Maybe the memory of having a group of strangers at a chain restaurant sing some remixed version of “Happy Birthday” while you turned bright red haunts you to this day. And all these years later, you still don’t want to make a big deal out of the day you were born. But also, you want people to know you exist - and ever since you deleted your Facebook, everyone’s been forgetting your birthday. So maybe you should organize a dinner to celebrate.
Of course, you don’t want some sort of blowout party with pyrotechnic vodka bottles. You also need a place that’s not so small that your group sticks out as an obvious celebration. But it also can’t be somewhere people only go to celebrate because that’s a lot of pressure. It has to be just nice enough to make you look sophisticated, but not so fancy that everyone thinks you’ve got something to prove. These 12 spots are right in that sweet spot.
Every time we go to Ironside Pizza, there’s almost always a party of 15-20 people sitting at a long table with a dozen bottles of wine and a lot of pizza. This spot in Little River is great for a group because everyone loves pizza (their pasta is pretty good too), the BYOB policy means supplying booze will be cheap and easy, and the mostly outdoor restaurant is a very pretty place to have a two-and-a-half-hour dinner. Just make a reservation and the rest will be a lot less stressful than deciding whether or not you should invite Jessica, who knows what she did.
If you want your birthday dinner to be a little more on the energetic side without teetering into the realm of a clubstaurant, go to Cafe La Trova. This Little Havana restaurant and cocktail bar is the kind of place that gives you the chance to get a little loud and wild without forcing that kind of behavior on anyone. There’s really good live music, perfect daiquiris, and food as good as you’ll find anywhere on Calle Ocho. Make sure to get the empanadas.
Things will be lit on fire at Arson, but none of those things will be an obnoxiously large cake. Instead, this Downtown restaurant serves dishes that are interesting to watch and very fun to eat. The delicious charbroiled oysters are singed tableside with hot coals, scallop carpaccio is finished with a blow torch, and the salt-baked dorada looks like a comet entering Earth’s atmosphere before it hits the table. It may sound like a lot, but thankfully the food gets all the attention here - not you.
Phuc Yea is the kind of restaurant that was made with groups in mind. No one person could possibly consume the great lake they call a bowl of pho on their own. And some other really good dishes - like the veggie curry and bánh cuốn - are meant for sharing too. The cocktails here are also very tasty, and there are some big, round tables that’ll ensure no one gets wedged into a corner and resents you for the next 365 days.
Approximately 45 seconds after the pizza arrives at Lucali, the conversation at the table will shift from reminiscing about what you used to be like in college to talking about how good this pizza is. This is probably good news to you, because you do not need any more reminders about the whole aging process. Also, you like pizza too - and this South Beach spot has some of Miami’s best. But there’s one catch here: they don’t take reservations, and there’s usually a wait. You can kill an hour easily at the bar next door, but if you’d rather get this thing over with, come early during the week. It won’t be too bad.
If your birthday dinner is going to be on the smaller side - anywhere from three to six people - Jaguar Sun can work. The Downtown spot is part cocktail bar, part restaurant, and they do both really well. The best dishes here are the pastas, like the agnolotti with blue crab and corn, which you will think about until your next birthday. They also have rotating large-format drinks for groups of four to six, like punch bowls or a martini service that will have you over your fear of public singing in six sips.
27 is the reserve parachute of Miami dining. If you’ve got an occasion where you need to impress people with a restaurant - whether it be family, dates, or friends who all got dressed up and left the house on a Thursday to celebrate your birth - this place can always swoop in to save the day. The dining room looks like a house and will have you desperately trying to replicate it in your own apartment for the next six months. The food is a mix of Mediteranean, Latin, and local seafood - and it’s all good. The same is true with the drinks, which you can enjoy after dinner over at 27’s sister bar Broken Shaker, just in case you’re actually having fun.
Even if there’s a plague of locusts outside, KYU will be packed, so you don’t have to worry about coming at an off time and celebrating in a big empty room. But even at its most crowded, this Wynwood spot never feels cramped. The fried chicken, roasted cauliflower, and smoked beef short ribs are the main reasons for the crowd. But KYU has good cocktails too - which you can sip awkwardly if one of your friends intercepts a server and makes them send over something with a candle sticking out of it.
Sweet Liberty is for those birthdays that call for at least three drinks. It’s more of a bar than a restaurant, but a good chunk of the place is reserved for tables where you can eat comfortably without people shouting drink orders over your head. The menu has a lot of agreeable favorites - tater tots, a very good burger, and fried chicken. The cocktails are better, though, and they also have the best piña colada in town, which is a drink that feels like it should be a Miami birthday tradition.
This is a sneaky special occasion spot. People might think they’re in for a casual, messy barbecue meal, which this Allapattah warehouse does very well. But if you come for dinner, Hometown also feels like a slightly upscale restaurant with really good cocktails, a nice wine list, and plenty of delicious things to eat that aren’t smoked meat - like the roasted daily catch or broccoli on the plancha.
Nothing about Fooq’s feels too stuffy: the staff doesn’t wear uniforms, most of the food is meant to be shared, and there’s just something about the dining room that makes us want to take our shoes off. The spacet isn’t huge - so maybe come here with a smaller group - but the variety of this place is pretty nuts. They do a Persian jeweled rice, a great burger, and a bucatini that the pasta-obsessed person in your friend group will talk to you about for the rest of time. Also, Fooq’s proximity to places like The Corner and Space can come in handy if everyone still has energy after dinner.
There are a lot of waterfront restaurants where parties arrive via yacht and order magnums of rosé that look like small rocket ships. Amara is not one of those places, but it does have a better view than all of them. This still isn’t one of those seafood spots where everything is made out of wood and sandals make up the majority of the footwear - but it’s not pretentious, has some very large tables, and serves a banana leaf-wrapped cobia that kind of feels like opening up a present.