted the Oscars when they didn't mess up the Best Picture announcement" Patrick Harris was using Thrillist to figure out where to have dinner while he was in Miami. Why is that important? It's not. But how Miami would we be if we didn't drop a celebrity name every chance we got? Of course, if Barney Stinson is now using that computer to get our restaurant recommendations, he might be onto something. And since this winter saw an onslaught of new places open up throughout South Florida, why not take NPH's lead and check our picks for the best.
Celebrity-owned restaurants are about as ubiquitous in Miami as people who think they're celebrities. So give credit to Ernie Els, who named his new South African restaurant after his nickname (Big Easy… not Winebar). This way, instead of focusing on the famous owner, diners can focus on the menu, which is heavy on classic dishes from his home country. It's the rare Miami restaurant with an approachable menu full of stuff you might not have seen before, like the pork belly popsicles, angry duck curry, and Durban bunny chow -- a big lamb shank served in a bread bowl with spicy tomato sauce.
Don't look now, but the mall that was previously best known for a gangland shootout and a Burdines you had to walk through to get anywhere is now the hottest dining destination in South Dade. Case in point: the opening of this place, an open, airy-feeling joint that's long on local ingredients and features classics done better than any new restaurant in the city. James Beard winner Allen Susser helped craft the menu, which is highlighted by a giant buffalo turkey wing, brick-oven pizzas (try the Buffalo chicken), and a big ole Florida grass-fed rib-eye with carrot and maple mash.
At what point did going out for Italian food come to mean eating $37 plates of pasta off white tablecloths with European model servers? Take Italian food back to how you remember it at this little house in Edgewater, which despite being converted into an old-school Italian-American restaurant, still feels like Sunday dinner at grandma's. Order a big Nona's meatball to start, then follow it up with a bowl of rigatoni with sunday gravy -- red sauce with meatballs, sausage, and short ribs. Almost nothing on the menu is over $20, and a full plate of pasta is easily enough for two people. And if you're looking for a cozy, affordable, laid-back date night, this is the best new option around.
Remember when "late-night" dining in South Beach meant choosing between watching the roaches on the wall at Pizza Rustica or a regrettable hamburger at the 11th Street Diner? Yeah. Well now we've got late-night food from the creator of Zuma. So if your 2am taste buds are a little more refined, this is your new go-to. The Levanta Muertos ramen -- prepared with pork broth and pork belly -- will make you feel like a new person even after a long night out. But regular-hours dining here is also highly recommended, with fresh sushi and ceviches, hot pots, and a spicy beef tenderloin that'll leave you surprisingly satiated.
A great many things New Yorkers claim to be "absolutely the greatest in the universe" actually end up being no better than what you'd find in a Broward County strip mall. But we are happy to report that this famous NYC mobile vendor lives up to the hype. Its first South Florida location is a brick-and-mortar on University Dr, where you'll find savory beef gyros, perfectly seasoned chicken, and hot, crunchy falafel all topped off with one of the spiciest sauces you'll ever try. If you dare. Nothing on the menu is over $9, and the food can make a legitimate claim as some of the best Middle Eastern stuff in Broward.
The new Centro Storico on 10th and Collins is aiming to be the culinary and social hub of the newly reinvented Art Deco district. So that window where you used to saunter up to David's and get a Cuban coffee and pastelito? It's now a pizza window, dishing out authentic Neapolitan-style pies flash-cooked in a 900-degree oven just a few feet behind you. The restaurant is the brainchild of Giovanni Di Palma, the celebrity chef with a long list of celebrity customers, who's importing all his pizza-making ingredients from Italy and sourcing the produce from nearby farms.
Many have lamented the authentic Jewish deli going the way of affordable rent and available parking in South Beach. But unlike those last two, the deli has found a rebirth this winter with the opening of Hank and Harry's, from the people who started Burger & Beer Joint. Inside you'll find big, meaty half-pound sandwiches with brisket, pastrami, and corned beef that'll briefly remind you of Wolfie Cohen's. Of course there's also homemade chicken noodle soup, black-and-white cookies, bialys, and the greatest knish the beach has seen in decades. The best part: The prices harken back to Wolfie's too, where even if you want to wash down your monster sandwich with a Dr. Brown's, you're still out of here for under $15.
Ralph Pagano had to find something new to do with his time. So he's opened his first Broward County outpost, a waterfront seafood bar in the B Ocean resort at the Yankee Clipper building. If you've got a big group, especially from out of town, this is a must-hit. It's right on the beach and features rotating, fresh-caught seafood at the help-yourself seafood bar. The stuff they bring to the table is huge, like a-pound-of-stone-crab-claws-and-blackened-snapper-topped-with-crab-and-cracked-conch huge. Sharing is definitely the move, even though the menu says the traditional pastas like cavatappi and pescatore have "carbs that don't count."
Black-crust pizza. It's a thing now. And not the kind that you get because you totally forgot you left a Totino's in the oven and binge-watched Schitt's Creek. The kind made from vegetable carbon, which is equally as tasty as white dough but apparently easier to digest. You can find it at this new spot on Biscayne Blvd, a Florence favorite that's opened a big, bright Miami location. The food here tastes like it does in the Boot, whether it's the brick-oven pizza, house-made agnolotti with smoked buffalo mozzarella, or the traditional eggplant and sausage. With an Italian serving staff and a giant mural of the Mediterranean on the 24ft vaulted ceilings, it's the most authentically Italian restaurant to open this season.
Always the last kid to the food party, Miami finally got a second ramen shop this November, with the opening of K Ramen in the Townhouse Hotel. Of course, since it's Miami, we couldn't be satisfied to just have a menu of savory noodles like lobster ramen. So it's added fresh poke bowls and heart attack-worthy burgers to the mix, like the half-pound K Burger. However, it's not simply a spot to gorge yourself on noodles and beef... with an epic selection of Japanese beers and a Pac-Man machine, it might be that rare South Beach place that's a fun hangout for locals. Especially since nothing on the menu costs over $18.
Oftentimes you find yourself looking at an overpriced menu in Miami and saying, "You know, if I wanted to spend this much, I'd go to _____." And this is the new place you'll use to end that sentence. Jose Andres' first mainland Miami outpost does seafood like literally no place else in South Florida. The menu starts with "Sea Little Snacks" like codfish croquettes and a hefty selection of ceviches. For adventurous eaters, try the "Head-to-Toe" menu, where you'll get to sample parts of the fish you never wanted to know were edible, like monkfish liver and codfish blood sausage. It's all done in the artful, exquisitely presented way only Andres can, and though not cheap, it's the rare spot that's always worth the money.
In a stark departure from the simple, casual fare he crafted at Coyo, chef Scott Linquist is taking regional foods from all over Mexico and combining them on this knockout menu that doesn't have a bad item on it. The tableside guac and collection of crudos are fresh and spicy, and the mole-heavy main dishes aren't to be missed. But the best way to experience it all is by getting a group together and trying everything "a la olla." Not just because that's the name of the place, but also because it allows your squad to put all this delicious stuff in colorful ceramic bowls and share it around the table.
Though it remains to be seen if Howard Schultz could successfully turn himself into a nightclub owner/local pseudo-celebrity, it appears the inverse is true. Dave Grutman -- the guy behind LIV -- has opened his second restaurant venture with Miami's best new coffee concept, possibly ever. Here, fresh-roasted coffee is served alongside massive grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh quinoa bowls, superfood toasts, and chocolate chip cookies that'll have you fighting to eat only one. The bright, airy, Art Deco space makes it as comfortable a spot to sit and work for a while as it is to grab lunch.
SoFi has almost become its own little San Diego. Tucked into the side of the Stanton hotel, this new Mexican joint offers fare that's a little more interesting than what you'd find traditionally. Case in point: the Mayan dip, mashed pumpkin seeds served with veggies, as opposed to the traditional chips and guac. The tacos here are inventive too, with rib-eye, pork confit, and big oyster mushroom offerings. And while it's probably nothing like what you've ordered at the late-night drive-thru, the bone marrow chalupa will definitely expand your Mexican food horizons.
Lobster rolls. Much like turn signals, they're something Miamians had heard a lot about but had yet to experience at home. And while no big Northeastern chain can help our city's drivers, at least it can bring us these rich, buttery delicacies. Luke's Lobster is the fast-casual lobster roll king up north and just set up shop atop Brickell City Centre. On the menu: lobster caught, then immediately steamed by salty lobstermen in Maine, poached in butter, and served on a fresh-baked bun. There's also crab rolls, shrimp rolls, and Cape Cod chips.
Though it sounds like the class you used to joke about taking while you crushed Taco Bell in your dorm, this new spot from the Cantina la Veinte team is truly a study in the amazingly cool stuff one can do with a taco. Cover grilled shrimp in quinoa, roll it in a tortilla, and serve it in a shot glass? Sure. Serve a mini-platter of fajitas with tiny flour tortillas on the side? Absolutely. Make tortillas from quinoa, corn fungus, and cactus pads? Stay tuned, friends. The four open kitchens make this place more like a taco lab than a restaurant, where experiments are made out in the open and then enjoyed under plant-covered canopies overlooking Brickell City Centre.
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