In case you missed it, Miami is the fastest-growing food and drink city in America. That's right, we're finally known for an industry that doesn't involve condominiums or cocaine. Congratulations. But this newfound foodie-ness didn't happen overnight, and it's been built on the shoulders of a collection of important places that have shaped Miami's food scene. So, if you want to understand what food is in Miami, these are the 17 places you need to try.
Miami's 17 Most Important Restaurants
A decade ago, if you wanted to go out to dinner in Miami it meant eating at a tiny cafeteria with questionable meat, a chain restaurant on Kendall Dr, or a $200-a-person place in South Beach. Then came Michael Schwartz's Design District pioneer and as a city we said “Hey! We can have delicious, fresh food and NOT need a black AmEx!” And while hundreds of new restaurants have opened since, none have changed the food culture of Miami like Michael’s.
“Gastropub,” if you break it down, it's basically another way of saying “a bar that serves food.” Which could basically be Hooters. But Pubbelly was the first to bring crafted food and craft beers to the same location, and refine the term in South Florida. Jose Mendin and company are so good, they’ve spurred two spinoff restaurants: Pubbelly Sushi and the late PB Steak.
Though Miami hasn’t really been part of the South since the 1960s, geographically we still are. And the guys behind 50 Eggs won’t let you forget it. This South Beach spot opened at the vanguard of the Southern food obsession, and was the first place to make body-crazed Miamians say “to hell with the calories” en masse. They were also the first place to emphasize an extensive bourbon selection, finally getting us on board that phenomenon as well.
When the guys behind the biggest stone crab distributor in the city not named Joe’s decided to start a little seafood shack South of Fifth, you knew it was going to change how Miami ate fish. Three years later, every fast-casual joint in town is trying to sling ceviche, but the best is still here, where you can bike right up to that little shack, get some ceviche to go, and enjoy it in South Pointe Park.
Miami native Adrianne Calvo proves that sometimes it IS about the destination and not the journey. Because, good God, the journey is a drive to deep West Kendall, and few things on Earth are worth that. But the bright-haired Thomas Keller protégé shares his belief that if you’re good enough, the people will come to you. And, reluctantly, we do.
When you can redefine what people consider “chicken,” you’re either a really, really creative soymeat marketing exec, or you’re Chef Cesar Zapata, who’s managed to create a chicken & waffles the entire city loves... THAT ISN’T EVEN CHICKEN. That pork wing, along with the rest of its inventive menu, have led Zapata and Ani Meinhold to create a MiMo staple in just a few years.
For years it was the only restaurant in Miami anyone from out of town could name. And even though plenty of other great restaurants have popped up, well, it’s still Joe’s. With an hours-long line to get in during season, the most iconic restaurant in Florida still draws crowds from all over the world for its legendary stone crabs. However, its $5 fried chicken from Joe’s Take-Away next door could probably get it on this list without the shellfish.
We’re not sure when exactly a giant, inflatable tire man became the world’s leading authority on food, but for years this spot at the Mandarin Oriental was the only one that boasted a Michelin-starred chef. Add in the best skyline view you can get in Miami and this has become the go-to spot for “dinners that’ll impress her without making you look like a colossal douche.”
What’s more feel-good than a local boy from Westchester who goes to the big leagues and bashes his way to success? One who does it without steroids. And where A-Rod and Canseco failed, Nedal Ahmad has succeeded, creating possibly the most Miami burger in history with his Toston Burger, then taking down names like Morimoto and Zakarian to win this year’s Sobe Wine and Food Festival Burger Bash.
What does “important” mean, really, if not sending out a Christmas card of your kitchen staff wearing nothing but Santa hats on their junk? That kinda sexiness aside, Giorgio Rapicavoli and his brand of “culinary graffiti” have had people lining up outside his spot on Ponce and SW 8th St for three years. Its annual 4/20 dinner might only be topped in stoner-chic cuisine by its legendary Wakin-N-Bacon Brunch and Cap’n Crunch Pancakes.
Though we’d never recommend going there for anything like “space” or “healthy cholesterol,” Danny Serfer managed to mix the comfiest of comfort foods from all of Miami’s best-known ethnic groups, and created a tiny spot that is literally packed every night of the week. From his potato latkes to the Vaca Frita Tostones to the shrimp & grits, Blue Collar gives every Miamian a little taste of home when most of us are far from it.
Going out to a high-end steakhouse in South Beach once meant dealing with, well, the kinds of people who go to high-end steakhouses in South Beach. Then came Peter Vauthy with his genuine Midwestern attitude, a menu filled with Certified Angus Beef ®, 6ft crabs, and authentic Italian food. Then all of a sudden you could sit down at your table, on time, at the best steakhouse in Miami and not have to fight through a sea of F-list celebrities.
However, if you DO prefer your prime cuts with a massive side of South Beach attitude, well, nowhere will ever beat Prime 112. While the menu hasn’t evolved much, the food’s still solid. And if you don’t believe us, ask the old men enjoying the steaks at the tables or the models... um, not eating steaks at the tables.. And, really, what’s more essentially Miami than a 9pm reservation really meaning 10:30?
When both Barack Obama AND the Burger Beast say you have the best fritia in town? Well, even Fox News couldn’t argue with that. And while the little old man who fries up his all-beef mixture with house seasoning and tops it with cooked onions, potato strips, and ketchup on a Cuban roll may not return the president’s endorsement, he still makes the best frita in America's fritz capital.
There’s really no other spot in Miami where you can be served by waiters in white coats while you dine on a paper placemat. Such is the dichotomy of Miami’s landmark Cuban restaurant, where you can still get a heaping plate of ropa vieja for less than you’d pay for a drink in most of Miami, while listening to old Cuban men talk politics over cafecitos and tourists remark on how “authentic” the whole thing feels.
No local chef does tropical quite like Cindy Hutson, who’s also brought her inventive cuisine to Grand Cayman. Yes, the menu’s packed with fresh seafood and more ways to use mangoes and pineapples than you ever thought possible, but she’s also got a Certified Angus Beef ® Buckhead filet that could go toe to toe with any steakhouse cut in the city.
Making a list of essential restaurants is kind of like being elected to the hall of fame your rookie year. So we don’t make these statements lightly. But Basil Park isn’t just good food for healthy, organic, mostly vegan, locally sourced food. It’s such good food that when you finish it and they tell you it was vegan, you won't believe you just liked it that much. And because it's now made healthy, legitimately good food without an asterisk, it squarely belongs on this list.
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1. Michael's Genuine130 NE 40th St, Miami
2. Pubbelly1418 20th St, Miami Beach
3. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar1600 Lenox Ave, Miami Beach
4. My Ceviche235 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
5. Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar11510 SW 147th Ave, Miami
6. The Federal Food Drink & Provisions5132 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
7. Joe's Stone Crab11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
8. Azul500 Brickell Key Dr, Miami
9. Pincho Factory9860 SW 40th St, Miami
10. Eating House804 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Miami
11. Blue Collar Restaurant6730 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
12. Red, The Steakhouse119 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
13. Prime 112112 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach
14. El Mago de las Fritas5828 SW 8th St, Miami
15. Versailles Restaurant3555 SW 8th St, Miami
16. Ortanique on the Mile278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
17. Basil Park17608 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles
Take advantage of MG's brunch and order the kimchi Benedict or lemon ricotta pancakes. You can also head to their happy hour to get loose on craft beers, specialty ‘tails and snacks, or dive in to a full sit-down meal like the pan-roasted 1/2 "Poulet Rouge" chicken with roasted vegetables or the short rib and fontina cheese panini.
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.
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.
My Ceviche boasts their relationships with their fishermen -- yeah, not their seafood supplier -- their fishermen, that bring them fresh underwater delights every day. Every Monday from noon 'til 7p at My, you will get your delicious ceviche upgraded from medium to large (basically a double order). Every Tuesday, you will get tacos like charred octopus and yellowfin for a buck off.
Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant in Kendall is, point blank, a nice suburban restaurant. It's not a de facto steakhouse, but it does serve a solid selection of black Angus beef and New Zealand lamb racks. The menu sticks to high-class standard American dishes, like an iceberg chop salad and salmon cooked three ways. The spot is dark and almost sultry with white tablecloths and wine bottles stacked behind the bar.
The Phuc Yea! crew's homey spot on Biscayne is serving comfort food that you can wash down with 15 wines, beers on tap, and cocktails... just not all at once. Their light, fluffy biscuits have been ranked as some of the best in the country and are just a little sweet with a honey apple cider glaze. This modern American tavern serves up lunch, dinner and boozy brunch, and their Bloody Mary, made with Southwestern-style chipotle, cilantro, horseradish and agave wine, is not one to miss.
Yeah, you can be a big baller at this old-school SoBe institution with a fried chicken feast that is enough to feed two. Stone crabs are overrated when you can buy these year round.
Don't pre-judge Azul, inside Mandarin Oriental, as just another overly priced, elaborate hotel restaurant. Because it's not. The menu boasts a range of Asian fusion dishes, like yellowfin tuna carpaccio and hibiscus-glazed short rib, available à la carte or part of a multi-course tasting menu. Then of course, there's the waterfront ambience: the restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Biscayne Bay.
Pincho Factory specializes in two things: burgers and kebabs, but it's the burger that catapulted the fast-casual resto to must-try status. Owner Nedal Ahmad's signature Toston burger, topped with jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and homemade cilantro sauce then sandwiched between two fried plantains, won the annual South Beach Burger Bash in 2015. Since then, Pincho Factory has made a mark with its menu of greasy and good street food, which includes customizable kebab wraps, rice bowls, and salads.
Eating House isn't a regular restaurant, it's a cool restaurant. Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli's spot began as a pop-up in 2012 before it took a permanent, brick-and-mortar turn in Coral Gables a few years later. It's hard to decide what Rapicavoli does better: local ingredient-driven dinner or over-the-top brunch. Whatever it is, all the dishes coming out of the kitchen -- like Cap'n Crunch pancakes or black truffle carbonara -- are similar in their sheer creativity.
Blue Collar's mission is to give off a true neighborhood hang-out vibe, which it successfully does with a huge menu of comfort food staples. Every day, the kitchen serves a different rib dish (baby back, short ribs, spare ribs, etc), parmesan dish (chicken, veal, pork, eggplant, etc), and a braised dish (brisket, pot roast, ox tails, pork shoulder). There's a whole chalkboard of vegetable sides to counter the meaty entrées, and appetizers like definitely-order-or-you'll-regret-it potato latkes. Don't even get us started on brunch -- just make sure you get there early.
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.
Located in the historic Browns Hotel, this chef-driven boutique steakhouse offers an innovative menu in a high-energy, sophisticated environment. There’s no better place in Miami to people-watch as celebrities chow down on dry-aged steaks and truffle-sprinkled sides, but you may have to do it for a while, as Prime 112 in SoFi promises notoriously long waits.
El Mago's slinging a shton of traditional Cuban fritas because, as the name implies, they are pretty much the wizards of all things frita-related.
This landmark Cuban restaurant on Calle Ocho serves up the best Cuban coffee in Miami, and there’s really no other spot in town where you can be served by waiters in white coats while you dine on a paper placemat. Such is the dichotomy of Miami’s landmark Cuban restaurant, where you can still get a heaping plate of ropa vieja for less than you’d pay for a drink in most of Miami, while listening to old Cuban men talk politics over cafecitos and tourists remark on how “authentic” the whole thing feels.
No place does tropical quite this Coral Gables spot. Yes, the menu’s packed with fresh seafood and more ways to use mangoes and pineapples than you ever thought possible, but it's also got a Certified Angus filet that could go toe to toe with any steakhouse cut in the city.
Not that we’d EVER encourage healthy eating (hello, Fat Kid Friday), but if you ever feel the need to take a break from cheese- and bacon-covered everything, your new go-to spot is this Sunny Isles eatery. Here, the heavily-vegetarian menu is highlighted with food grown on chef Tim Andriola’s mini-farms in Broward. Meats are all free range, grazed and hormone free, and many condiments and sauces are made in-house with no processed or refined ingredients.