These Taco Shells Are Fried Chicken
Indian street food you can’t stop eating
Those who’ve been to India know that the food there extends far past the vindaloos and masalas we find in the States, and is best experienced through spicy, messy handheld stuff that leaves your fingers smelling like heaven for days. This spot from the Maska team brings such delicacies to Miami, introducing us to stuff like dahi vada -- lentil fritters with yogurt and tamarind chutney. And pani puri -- a white chickpea stew with sweet and sour H20 and tamarind chutney served with crispy semolina shells. There’s also a full menu of curry-filled dosa that make a perfect grab-and-go lunch. Nothing on the menu is over $14, and the vegetarian options are often better than those with meat.
Mofongo that’ll make you forget about the mural
The controversial Puerto Rican flag mural that covers La Placita’s spot on Biscayne Boulevard might be its most famous feature, but the food will overshadow it once word of the mofongo gets out. The Pubbelly Boys’ Puerto Rican venture goes all-in on their native cuisine, with a build-your-own mofongo menu full of ropa vieja and criollo lobster. Churrasco steak, carne fritas, and lechon asado round out a stellar selection of PR staples, with sides of tostones, yuca, and a root vegetable of the day. The metal chairs and island music keep the place feeling authentic to its homeland. As do the periodic domino tournaments and rum-based cocktails.
A steakhouse chef slinging Miami’s best new(ish) tacos -- meat or no meat
For hardcore taco heads, vegan tacos may sound like an abomination of tortilla-dom. But you’ve gotta trust in Charly Garcia, who helmed one of the top steakhouses in Mexico City before opening a vegan taco shop in Tulum. His Miami outpost is a sea of bright colors and spicy margaritas, much like any Mexican restaurant with one big difference: The entire menu is vegan. Through vegetarian recipes from his abuela and a knack for spicy sauces, Garcia makes plant-based carne asada tacos taste better than steak ones, somehow lighter and less acidic. And yuba carnitas in chipotle adobo that taste cleaner than pork. And at $16 for a plate of three is the odd vegan restaurant that’s also a sold value.
Fast-casual healthy stuff that tastes like fine dining
Nobody does fast-casual better than Broward. Look no further than the 954’s latest entrant Ovlo Eats, a high-quality sandwich and salad shop plating South Florida’s best new under-30-minute meals. All the sandwiches come on baked-that-day Sullivan Street Bakery bread, highlighted by the bánh mì, all served with lemongrass-roasted veggies. There’s also a farro, watermelon, and feta salad that’s the best meal-sized salad we’ve tried all year. Nothing on the menu weighs you down, and even when you walk back out into the steamy Lucky’s parking lot you’ll feel refreshed.
The best new food value in Miami is awash in Cuban tacos
Of course, there was once a time when $16 for three tacos would seem like the OPPOSITE of a solid value, but such is Miami in 2019. That’s why this sit-down joint from the original Edgewater taco truck has people all over Coral Gables excited. Post up at Caja Caliente and you’ll get massive, oversized tacos stuffed to the brim with vaca frita, lechon, and pulled chicken that are a full meal for $6. If you want to stretch your Caja Caliente experience to two meals, order a bowl with any of those meats on a base on quinoa, black bean pico, and avocado for $14 and you’ll have plenty left for dinner. The spot feels like a Calle Ocho hole in the wall, minus the overwhelming pork smoke. A perfect spot for a work lunch that’ll leave you satisfied for cheap.
The nightclub experience, brought to your dinner table
It wouldn’t be a crop of hot new restaurants in Miami if it didn’t include a place run by nightclub people where half the customers aren’t paying. This spring’s entrant in Myn-tu, from the folks who brought you Mynt, conveniently located next door to the famous nightclub. If you enjoy your meal with a side of champagne sparklers this might be the best new restaurant in Miami, where you’ll start out with exquisite sushi like the Big O Nigiri with otoro, uni, and caviar, then move on to wagyu gyoza and a spicy hamachi zago jalapeño. The bluefin toro tartar with caviar is the move for the calorie-conscious at your table, but if you’ve got a big gym day tomorrow go for the Haute Living Truffle Spaghetti. No Thrillist entrees on the menu as of yet, but the year is young.
Brad Kilgore’s playing with fire… literally
Everything's better with smoke. This is, at least, the philosophy at Ember, whose new design district digs has a menu full of fire-roasted creations. The headline-grabber is the fire-roasted lasagna, a cheese-forward dish that really does taste like someone took lasagna camping. The smoked fried chicken is also a taste to behold, brilliantly combining barbecue and deep-fried better than anywhere south of the Panhandle. Of course, if you’re grilling, you gotta have steak, and Ember’s got cuts that can compete with any high-end house in South Beach with CAB filets and grass-fed New York strips. With entrees under $30 and starters in the $14 range, you can realistically have dinner for two here for what one person would pay at Alter.
The Kyu team brings egg-centric sandwiches to Wynwood
Not that the folks behind Wynwood’s most popular barbecue restaurant are averse to dousing their customers in cholesterol, but this spring they’ve brought a heaping menu of egg-based stuff to this bright, airy fast-casual spot. LAID’s dishing up breakfast-style sandwiches all day, with EBLT and soft-scrambled sandwiches with brie and avocado highlighting the menu at a reasonable $9 a piece. The sandwiches come in cute little paper cartons, perfect for eating on the go. Though if you feel like sitting down LAID also has a pretty solid selection of craft beers.
A Cuban diner with a surprisingly-broad vegetarian menu
Typically, going to a Cuban restaurant and expecting great vegetarian options is like going to Toronto in January and expecting a tan. But, hey, there’s global warming and there’s also Chug’s, Michael Beltran’s new Cuban diner where the burrata avocado and sweet potato salads are every bit as good as the fritas and mojo roasted pork. The rice and beans are made without lard or bacon, a fact that might make some abuelas cringe but is a delight for those who want some swine-free carbs to go with their pollo a la plancha. Wash it all down with some of Chug’s signature guava-limeade and a chocolate chip cookie and you may have found the lone Cuban spot in town you can bring your non-carnivorous friends.
Est. 1971 | Little Havana
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.
Est. 2018 | Downtown
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.
Est. 2017 | Dadeland
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.
Est. 2018 | South Beach
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.
Est. 2015| SoFi
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.
Est. 2010 | Coconut Grove
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.
Est. 2014 | Brickell
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.
Est. 2008 | South Beach
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.
Est. 2012 | Miami 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.
Est. 2012| MiMo
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.
Est. 2017 | Doral
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.
Est. 2014 | Edgewater
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.
Est. 2015 | Wynwood
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.
Est. 2015 | Riverside
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.