Keeping up with new restaurants in Miami is harder than trying to censor a Trick Daddy and Trina song. Places have a tendency to all open during the same week in December and then half of them close before you even get a chance to have an opinion about them.
The Infatuation Miami’s Hit List is our way of helping you keep track of the new restaurants that are actually worth your time. This isn’t just a catch-all list of every place that’s opened up recently. We’ve actually been to these restaurants, and plenty of others that we’ve decided to leave off this list.
The Hit List is our record of every restaurant that opened in the past year that we’d highly recommend you try. This guide is sorted chronologically, so at the top you’ll find our latest entries to this list (the newest spots), and as you keep scrolling you’ll find the places that are on the older side - but are great enough that we still haven’t stopped talking about them.
New to The Hit List (as of 12/12/19): Balloo, Orilla Bar and Grill, Navé, Ironside Bakery
This upscale Coconut Grove seafood spot comes from the same team as Ariete, and it’s right next door too, a pair of distinct yet successful siblings - kind of like the Gyllenhaals of Miami restaurants. And just like the fact that neither of them has won an Oscar, we can’t stop thinking about the uni they serve here, which comes with thick, fluffy slices of brioche. But pretty much everything on the menu is good enough to make us want to eat it all over again in five to seven days. Seafood is the main attraction, but there’s also pizza and pasta, including a very good bucatini that also makes great use of uni. There really aren’t any bad decisions here, just like the acting choices of Jake and Maggie.
Down a long fluorescent hallway in a Downtown office building, you’ll find Balloo and its dozen seats wedged into a corner. The dining room has old photos, an antique cabinet, and is doing its best to make you feel like you’re in a house somewhere in the Caribbean rather than a block away from a Walgreens. No matter where you sit, you’ll be able to see everyone in the restaurant as they eat from a small but wonderful menu of Indian, Trinidadian, Carribean, and Chinese dishes. The menu changes a lot, but we like the spam fried rice, Singaporean chili crab tteok-bokki (stir-fried rice cakes), and amazing cheung fun with dried shrimp and scallion rice crepes. We’ll happily keep coming back here, especially if their phenomenal Thai-style micheladas are involved.
This Argentinian restaurant is one of the best options in South Beach when you’re looking for something between take-out and take-out-a-loan, which is a small circle for this area. But Orilla is stylish enough to remind you that you are, in fact, in South Beach, and the outdoor seating along 5th Street is about as close as you want to get to eating on Ocean Drive. There are very tasty small plates like grilled pork sausage, jumbo prawns with grilled avocado, and arancini. You’ll be fine if you stick to those instead of the larger entrees, but the very good $18 wagyu cheeseburger is one of the best you’ll find in South Beach.
Ironside Bakery is the perfect spot that we can never manage to think of when we’re trying to decide where to go for lunch. It’s right next to its consistently great sibling Ironside Pizza, but the food at the bakery is good enough to justify skipping the pizzas next door. The bread here is excellent, and they put it to delicious use in a small menu of toasts and sandwiches, like the smoked salmon on perfect, salty focaccia. The croissants and danishes underneath the display case should also be coming home with you.
Gregory’s is located in The Vagabond Hotel, and the two fit together like a pair of siblings separated at birth. This slightly upscale all-day diner makes so much sense inside MiMo’s ’50s-era Vagabond that we’re just a little mad this pairing didn’t happen sooner. But it’s hard for us to stay mad now that we’ve tried their very tasty prawn cocktail, a great root beer sour with rye whiskey, and seasonal pies with big scoops of whipped cream on top. Stop by the outdoor pool bar too, which is somehow both gorgeous during the day and at night.
Miami needed a place like Hometown BBQ - partially because we’re lacking in excellent barbecue options and also because we’re very tired of restaurants opening up in the same three neighborhoods. Hometown BBQ filled both voids by bringing us incredible brisket, ribs, and very good tamarind-glazed chicken hearts to an Allapattah warehouse that’s unlike any dining room in the city.
If the Star Trek Enterprise had an exclusive, upscale restaurant onboard, it’d look a lot like this fancy French spot in the Design District. The food is every bit as stylish, and you honestly might feel a little bad dipping your fork into the pretty grilled tuna with eggplant, avocado, and chili oil, until you taste how good it is. This is one of the only places in Miami where you should actually ask to sit inside vs. outside because it’s not often you get to eat roasted lobster inside a restaurant from outer space.
Esotico is a little shinier and cleaner than what we’re accustomed to in a tiki establishment, but the bar and restaurant just a little north of Downtown is still a very fun place to have a few seriously strong rum drinks. Get one with their tasty spiced almond syrup, and after that, you’ll be ready for the slightly random but good food. The ice for the “shaved ice leche de dragon” ceviche is shaved tableside via a steampunk-looking piece of machinery. There’s also an octopus hot dog - which are three words that probably should never be used consecutively - but it’s actually quite good and more of a lobster roll situation than an actual hot dog.
The pink neon exclamation point that hangs over Boi De’s front door pretty accurately sums up how we feel about this place. There’s just nowhere else in Miami that feels like this Buena Vista spot. Every detail of this very small Italian restaurant - from the beautiful black-and-white speckled countertops to the little glass shell they give you to deposit your empty baked clams (which you should absolutely order) - seems like it was obsessed over. The result is a delicious, adorable restaurant that feels like one of those handmade gifts you get on your birthday that unexpectedly makes you sob into a slice of cake.
Stephen’s Deli first opened in Hialeah in 1954, but we put it on the Hit List because it’s recently been taken over and reopened by the team behind Kush and Lokal. And they really nailed the renovation of this classic Jewish deli. Stephen’s still looks and feels much like (we assume) it did in 1954, and you can still order the delicious pastrami sandwich that made them a hit in the first place. But there are plenty of new touches that make this place feel fresh: an entirely new selection of sandwiches named after sitcom characters (get The Rachel), egg creams with whiskey, and a new cocktail bar in the back that’s a tongue-in-cheek ode to all things Hialeah with drinks named “Pata Sucia” and “Nooo Que Bueno.”
Tigertail + Mary has one of the biggest lunch crowds we’ve ever seen. This is partially thanks to it being in walking distance from most of Coconut Grove’s many offices, but also because this is a place you want to eat when the sun is out out since the floor-to-ceiling windows really allow the natural light to hit every inch of this big dining room. Order the great roasted sunchokes or the peaches with whipped ricotta, ham, basil, and pistachio. Pizza here is a good call too since Tigertail is run by the team behind Harry’s.
This is the first brick and mortar location of Caja Caliente, which started as a food truck serving “Cuban tacos” in Edgewater. Their Coral Gables location has pretty much everything people loved about that truck with much better AC and a bar. The tacos are still the tastiest things here - especially the crispy gator and lechon versions - but they’re so big you really only need to order one. Just make sure to get an order of the mahi-mahi empanadas or whatever round little croqueta they happen to be serving that day too.
Chug’s is the kind of Cuban restaurant that makes you reconsider what a Cuban restaurant can be. Here, the pastelitos are stuffed with peanut butter and guava jelly one day, and fried chicken and waffles the next. The Cuban sandwich comes on a circular sourdough roll with honey ham and salami. There’s a frita with bacon and barbecue sauce. Some of this might give a purist an aneurysm, but to us, it’s just a refreshing and delicious mix of food we seek out any time we’re near Coconut Grove.
If you want your meal to include something sweet, sugary, and hopefully involving bread, this Coral Gables bakery is a good choice. Their breakfast is a great excuse to have dessert in the morning thanks to things like guava-and-cheese pancakes and croissant french toast. They also do salads, sandwiches, and more lunch plates, but your time here can pretty much be spent in front of the pastry display case. This is where you’ll find one of the best danishes we’ve ever had, as well as desserts and tarts that look more like expensive modern furniture than food.
Bon Gout manages to make an entire block in Little Haiti smell like delicious barbecued meat. The very small shop serves excellent chicken, ribs, and brisket that’s as good as it smells from the car, but what you really want here is the Haitian specialty called griot. It’s basically crispy, fried chunks of pork, and Bon Gout serves them plain with a few sides or in “zakos,” which is a taco shell that’s somehow both soft and crispy at the same time. Whatever you order, a side of fried plantains is always a good idea.
A special occasion dinner is supposed to make you feel special, and it’s truly impossible not to feel that way when you’re being led up a private staircase in the Versace Mansion to what used to be Gianni’s old cigar room for an incredibly intimate four-seat omakase. That’s where the NYC import Sushi By Bou has set up their first Miami location. Dinner here consists of 17 very good courses with bites like fatty bluefin tuna, smoked Spanish mackerel, and blowtorched salmon. And if you ask nicely, they’ll give you a little tour of the property’s observatory dome after dinner. It’s a lavish, ridiculous experience that could truly only exist in this city, and it should be on your bucket list.
Every dinner at Cafe la Trova feels like a party, regardless if there’s a birthday at the table or if you just want to show someone visiting what a really great Cuban restaurant is supposed to feel like. This Calle Ocho spot is that rare place that can do live music, food, and cocktails equally well, and even if you came specifically for one, you’ll probably end up enjoying all three. After you’ve had at least two empanadas and one daiquiri, check out their little ’80s bar in the back of the restaurant, which is equal parts yacht rock, Miami Vice, and Cocaine Cowboys.
Finding La Placita in MiMo is about as easy as finding the sun at 1pm. The building is covered in a big mural of the Puerto Rican flag, and the inside is every bit as proudly Puerto Rican. They serve a great mofongo here, as well as other classic dishes like chicharrones de pollo and pasteles wrapped in banana leaves, which they don’t overcomplicate. It all goes well with a piña colada and thankfully they make a very solid one here.