Best Southern: Yardbird Southern Table and Bar
1600 Lenox Ave
No huge surprise here as Yardbird’s been cited as having some of the best fried chicken in the COUNTRY, so clearly it’ll be tops in the Beach. But vegetarians can appreciate this place too, with its watermelon salad, biscuits, and mac & cheese. And even Instagram models who don’t eat can appreciate Yardbird, and it’s best-in-Miami selection of bourbons.
Best steak: Red, the Steakhouse
119 Washington Ave
After naming Red the best steakhouse in Miami, citing it for great doughnuts, and adding that it also has some of the best tapas, we’re running out of ways to tell you why this place is tops among South Beach’s cadre of prime steakhouses. First, it is high-end food without high-end attitude; when you make a reservation for 8pm, you sit at 8pm. Second, even if you’re not in the mood for steak, the rest of the menu can hold its own with any Italian restaurant in Miami. And third, the Angus steaks are some of the best meat on the planet, and the chef knows how to cook it to any temperature.
1854 Bay Rd
Chef Bee gave us his magical spicy southeast Asian curries at Khong River House. And then, just as fast as we were gifted them, they were gone. But nearly three years later, Chef Bee has finally opened his new spot in Sunset Harbour, where he's bacon-infusing whiskey for the cocktails before plating the most flavorful and spicy curry and noodle dishes in all of South Florida. Pro tip: if you like the spice, ask your server to have your chef make it the authentic way. They’ll ask, “Are you sure?” That’s all you need to know.
Best Italian (for Americans): Macchialina Taverna Rusitca
820 Alton Rd
We thought we’d settled this debate a while back when we ranked the 17 best Italian joints in Miami and Maccialina came out No. 1. For the American palate, there’s simply nowhere in South Beach that does hearty red sauces, homemade pastas, and family-style dinners better than it does. The taverna-style interior makes this restaurant feel like you’re in a small town in Italy, eating one of the best meals of your life.
Best Italian (for Italians): Sylvano
1925 Liberty Ave
BUT... if you talk to your average guy in three-sizes-too-small pants sipping espresso at Segafredo and saying hello to every girl who walks by, he’ll tell you to go to Sylvano. This is an Italian's Italian joint, Italian-run, and with phenomenal meats & seafoods, and possibly the best restaurant pizza in the Beach. The crowd is the most international you’ll find at any restaurant in South Beach. So in the interest of global cooperation, we’ll let the respective residents of US and Italy agree to disagree.
Best gastropub: Pubbelly
1418 20th St
The guys behind this Sunset Harbour gastropub were way ahead of their time. They've been pairing rare imported and craft beers with inventive food since 2010. This spot was so good, it spawned multiple spinoffs -- Pubbelly Sushi and the late PB Steak -- which kept the same spirit of creativity and relaxed atmosphere as the original. And even though many imitators have opened up, these guys did it first, and still do it best.
1717 Collins Ave
You wouldn’t think the nondescript awning in front of Surfcomber South Beach would be hiding one of the best menus in the city. Then again, you wouldn’t think streets would flood when it hasn’t rained for a week. This town is full of surprises, and one of them is the food at The Social Club. Chef Blair Wilson has whipped up some spectacular sauces to add to American classics like New York strips, burgers, and half chickens, all of which make a meal here one of the most surprisingly delicious ones in the Beach. Be sure to get an extra side of the aji amarillo, it’s addictive.
Best Mediterranean: Cleo
1776 Collins Ave
Some Miami Beach restaurateurs like to use the word “Mediterranean” as a substitute for “we couldn’t figure out what kind of food this is.” And most of the time, those places fail. However, when you do like Cleo does and serve dishes unique to the Med -- like lamb tagine, and daily cooked pita bread -- you stand the test of time. Granted, in South Beach, that means it's lasted a year and a half, but the food is impressive and the prices are actually reasonable. If you want food that’s from the region it’s named after, Cleo can’t be beat.
Best pizza: Giotto Maestro Della Pizza
959 West Ave
The only thing there are more of in South Beach than slice spots is club promoters. And neither of them are the real deal. For authentic, just-like-Italy pizza (to the point where the person taking your order may not understand English, or Spanish), head to this spot on West Ave, where they're plating Neapolitan-style pies with every ingredient imported straight from the boot.
Best place for brunch: Oliver's Bistro
959 West Ave
South Beach is filled with delicious boozy brunches where you can down mimosas until you almost forget you have work on Monday. But ask a beach local (or Roger Stone) where the best brunch in the Beach is served, and they’ll almost unanimously say Oliver’s. It’s nothing fancy: eggs, popovers, Dutch apple pancakes, and other brunch staples. But the food at this little West Ave bistro is better than any of the booze-soaked spots further east, and there’s no pounding house music or bottle girls to distract you from your plate.
Best tacos: Tequiztlan Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar
1884 Bay Rd
Roughly 9 trillion taco shops have opened up in South Beach in the last year and a half, all of them chasing this SoBe stalwart that used to be known as Rancho Grande. But Lincoln Rd rents, and some restaurant in Iowa, forced a move and a name change, respectively, and the spot that was once Miami’s only good Mexican restaurant now resides at Sunset Harbour under a new name. However, the tacos are still the same slow-marinated, flame-broiled brand of tasty they’ve always been. No matter how many trendy spots open up with speakeasies in the back, Tequiztlan will always be king.
Best place with a view: Smith & Wollensky
1 Washington Ave
It’s hard to survive as a chain steakhouse when you’re literally a block from two of the top spots in town. But if you have out-of-town visitors and want to give them an only-in-Miami experience (that doesn’t involve mayoral indictment), take them for dinner at Smith & Wollensky, where your waterside table will see half of you looking out to the Atlantic, and the other half looking back at the Miami skyline. It’s the only restaurant in the city that offers this kind of two-for-one viewing experience, and is just as great a place to go for happy hour as it is for a steak dinner.
Best seafood: Izzy's Fish and Oyster Bar
423 Washington Ave
It would be easy to give the title to Lure Fishbar or Prime Fish. While both of those spots are great, neither is a place you could go regularly without putting yourself in the poorhouse. So after closing Tongue & Cheek, Jamie DeRosa opened this spot next door, where the seafood is as good as either of those places. We’ll forgive him the Boston-centric menu names, since he's bringing in the best oysters from all over America, and coming up with the great societal advancement that is lobster bacon poutine. And the wall has some pretty amazing art, too!
Best sushi: Toni's Sushi Bar
1208 Washington Ave
It has gotten to the point where even bodegas on South Beach are serving sushi. And while eating sushi that sits next to week-old fried chicken is a decision on par with taking the Palmetto during rush hour, opting for the authentic, no-flash sushi at Toni’s is a great call. Any South Beach sushi aficionado will list of a bunch of fancy, hotel-based spots as the best raw fish in SoBe, but will immediately follow it with “... but you know who’s just as good? Toni’s.” And if being seen isn’t as important to you as great food, you can eat here for about half the price. Or eat it in your living room, because it also delivers.
1. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar1600 Lenox Ave, Miami Beach
2. Red, The Steakhouse119 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
3. NaiYaRa1854 Bay Rd, Miami Beach
4. Macchialina Taverna Rustica820 Alton Rd, Miami Beach
5. Sylvano Restaurant1925 Liberty Ave, Miami Beach
6. Pubbelly1418 20th St, Miami Beach
7. The Social Club1717 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
8. Cleo - South Beach1776 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
9. Giotto Maestro Della Pizza959 West Ave, Miami Beach
10. Oliver's Bistro959 West Ave, Miami Beach
11. Tequiztlan Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar1884 Bay Rd, Miami Beach
12. Smith & Wollensky Waterfront Patio1 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
13. Izzy's Fish and Oyster423 Washington Ave, Miami
14. Toni's Sushi Bar1208 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
Before Yardbird opened in 2011, Miami wasn't known for its Southern comfort cuisine, which somehow seemed odd for a city that's geographically part of the American south. All that changed when Top Chef finalist Jeff McInnis, along with restaurant vets Chris Romero and John Kunkel, opened Yardbird in Miami Beach and instantly made a name with their fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and watermelon salad. The menu is chock full of quintessential down-home foods, and the well-stocked bar doles out house cocktails like blackberry bourbon lemonade and Bloody Marys with bacon-infused bourbon.
Once voted Sexiest Steakhouse of the Year (by Playboy, no less) and beloved by A-listers, Red delivers on all the swanky fronts. But we suggest you let the food -- from appetizers like seared foie gras and caviar with crème fraiche to the steak and seafood entrées -- do the talking. Throw in a fully-loaded wine list, and the fact that Red is one of the few places in the country to use Miyazaki beef (like Kobe but more marbled), and you've got a steak night to remember.
Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, aka Chef Bee, is doling out street food-inspired eats from his native Thailand at this cool and airy Sunset Beach restaurant. Expect an extensive menu filled with spicy curries, noodle dishes (pad thai, drunken noodles, you know the drill), and untraditional sushi rolls. As for drinks, NaiYaRa's bar serves up Thai beer and cocktails that come with a definite Asian touch.
After heading up the Miami outpost of Scarpetta, Chef Michael Pirolo went out on his own with Macchialina Taverna Rustica, an Italian comfort destination on Alton Road. His handmade pastas --topped with baby meatballs and pancetta or tossed with clams, rock shrimp, and tomato -- is something for the books, as are shareable appetizers like local burrata, margherita pizza, and the polenta board with meatballs, sausage, truffled mushrooms, and pickled fruit. The wine selection is slim but highly curated, featuring reds, whites, and sparkling wines from across Italy.
Sylvano is the local Italian spot for people from South Beach, and we're not talking about the ones with $100,000 cars. It is also a sports bar, offering fans a place to watch the game and enjoy quality pastas, pizzas, risottos, salads, seafoods, and meats.
Pubbelly's an Asian-inspired gastropub that (you guessed it!) combines Asian food, Western eats and beer. It hails from three better-known vets: Casa Tua, Nobu, and Sushi Samba.
While the front of the Surfcomber South Beach is deceivingly plain, the restaurant hidden inside is anything but boring. At The Social Club, plush seating surrounds narrow tables, the bar is clad in green tile, and the whole space is littered with skylights and open-air terraces. The cuisine is upscale American, with a bit of a Southern accent, and the menu is heavy on fresh seafood and several of chef Blair Wilson's famous sauces (like pickled-pepper goat cheese). And while the food generates plenty of accolades, the real reason to make a trip to The Social Club is the bar. Renowned for its inventive house cocktail list, the mixologists at this hotel bar certainly know what they're doing. The drink menu includes everything from carrots and vanilla ice cream, to maple syrup and fresh apricots -- and somehow, it really works.
There's something about "small plates" and "Mediterranean" that go well together, and Cleo is doing some of the best Med shareables in Miami. An outpost of the LA original, the swanky restaurant serves traditional mezze, but the real star of the menu is the sheer variety of small plates. The menu is split into categories for flatbreads, salads, meats, seafood, and vegetables. The drink selection is equally varied with inventive vodka cocktails, wine from all over, and a few beers, including local drafts.
For authentic, just-like-Italy pizza, head to this spot in Miami Beach, where the Neapolitan-style pies are made with ingredients imported straight from the boot. The restaurant's signature is a star-shaped pie with triangular pockets of ricotta, mozzarella, pepperoni & tomato sauce. The counter-serve space is casual and airy, and there are tables both inside and out. As for drinks, Giotto only sells beer, but you can bring your own wine.
Oliver’s serves up American-sized portions and is popular among locals residents who come back again and again. The epic breakfasts and signature omelets which whip any $2.95 special on Ocean Drive don't hurt either.
The reincarnation of the former El Rancho Grande, Tequiztlan keeps all the culinary goodness of its predecessor and serves it in a ramped up, sleek space (the chrome vents of the exposed ceiling above go rather nicely with the industrial vibe and traditional brass chandeliers, making for a trendy ambience). It’s still owned and operated by the Ortiz family, who have been providing South Beach with quality Mexican fare for the past 25 years, so there’s no need to worry: all the tacos you so loved at the old digs are here and just as good -- if not better, when considered alongside a more extensive tequila and mezcal list.
The Waterfront Patio features a solid bar menu (oysters Rockefeller, buffalo chicken flatbread) and a Deco-ish design: the bar's made of textured blue-backlit glass blocks.
Not only does Izzy's offer a weekly "Tuesday Tacos & Tequila" special, but the tacos come stuffed with meaty lobster chunks, shipped directly from coastal Maine. The restaurant sources its all-star seafood selection from all across the United States, and fresh shipments are delivered to the kitchen several times a week. While the fish-joint is fairly casual, with white-tiled walls, a marble oyster bar, and relatively small dining room, the food is exceptional. Classic dishes are prepared with the utmost precision -- lobster rolls are served hot with brown butter sauce dripping down the sides, and clam chowder broth is poured over bowls of leeks, clams and potatoes at the table, while salivating guests ogle. The whole place has an air of casual sophistication -- high quality eats, in an informal, debonair space. And perhaps most importantly, the chefs at Izzy's are the proud inventors of the bacon-lobster poutine.
Toni’s serves high-quality, no-flash sushi. Any South Beach sushi aficionado will list of a bunch of fancy, hotel-based spots as the best for nigiri and maki in SoBe, then back up and say “... but you know what's just as good? Toni’s.” Plus, you can eat here for about half the price. Or in your living room, because the Washington Ave restaurant also delivers.