The Best Restaurants in Miami Right Now
Take the guesswork out of your next meal.
Not that the world isn’t usually in Miami this time of year, but this winter we’re going to see a nonstop parade of international attention as we go from hosting the Super Bowl into the Miami International Boat Show and on into the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. And with all those people coming to town, one question will be on all of their minds: Does anyone in this city actually work? Also: Where should we eat?
Fortunately for our abundance of visitors -- and for us locals -- this fall saw a ton of fantastic restaurants open up in South Florida, all ripe for the trying. Some are high-end steakhouses that trade in their scene as much as their menu. Others are fast-casual spots full of savory barbecue and lemongrass chicken you can try without blowing your vacation budget. While others give fantastic value for a meal by the ocean. So read on for our picks of the best new restaurants that opened in South Florida over the past few months, as well as our picks for solid, A-list stalwarts.
Richard Hales’ take on Texas barbecue is already Miami’s best
Opening right on the heels of a much-ballyhooed, “people wait in line for HOURS for this in New York” barbecue joint down the road, Richard Hales’ Society BBQ proves that Miami still does it better. This unassuming counter in The Citadel features the best smoked brisket in the city, served alongside homemade sauces ranging from sweet to painfully spicy, with a selection of pulled meat sandwiches that are equally as impressive. Hales’ attention to Texas-style detail shows, and the flavors you’ll get from the burnt ends, pork ribs, and other specialties are subtle yet complex. He’s also charging far-more-reasonable prices than the competition, making this one of the most welcomed new spots of the season.
High-value waterfront dining in Pompano
Don’t look now, but Pompano Beach is slowly becoming cool. The town once known best for its harness track and extra-wide beaches has fast become the best place for oceanfront dining in South Florida, a reputation bolstered with the opening of Oceanic near the Pompano Pier. The sleek, white building sits right next to the sand, where a big open-air bar fills with a crowd you didn’t know was young enough to come to Pompano. The menu is what you’d expect from a nice waterfront restaurant, with an outstanding ceviche and deconstructed tuna tataki lettuce wraps leading the seafood selections. You’ll also find reasonably-priced steaks, with a $37 filet mignon that should cost more in this kind of setting. But perhaps that’s the beauty of a beach town that’s not yet blown up, and why you should go here for dinner before everyone else catches on.
Broward’s freshest lunch spot finally lands in Dade
Typically, a fast-casual, multi-restaurant opening in Miami Lakes raises about as much excitement as a glass of tap water. But Bolay is the most addictive lunch spot you’ve probably never tried, where starchy bases like cilantro noodles, forbidden black rice, and orange basil quinoa can be topped with everything from basil chicken to miso tofu and balsamic mushrooms. They’ve got plenty of pre-made selections too, if the abundance of delicious ingredients gets a little overwhelming. But the flavors here are all designed to meld perfectly no matter what you choose, so go ahead and top those minted tomatoes with carrot-ginger sauce.
Upscale Latin food in a swanky tropical dining room
With tropical plants hanging from the ceiling and sexy, light wood décor, the transformed Soyka space feels like a Latin American speakeasy opened its windows and decided to start serving dinner. Chica -- whose kitchen is helmed by Miami-girl-made-good Lorena Garcia -- is the latest from the 50 Eggs team, serving up ceviches, tamales en mole, spicy empanadas, and other Latin staples in a smooth-yet-energized environment. While the massive entrees like the 12oz bone-in filet in mole sauce or the comprehensive Argentine paradilla might be a little intimidating, you’ll still get the full experience by posting up in the lounge, ordering some small plates, and sampling one of the spicy mezcal-and-tequila forward cocktails.
An Italian steakhouse harkens to the days of Sinatra
Doral, even with its newfound restaurant renaissance, still isn’t exactly the type of place you’d expect to find a classic, Little Italy-style steakhouse. But pop into La Fontana and you’ll almost forget you’re a couple miles from the airport. Big, plush booths and round chairs welcome you as a soundtrack of jazz classics play in the background, and a lengthy menu of wine and steaks is placed on the table. You can start out with a number of Italian favorites, like the made-to-order pastas or bruschetta. But the charcoal grill here is what makes it the best new steakhouse of the season, where your filet, French ribeye, or Porterhouse comes out tasting like it was cooked on a campfire.
A taste of Tulum comes to Casa Faena
Short of putting ayahuasca on the menu, it would be hard to feel much more like Tulum than you will at Gitano. The interior is done up in jungle plants, dark walls, and dim lights, giving the feeling of eating dinner deep in the Yucatan jungle. The menu is long on chic updates to traditional Mexican offerings, like grilled ribeye and charred tomato baby chicken served with blue corn tortillas -- effectively reimagining fajitas. Or a watermelon salad served in a watermelon, like one might eat out in the wild. The drinks aren’t bad either, with a selection of mezcal-heavy stuff like the Jungle Fever with chili lime and cilantro.
Food from all over the world on the border of the Everglades
You might think driving all the way out to 145th Ave and Bird Road is a little far for dinner. But it’s a helluva lot closer than flying all over the planet, which is pretty much what you’d have to do to get the global variety of food on this menu. The team behind Boca’s House continues with its “more is more” menu philosophy, offering an extensive menu of food from five continents (Australia and Antarctica didn’t make the cut), ranging from hoisin chicken wings to smoked short rib ravioli and chicken tagines. Somehow, it all works together seamlessly in a space that feels more like a Japanese noodle shop than a Westchester strip mall. And though it won’t gain you any more passport stamps, it will gain you a new appreciation for multi-cuisine restaurants.
McInnis and Booth go Italian, and still pull it off
After conquering the worlds of southern cuisine and seafood, Miami’s favorite culinary power couple have moved on to the seemingly-saturated Italian food scene, and somehow created the best new dining experience of fall. The big, boisterous Mi’talia features homemade pastas and thick sauces perfect for sharing with a group, highlighted by a pumpkin agnolotti that could have come straight from Modena; and a Margherita flatbread perfectly portioned for happy hour sharing. It’s a place to go for epic, comforting meals with big groups of people, putting you smack in the middle of an Italian family dinner deep in South Miami.
Phenomenal seafood and surprisingly great fried chicken
Making a great seafood restaurant in Miami sometimes doesn’t take more than plating whatever came in on the boat that day with a side of asparagus and charging $28. But this new spot in the historic side of the Kimpton Anglers has created much more than a place to taste some of America’s best fish. It’s crafted a menu of stuff like the baked oysters bingo -- baked with Tasso ham and parmesan -- and crudo that could hold its own with any gourmet Italian spot. But best of all, Seawell may have inadvertently created the best restaurant fried chicken in Miami, which, if you’re not into fish, still gives you something to order when everyone else is.
The early bird gets the pizza
In theory, limiting how many pizzas you make in a day might seem an unwise business decision in a city where “authentic pizza chef” is right up there with “clothing line entrepreneur” as a popular profession. But it’s working for Gino Sorbillo, the famed Neapolitan pizza man who opened up his second U.S. location in the Mercury Hotel. He’ll only be serving up 250 of his sauce-heavy, cheese-light, wood-fired pies per day, so going for a late lunch might be the move. If they’re out of pizza, you’re still not out of luck, though. The massive beef meatballs are worth a trip on their own, as is the fresh baked bread served with every order.
Pitbull teams with a Vegan Mexican stalwart to make the best guac in Miami
Pitbull has literally had songs sit at #1 on the Billboard charts longer than his short-lived steakhouse was around. But its new iteration as El Dorado 305 somehow fits better, with the cantina-style décor up front a welcoming visage from tourist-clogged Ocean Drive. Inside you’ll find Pitbull’s favorite Las Vegas Mexican restaurant, which he thought enough of to bring to South Florida. While the $90 taco platter grabbed headlines, the real star of the show is the tableside guacamole, which we’re ready to crown the best guac in Miami. Combine it with a normal-sized margarita from the extensive marg menu and you’ve got an almost-acceptable way for a local to hang out on our most un-local street.
A perfect secluded date spot, if you remember to bring gum
The cozy Downtown Greek hit Meraki opened its second location along Main Highway; this one an even-cozier creation that you might walk right past without knowing it. Once seated inside, you and your date will share an intimate table and an impressive selection of Greek wines, before delving into a shared plate of classic Greek spreads. If you’re comfortable eating large quantities around each other, opt for the grilled meats, where the lamb chops, biftekia, and filet mignon kebabs are all seasoned and smoked like an Aegean dream. It won’t quite transport you to Greece, but with reasonable prices and fantastic, large portions your dollar will go almost as far.
The people behind Lucali set up shop under the Metromover
The new DC Pie Co. feels a little more like Rome than DC, an airy outdoor café with big, thin-crust pizzas where you’ll want to post up sipping wine and savoring your food. The pies are from the same people who brought us Lucali in South Beach (a Lucali Coming Soon sign covered this space for months) with high-quality ingredients and equally-high menu prices. But can you really put a price on spending an evening under the Mover tracks enjoying rich red sauces and fresh-made cheese? If you love pizza and public transportation, no good sir and/or madame, you cannot.
The sceniest new spot in the city
This season’s entrant into the see-and-be-seen restaurant collection is Papi Steak, a name you could only get away with in Miami with a menu… that you could also only get away with in Miami. The scene here is simultaneously modern and throwback, an old-style, high-energy steak emporium, with dim lights and a boisterous crowd. The steak menu itself is efficient, offering a handful of prime cuts before getting to the main events: A 48oz Porterhouse and a 32oz Glatt Kosher Ribeye, both priced well into the triple-digits. The Wagyu pastrami and latkes are also worth sampling, if you came to Miami to drop some cash. It might not be a spot for everyday dining if your last name isn’t Soffer, but to see the city at its most Miami-est, no new restaurant comes close.
Authentic ramen shop where everything is done on your phone
The whole InRamen experience feels extraordinarily Japanese, whether from the noodle-stretching theatrics behind the windows to the open kitchen, or the large communal tables filled with steaming bowls of ramen. But the futuristic ordering process is what makes this like a real trip to Tokyo, where you open up your phone and go to a website with the entire menu, order (with any modifications you want), pay, and wait for someone to bring your food. What happens if you show up and your phone is dying, you ask? Fortunately, InRamen has backup waiters on hand. But ordering through them pretty much defeats the purpose.
The best train station restaurant in open in America, probably in decades
Brightline really is bringing the glamour back to rail travel. In addition to their sleek, grapefruit-scented trains they’ve also inspired a new golden age of train station cuisine with the opening of La Estacion at Miami Central. This French brasserie-style spot boasts a calming, refined décor with light colors and lots of glass, a tranquil escape from hectic Downtown. You’ll enjoy a view out over the streets while indulging in fresh-buttered bread and juicy steak frites, fueling up for a big train ride somewhere north. But you can’t board before stopping in the patisserie by the exit, where desserts that look almost as beautiful as they taste make for the perfect mid-ride snack.
A local legend that’s an only-in-Miami experience
Until literally a decade ago, there weren’t any restaurants in Miami not called Joe’s Stone Crab worth coming to the city for. Except this one. Is it the best Cuban food in Miami? Maybe not. But is it the cultural center of an entire community where you can enjoy ropa vieja and vaca frita from waiters in white coats at tables with paper placemats? Every. Damn. Night. You can also sit outside at the bakery and café, listening to abuelitos talk politics and baseball, one of the most Miami experiences one can have without dropping half a paycheck. In a city whose food scene is almost brand new, Versailles remains our greatest culinary landmark.
Robata grill and fresh seafood you can pick out yourself
Walking into this swanky London transplant you’d expect something a little more "scene" than hanging veggies and a giant ice-packed fish display. But that’s how Novikov -- Russian for “let’s eat” -- shows you how fresh your seafood really is. The Chinese-Japanese hybrid is long on fish, with rich, red sashimis and truffle-covered tiraditos plastering the immense menu. The robata grill is strong too, with black cod and wagyu filet, and king crab legs highlighting the bill. If you’re in the mood for a large piece of seafood, you can just wander over to the big, central display, point out what you want, and wait for the kitchen to prepare it perfectly.
Modern concepts that’ll change how you look at Indian food
Though it’s not the traditional naan and vindaloo you might be used to at the local Indian buffet, this Dadeland smash might be the best modern Indian restaurant in America. Pork belly vindaloo with shallot, habanero, and peanuts isn’t something you see on a lot of Indian menus. Nor are charred ribs with with mango and draggery glaze. The menu changes every day based on what fresh, local ingredients were available, making it the perfect place to get out of an Indian food rut and try a dish you’ve never heard of. And if you want them to jack up the spice and heat to uncomfortable levels, they’re more than happy to oblige in your masochism.
A retractable-roof tropical paradise with first-class sushi and over-the-top drinks
Miami’s most visually-stunning new restaurant of 2018 feels almost like dining at the bottom of a cenote, where tropical foliage drapes down the restaurant’s open center, leading to a boulder and palm trees behind the perpetually-buzzing sushi bar. The London Nikkei-Peruvian import has a retractable roof, for obvious reasons, under which you’ll feast on some of the most expertly-created Asian food in Miami. As you’d expect, the seafood is divine, with flavorful offerings like the langosta deluxe ceviche, tuna tartare with dragonfruit and ponzu chili dressing. And you’d be remiss not to indulge in the 96-hour marinated, applewood-smoked lamb chops. But the drinks here are almost as impressive as the decor, worth a visit lychee picante, topped with three slices of dragonfruit. Or Holy Water, delivered in a literally-flaming grail.
Heaping portions of fresh Greek food, served next to the ocean
Traditionally, poolside cuisine in Miami has been relegated to $20 hamburgers with mini-bottles of Grey Poupon and/or a $7 slice of watermelon. All that’s changed at the Hilton Bentley Bay, where the poolside restaurant is serving the best Greek food in Miami. Creator, owner, and executive chef Georgios Vogiatzis has crafted a fresh menu long on creative salads, flavorful meats, and humongous gyro and pita sandwiches. If you want to be indulgent, opt for the seafood platter, where every piece is grilled with a buttery, lemon glaze and tastes just like it would on an island in the Med. It’s the odd place where you can take in the Miami scene, dine on great food, and not lose half your paycheck in the process.
An Indian institution that’s never not-crowded
Though the interior looks more like a set piece from Miami Vice than an Indian restaurant, this family-run restaurant moved into the storied Mayfair and is packed every night of the week, for good reason. It’s the undisputed king of traditional Indian food in Miami, and while it’s not winning any awards for innovation, it does the traditional masalas, samosas, paneers, and tandoors better than anywhere in the city. The restaurant has reasonable prices and a friendly staff; the only thing that feels Miami about the place is the decor. And for default meals where you know you’re getting something good, few places deliver as consistently as Bombay Darbar.
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.
A Spanish-TV star creates the best healthy Latin food on the planet
As much as we in Miami love the spicy, savory flavors of Latin America, we’re also well aware that rice, beans, and pork don’t always make for a healthy diet. That’s why Venezuelan actress Michelle Posada struck out to become the Gwyneth Paltrow of Telemundo, creating a menu of healthy takes on Latin classics full of stuff that tastes like it should be way less healthy. Think dishes like tostones topped with ahi tuna and fresh mango, or lomo saltado served over brown rice. Quinoa arepas, and cauliflower crust pizza topped with ham and mushrooms. Posada also has a full menu of juices and smoothies, plus a gluten-free, sugar-free vegan carrot cake that actually still manages to taste like carrot cake. There’s a reason Spanish TV starts from the nearby Telemundo and Univision studios are regulars in this nondescript strip mall restaurant. They, like anyone who’s been here, know it’s easily the culinary highlight of sprawling Doral.
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 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.
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