Miami is home to a lot of good restaurants, and that number only seems to be growing. Whether you grew up here or just make the annual trip for Art Basel, it can be hard to keep track of the new places to check out and the classics that are worth another visit. For that, we’ve put together our recommendations for where to eat around Miami. We’ve included everything from a tasting menu in Wynwood, to some low-key South Beach spots, to a ridiculous riff on the Jewish deli in Surfside. While this is our first Miami guide, it’s definitely not our last, so stay tuned for a lot more from The Infatuation in 2018.
the new-ish spots everyone's talking about
Imagine a restaurant Venn diagram. One on side, Indian. On the other, farm-to-table. These two rarely overlap, but that’s exactly what’s happening at Ghee Indian Kitchen. This spot serves refined and modern versions of Indian classics like chicken tikka masala, along with specialties like the short rib dosa, smoked lamb neck, and Key West pink shrimp curry, each of which features produce from the restaurant’s nearby farm. Conveniently, a second location just opened in Wynwood, which is great because the original restaurant is out at the Dadeland Mall and life’s really too short to have to make that trip every time you want great Indian food.
We’ve all been in charge of planning a group dinner before with friends who suggest different things. One wants Italian, another sushi, and someone else just wants to argue. Kyu can’t solve every case of this, but their fusion of New American and Korean BBQ definitely covers a lot of ground. They serve everything from burrata to pork belly buns to Thai coconut creamed spinach and have a big wine and sake list too. Portions are on the smaller side, but dishes like the Korean fried chicken and whole grilled corn with miso lime butter, along with their use of local seafood, make any dinner at this Wynwood spot worth it.
At this point, you’ve heard of Zak the Baker. Their rainbow-colored kosher bakery and deli in Wynwood have drawn praise from just about from everyone and for good reason - their baked goods are really f*cking good. Besides their greatest hits like the babka and sourdough, the sandwiches are equally delicious, especially the corned beef breakfast sandwich that comes topped with a veggie omelette and Russian dressing. This deli gets absolutely mobbed, especially on Sundays since they’re closed Saturdays. But if you just want to grab some bread and pastries and avoid the lines, check out the original bakery location just down the street instead.
Every day more good restaurants open in Miami, but very few places are pushing the city’s dining scene the way that Alter is with their inventive tasting menus. This Wynwood spot serves five, seven, and eight-course options with rabbit udon as likely to appear on the menu as parmesan ice cream or duck breast grilled over pine cones. Between everyone taking photos of their food, the dim neon lighting, and the one wall that you can’t decide if it’s actually unfinished or just designed to look that way, there’s no hiding that this place is really going for it. Luckily though, the food’s really good and you’ll be thinking about the meal for days afterward.
Upland is originally a New York restaurant, and the Miami location is almost a carbon copy, down to the jars of lemons on the walls and green leather booths. And considering Upland is one of our top-ranked NYC restaurants, this is a good thing. Their California-meets-Italian menu includes great pasta, pizza, and wine, but the dishes from the wood-fired grill are what make this place special and are great for sharing with a small group. Get the whole roasted branzino for two and the lamb chops or short ribs. If you need some balance, the pistachio pizza is a strong choice. The surrounding South Pointe neighborhood is best-known for stone crab, chain steakhouses, and clubs, so this is a nice addition.
There are a few guarantees when you eat at Lung Yai Thai Tapas in Little Havana. The tiny diner 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.
Sometimes you don’t want to battle the tourists and eager Instagrammers that flood Zak the Baker. When that’s the case, Madruga Bakery in Coral Gables is a great alternative. Sure, there will be plenty of UM students around and they aren’t open on Sundays, but Madruga is still the best bakery option in the area, hands down. They serve excellent breakfast sandwiches and Counter Culture coffee, along with a wide range of cakes, pies, and savory pastries baked on-site.
Baby Jane is a loud, neon-lit Brickell bar. But unlike other loud, neon-lit Brickell bars, they serve great Japanese-inspired drinking food, like ramen and fried chicken. If you opt for the ramen, which you should, go with the kagoshima, which comes with about 10 toppings. It can be hard to get a comfortable spot to eat here when it’s packed, so try to come around regular dinner hours rather than for midnight ramen.
La Mar’s perfect view of Biscayne Bay makes this Peruvian spot great for a big date, birthday, or if you’re just trying to show off Miami to someone. 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 causas (whipped potatoes) and chaufas (Peruvian fried rice) instead.
Naoe isn’t a typical Wednesday night kind of place, unless you’re a Bond villain or maybe an heiress. They provide a totally unique omakase experience that will never be the same twice with each of the 10 courses customized to meet your preferences. The dining room only fits 10 guests per seating and is run by just two people (the chef and the manager) whose attention to detail borders on the obsessive. A meal here lasts upwards of two and a half hours and costs at least $250 so make sure you go with someone you have a lot to talk about with, like a friend you haven’t seen recently or a mole at MI6.
Miami is located in the south, but it’s definitely not southern. However, when you’re craving classic southern food, albeit a refined version, you can find it at Yardbird in South Beach. They’re known for their fried chicken, but that’s really just the beginning. This restaurant serves up the south’s greatest hits, from a fried green tomato BLT to biscuits topped with everything from ham to brisket to gravy. Still though, order some fried chicken for the table because it might be the best in town. While Yardbird is definitely casual, this place has an elevated feel that most fried chicken places don’t have.
Joe’s has been around forever and at some point you’ve probably been here with your family or because someone you know recommended it. Next time you’re craving stone crabs though, check out Joe’s Take-Away next door to the century-old restaurant instead. It’s the exact same food, just with fewer tuxedo-clad waiters and sunburnt parties of 10. Besides the crabs, the secretly really good fried chicken is a must-get. What else do you pair with a platter of crab claws?
Walking into The Broken Shaker at the Freehand feels like you’re entering a secret oasis that you didn’t know existed, assuming that your oasis includes a wide range of cocktails. The small bar and accompanying Middle Eastern-inspired 27 Restaurant open up to a large, tree-lined patio, garden, and pool, all of which will almost make you forget that you’re next to South Beach. Unlike most of the clubby bars in the area, The Broken Shaker feels a little more grown up, like somewhere that both college spring breakers and a group in their thirties could enjoy. Yes, there will probably be a bouncer and club-goers present, but this spot has great drinks and it’s one of the better options in the area.
Islas Canarias opened in 1977 and was one of the first Cuban restaurant institutions in Miami. The original location in Little Havana was sold a few years ago, but their two Kendall locations are still home to the best croquetas in the city, along with a really good Cubano sandwich.
It’s impossible to miss Azucar’s iconic facade of a waffle cone topped with five scoops of ice cream when you’re in Little Havana. But it’s the Cuban spin on classic flavors that really brings people in. The 40+ flavors they serve daily include flan, cafe con leche with Cuban coffee and Oreos, and tropical fruits like mamey. But the most famous is Abuela Maria, which mixes mixes guava, cream cheese, and Cuban cookies into vanilla ice cream. Once you try it, you won’t know how you lived without it for so long.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro in the Design District has great food and one of the best patios around. The menu is a mix of Turkish and Greek dishes with some of the produce coming straight from the on-site garden that you’ll eat next to. Order the Turkish sampler with hummus, tomato, and eggplant, and a spicy lamb kebab to share, along with some sangria. Mandolin definitely fills up quick though, so do your best to book ahead or expect to wait.
There aren’t many good restaurant options north of 79th street in the Upper East Side, but that’s what you’ll find at Pinch Kitchen and luckily, they’re basically open all day. Their seasonal menu changes frequently and might include Moroccan lamb chops one night and the next some sort of seafood bao or dim sum. On the brunch front, the guava-filled french toast and Pinch burger are both good options and will make you realize that you can really find good food just about everywhere you go in Miami now.
Even in a city with as many northeastern transplants as Miami, great pizza is still hard to find. Luckily, there’s Lucali. The sister location to the Brooklyn original, this Sunset Harbour spot serves Miami’s best pizza, hands down. Large pies start at $24 and are the size of a manhole cover so definitely come with friends. You can also head next door to 1930 Social Club for $12 bar-sized Lucali pizzas and calzones, along with free meatballs and wings during their daily Happy Hour.
This strip-mall gastropub is located way out in Kendall West on the way to The Everglades. But if you find yourself out there, their mashup of Cuban, Korean, and Peruvian food is definitely worth checking out. It sounds like a strange mix, but once you try the Cuban bibimbap or fried rice, you’ll get it. The owner’s family also started the beloved Islas Canarias Cuban diner and lucky for all of us, they serve the famous croquetas at Finka too.
You wouldn’t think to get great braised oxtails at a seedy Biscayne Boulevard motel, but that’s exactly what’s happening at Blue Collar. The diner-style spot is also known for their massive sandwiches, like the Big Ragout, which combines brisket, veal and pork shoulder, pancetta, sausage, and two cheeses into a hoagie roll. If you somehow still have room afterward, get the bread pudding. You’ll leave this place five pounds heavier, but it’s totally worth it.
There are days when it’s okay to give in to the Las Vegas-esque feel of Miami Beach and there are others when that sounds like a nightmare. For the latter, there’s Sweet Liberty. This bar gets packed at night, yes, but during the day it’s a good spot to hide out from the larger crowds. They have an extensive cocktail list and the food menu includes great drinking snacks, like fried chicken, spicy tots, and cauliflower nachos, along with $0.75 oysters during Happy Hour.
Tap Tap is a classic South Beach favorite for real deal Haitian food and a real deal good time. Come here with a group of friends to eat some goat, drink some rum, and listen to some live Haitian music on Thursday and Saturday nights. It’s exactly where you want to be when you’re sick of all the trendy clubs and trendy restaurants and trendy club restaurants. Those places don’t even serve goat.
This outdoor-only countertop shack may be the best place for Mexican tacos in Miami (and the cheapest option for a quality meal in South Beach). It’s located beneath a popular hostel, so don’t expect a quiet meal or even a seat. However, their freshly-made blue corn tortillas make up for the sometimes spring break-y atmosphere and are filled with everything from al pastor to beef tongue to grasshoppers. Make sure to order some elote and try the house-made hot sauces too
Josh’s Deli is not your bubbe’s deli and that’s very much on purpose. Although it’s located in historically Jewish Surfside, Josh’s almost revels in the fact that it isn’t Kosher. Seriously, just look at the menu, which includes such traif options as octopus elote and “The Jewban,” their pastrami-topped take on a Cuban sandwich. This place is a little absurd, but their spicy tuna latkes and corned beef reuben are enough to satisfy even the most traditional deli lover in your life.
Chef Creole is a local chain of super casual Haitian spots with a diehard fan base. And like many beloved Miami spots, this place’s popularity has nothing to do with ambiance or service. Instead, it’s all about the food. It’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, but the conch stew and conch fritters, along with the stewed oxtails and whole fried fish, are always good. They have five locations around town, but we like the one in Little Haiti best because the line always moves fast and you can also call in your order ahead of time.
La Camaronera is where you go in Little Havana to get fresh fish, along with a pan con minuta to snack on. This lunch spot also serves specialties like grouper cheeks and stone crabs when they’re in season, but it’s the simple fried yellowtail snapper sandwich that makes it special. Served simply on a semolina bun with cocktail sauce, diced onion, and its tail sticking out the side, this sandwich isn’t fancy, but it’s definitely what you want.
Sweet Dogs’ appeal is simple: they take the classic ballpark hotdog and add toppings that you’d only find in Miami. Besides obvious additions like chili and cheese, dogs come topped with everything from plantains to fried chow mein noodles, along with guava and cream cheese flavored popcorn to enjoy on the side. Sweet Dogs also has some of the best mac and cheese in town, which you can of course get on a hot dog too.
Filled with everything from cheese and plantains to our personal favorite, the chicken salad (reina pepiada), Doggi’s arepas are fresh, cheap, and you’ll definitely want an extra for later. If you’re in the mood for something else, try one of the patacons, traditional Venezuelan sandwiches that sub in fried plantains for bread. Also, order a blackberry juice. It might sound weird, but you’ll definitely consider getting a second one to pair with your arepa-to-go.