A lot’s changed since Will Smith welcomed the world to Miami, the city where the heat is on, all night on the beach ’till the break of dawn. And while Mr. Smith had many great ideas in that music video - like going with a pink silk button-down in the third act - he hung out mostly on Ocean Drive, which is something we strongly advise against.
Instead, you should make an effort to cover some ground the next time you’re in Miami. It’ll require some planning and probably getting caught in traffic, but the effort will pay off in the form of tropical cocktails, excellent Cuban food, and the best little seafood sandwich in Florida. This guide will give you some good ideas for where to find such things, along with 31 other great places to try. Make sure to check back with us this fall, because we’ve got a lot more Miami guides and reviews coming this October.
27 - and its excellent bar, Broken Shaker - is hardly a secret at this point. If you crowdsourced suggestions of places to go in Miami Beach, everyone would probably tell you to come here and those people have good taste. It feels like the house of the coolest octogenarian in Miami Beach - from the thrift store finds that line every cabinet and window sill, to the garden out back full of ingredients that’ll end up on your plate. The food here is all over the place, but in a good way, with everything from falafel and shrimp shumai to grilled octopus. The menu is as unpredictably international as the people lounging next to the pool at the Freehand hostel, which is where 27 is located. But chances are the crowd is outside, beneath the palm trees, sipping on some of the best cocktails in town.
Eating on Miami Beach tends to skew heavily towards, “Uh, is that Drake?” or “Holy sh*t, what just crawled on me?” But Taquiza straddles the perfect center with affordable, great tacos in a space where it’s totally fine to roll in wearing sandals and a bathing suit. All of the tacos here are solid, from the al pastor to the grilled shrimp, but the only non-negotiable ordering rule is to start with the totopos and guac. These warm, fluffy, chewy tortilla chips are good enough to distract you from celebrity sightings or the sensation of something grazing your leg, though we have yet to experience either at Taquiza.
When you go to Joe’s, you can wait at least an hour for a table (they don’t take reservations) and feast on seafood inside the 100-plus-year-old restaurant. Or you can skip all of that and just head to Joe’s Take Away, the more casual grab-and-go counter right next door with the exact same food. Get some stone crab claws or, if it’s not in season, go with the awesome fried chicken. Then take that food across the street to South Pointe Park and have yourself the best Miami picnic possible. You will need to plan that picnic for after August 1, though, because Take Away closes for a month every summer.
Macchialina never fails to impress, unlike that story you tell about seeing Pitbull jogging down Lincoln Road. It’s a great spot to eat Miami Beach’s best pasta and split a nice bottle of wine, but it still doesn’t feel like somewhere you’d have to Youtube “how to tie a tie” beforehand, unlike some of the fancier South of Fifth Italian spots nearby. Reservations are a good idea though, especially on Thursdays when all of their pastas are only $10 all night. This is one of the best deals in the city, and only slightly less jarring than almost getting steamrolled by a sweaty Pitbull.
Among the Maseratis and billion-dollar hotels you’ll find up and down South Beach is Mac’s. This is Miami’s best dive bar and has been the most reliable place to escape South Beach in South Beach for well over 50 years. It’s dark, charmingly grimy, has a two-for-one Happy Hour special from 7am-7pm daily, and feels like a place where they’d film an episode of Miami Vice because, well, they did. The neon sign that still hangs above the bar was installed by the show’s crew. Mac’s hasn’t changed much since then, and if you listen closely you can still hear Don Johnson screaming, “Do you know who I am?!”
There are two things you need to know before going to La Sandwicherie: they’re only closed for two hours between 5-7am and you’ll want to put their dijon vinaigrette on everything once you try it. On way more than one occasion, we’ve witnessed people shoving squeeze bottles of this stuff into their purses. All of the sandwiches on the menu - from the croque monsieur to the Italian - are made to order, even at 4am. The South Beach location is the go-to late-night option in the area, and it’s the perfect place to stumble to after spending the night across the street at Mac’s.
Sweet Liberty is an example of Miami Beach done extremely right. It’s what we wish Ocean Drive was: bright, loud, delicious, and efficient. Sadly, Ocean Drive is still none of those things and remains a place to buy $50 margaritas that will probably give you some sort of virus. This spot in Mid-Beach makes the best piña coladas around, has $0.75 Happy Hour oysters, and a bar that screams “tropical hoarder” with a mountain of bottles and Miami randomness stacked to the ceiling. The only thing you’ll have to worry about catching the next day is a hangover.
Wynwood, which started as an arts district, used to be more about paint than food. Now the restaurants outnumber the galleries and Alter is the domino we have to thank for much of that. This small tasting menu spot looks like the construction crew stormed out before the job was done, but the interesting plates of food you’ll eat here will help make up for the lack of decor - especially the “soft egg,” which is still one of our favorite dishes in the entire city. Come here when you want to have a special dinner that’s all about the food. It’s also not a bad spot to celebrate big occasions, even if that occasion is just another chance to dip your spoon into the soft egg.
Gramps is a time capsule of everything that made Wynwood exciting in the first place. Inside there are sneaky good cocktails, cold beer, and just the right amount of kitsch. And outside, there’s a tropical kaleidoscope of palm trees and paint where fantastic DJs, a very popular Thursday drag night, and live music take turns sharing the stage. You can spend a lot of time at Gramps without getting bored, and when you get hungry, they also have the best pizza within a five-mile radius.
We all have that one MVP shirt. It fits just perfect and is somehow appropriate for work, drinks, dates, funerals, and everything in between. You hand wash it and don’t trust it around dryers because if something happened to it you’d cry. KYU is a lot like that shirt and it works for just about every occasion. This place is always crowded, but in a good way - you won’t have to shout but it’s loud enough to laugh like an idiot without annoying the table next to you. It’s fitting for a date, group dinner, or to bring a coworker you want to impress. Cocktails, fried chicken, roasted cauliflower - it’s all about as good as you can find in town.
You can divide the Miami food timeline into two categories: before Zak the Baker and after Zak the Baker. People freaked out when this kosher bakery and deli opened because it finally gave us the bread we deserved. This place is still cool as ever and continues to bake Miami’s best baguettes, sourdough, and pastries (always take a hunk of babka for the road), along with some excellent deli sandwiches like the tuna melt and smoked salmon reuben. If you want to plan the perfect time to come here, try showing up on a Friday just before noon, which is when they pull their challah out of the oven. It has an evangelical following and it’s always gone by the end of the day.
When you order a bottle at a club, it’s a safe assumption that it will come with a sparkler and a bunch of people who suddenly want to be your friend. And when you get brunch at Michael’s, you can correctly assume it will be one of the best you’ll have in Miami. Not that dinner at this Design District staple isn’t awesome, but on the days when the humidity is tolerable, you can’t beat a table outside with some coffee French toast or the delicious breakfast pizza. And you won’t even have to haggle with a promoter to get any of it.
We suggest bringing someone to Ghee who you’re comfortable chewing in silence with because it’ll be hard to maintain a conversation once the plates hit the table. Everything on the menu ranges from great to exceptional - like the classic tikka masala, which is the best version we’ve ever had, and the garlic naan that you’ll want to wrap around your body like a cashmere coat, along with about 50 other things that are worth trying. It’s all so good that you’ll feel no desire to fill the silence with useless small talk about the weird noise your Mazda’s been making lately.
Mandolin is housed in a 1940s bungalow and even though today its blue and white exterior screams Greece, eating here still feels like you’re sneaking into the home of an old Florida couple who happen to have extremely good taste in design. The food is great, but you really come to Mandolin to eat in the courtyard, which is so damn pretty it’ll make you feel very bad about your own home’s courtyard (or lack thereof). Thankfully, you can come here to sit in the shade, order the grilled halloumi, some tender little köfte, and keep asking nicely for refills on bread. You’ll be smiling in no time.
You spent the morning at the Wynwood Walls and now you’re hungry and wondering whether you’d get your security deposit back if you spray paint your bedroom. Check your lease documents over lunch at 1-800-Lucky. It’s an Asian food hall with ramen, Thai, sushi, and those little fish ice cream cones that usually melt (especially in summer) before people can get a picture of them. There’s also a bar outside that gets pretty lively on weekend nights with DJs, hip hop, and little sake juice boxes that are way too fun (and easy) to drink.
Downtown Miami is somewhere we usually spend 17 hours looking for a parking spot or having a panic attack after taking a wrong turn down a one-way street, rather than being a go-to area for restaurants. Maybe that’s why NIU still feels like such a surprise. It could also be thanks to its size - a reasonably tall person could probably touch both opposing walls of this Spanish spot at the same time. But once you eat here, you’ll be dying to come back as soon as possible. Bring a friend so they can watch you eat anchovies and grilled octopus and order a glass of wine while they reconsider how cool you actually are.
It would be hard to take your eyes off La Mar’s view of Biscayne Bay if the food this place served wasn’t so good. All of the above makes this Peruvian spot great for a big date, birthday, or if you’re just trying to show off Miami to a skeptical New Yorker. The fresh ceviches are beautifully plated and taste even better after a Pisco Sour (or two). The staff may try to talk you into a prix fixe option, but we recommend just choosing a few ceviches and shareable plates like the causas (whipped potatoes) and chaufas (Peruvian fried rice) instead.
This funky little Downtown spot feels like some kind of science experiment, like when Jeff Goldblum accidentally turned himself into a fly. But unlike Fly Goldblum, this mashup actually works. The drinks (and the shiny bar itself) make it feel like a cocktail bar, but between the red carpet, pool table, and little library by the bathrooms, Mama Tried feels oddly divey. It’s a weird, snug bar that gets very packed on weekend nights, so stick to Happy Hour if you’re a bit claustrophobic.
Up until recently, you probably only went to 11th Street if you were getting dragged to a club, but as spots like Fooq’s move to the area, it’s no longer just a place to buy $18 vodka sodas while surrounded by sweaty ravers. This place serves Persian classics in a bright space and it’s somewhere you can use to impress someone who’s visiting, or when you’re on a business trip and your boss asks to go “somewhere cool.” Get the meatballs, the rotating khoresh, or Persian stew. Just make sure you ask to sit outside in their side garden - it’s covered in plants and feels miles away from the grimy Downtown concrete.
Lost Boy wouldn’t turn many heads in a city like Austin or Nashville, but it’s a rare animal in Miami - especially in Downtown where clubs have traditionally been the norm. It’s a pub that feels a little western, with lots of wood, a long shelf full of vintage cowboy boots above the bar, and an old piano that doubles as a table in the center of the room. The music isn’t too loud to have a conversation and the cocktails are simple but very solid. Maybe this all sounds par for the course where you’re from, but here it’s rarer to find a good bar that isn’t going out of its way to be over-the-top at all times.
One of Miami’s most peaceful little cafes happens to be around the corner from E11even, and the coffee is good enough to help you forget about that one time you spent $400 there on a bottle of $40 vodka. You can go with a simple but perfect pour over or opt for more adventurous things like a rosemary cold brew with lime juice. They also serve breakfast and lunch and the Runny & Everything is the best bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich we’ve found in Miami, thanks mostly to the everything brioche bun. This place also has free WiFi and is usually chill enough during the week to get some work done.
This historic Calle Ocho bar is that rare place that appeals to both born-and-raised Miamians and sunburnt families piling out of tour buses. The locals go for the great live music, drinks, and the promise of no cover charge, ever. The tourists go to drink mojitos, smoke cigars, and (after three said-mojitos) salsa like newborn giraffes. Both sides somehow manage to peacefully coexist, perhaps thanks to the calming effect of Ball & Chain’s back patio, which is especially nice at sunset. Once night falls, this place turns up with very-hard-to-talk-over music and blasts of confetti - so maybe stick to day drinking here if that’s not your beat.
There are a few guarantees when you eat at Lung Yai Thai Tapas in Little Havana. The tiny space will be packed, the chef will yell at the staff, and the food is so good that you won’t care about the first two. They serve classic Northern Thai dishes like khao soi and palo moo (roasted pork in a sweet and savory broth over rice), along with Thai staples like pad thai and massaman curry. Every dish on the menu is $15 or less, meaning you can order a lot without doing too much damage.
Versailles has been the most famous Cuban restaurant and a general rallying point for Miami’s huge Cuban community since 1971. If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, you can stop by La Ventanita (the little window) during the day for crispy guava pastelitos and a cafecito to drink. Loitering is highly encouraged and listening to the regulars debate each other is more entertaining than anything you’ll see on a Duck Tour. If you make it inside, prepare for a big menu, huge portions, and an over-the-top dining room worthy of Versailles’ palatial name.
La Camaronera is where you go in Little Havana to get fresh fish and specialties like grouper cheeks and stone crabs when they’re in season. But all anyone seems to want to order here is the pan con minuta - and for good reason. The simple fried yellowtail snapper sandwich is a must. Served on a semolina bun with cocktail sauce, diced onion, and its tail sticking out the side, this sandwich is a perfect handheld meal.
MiMo/Upper East Side
Confusion is a natural reaction when it comes to Phuc Yea. From the exterior (more Art Deco than Hanoi) to the menu (a slightly odd mixture of Vietnamese and Cajun), it’s as hard to categorize as it is to pronounce (it’s “fook yea,” by the way). But the food is good and they have very solid pho, a surprisingly tough dish to find in Miami. Get a few beers, start with one of the plates that begins with the word “crispy,” and you’ve got yourself a good dinner to kick off the night since you’re just a ten-minute drive from Wynwood.
Pinch Kitchen is located on the northern edge of the Upper East Side, which isn’t an area rich with restaurant options. For that reason - and the very good food - the dining room is consistently packed and there’s almost always a wait during weekend brunch. It’s worth fighting for a table, though. The menu here features a lot of seafood and local veggies, along with an excellent burger at brunch and lunch that you should go out of your way to try.
Blue Collar serves Sunday night dinner classics that may look a little boring at first, like chicken parm and pot roast, but they’re done bigger and better than you’re used to - emphasis on bigger. Portions here are a bit out of control, but they never sacrifice size for quality. They also do this thing called “the Big Ragout,” which combines brisket, veal and pork shoulder, pancetta, sausage, and two types of cheese into a hoagie roll. While that might sound like a strange game of Italian meat Mad Libs, we promise that it’s actually delicious.
The Upper East Side is a bit of a bar desert with one shiny exception: the Anderson. This former piano lounge-turned-Broken Shaker of the mainland became a Miami classic almost as soon as it opened. It helps that the space it took over used to be a beloved old piano lounge, but we also like that its decor somehow channels our favorite parts of Miami: ’80s cheese and boozy tropical jungle. Grab a cocktail from the tiki bar in the backyard and no one will judge you if you start belting out old showtunes. They might cut you off though.
coral gables/Coconut Grove
Ariete feels more Wynwood than Coconut Grove, which is why it’s become such a standout in a neighborhood that can feel a little stuck in its ways sometimes. The options here will appeal to both your friend who wants something a little more upscale and your friend who’s just starving and is ready to stab someone with a fork. For the former, suggest the pan-roasted venison. For the latter, order them the Chug Burger while they’re being grumpy in the bathroom. This place has become Coconut Grove’s best restaurant with some ambitious food, but we also love that they aren’t too good to have a frita Cubana on the menu.
This used to be the best bakery in Miami you never heard of, but now there’s almost always a pretty fierce line. The breakfast pastries and lunch sandwiches are absolutely worth the wait, as is the toast and, really, anything that has to do with Madruga’s outstanding bread, which comes from flour milled right at the bakery.
The drive to and from Key West is a notorious pain in the ass, so save some gas and just go to Monty’s instead. By no means is this the best place for seafood in Miami, but if you hold out for one of their tables with a good view of Biscayne Bay (there are many at the very large and mostly outdoor raw bar) and order a Miami Vice, you won’t care because if there is one tried-and-true Miami equation, it’s water views plus frozen alcohol equals happiness.
Sometimes it’s just nice to know where to find the best burger in town. It’s sort of like a north star. Worst case scenario - maybe the restaurant you had a reservation at fell into a sinkhole - you can always just head towards the burger, and Lokal is where Miami’s burger compass points to. It’s all about the meat here. The patties are a perfect blend with the ideal fat ratio, and as long as you skip the burger with the donut bun, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. They have a not-so-secret milkshake speakeasy attached to the dining room too. It’s modeled to look like the owner’s childhood kitchen, has PBR in a washing machine, and might inspire you to start being more creative with your own appliances.
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