It's hard to believe it's been a year since Pitbull messed up the countdown on his New Years special and got Miami into 2015 the same way we get into everything else -- late. But 365 days later, South Florida's restaurant and bar scene has seen a ton of change. First, we were named the fastest-growing food city in America. Then we promptly began a massive food retraction just to show that in Miami we don't listen to so-called "experts." But despite all the closings, we had some great new bars and equally great restaurants, open their doors. And in the year that saw more Mediterranean restaurants and taco shop/speakeasy openings than any city ever should, here are the best new things we found in South Florida. From burgers to pizza to first date spots.
Best new pizza
Louie Bossi'sAddress and Info
Ask anyone who’s been on Spring break/visited their grandparents, Ft. Lauderdale has never been hard up for places to get big Italian dinners and late-night pizza slices. But for some reason the wood-oven, Italian-style pies hadn’t really reached Broward. Until this summer, when this spot from the Big City Tavern people opened on Las Olas, with the best new pizza menu in South Florida. If you dig pies with red sauce, go with the signature Margherita DOP: buffalo mozzarella and sea salt on San Marzano sauce. If white sauce pizza is your preference, get the San Gennaro w/smoked buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, pancetta, and fried rosemary.
Best new burger
Cena by MichyAddress and Info
This one is a tough call since it seems like every new restaurant that opens has a slick burger with crazy toppings and fancy meat. But we’re going with a classic from a classic in the revamped Michy’s. Michelle Bernstein’s MB’s Favorite Burger has combined beef, brisket, and short rib in patty form, topped it with American cheese, caramelized onions, and special sauce, and char broiled the whole thing for a classic barbecued burger flavor that foregoes grease for goodness.
Best new brunch
La MarAddress and Info
Cheapest new brunch? Not by a longshot. Brunch you’ll post about and lose multiple Instagram followers for? Absolutely. On Sundays from 11:30am (like you’re up that early) to 3:30pm, you'll get unlimited Pisco Sours and Spa Treatments to get started. Then you’ll select from a bunch of different stations with highlights from La Mar’s regular menu; cebiches, causas, and anticucho meats, then a literal cabinet of desserts to finish you off. Yes, the $85 price tag is steep, but you are guaranteed to get your money’s worth.
Best new place to watch a game
Frankey’s Sports BarAddress and Info
Never mind that this place has a 180-inch video wall and 38 hi-def TV screens. So do a lot of bars. But how many of them have a menu full of food from a family farm in Ocala, and one of the best new burgers of the year, served with a heaping side of trifecta wagering? None. Except Frankey’s where when the Dolphins make you give up hope, you can find some by wagering on live horse racing from around the country, right from the comfort of your bar stool.
Best new seafood
KuroAddress and Info
Do you have one of those uber-picky friends who just blanketly refuses to eat seafood? Bribe that person with tickets to a show at Hard Rock and bring him here for a pre-concert meal. It will become their exception. The menu Chef Alex Becker and sushi chef Shuji Hiyakawa put together is on par with Zuma, and boasts a Hamachi pepper sashimi and avocado toro tartare that even the most hard-core carnivore can appreciate. The Chilean sea bass miso is a can’t-miss main course, and even if your friend still rejects the seafood, there’s a whole robata menu of steaks and poultry to make him, or her, happy.
Best new place to eat outside
ApeiroAddress and Info
If you go to enough restaurants, you quickly learn that a place described as “Mediterranean-inspired modern cuisine” pretty much means “we couldn’t think of what to call this food.” Except here, where they’ve taken Med-classics like the gyro, and modernized them by throwing in prime rib, or put ground lamb with cherry tomatoes on a house-made flatbread. It’s also brought midtown what it desperately needed: A sprawling patio where diners can people watch all the interesting characters that populate this city.
Best new date restaurant
Fooq'sAddress and Info
Miami’s got no shortage of waterfront fancy-shmancy impressive date spots that’ll impress, well, girls who say stuff like this. But if you want to look like you know where the good food is in the less desirable neighborhoods, head to this spot near Club Space, where the must-order "crackhead shrimp" are named for their addictively spicy flavor. The tiny spot feels like you’re eating in owner David Foulquier’s grandmother’s living room, and the food is homey, comforting, Middle Eastern fare that’s rich enough to get you full, but not heavy enough to ruin a first date. And if the goes really well, E11even is right across the street.
Best (and toughest) new workout
EPIC Hybrid Training (address and info)
In a city where your workout is probably more important than your job, we’re always on the lookout for the next brutal challenge. 2015’s toughest new one is this circuit course near the former Tobacco Road (RIP) where you’ll go through strength, endurance, and agility drills designed for professional athletes at intervals of 30 seconds to a minute with minimal rest. It’s about as close to training like an elite athlete as you can get in a class environment.
Best new steakhouse
Quality MeatsAddress and Info
With a SERIOUS tip of the hat to Michael Mina’s StripSteak, Quality Meats gets the nod here for a few reasons. Chief among them is the table-side steak sauce preparation, that not only gives you a show with your slab, but is also so good it breaks the ages-old rule of never putting steak sauce on a prime cut. And if the house-cut meat and gourmet sauces weren’t enough, they finish you off with homemade ice cream cakes, which is why this newcomer has already cracked our list of Miami’s best steakhouses.
Best new place to splurge
Gianni'sAddress and Info
It’s hard to believe, when you’re sitting back and enjoying your filet mignon topped with foie gras, that the chandelier-adorned room you’re sitting in used to be a run-down old apartment building. But the history of the Versace mansion is a rich one, nearly as rich as the decadent food you’ll be enjoying inside its walls or out in its garden, where you can eat indulgent food and surround yourself with luxury fit for a mid-90s fashion icon.
Best new tacos
Coyo TacosAddress and Info
2105 was undoubtedly the year of the taco, where we finally had more openings of “gourmet taco” spots than we did Taco Bells. But the king among them? Coyo, where if you’re willing to brave the line you’re rewarded with grilled meats (and cactus) that forego the “authentic” greasiness in favor of actual flavor. The tacos are stuffed with meat and reasonably priced, so you can have a first-rate lunch for under $10. Coyo’s also has a selection of homemade agua frescas, plus fresh guac and margaritas if you’re the kind of person who likes to linger and drink when every table is full. And at night, there’s a not-so-secret tequila lounge in the back.
Best new bar food
Free HouseAddress and Info
Yes, Delray can be a bit of a drive if you live anywhere other than Boca. But the menu at this Atlantic Ave sports den -- created by two Michigan sisters while they were on a juice cleanse -- isn’t just good food to eat while you watch a game. It’s destination dining. Think pulled pork, chicken, and beef all smoked in-house and thrown on delicious sliders, a collection of flatbreads with those same smoked meats, and a rotating collection of beers from local brewers like Saltwater, and Due South. Then combine laid-back Floridian with Midwestern nice and you’ve got the Free House vibe, one of the most surprisingly fantastic dining experiences we had in 2015.
Best new sandwich
The Breakfast Sandwich - Blue CollarAddress and Info
Not that Miami’s top chefs wouldn’t tell you to go to Blue Collar for brunch anyway (because they would, right here), but add in a Portuguese muffin with two eggs over easy, bacon, cheddar, a touch of garlic aioli, and a potato latke wedged Big Mac-style in the middle, and you’ve also got the best new lunch sandwich in the city. So good, in fact, it still qualifies as one of the best breakfast sandwiches in America.
Best new spot for group dinner
CrustAddress and Info
Klime and Anita Kovaceski have taken a run-down riverfront building and created a dimly lit room (that might be the most versatile restaurant space in the city) where you’ll feel just as comfortable on an intimate date as you would with your entire family. But the best way to experience their orgy of house-made pizzas and pastas is with a ton of people to share it with, as their extensive wine list, friendly, attentive service, and rich red sauces make this THE go-to place for big, boisterous carb-filled feasts.
Best new live performance venue
Micro Theater (address and info)
The Spanish language version of this theater-in-a-shipping crate has been going for a while now, but the English version debuted this summer. Here, you take in 7-10 minute improv shows in colorfully painted shipping containers in a courtyard behind the Centro Cultural Espanol de Cooperación Iberoamericana. Each container has a different theme ranging from musical theater to the Twilight Zone to a time-traveling Christopher Walken, and there is, of course, a bar outside where you can enjoy a beer or glass of wine between the hilarity.
Best food truck turned brick-and-mortar
Ms. CheeziousAddress and Info
After years of serving up the best grilled cheese in Miami, these guys finally opened up shop with a totally not-subtle neon sign right at the end of neon-saturated MiMo. The best part is you can take your grilled bleu and bacon out back to their patio where there’s tons of craft beer and games to play... once it stops raining.
Best new bar
1930s HouseAddress and Info
As the name might imply, it's a house built in the 1930s... that used to be across the street. Yep, they took the whole friggin' house and moved it across Collins Ave to now sit poolside at the Thompson Hotel. Michelle Bernstein did a Sra. Martinez pop-up in there to open it, and it's still got crazy good drinks and a fantastic Latin menu.
Best new place to take out of towners
Ball and ChainAddress and Info
When people come to Miami, they picture sitting at an open-air bar sipping mojitos, listening to Cuban music, and eating empanadas. And at this historic bar in Little Havana, they’ll get exactly what they asked for in a decidedly un-touristy environment. Whether it’s the music, the bandshell shaped like a pineapple, or the pastelito-infused cocktails, this one time jazz venue is now the perfect place to bring someone who wants a cultural Miami experience. And as your guests are wowed by the fully-restored interior, you can tell them it was once the top jazz club in Miami, and saw the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Tommy Dorsey.
Best new happy hour
15th & VineAddress and Info
It’s gotten to the point that the only time you can find a $5 drink in Miami is in those couple of hours after work when our finer drinkeries offer their deepest discounts. So you might as well take advantage of the daylight AND cheap drinks by heading to this spot on the 15th floor of the Viceroy, where specialty drinks are only $5 and come with the best bar view in the city. If you’re hungry, there’s a $5 menu full of flatbreads, yucca fries, shrimp tacos, artichoke dip, steak empanadas, and Korean BBQ pork sliders. Plus a once-a-week barbecue on the patio overlooking the water.
Best new "secret" bar
ApothecaryAddress and Info
Only in Miami does a “secret” bar literally have a line out front and charge $14 for a vodka-soda. Which is why to find a hidden bar that’s not all crowds and overpriced drinks, you’ve gotta head north to Ft. Lauderdale, where this spot -- tucked behind a wall of cheese advertisements at PizzaCraft -- leads to a swanky, red velvet cocktail den where they’ve got all kinds of drinks made with infused liquors that STILL cost less than $14. Oh, and did we mention there’s pineapple-infused Cutty Sark? There’s pineapple-infused Cutty Sark.
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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer for Thrillist and is definitely the picky non-seafood eater who made an exception for Kuro. There's proof -- and plenty of pictures of all these places -- on his Instagram @meltrez1.
1. Louie Bossi's Ristorante1032 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
2. Cena by Michy6927 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
3. La Mar by Gaston Acurio500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami
4. Frankey's Sports Bar900 Silks Run, Hallandale
5. Kuro1 Seminole Wy, Fort Lauderdale
6. Apeiro Kitchen & Bar3252 NE 1st Ave #101, Miami
7. Fooq's1035 N Miami Ave, Miami
8. Quality Meats Restaurant1501 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
9. Gianni's1116 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach
10. FreehouseC-, 777 E Atlantic Ave #8, Delray Beach
11. Blue Collar Restaurant6730 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
12. Crust668 NW 5th St., Miami
13. Ms. Cheezious7418 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
14. 1930s House4041 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
15. Ball & Chain1513 SW 8th St, Miami
16. 15th & Vine Kitchen and Bar485 Brickell Ave, Miami
17. Apothecary330 Himmarshee St Ste 101, Fort Lauderdale
18. Coyo Taco2300 NW 2nd Ave. #3, Miami
Unique Italian recipies are the backbone of this restaurant, with dishes like the pasta mafaldine: the yummy burnt ends of the lasagna tossed with a beef and pork ragu. Chef Louie Bossi has worked his way up the restaurant chain from dishwasher, to grill cook, and now chef. They also have a full bar and Neapolitan style pizzas like the Funghi Misti, with wild mushrooms, smoked buffalo mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, and truffle oil.
This follow-up to Michy's is still serving the same famous, incredible, fried chicken -- but they've limited it to only Wednesdays. Every week, you can get it with watermelon salad, southern slaw, biscuits, mashed potatoes, gravy, and brown butter peach cake.
Peruvian culinary maestro Gaston Acurio is mixing Andean and Asian flavors into a bold menu that highlights his home country at this chic restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental. The menu includes made-to-order ceviche; tiraditos, or Peruvian-style sashimi; and causas, a traditional dish of potatoes whipped with seafood, avocado, tobiko, tomato, and egg. The drink selection is equally quintessential Peru, offering various takes on the pisco sour.
This modern sports bar has tons of TVs, plus beer, wine, and cocktails. Be sure to try the Adena Burger -- a 9oz burger with LTO and cheese -- it's one of the best in Miami.
Located in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel, Kuro is a true success. The fish is up there with any yacht-up restaurant on the Miami River that may or may not rhyme with "puma," and the decor is as opulent as you'd find in any international casino.
This restaurant serves a range of Mediterranean dishes, from kebabs to pasta. The lively bar area serves inventive cocktails like a poached fig margarita.
Fooq’s makes its patchwork menu seem effortless, seamlessly combining French, Italian, and Middle Eastern elements in a spectacular culinary experiment. The Persian salad of fennel, hard-boiled eggs, marbled potatoes, celery, olives, turmeric pickles, and Dijon lemon is the lightest entrance into the menu, which takes you to a bucatini amatriciana whose smoked pancetta permeates the dish and tints the sweet onions, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic chips, and chili flakes with a familiar taste that offsets the spice. The traditional Persian stew changes daily but always comes highly recommended, and with throw pillows and cookbook-covered coffee tables, the atmosphere at Fooq’s is just homey enough to push you to try something new.
This South Beach steakery grinds and mixes steak sauce right at your table. And while putting A1 on a prime cut is the stuff of late-night Denny's second-dinners, the stuff here mixes perfectly with the house-cut beef like the 12oz filet or the 24oz tomahawk bone-in ribeye. For an extra-healthy meal, you can also order the chicken parm pizza -- a 12in pounded-down breaded chicken, fried, then covered in sauce and cheese. It may or may not feed you for a week.
This upscale Mediterranean seafood restaurant located in the front of the Versace Mansion offers dishes like foie-gras-covered filet mignon. Classic Mediterranean fountains speckle the outdoor patio and the inside dining area is air-conditioned and opulent.
Sports bar that marries British and American sensibilities. Welcoming of long hours of lounging and boozing.
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.
The husband and wife duo behind this casual Italian restaurant are doling out house-made pastas, fresh pizzas, and an impressive wine selection at very reasonable prices. The Spanish-roofed spot right by the 7th Ave Bridge is almost made for big group meals and family dinners, but Crust also delivers to downtown Miami and Brickell. The pizzas are pretty outstanding, especially when topped with sirloin tips, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.
One of Miami’s best and most popular food trucks has gone brick-and-mortar, complete with a woodsy back area with games, plus a bar so you to wash down your grilled cheese with a local craft beer. Grilled cheese options go savory with bleu cheese and bacon; pulled pork melts; Frito Pie sandwiches (I know); and build-your-own's; or sweet (think marshmallows, Nutella, and ricotta).
While a Hialeah Sling might sound like a nifty driving move to avoid the traffic on the Palmetto, it’s actually one of the new Miami neighborhood-themed drinks at this bar set in a house from... waitforit!... the 1930s that once stood across the street from the Thompson. They’ve now moved it poolside, where you can get one of those Hialeah Slings and food off the menu from the long-missed Sra. Martinez.
This historic live music spot, which has hosted the likes of Billie Holiday and Count Basie, is renowned not only for its high-class staging of musicians, but for being one of the first venues to feature African-American performers. Today's Ball & Chain retains the original neon sign and pine ceiling, and gives equal play to both jazz and salsa.
In true Miami fashion, 15th & Vine is serving American cuisine with heavy Latin influence, perched a full 15 floors above the city. While snacking on small plates like scallop and dragonfruit ceviche, guests can gaze out at sweeping views of Brickell Avenue and the Biscayne Bay below through enormous floor-to-ceiling windows. With a capacity of only 96 patrons, the dining experience at 15th & Vine is fairly intimate -- individual tables are sectioned off with white marble dividers, heavy, red-cloth chairs surround each of the expansive tabletops, and a private 10-person dining room is available if reserved ahead of time. The outdoor space features a flourishing vertical garden, a wood-paneled deck, and of course, more striking city views, all of which are best enjoyed with a glass of red wine.
This elusive cocktail club is accessible through a backdoor at Pizzacraft and is characterized by moody lighting, red booths and a short copper bar. Bottle service is popular on weekends but the handcrafted, made-to-order cocktails are not to be missed.
Coyo is a grilled-meat taco emporium whose house-made tortillas are filled with everything from crispy duck and grilled cactus to charred octopus and slow-roasted pork shoulder. Tacos come two per order, and if you prefer your meat-and-tortilla combo in another form, you can "convert" it into a burrito, salad bowl, or burrito bowl. The Wynwood original has a bar in the back where you'll usually find a weekend DJ set.