Where the Wild Things Grow
A Momofuku/Per Se chef makes food worthy of the cocktails
Granted, the main draw at the bar on the ground floor of the uber-Millennial X Miami apartment building are the craft cocktails from quirkily-creative Will Thompson. But local food bloggers wouldn’t post up here nightly just for the drinks. Ok maybe they would, but they also know the food comes from Momofuku/Per Se alum Carey Haynes, who’s crafted a small menu with stuff like authentic Parker House bread rolls with spicy beef jus, bucatini with three-year parmesan and pecorino romano, and Thai-marinated beef short rib. You’d be remiss if you didn’t order a drink like the Green Ghoul with tequila, mezcal, poblano, and cucumber while you’re there. Or just ask Thompson to come up with something creative for you. There’s plenty of great food to soak up the booze.
Tap 42’s long-awaited Mexican neighbor arrives…with a rooftop bar
Bar Rita was the restaurant equivalent of that friend who says he’s a block away from your house but hasn’t left his driveway. Since, like, Obama’s first term the Tap 42 team has been promising us this towering Mexican concept next door and was all “like, almost there, bro.” Finally in October it arrived. Bar Rita’s created some rich takes on classic Mexican-American fare, like the sweet corn truffle guacamole and BBQ carne asada tacos with chipotle ranch and Oaxaca cheese. But the most authentically-Mexican part of Bar-Rtia is the rooftop bar, where you can pound cucumber-cactus garnished margaritas under At that point all it’s missing is a guy with a whistle and a bottle of Cuervo and you’re basically in TJ.
Caviar on pizza is a thing now. You can thank D-Wade.
Wood-fired pizza places are about as easy to find as a guy who’ll take that dent out of your car, but this spot that boasts Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem as investors is already topping the list of Miami’s best. That’s probably because they’re doing insane stuff like putting caviar on a pizza, or creating another pizza -- the smoked salmon pastrami -- that’s as close to a bagel and lox as you’re getting on a pie. The rest of the menu is full of grilled burgers and wood fired wings, with big Bell and Evans rotisserie chickens served all day. It’s also got a bar with basketball-themed cocktails, Go for the 3 Rings -- loaded with five different rums, passionfruit, pineapple, and lime -- and they’ll light it on fire like it’s starting lineup time at the AAA.
Authentic Mexican seafood tacos and the meanest hot sauce of the year
You like spicy food? Ok, throw a heaping spoonful of the bright red chili oil salsa at this Downtown upscale taqueria on your dinner, and call us around noon tomorrow. Granted, the insane hot sauce is the most memorable part of your meal here, but it’s not the only reason to go. Chef Javier Plascencia, who cut his chops creating Baja-Med delicacies in Tijuana, has brought some of his best creations to Miami, plating cool, fresh tacos with everything from charred octopus, to shrimp in guajillo adobo, to smoked tuna with avocado. The ultimate experience here, though, is the atun con chicharron, where fresh tuna is fried crispy, then coated is the aforementioned hot chili sauce, served with lettuce to cool down the fire.
Ft. Lauderdale Beach
Broward’s new oceanfront hotspot with insane seafood
For those north of the county line, getting skillfully prepared seafood and smoky grilled meats in a luxurious setting by the water often meant an hour’s drive to Miami Beach. But no longer, as this spot in the Auberge residences hits all those notes, with a palm-filled oceanfront terrace to boot. The interior is done up in beach house light woods, accented with plants and cushy booths, with giant windows out to the ocean. On your plate, the view is almost as spectacular, where chef Edgar Beas -- formerly of Santa Fe’s Rosewood -- has created seafood masterpieces like yellowfin tuna crudo served with pomelo, mango, and avocado. And crab spätzle with fresh cherry tomatoes, chili flake, and preserved Meyer lemon. Or if you’re not into seafood, Beas’ spicy lamb chops are easily the best in Broward.
Latin America and the Mediterranean mixed beautifully by a Spanish TV chef
If we had a nickel for every Miami restaurant that has called itself some kind of “Latin Fusion,” we’d almost have enough to pay for dinner at one of those said restaurants. Though the term is overused, this beautiful new downtown spot from Argentine celebrity chef Sebastian La Rocca actually pulls it off, blending the Mediterranean with South America in stull like avocado hummus, ossobuco empanadas, and Caribbean rice and bean arancini. But the jewel of the menu is old-fashioned meat -- specifically a worchestire-braised short rib with roasted ayote and pepitas that’s one of the best new dishes of 2018.
Crazy game meats and an upstairs speakeasy in the Gables
Seek + Find was described by owner Kevin Gouchee as a place “where curiosity meets discovery.” Which sounds a little like he’s serving Burning Man on a plate, but actually he’s serving some of the more interesting menu items of the season in a two-story building from 1925. High on the menu are the alligator tail corn dogs, which let you simultaneously taste UF and smell like LSU. It’s also got wild boar medallions in a citrus chili glaze, a bison and wild boar Bolognese, and a Korean barbecue chicken served with purple rice. Wind your way through the restaurant and ascend a nondescript staircase and to find Room 25, the Miami equivalent of a hidden basement bar with dim lighting and craft cocktails.
Another Michelin-starred classic tries its luck in South Florida
At some point -- long before basketball players became arbiters of great pizza -- it was decided people who made tires were also experts in fine dining. And thus the Michelin star was born. While Miami lacks any of our own, we do have this place, whose Washington, D.C. original boasts a Michelin star and is putting South Florida twists on its vaunted regional Italian menu. Look for epic seafood platters and stone crab claws to start, then move on to Spanish 5J charcuterie and Alba White truffles. The house-made pastas are also big into seafood, highlighted by the bucatini with red king prawns and sea urchin. Whether all this majesty translates into auto part accolades remains to be seen, but for a fine dining dinner no new fall entrant comes close.
The UM chop chop world has a new king
If you had the fortune -- literally and figuratively -- to attend the University of Miami, epic portions of questionably-sanitary chop chop were as much a part of your college diet as Rat popcorn and Moose Juice. This fall, Natural Chicken Grill has supplanted that spot down Red Road as the Hurricanes’ chop chop of choice, using high-quality meats, fresh grilled steak, and a variety of sauces like garlic fire and chipotle barbecue. A full plate with 10oz of chicken is still under $10, perfect for the bros who just finished blasting traps at the Wellness Center. And the best part is you won’t even have to cross US-1 to get it, in a remarkably-sanitary environment.
Pharrell Williams and the guy who owns LIV open a restaurant
This new Design District offering from Pharrell and LIV owner Dave Grutman is a pink-hued delight, with a menu by Top Chef Europe champ Jean Imbert. The food’s a little French but mostly fresh Floridian, highlighted by snapper sashimi with mango and serrano chili; and roasted chicken with carrot curry puree. It’s all served in a dining space vaguely reminiscent of your rich aunt’s nursing home dining room, with lots of pink banquets and white rattan chairs. Upstairs you’ll find Bar Bevy, Swan’s cocktail lounge complete with a DJ booth and karaoke machine.
South Florida’s culinary power couple takes their empire to South Miami
Last winter, we got a little taste of what Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth had been cooking up in New York City, when Root and Bone opened for, like, five minutes at the Shelborne in South Beach. Well their Miami outpost finally found a permanent home in South Miami, where the inventor of Yardbird’s famous fried chicken is slinging high-end southern food a few blocks from Sunset Place. Think classic fried chicken and waffles, buttermilk biscuits, and buttery grits that’ll leave you full well past lunch the next day. The bright, inviting space is a healthy dose of southern hospitality after a long trek down US-1. But as you sit in a borderline food-coma on the ride home you’ll definitely think it was worth the ride.
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.
Vegetables so good, you’ll order them because you want to
Look, we’re not gonna lecture you on the importance of eating your vegetables. You’re a grown-up, you’ve heard it all before. But even if ingesting anything green is as painful for you as sitting in traffic, you’ll change your mind at Pinch. Though it’s not a vegetarian restaurant, chefs John Gallo and Rene Reyes source most of Pinch’s produce from its farm in North Miami (on a former drug kingpin’s estate, no less) meaning stuff like the Pinch Salad, brussels sprouts sauteed with chilis, and kimchi guacamole all actually taste like...vegetables! The seafood is no slouch either, with fresh-caught stuff served daily and one of the best ceviches you’ll find outside a Peruvian restaurant. Comfort food it is not, but if you’re trying to eat more greens and still want to eat well, Pinch is your place.
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 Michele 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 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.