The 21 Most Essential Food Experiences in Miami

From Cuban sandwich staples to star studded Top Chef stunners.

SoFi
The tasting menu is all the rage at Top Chef’s season 13 winner Jeremy Ford’s Miami venture. With items that change constantly based on what’s in season, every visit to this alluring outpost is a titillating adventure for the taste buds. The kitchen is roughly the same size as the dining room, with its hustling crew on full display through glass windows. From foie gras to cavair to shaved truffles, the dishes are elegant and plated to perfection and paired with one of the best playlists in town.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.

Macchialina
Macchialina

South Beach
Pasta, polenta, and a killer wine list highlight the best of this family-owned cozy Italian spot where James Beard semi-finalist Mike Pirolo cranks out fresh made noodles while his sister Jacqueline curates one of the city’s most impressive vino collections. Signature dishes include cavatelli Macchialina made with baby meatballs, porchetta, and pecorino, and short rib and taleggio lasagna made with a creamy bechamel that’s out of this world. It’s the kind of spot that’s perfect for both a special occasion or that random Tuesday night carb craving. Make a reservation, because even though their space has doubled post-pandemic, it’s always packed.
How to book: Reserve via Resy, order take-out via Toast, or get delivery via Uber Eats.

Key Biscayne
Technically the first island in the chain of the Florida Keys, Key Biscayne is home to a magical Miami experience championed by Key Rats (an endearing term for those who grew up on the island) involving perfect tiny pepperonis dotting square-cut pizza. For over 50 years, Sir Pizza has been churning out thin crust pies with toppings that run right up to the crust’s edge. Real ones know the go-to order is a pepperoni pizza with a side of ranch—don’t question it, just dip. Not in the mood for pizza? The chopped salads are a delightful underdog order.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and delivery online.

Publix
Publix

Various Locations
Ask any ex-Floridian what they miss the most, and 90% of the time the answer will include an item from this beloved grocery store’s deli section. Here, you’ll find a bevy of hot items (you can smell the crispy-skinned chicken fresh out of the fryer all the way from the dairy aisle) plus a decked-out sub station. Choose from either Publix brand deli meats and cheeses or splurge for Boars’ Head and while the meats might be delicious, the order that reigns supreme will always be the chicken tender sub. Pro tip: Go early in the day when the housebaked bread is freshest.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or call your nearest location for take-out.

La Sandwicherie
La Sandwicherie

Multiple Locations
The heated debate between baguette and croissant isn’t nearly as important at 2 am, the time you’re most likely to find yourself at this late night sandwich destination. Served French-style on fresh baked bread with toppings galore and a hearty dose of their famous vinaigrette, these monstrous Dagwood-style creations are tailor made for soaking up a long night of partying. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for extra dressing on the side. 
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

El BAGEL
El BAGEL

Little River
Yes, you read that right—it’s not uncommon to have to wait an hour for your order at El Bagel (which means ‘the bagel,’ of course). What was once a bagel truck pop-up behind a Wynwood tap room is now a thriving brick and mortar operation that opened its doors a mere week before the planet shut down. True baglers know that the move is to order on their website the moment you wake up (especially if you might be hungover), because by the time you’ve dragged yourself out of bed and into the car your order should be hitting the paper bag. The BEC (bacon, egg, and cheese) is a hot seller, though the EB Original (scallion cream cheese, roasted jalapenos, thick cut bacon) and King Guava (guava marmalade, plain cream cheese, local egg, potato stix) are a close second and third.  
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order take-out online.

Joe's Stone Crab
Joe's Stone Crab

SoFi
If for no other reason, Joe’s is worth a visit as the only living Miami restaurant to be mentioned on The Golden Girls. And if Blanche Devereaux’s endorsement isn’t enough, well, how dare you—but also, just take one look at the line pouring out of the place during stone crab season. While the elusive shellfish are only available from October to May, it doesn’t get more classically South Florida than Joe’s, with it’s bow-tied waiters, white table cloths, and four-digit bills. When all else fails, go for the fried chicken and sides via Joe’s Takeaway.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out and delivery online.

Kendall & Hialeah
One cut of bread, one million combinations. Miami might not be known for its killer sandwiches like some of the country’s northern heavy hitters, but Hungry Bear Sub Shop has been around for decades, serving up some of the best subs you’ll ever encounter. Go for a honey mustard chicken sub or Philly cheesesteak guaranteed to last three meals—all typically for under $10.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and delivery via Postmates and Uber Eats.

Prime 112
Prime 112

SoFi
It’s tough to miss this South of Fifth hotspot, where droves of people can be found waiting outside hoping for a cancelation and their chance to dine inside the infamous steakhouse. Filled to the brim with celebs, rich dudes, and the ladies they’ve hired for the weekend, this is the place to see and be seen. If you’re coming for the food (rather than just hoping to bump into a Kardashian), expect all your chophouse classics from oversized salads and shrimp cocktail to a selection of fresh seafood and prime beef cuts. 
How to book: Call 305-532-8112 to reserve.

Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Mandolin Aegean Bistro

Buena Vista
The story behind this candlelit outdoor spot in a 1940s bungalow is almost as charming as its setting. A Greek/Turkish couple who overcame historic differences recognized their lifelong dream of combining their culinary cultures, and opened the place in 2009. Since then, it’s seen thousands of first dates (and, we assume, even more third dates) and offers up a menu of grilled meats and savory spreads that would be phenomenal even if you weren’t dining under the stars.
How to book: Reserve via Resy or order take-out online.

Versailles
Versailles

Little Havana
Not many restaurants in America still offer waiters in white coats and paper placemats that double as menus, but such is the delightful contradiction that is Versailles, a maze of brass, mirrors, and under-$10 entrees to rival any other Cuban-American eatery in town. The restaurant is a must-stop for everyone from prominent political figures to celebrities who love the movie Chef, and while it might not be the best Cuban food in Miami, it still never disappoints.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Bombay Darbar
Bombay Darbar

Coconut Grove
There’s nothing quite like delving into a spicy, steaming plate of chicken vindaloo in a mirrored space that could well have been the inspiration for the Babylon Club. But would you expect any less out of Miami’s most vaunted Indian restaurant, who moved into this massive Mayfair space after it outgrew its old digs on Commodore Plaza. Bombay Darbar plays the Indian classics better than anyone in Miami, and though it’s not as cutting edge as some of our more-celebrated Indian eateries it still packs ’em in night after night.
How to book: Call 305-444-7272 to reserve.

Sports Grill
Sports Grill

Multiple locations
If you haven’t spent an entire Sunday drinking light domestic beer and dirtying yourself with Sports Grill wing sauce, you may as well turn in your 305 phone number. Because though many higher-end places have tried, no place in Miami makes wings quite like Sport Grill, who still routinely tops literally every list of best wings in the city. The go-to sauce here is the Dale sauce —pronounced like the famous racecar driver and not a Pitbull interjection—a spicy, smoky sauce named after a longtime regular.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out via Toast.

Tropical Chinese Restaurant
Tropical Chinese Restaurant

Westchester
Though Miami may have one of the most diverse and delicious food scenes in America, one cuisine we’re dreadfully lacking is Chinese. That is, unless you’re driving down Bird Road and stop into Tropical, which feels a little like it was dropped from San Francisco’s Chinatown two blocks west of the Palmetto. White tablecloths and epic portions of affordable, unctuous food await, with tables full of Chinese students from nearby University of Miami savoring the closest thing they can find to their home cuisine. It’s an institution the same way Versailles or Joe’s is—it’s nothing novel but so good people come back for generations.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or call 305-262-7576 for take-out.

Shenandoah
Look, if you want wood-fired, Neapolitan, topped-with-oysters-and-golden-truffle pizza, Miami’s got plenty of options. But if you want pizza that’s the stuff you remember eating immediately after your little league games and tastes like a simpler time, there is only Cassola’s. And while those slices might have seemed monstrous when you were a kid, they still look gargantuan today, and a $5 cheese slice is enough for a full meal. Cassola’s is also the ideal pizza for parties, as its unmistakable extra large boxes tell the neighborhood, “Hey, I’m doing something fun over here, why weren’t you invited?”
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and delivery via Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Sanguich De Miami
Sanguich De Miami

Multiple locations
It says a lot about Miami that discussions on where to find the best Cuban sandwich are more hotly debated than our local elections. But, in fairness, we’ve got a lot of great spots to get the classic sandwich stuffed with pork, ham, mustard, pickles, and swiss cheese. Enriqueta’s is often cited as the go-to for a Cubano, but there’s a large contingency that’ll tell you Sarussi is better. Sanguich, as the name might imply, does it exceptionally well. And even Pollo Tropical got in on the action this year with an entire menu of Cuban sandwiches.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

Islas Canarias Restaurant
Islas Canarias Restaurant

Grab a Cuban coffee and croqueta from a ventanilla

Multiple locations
If you’ve never had Cuban coffee, it’s a little like pouring amphetamines in a bottle of rocket fuel, and dousing the whole thing with sugar. And while pretty much any restaurant in Miami will serve it to you, the best experience is ordering from a small window somewhere in Hialeah (or Little Havana, if you're scared of the Santeros) like Islas Canarias and accompanied by a nice, deep fried croqueta. But be prepared: If you don’t like ham, cheese, or bechamel sauce, just stick with the coffee.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

The Rusty Pelican Restaurant in Miami
The Rusty Pelican Restaurant in Miami

Key Biscayne
No restaurant in Miami has seen more weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinces, and over-aggressive first dates than the venerable Rusty Pelican. Its spectacular view of the Miami skyline is unrivaled and, while it once had a fairly-dated menu a new chef brought the place new life about three years ago, and now it’s actually worth going to for the steaks as much as it is for the glittering downtown view.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable or order take-out and delivery via Uber Eats.

Chicken Kitchen - The Official Fan Page
Chicken Kitchen - The Official Fan Page

Multiple locations
Ask anyone who’s left Miami the food they miss most, and the answer isn’t a fancy restaurant or a Cuban dive. It’s chop chop, the yellow-rice-and-mojo-chicken magic that’s the unofficial lunch food of Miami. It’s almost impossible to find outside South Florida, and the quintessential spot for it is Chicken Kitchen, where you can try Cuban Chops, Mexican Chops, Chinese Chops, or even wraps. But the real OGs know the only way to eat this stuff is ordering an original with pita and an uncomfortable amount of curry mustard sauce.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and delivery online.

El Mago de las Fritas
El Mago de las Fritas

Various locations
The only thing Miamians debate nearly as hotly as the Cuban sandwich is the frita, essentially a hamburger with a spicy Latin twist made from a delicate mixture of beef and chorizo that’s regarded as a fixture among Cuban restaurants and lunch counters throughout the city. El Mago de Las Fritas gained great fame for their version when former President Obama stopped in for one, but many will tell you El Rey de Las Fritas does it better. Or even Luis Gallindo’s, if you ask the Burger Beast. No matter who you prefer, it’s hard to go wrong with this fiery little patty seasoned with paprika and topped with crispy onions.
How to book: Dine-in, take-out, and delivery options vary by location.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributor for Thrillist.
Amber Love Bond is a contributor for Thrillist.