Fireball Whiskey Apple Pies: A Dessert Fit for a Frat Party
The best thing to happen to vegetables since deep-frying
While many South Beach hotels are content to let their outdoor restaurants be banal collections of mahi sandwiches and $9 orders of fries, Eden Roc turned its one-time snack bar into one of the top ingredient-driven restaurants in the city. Chef Helene Henderson grows many of the fresh vegetables on-site, and what she can’t grow she sources mostly from South Florida farms. The result is a menu with vegetable-driven masterpieces, from a pizza topped with jalapeno, fresh avocado, and honey to a vegetable paella with seasonal selections. The setting is incredibly calm for a Miami beachside restaurant, and though the prices aren’t low, it’s the odd beach restaurant where you’re paying for the quality food and not the questionable scene.
Fresh seafood and killer cocktails in a Ritzy beach-house setting
Nothing screams beach luxury quite like dining among distressed wood at the Ritz-Carlton. But that’s the feel at the new water-view restaurant at the Bal Harbour Ritz, where floor-to-ceiling windows give the place a luxe Florida beach house vibe. The menu is long on fresh local seafood, highlighted by the massive Arroz Caldoso, a take on paella with shrimp, mahi, lobster, and clams. If it weren’t for Burlock Coast, these would be the best Ritz-Carlton cocktails in South Florida, too. Don’t leave without trying the Royal Romance with Stoli gold, Grand Marnier, basil, agave, and passionfruit.
The South Beach sushi icon has a whole new setup in Brickell
Though the name might be the same, the menu at this spot at the SLS Lux is a far cry from its South Beach cousin. The big, visually intriguing space is filled with oversized sculptures of fish, set over a central sushi bar. The menu does a lot more with the hot kitchen than its counterpart, plating up stuff like Wagyu New York strip and grilled lamb chops with scallion pesto. But the sushi here is still the star, whether you’re ordering the classic yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, or venturing into the seared tuna with Japanese salsa, or the kiwi scallops. This Katsuya has a lot more Miami flavor than we’ve seen at previous versions, and for those looking for a local twist on a national name, this is a welcomed summer addition.
Upscale Mexican and a roving mezcal cart
Lobster guacamole seems to be the hot appetizer this summer, and the best one we found was at the new poolside Mexican restaurant at the Shore Club. The rest of the menu is similarly upscale and sticker-shock worthy, though the food definitely lives up to its high prices. The steak taco served in a plantain tortilla with chimichurri crema might be the most inventive taco of the season, and the braised chicken tamales with salsa roja are the best value on the menu at $16. There’s also a mezcal cart that makes the rounds, pouring all varieties of rare agave spirits tableside. For simple Mexican food it might not be the move, but for a full-on Mexican dinner experience this place is tough to top.
North Bay Village
A laid-back California taco shop with crazy margaritas and Humpty Hump on the bathroom wall
Inside 222 you’ll find a laid back, California-style taqueria with loads of vegetarian, or “jardin” options on the menu. The traditional pastor is as good as you’re finding in this time zone, but believe it or not the cauliflower pastor might be even better, with all the spice and less of the grease. If you’re not afraid of a little cholesterol, try the carne asada fries, where perfectly seasoned meat and guac sauce top herbed, fried potatoes. Ask for the daily rotating margarita special, as the owner here likes to get creative with seasonal fruit… as well as with the bathroom wallpaper, which is a tribute to 1980s and '90s Bay Area pop culture.
Sandwiches from around the country paired with their local beers
Broward fast-casual impresario Memphis Garrett and his chef are creating signature sandwiches from different cities, and pairing them with beers from that town. For example, the Atlanta fried chicken sandwich with caramelized onions, spicy mayo, jalapeno-bacon, and pepper jack cheese is paired with Terrapin Hi-5 IPA. The Philly Cheesesteak with Victory. You get the idea. The whole thing is a funky, breezy sandwich stand with outdoor tables in Sailboat Bend across from Riverside Market. And once the summer heat dies down it’ll be the perfect spot to enjoy a long, outdoor lunch.
Late-night diner food from the Beaker & Gray chef
Take a quick glance at the menu at Midtown’s new all-hours diner, and it might be easy to dismiss it as another collection of stuff we’ve already seen. Bagels. Eggs. Fried chicken sandwiches. But look a little closer and you’ll see why chef Brian Nasajon was such a smash at Beaker & Gray. He takes simple stuff like a short rib melt, and adds pesto, caramelized onions, and fontina to make it a rich, savory treat. Or he creates a pot pie with oxtail, bacon, and corn. The breads and pastries here harken back to the Rascal House, unapologetic loads of carbs and sweets that taste like heaven as a late-night snack.
Thomas Keller comes to Surfside. Need we say more?
Welcome to the 305, Thomas Keller. Kinda. Though Keller designed the contemporary menu in this restored Mediterranean villa at the Four Seasons in Surfside, the day-to-day operations are handled by Manuel Echeverri, late of Bazaar Mar. And although this Keller entrant eschews his regular tasting menu style, the a la carte offerings are just as grand. The menu is more traditional than you might expect, beginning with avocado and vegetable louie, and hand-cut steak tartare. Or entrees like the braised beef and broccoli rabe lasagne or the angus chop steak with vidalia onion rings. Prices are high and the atmosphere is expensive, but it might be the best fine dining newcomer we’ve seen in 2018. Or at least, that’s what the name on the marquee should have you believe.
The Fratelli Milano people set next to a tree in Upper Buena Vista
Upper Buena Vista -- the new dining and retail spot that surrounds a 15-year-old banyan tree -- welcomed its first full-service restaurant this summer when the family behind Downtown’s Fratelli Milano opened this two-story spot with a rooftop terrace. The interior keeps the lush, tropical feel of the neighborhood with hanging plants and large windows. The food is the same high-quality Italian you got at the Downtown original, with maltagliati with braised brisket and parm highlighting the pasta list. The cioppino stew is ideal for seafood lovers, and while the menu is light on light options, the grilled peaches with arugula and the grilled tomato toast aren't bad if you’re on a diet. Then again, you’re going out for Italian food, so calories should not be a consideration.
A little slice of American food on Espanola Way
Burgers seem to be disappearing from the new restaurant landscape. But this new spot on Espanola Way says, “Enough with the tapas!” and brings us the best new burger restaurant in recent memory, with organic beef creations like the brunch burger with fried egg, Cheddar, and smoked bacon. The Yard has a wide array of toppings too, from pico do gallo and pesto to fresh guacamole, with truffle fries on the side and milkshakes for dessert. Consider it filling the void Johnny Rockets left on the beach. Except this place is actually good.
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.
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.
Fresh seafood, prime steaks, and the best steakhouse service in Miami
Sometimes it takes greatness to break a curse. The 2016 Cubs, for example. And this place: a subway tile-lined steak and seafood emporium that seems to have finally given the old China Grill space a tenant who can survive. The concept comes to us from Atlanta, with an epic raw bar full of mussels, oysters, lobster, and other seafood fresher than you’ll find in most South Florida establishments. The steaks are also exceptional, but what sets this place apart is the exemplary service. In a city where good service is about as rare as a turn signal, Lobster Bar is all old-school class, like Smith and Wollensky with a modern twist. And while dinner here might not be cheap, you’ll feel like friends with the entire staff by the end and won’t even mind paying the check.
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.
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.