Stop for the Gas, Stay for the Grub
Omakase in the Versace Mansion -- for a surprisingly reasonable price
For years, the landmark Versace Mansion has tried to find a restaurant to fit its unusual surroundings. It’s finally succeeded in Sushi By Bou, a six-seat omakase experience that plates 17 courses of deliciously fresh sushi and sashimi over about 75 minutes on the mansion’s third floor. You’ll enjoy beer and sake while watching the skilled chef prepare and explain each course, taking in the opulence of Miami’s most famous home and tasting some of the freshest seafood of your life. There’s already a pretty long wait to get in, but for $125 a person it’s one of the more moderately-priced special occasion restaurants in the city.
Miami’s best modern Mexican restaurant, with a ton of mezcals
Not that Mexican food in Miami was ever “lacking,” per se; we always had our share of fast casual and family-run spots. But there was never anywhere you’d downright call “great.” Until Bakan came to town. At an approachable price, Bakan has brought the kind of modern Mexican food Miami had been missing, with spectacular moles showcased in the mole coloradito, with short rib, string beans and sesame seeds. And tacos we’d never have imagined like the langosta con chorizo -- lobster with sausage and black beans in your Spanish isn’t great. It also boasts one of the most impressive collections of mezcals in the city, best experienced in the unique Mezcal Mule.
Beachfront tacos hit South Florida’s best beach town
After finishing a long beach day in Broward, nothing tastes better than a couple tacos and a nice margarita. Of course, until this winter, getting them often involved paying upwards of $40 a person for the privilege, at the overpriced seaside spots in Lauderdale Beach. That’s why we’re thrilled TacoCraft has opened up shop in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, plating their creative ahi tuna, carne asada, and al pastor tacos within strolling distance of the sand. At a price aimed at locals rather than tourists, the food is the same high-quality, delicious stuff we’ve come to expect from Tacocraft in a big, open air space that lets the breeze off the Atlantic blow through.
Creative Indian food from a Michelin-starred chef
For a long time, eating Indian food in Miami meant perusing lukewarm chafing dishes at a Sunday buffet and hoping you didn’t inadvertently eat something that would burn a hole in your esophagus. But now Indian chefs get Michelin stars, or at least Hemant Mathur has -- twice. He’s bringing his modern Indian creations to midtown, where you might not find the masalas of your memories but you will find incredible stuff like rosemary paneer cooked in the tandoor, stacked Kheema Baida Roti filled with spiced beef, and braised short ribs in Himalayan herbs. Maska has the most unique new menu offerings of the season, and despite the prices is worth hitting up to try something you’ve never had before.
Roman Jones' latest restaurant is an Asian masterpiece
Sometimes when nightlife people try and open restaurants, they fall a little flat. The beautiful people and luxe décor are there, but often the food is not. That’s why when Roman Jones and company opened this spot across from Mokai they brought in an expert: chef Jimmy Gallagher from Chotto Matte. He’s created a menu worthy of the gold gorilla at the host stand, with rich duck gyoza, pork belly with achara sauce, and whole-fish tempura leading a stellar menu of Asian creations. Plus they serve drinks in buddha-shaped glasses, where you can drink straight out of the stomach.
Miami’s best desserts with a light, café menu
Antonio Bachour might be the best pastry chef in America, and after a brief run in Brickell he’s re-opened in this large, industrial chic downtown Gables space where massive display cases show the most elegant desserts in the city. If you can control yourself, saving your appetite for the main menu is worth it, with sandwiches on fresh-baked sourdough light enough to leave room for the main event. Though you might be tempted to just go with the red velvet or guava cream cheese croissants for your last course, the in-case creations are the way to go. Try the dark chocolate mousse so you can at least tell everyone you had it for the antioxidants.
Michelle Bernstein and world-class cocktails in 1950s Havana
Though we’re pretty confident Havana in the 1950s didn’t have fried chicken, that didn’t stop Michelle Bernstein from creating the menu for this place that transports you to pre-revolution Cuba. You’ll be greeted by the joyful noise of a Cuban band playing against the backdrop of an old Havana street scene, while bow-tied bartenders make Julio Cabrera’s latest cocktails. After trying a drink at the bar enjoy the show from your table, where you’ll be eating Bernstein’s takes on Cuban classics, like the sweet corn and chicken empanadas, paella croquetas, and vaca frita with star anise and cinnamon.
Fresh new American fare and Hedy Goldsmith pastries
Those who remember Swine will barely recognize its old space when they step into Jamie DeRosa’s new Ad Lib. It’s best described as retro-70s meets Hamptons beach house, with hanging yellow orbs and mustard-colored bar stools fronting a washed-wood interior with light grey booths. The food is vegetable-heavy New American, the kind of stuff DeRosa made famous at Tongue and Cheek with offerings like heirloom baby carrots with spring pea hummus and ribeye with hen of the woods and ricotta dumplings. DeRosa’s teamed with two-time James Beard nominee Hedy Goldsmith for the dessert course, so save room for brown butter semifreddo or the daily selection of petit fours.
The Ritz in the Grove gets a first-class grill
Now is the perfect season to enjoy a fine, outdoor meal in Coconut Grove, and the best new place to do it is the comfy new Isabelle’s at the Ritz-Carlton. Don’t let the fancy hotel name scare you off, the menu here is full of stuff you know and love, like tuna poke, arugula salads, and grilled steaks served with a garlic confit. You can enjoy it all on the Ritz’s outdoor patio, basking in the warm breezes off the bay while you savor lobster pappardelle and seared sea bass. When you’re done, head next door to The Commodore for some of the most inventive cocktails you’ll find at a Ritz-Carlton bar.
The most Miami things you’ll ever see in a steakhouse
If we told you Pitbull was opening a restaurant -- on Ocean Drive -- what would you picture? Prime steaks paired with frozen purple slushies? Scantily clad ladies dancing behind the bar to ear-splitting reggaeton? A promise that “what happened here never happened?” Well you’d be right on ALL counts, as Mr. 786 himself has ventured into the world of restaurants, creating in a two-story space a food-driven manifestation of what pretty much everyone who’s never been to Miami imagines the city to be. That said, if you can get past the in-your-face Miaminess of the place, the food is surprisingly good, boasting prime steaks that can hold their own with anywhere in the beach and a downright delicious ropa vieja. They both pair well with wine, but if you’re down for a brightly-colored drink that might actually be bigger than Pitbull himself, we won’t judge you for trying one.
Classic Italian-American with a cool streetside bar
First, a moment of silence for Perricone’s, who joins Tobacco Road in the graveyard of Brickell Past. But at least we can console ourselves that within a hundred yards we can still find fantastic Italian food at North Italia, a California/Arizona transplant that’s opened up on the ground floor of Mary Brickell Village. Here you’ll get all your favorite Italian classics, whether it’s prosciutto bruschetta, fresh-made pizzas, or house-created pastas like short rib radiator. While the food is solid, its greatest contribution to the neighborhood is its indoor-outdoor bar, where you can enjoy a glass of wine right on South Miami Avenue and all the world-class people watching that goes along with it.
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 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.