Go Camping in the Comfort of Your Own Home With S'mores Dip
The Graziano’s pizza outpost with a bad-ass wine shop
The folks behind Graziano’s know the secret to restaurant success in South Florida isn’t going to the hot neighborhoods. It’s going to where the people are. That’s why they’ve opened this this fantastic little pizza shop near Sunset Drive and Galloway Road, an area where wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas with fresh Italian ingredients are usually hard to come by. The place is an intimate Italian market, where reasonably-priced bottles of wine (think $15-$40) line the walls, and you’re welcome to pick one to pair with your hearty Italian dinner. The food? Fantastic. The service? Abnormally friendly. If you’re looking for the best new date option of the crop, Lucia is the place to go.
A San Diego taco heavyweight….and hidden sushi joint
Putting speakeasies behind taco stands is, like, soOoOo 2015. You know what the cool kids are doing now? Secret omakase. At least that’s what this San Diego transplant taqueria is doing. In the front they’ll plate up big, beefy, SoCal-style tacos loaded with al pastor or fresh grilled meats. Plus carne asada fries, where seasoned spuds are covered in meat, guac, and cheese. Not exactly pleasing to your personal trainer, but great for your stomach. Venture to the back and you’ll find what's probably the worst-kept secret in restaurants. It’s a tiny omakase sushi joint called Hiden, where they fly in fish from Japan to serve small groups. It’s usually reservation-only, though. So if you’re intimidated by the calories on the Taco Stand menu, you can’t exactly order raw fish from the taco bar.
Wynwood’s most creative new restaurant of the year
The word “fusion” might be the only term in the culinary world more overused than “farm to table.” But this art-adorned spot in Wynwood is combining flavors we’ve never seen before in the most inventive new menu as of late. The inspiration is Asian and South American, with a long list of sushi rolls including one with smoked steak and boursin cheese. Or go a little heartier with their take on the ramen burger with goat cheese, caramelized onion, and spicy mayo. Then finish off with an artisan popsicle or Nutella buns. It’s a sharing-style menu, but not one of those places where you have to order a dozen $8 plates to be full. For group dinners that won’t break the bank, Crudos is the play.
West Palm Beach
Food from an El Bulli chef, served out of a truck, on a breezy hotel patio
Before you roll your eyes about having to cross the county line for dinner, remember we’ve got the Brightline train now. Which means it’s only a short hour of free WiFi and cold drinks to reach PBC, and check out all the cool stuff your friends who moved up there 10 years ago keep telling you about. The best new restaurant in the 561 is easily Basque, a Spanish tapas spot helmed by a chef who cut his teeth at El Bulli in Spain. The food here is worth the trip, with massive platters of savory pallellas with Key West shrimp and Florida grouper served alongside tapas like chicken and kimchi croquetas, on a charming patio at the Hotel Biba. Perhaps the coolest thing about Basque is the kitchen, set in a food truck parked out front, It’s a concept we’ve never seen before, but the food served in the restaurant setting might be even better than stuff coming out of more-traditional kitchens.
A classic returns to where it all began
Before we had three taco shops opening every week with secret whatevers in the back, there was Lime. Miami’s original fast-casual fresh Mexican joint that spawned lines down Alton Road even in brutal summer heat. It closed, franchised, sold to Ruby Tuesdays, and became a shadow of its former self. But much like Cobra Kai, it’s back baby! The food might be even better than the Lime we remember from the 2000s, with higher-quality meats and finely-tuned recipes. It’s a far cry from the franchised Limes we saw fail in recent years, a throwback to the old days with overstuffed burritos and fresh-grilled tacos served with cold beers and margaritas. It’s a welcome return to South Beach, and your new after-beach go-to for hot summer afternoons.
Sleek modern Italian in charming old Buena Vista
This restaurant -- pronounced like the big wooden things they load food on at Costco -- is the first South Florida venture of New Jersey restaurateur Aldo Lamberti, who’s bringing a special brand of Italian-style tapas to South Florida. The big, open, wood-heavy space is a sleek, comfortable environment to sample small plates, which his chef developed after working at Palm Beach’s Café Boulud, among others. Crostini are made on fresh baked bread, the best of which comes with a homemade ricotta, strawberries, and blueberries. Follow that with the savory braised rabbit tagliatelle, or sea urchin squid ink pasta, all made daily in-house. Then finish off with the inventive olive oil cake, which tastes like a happy midpoint between angel food and pound cake.
Vegan food that’s so good it’s not healthy. For real.
Vegan comfort food might not be an official cuisine, but we’re pretty sure Planta just invented it. Because while the food here is, unquestionably, the best vegan food you’ll ever have, there’s a reason for that: it’s nowhere near healthy. The frontrunners of the menu are the vegan pizzas, like the meat lovers covered in cashew mozzarella, farro sausage, and mushroom bacon. Equally gut-busting is the Planta Burger, which uses stuff like queso and chipotle aioli to create a burger that is indistinguishable from something you’d find at Shake Shack. Yes, there are salads and ceviches too, but you can eat healthy stuff anywhere. And this is the odd vegan spot that’s actually worth the jacked-up prices.
Austin’s most famous Tex-Mex lands in South Florida
Don’t let Mexican food snobs who went to Austin once five years ago steer you wrong. Yes, Chuy’s is a regional chain in Texas, but it got Lone Star popular for a reason -- there’s not a bad thing on the menu. Start out with the chips and fresh guac, or a quesadilla served folded in a thick tortilla that tastes more like a cheesy Mexican pita sandwich. The grilled fajitas are the star of the menu, though if you get the enchiladas in boom boom sauce you’ll be in for a spicy, cheesy treat. The margaritas are also solid, and the best part about this place is dinner for two with a couple rounds of drinks won’t set you back more than $50.
Big portions and healthy bowls at a new Gables happy hour hotspot
If you’ve ventured north of the county line -- or live there already -- you’ve probably already heard the raves about Doc B’s. It’s an American restaurant full of big portions and big flavors that’s a favorite for business lunches and happy hours. The menu gives some innovations to modern favorites, like the guacamole served with sweet potato chips and the Nashville honey jalapeno chicken, which isn’t what you’d expect but still worth ordering if you’re down to experiment. The must-gets are the wok-out bowls, where brown rice, quinoa, or noodles are topped with veggies, spicy sauces, and protein. It’s a combination of tasty and somewhat-healthy that help you avoid an afternoon food coma, and make this the best new lunch spot around.
Open air Greek food makes Midtown feel like Mykonos
Not that Greek food ever really leaves you hungry, but if you’re looking for a big, fat Greek meal, this new Midtown spot is the most welcomed entrant of the season. The traditional mezes are all great, with roasted red pepper htipiti and dolmades getting your stomach warmed up. But the big hitters come later, like the hummus served with baked lamb, or the hearty guvec with shrimp, mushrooms, and paprika. But be sure to save room for the meats, where generous souvlaki skewers of chicken or lamb come with big sides of bulgur rice. Or get the grilled grass-fed porterhouse, if you’re feeling strong. The chef is a Mandolin alum too, so if you enjoyed the food there be sure to give Skorpios a visit.
Rotisserie chicken that stands up to the stuff in the orange box
It takes some serious stones to open up a chicken joint where chop chop and Publix rotisserie are as much a part of the culture as cafecitos and side hustles. But you’ve gotta hand it to the folks behind Le Chick, who started up this open-counter, open-kitchen rotisserie spot in Wynwood, serving full and half chickens alongside burgers, ribs, onion rings, and fried yardbird. Don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere and simple menu, though. There’s a sophisticated cocktail bar behind a big, blue curtain inside, with drinks crafted by Jose “Ye Ye” Ortega (that’ll be open late night). So maybe this chicken-and-cocktails thing will become a trend, and we’ll soon have secret speakeasies at Pollo Tropical.
Ft. Lauderdale Beach
Upscale Mexican with an oceanfront view
This offering from Pablo Salas has a sprawling, breezy patio from which to enjoy his modern takes on Mexican classics. Start out with the crab guacamole before moving on to the tuna tostada, which combines tuna with chipotle aioli, soy, and ginger atop a crispy shell. The tacos are ramped-up street style, with standards like carnitas and al pastor presented in plates of three with sprinkles of onions and cilantro. Just don’t think it’s the kind of place you can roll off the sand and grab a couple tacos for cheap… While the food and drinks are great the prices can be high. So plan accordingly.
A London hotspot of Chinese-Japanese fusion
For the best new aspirational dining experience, we have Novikov, the famed London Chinese-Japanese celebrity hotspot that landed in Miami in May. Arkady Novikov’s South Florida outpost lets you step right up to the fresh seafood and veggie bar, pick your catch of the day, and ask the chefs to cook it however you like. Sashimi? Sure! Wok? Why not! Robata! Right on! You get the idea. There’s also a menu with fancy stuff like slow poached quail egg gunkan with truffle, and Novikov Peking duck with royal caviar. A bargain it is not, but if you wanna eat like you belong at the royal wedding, a night here is worth the price.
Ft. Lauderdale Beach
Stephen Starr’s Mexican with insane guac and margaritas
When you name a restaurant after the first Latino Elvis impersonator, it’s an uphill fight to be taken seriously. But within 10-minutes of sitting down at Stephen Starr’s Mexican outpost on Lauderdale beach, you’ll seriously think it’s the best Mexican restaurant in South Florida. The verde guacamole is a lime-heavy, spicy, creamy blend that could be a meal unto itself, though you’re missing out if you don’t try one of the fresh ceviches or tacos. The grilled chicken and carne asada offerings come in a build-your-own taco platter served in volcanic rock, a solid deal at $32 for two people. The margaritas have some original options, like the blood orange frozen marg, and the jalapeno honey iteration on the rocks. With reasonable prices and a stunning waterfront view, El Vez might well be the best all-around new restaurant so far.
Gourmet Peruvian and sushi with Miami’s top waterfront view
The hottest chef in Peru put his first American outpost right on the water at the Mandarin Oriental, serving up the best ceviche in Miami plus Peruvian favorites like lomo saltado and an insanely extravagant seafood brunch. Daytime dining here means enjoying the breeze blowing off Biscayne Bay as you sip pisco sours and gaze out at the Rickenbacker Causeway. At night it’s a front row seat to the expanding Brickell skyline, a restaurant where both the food and the environment let you know exactly where you are. Eat here when the weather is nice and it’ll remind you why, despite all the irritations, you still live in Miami.
Miami’s best steakhouse has more than just meat
When almost every season a new high-end steakhouse opens up and serves prime cuts with great service, it’s tough to stay on top. But despite expansion into other cities Peter Vauthy still maintains the best steakhouse in the city by offering a menu that extends far beyond his trademark filets and tomahawks. Red also has some of the best tapas and the best donuts, plus a menu of Italian offerings that would make it a standout without a single cut of meat (try anything with the “Red Lead” sauce, trust us). Despite all that, the place has zero attitude or pretentiousness, and strikes the rare balance of fine dining and a relaxed atmosphere that’s so rarely found in South Beach.
An affordable way to experience Miami’s best Italian
Debates about the best Italian food in Miami can rage on for hours, but it seems the one name both fine dining foodies and shorts-and-flip-flops pasta junkies always agree on is Macchialina. Here, Michael Pirolo plates thick red sauces and house-made pastas, accompanied by a rotating menu of craft cocktails in a space that feels more South Italy than South Beach. All that makes this a homey standout among sometimes snooty feeling Miami Italian joints. Much of the local love stems from the legendary Thursday night special, when the homemade pastas are all only $10 so even Miamians who recoil at menu prices can afford to eat at one of the best restaurants in the city. Or, more likely, spend all those savings on wine.
A meat-heavy restaurant that also boasts a fine selection of veggie options
Don’t have a heart attack, Danny Serfer! Never mind you’ve probably given them to half the city with your potato latkes, Corben sandwich, one of the best breakfast sandwiches in America, and an entire menu of stuff our cardiologist warned us about. We still included you on the list. But like we do when there’s no tables at Blue Collar on a hot summer night, we just wanted to make you sweat.
The most complete, approachable Asian experience in Miami
“We don’t mess around” spicy food is harder to find in Miami than one might think. Since our idea of Asian cuisine seems to be either high priced sushi or fill-in-the-blank fusion, the authentic stuff is few and far between. So thanks go out to Chef Bee for opening up this spot in Sunset Harbour, where he’s plating sweat-inducing curries, rich noodle bowls, cured beef jerky, and jerky-infused whiskey cocktails. Even if you don’t love the hot stuff, the regular menu is the best Southeast Asian in the city, and chef is always adding new stuff like he recently did with Sriracha garlic chili ribs and tuna tostones with hot sesame oil and guacamole. Pro tip: If you’re feeling strong ask for your dinner “the way the chef eats it.”
Simple seafood that’s still the best in the city
Seafood is as much of a staple on Miami menus as kitschy takes on the Cuban sandwich and an 18% automatic gratuity. But like with so many things in life, the ones who do it simplest, do it best. Case in point: Danny Serfer’s seafood outpost, where the menu starts off with the best selection of fresh oysters in Miami, then graduates onto a lobster heavy-list of appetizers highlighted by the croissants with lobster butter. The “plain” entrees are great here too, as Serfer lets the selection of local fish speak for itself. The place has been so successful it’s launched an uptown version, this one set in an old diner car and offering the same fantastic food in a completely different atmosphere.
The ultimate Wynwood foodie experience
If there is a restaurant that is completely emblematic of what Miami’s art district has become, it’s Alter. The place is hipster and casual at first glance, but upon further examination is sophisticated and upscale. The big, light, warehoused area is full of causal seats, waiters in jeans, and tropical plants. The food however, is as fine-dining as it gets. Menus are of the five-and-seven course variety, and because Brad Kilgore is constantly creating new plates, you’ll have a different experience every time you go. This season’s selections include sake-cured duck breast grilled over pinecones, and snapper sashimi peta, cucumber and lime vinegar. But enjoy it while you can, your next experience will be significantly different. Since every time here varies, it’s ideal both for a special night or, or to take out-of-towners who think everything great in Miami lies in South Beach.
The best restaurant value, perfect for dates or large groups
In an era when Miamians have been conditioned to say unconscionable things like “$22 for a pizza seems fair,” Crust has somehow cracked the code. By mastering the art of high volume Downtown delivery, this place is able to offer inhumanely-large portions of family-style pasta dishes, gourmet pizzas, and humongous cuts of meat, all served for the price of small entrees at other places. This family-run Italian spot on the Miami River has a homey atmosphere that can be energetic and exciting at the big tables, then intimate and fun in smaller corners. It’s a throwback to the Italian restaurants of your childhood, where the owners always make you feel at home and you never leave disappointed.
A multi-course, interactive journey through modern Colombian cuisine
The word “experience” gets thrown around the restaurant world a lot to justify charging $28 for a chicken breast. But at El Cielo, that’s the only word to describe it. The tasting menu here can be either four, ten, or 13 courses, taking you from carrot and guava soup with cardamom plantain to “chocotherapy,” where your server bathes your hands in chocolate and you lick it off. The menu varies but generally includes a fresh catch of the day and the Tree of Life, a traditional Colombian cheese-covered bread served to look like the El Indio Desnudo tree. It’s the odd meal where you’ll drop triple digits and say it was absolutely worth it, and it is without a doubt the most unique dining experience in Miami.