The culinary scene in South Florida can be a game of hide and seek with rich rewards going only to those persistent enough to find the hidden gems that sometimes get lost amidst the hype and drama. High powered public relations firms control the airwaves, filling the media with breathless banter about celebrity sightings at local hot spots run by (frequently absent) big name chefs. To try and keep up with what’s hot this week requires a Centurion American Express Card and a cast iron stomach. Who needs that?
If you are visiting Miami Beach this season and you’re still not sure which Miami Beach restaurants are for you, we’re here to help you discover something truly delicious! Our regional guide to the top tables in Miami includes family friendly eateries, late night bites and a few truly romantic spots for a lovely date night meal.
Starting in the quiet South of Fifth Street enclave where landmark seafood restaurant Joe’s Stone Crab has been tops in town since the 1920s and rolling swiftly up Collins Avenue to the best steakhouses, gourmet burger joints and dazzling Asian eateries, there is something for every palate and budget on our list.
In the heart of the Lincoln Road shopping district, Chef Sean Brasel’s team sears perfect steaks and pours classic cocktails. A little farther up Collins Avenue, a Dutch couple shares their passion for spicy Indonesian dishes. Guests at the Fontainebleau Resort enjoy 5-star dining and can also venture right next door to experience the talents of Gordon Ramsey’s protege Paula DaSilva. And adventurous diners in Bal Harbour can finally sample the new menu created by Iron Chef Morimoto’s young sushi star, Makoto.
From celebrated TV chefs to mom and pop cafes, you can meet, greet, and eat alongside South Florida’s most dedicated foodies who are happy to share an insider’s perspective on where to find the freshest seafood, the most authentic Latin flavors and the true culinarians who dedicate themselves to showcasing Florida’s finest produce. If you are feeling hungry, toss aside that guidebook, forget about the restaurant where Madonna was sighted sipping spring water and get ready to enjoy the best bites in town!
NAOE / 661 Brickell Key Drive / Miami, FL / 305-947-6263
This tiny Japanese restaurant is booked solid every Tuesday through Sunday because Chef Kevin Cory decided to experiment with the omakase concept in Japanese dining that has captured the imagination of foodies all over the globe. Guests reserve one of eight spaces at the 6pm or 9:30 service and enjoy whatever the chef creates and serves at this unique and personal dining establishment.
Driven by word-of-mouth and lauded in blogs and tweets, the restaurant allows no walk-in customers and offers online reservations for early and late sittings via opentable.com. Guests gather at their designated time to enjoy perfectly crafted servings of soup, rice, vegetables and pristine fresh seafood the chef procures from the dayboats at nearby Haulover marina or imports on daily flights. The meal proceeds from sake or beer to a prix-fixe bento box and then a chef’s selection of a la carte nigiri sushi which guests can accept or decline. Service proceeds slowly. Beyond a choice of beverage, the menu is determined by the chef, the sea and the season. NAOE is not your everyday dinner date, but a unique celebration of Japanese culture and cuisine.
GiGi / 3470 North Miami Avenue / Miami, FL / 305-573-1520
Miami Beach nightspots may remain open until dawn, but great restaurants seldom do. That’s why it is always a good idea to hop a taxi to MidTown to grab a seat at the bar at GiGi, the first Asian fusion cafe where service ends at 3am weeknights and Fridays and Saturdays at 5am and Sundays at 1am.
Unless you are prepared to end an elegant evening with a slice of street pizza and 2 aspirin, take your dance partner to this lofty industrial space where you can share a variety of savory treats like slow roasted short ribs, smoky southern BBQ ribs and a modern BLT made with pork belly and pickles. In the spirit of New York’s Momofuku, the steamed buns filled with roast pork, spicy tandoori chicken and braised beef brisket are delightful small bites. Noodle dishes like shrimp pad thai, pork ramen topped with an organic poached egg or slippery steak chow fun will help fight off the ravages of a night of cocktails and leave you bright eyed come sunrise – ready to start the party all over again.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink / 130 NE 40 Street / Miami, FL / 305-573-5550
A short trip over the Julia Tuttle Causeway takes Miami Beach visitors to the hottest new dining destination in the city – the Miami Design District – where Chef Michael Schwartz crafts a unique menu based on the freshest local produce. Diners can start with drinks and small plate snacks like crispy hominy or house made potato crisps and onion dip. Designed to sample and share, guests can order from a variety of small, medium and large plate items to create a unique tasting menu with slow braised pork shoulder and grits, charred octopus with roast peppers and a wood oven roast whole red snapper the standouts. Award-winning pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith’s desserts are extraordinary and her sweet cakes prepared for Sunday Brunch make getting out of bed even more worthwhile. Seating is available both inside and out and since this is one of Miami’s top restaurants, reservations are imperative.
Gotham Steak / 4441 Collins Avenue / Miami Beach, FL / 305-674-4780
Renovations to the Fontainebleau Resort and Spa created a seaside version of a Vegas style oasis complete with VIP cabanas and nine dazzling swimming pools adjoining a number of 5 star restaurants like Alfred Portale’s gorgeous 2-story Gotham Steak.
Expanding upon the modern beef eater’s menu, Gotham offers a variety of seafood dishes, specialty cuts of meat and over 500 premium labels housed in a glass wine tower that is the focal point of the dining room. Start with pristine raw bar options including seafood towers piled high with shrimp, oysters, mussels and lobster or top tender buckwheat blinis with creme fraiche and Russian caviar. Lobster makes a velvety return in house-made bisque or paired with a selection of perfectly seared New York strip steaks, prime rib eye, veal porterhouse or grilled rack of lamb. Chef de Cuisine John Suley crafts roquefort or black truffle butters plus cognac peppercorn sauce to top his steaks though there is little need for anything more than a sharp knife and a healthy appetite to taste the best of Gotham.
Forge Restaurant & Wine Bar / 432 Arthur Godfrey Road / Miami Beach, FL / 305-538-8533
Miami Beach has always attracted Hollywood celebrities, star athletes, notorious gangsters and beautiful women. Before there was South Beach, “Miami Vice” or even “Burn Notice,” there was the Forge – a wildly popular continental restaurant where the elite meet to eat.
Recently renovated by the Malnik family, the restaurant’s latest incarnation features an oenomatic wine bar serving 80 different bottles from their famous wine cellar by the glass. Guests can create their own wine tasting and pair each course from Chef Dewey LoSasso’s innovative new menu with a complimentary pour. If there was any doubt that the bold update of the interior design, the brand new chef and the modernized wine room would still captivate the rich and famous, just look around the dining room and find Serena Williams, Rick Ross, and LeBron James enjoying the chef’s signature lobster BLT.
Hakkasan / 4441 Collins Avenue / Miami Beach, FL / 786-276-1388
A unique fusion of glamorous interior design, thoughtfully-crafted Asian cuisine and impeccable service makes a meal at Hakkasan truly worth the upscale price tag for weekend dim sum service or a delicious full course dinner.
Chef Lok Soon Ooi quickly elevates the expectations of Chinese food fans with his gourmet interpretations of feather light dumplings, tea-smoked meats and classic Asian recipes given new life with the highest quality ingredients and deft preparation. For diners who regard Chinese food only as a quick takeout dinner option, a meal at Hakkasan can be a revelation. The dining room sparkles with dark, elegantly carved wooden room dividers, teal banquettes, flattering indirect lighting and a picture postcard view to the distant Atlantic horizon. Daytime service is more subdued than late night when the chatter of vacationing crowds and an all too enthusiastic DJ can overwhelm the atmosphere. Perfect for sharing a romantic meal, a gathering of friendly foodies or as a welcome relief from the ordinary Sunday brunch, Hakkasan is glamorous and delicious.
1500 Degrees / 4525 Collins Avenue / Miami Beach, FL / 305-674-5594
Cooking on television’s “Hell’s Kitchen” under the brutal tutelage of Gordon Ramsey was more than a baptism by fire for Brazilian Chef Paula DaSilva who seems to have earned her season in the sun at the blissfully serene restaurant 1500 Degrees at the newly renovated Eden Roc Renaissance Resort on Miami Beach.
Allowing TVs most notorious bully to torment her before the cameras and standing in the shadow of Chef Dean Max at his 3030 Ocean Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale seems to have humbled but not bowed the nimble beauty who brings an organic farm-to-table ethos to her modern American steakhouse where a brand new menu can be printed every day if the market or the chef decides to shift directions. It is no small coincidence that the Eden Roc forever stands in the shadow of the Fontainebleau where the splashier Gotham Steak attracts the big dogs, but DaSilva finds a perfect pitch of upmarket cuts of pricey beef paired with simple preparations of pristine veggies like peppers dashed in salt and lime or gently charred brussels sprouts and roasted beets with locally-sourced goat cheese. While sides at most steakhouses seem to wait in the wings as starchy afterthoughts, the supporting cast of potatoes, grains and greens are – like the restaurant – stellar in their own right.
De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean / 101 Ocean Drive / Miami Beach, FL / 305-672-6624
The Hilton Bentley Hotel at the southern tip of South Beach offers some of the most compelling water views in town. Until recently however, the dining room lacked sufficient firepower to attract local foodies to the often crowded SoFi Streets.
Enter renowned Chef Douglas Rodriguez who earns culinary kudos for his innovative riffs on traditional Cuban, South American and Caribbean fare and suddenly everyone is talking about DeRodriguez Cuba on Ocean Drive. Popular dishes include up to 15 of the chef’s always inventive ceviches; raw seafood combinations that are “cooked” by adding fresh lime juice marinades to a variety of finely diced fish, fresh fruit, Thai basil, jalapeno peppers or Japanese yuzu. Selections vary based on the particular catch of the day so start with a ceviche special and then add on smoked marlin tacos, oxtail empanadas in flaky pastry crust and wash everything down with a house made minty rum mojito. Make a meal of the small plates or enjoy a more traditional Cuban entree crafted by a chef who has mastered the delights of Nuevo Latino cuisine.
Joe’s Stone Crab / 11 Washington Avenue / Miami Beach, FL / 305-673-0365
Chicago foodies like to argue about the best deep dish pizza. New Yorkers lay claim to the perfect chewy water bagel and in Los Angeles, the taco trucks are the stuff of legend. Here on South Beach, the locals know that Joe Weiss discovered the stone crab in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Way back in the 1920s, Joe first harvested the local crabs and served them up with a side of cole slaw for a dollar! For that, Joe’s Stone Crab holds pride of place amongst all of our seafood eateries. But man does not live by crab alone. The house-made soups and chowders, sides and sweets that are the supporting players on the menu are also flavorful and delicious. So an order of crisp, southern fried chicken, a side of lyonnaise potatoes and a slice of cool Key Lime pie will be just as satisfying as a pricey plate of crabs. A popular takeaway counter with sidewalk tables helps diners on the go beat the long lines in the main dining room.
Clarke’s / 840 First Street / Miami Beach, FL / 305-538-9885
Gastropubs are increasingly common throughout Europe where a new generation of restaurateurs combines a love of the culinary arts with a desire for the kind of casual, inviting atmosphere that attracts a fiercely loyal customer base. While mom and dad may have gravitated to their favorite local bar over the years, the next generation spends their euros at their favorite eatery where there’s always something delicious on the homespun menu and a friendly pint waiting at the end of the day. That’s what drives the staff and locals at Clarke’s, a down-to-earth neighborhood watering hole in the South of Fifth Street district on glitzy South Beach. Opened to little fanfare in 2005, the Irish pub interior is all dark wood, exposed brick and stained glass. A real chef crafts classic pub fare – fish & chips, corned beef & cabbage, bangers & mash – but also sends out a juicy burger, seared scallops and a top-notch Sunday brunch. If it’s down home hospitality you crave, find a seat at the bar at Clarke’s.
Meat Market / 915 Lincoln Road / Miami Beach, FL / 305-532-0088
Lincoln Road, the busy pedestrian mall that bisects South Beach, attracts thousands of visitors each year who spend a good portion of their time people watching at the sidewalk cafes and coffee bars that line the promenade.
While a quick espresso, a slice of pizza or a healthy salad are easy to find, there are very few fine restaurants along the mall where guests can enjoy truly upscale destination dining. Chef Sean Brasel and his partners seized upon this niche and created a glamorous dining salon and old fashioned cocktail bar that quickly became the go-to spot for 5-8pm Friday night happy hours where appetizers like tuna tartare with ginger and soy pair perfectly with half-priced cocktails including a crystal clear moonshine Manhattan. After a few sips of this lethal combination, stick around for fresh tiraditos from the Crudo Bar, Asian BBQ lamb ribs, signature steaks (including King Canyon Ranch buffalo tenderloin), and a delectable variety of sides including spaetzle, truffled cream corn and gouda tater tots.
Burger & Beer Joint / 1766 Bay Road / Miami Beach, FL / 305-672-3287
The west side of South Beach was a quiet residential area where tourists seldom ventured until word of the launch of a dozen successful restaurants lured them away from the neon lights of Ocean Drive. Locals who frequent the funky Purdy Lounge, the clubby Joe Allen bar, and now the rollicking Burger & Beer Joint have to share their favorite haunts with clever visitors who want to taste the “Thunder Road” cheeseburger with smoked bacon and bourbon bbq sauce or the vegetarian portabella mushroom burger, the seared ahi tuna burger and those addictive skinny fries. B & B employs a full time soda jerk who whips up egg creams, shakes and malts next to an impressive collection of 99 bottles of international beers. Guests gather outside at wooden picnic tables or in the sports bar for game night or upstairs in the lounge for the weekly poker tourney. In less than a year, Burger & Beer Joint became a top destination for family-friendly dining.
Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante / 1801 Purdy Avenue / Miami Beach, FL / 305-531-2228
For a city with endless ties to the Caribbean and Latin America, there are far more successful Italian restaurants open on South Beach than truly remarkable Cuban eateries. Witness Sardinia, a unique regional bistro with owners who are truly passionate about showcasing the best imported products and regional wines of Italy. A perfect spot for oenophiles, the enoteca employs an osteria-style wine service utilizing the shorter “quartino” pour so guests can sample a few quality wines without having to buy an entire bottle. Hosting monthly wine tastings and paired wine dinners, the menu features a variety of antipasti platters with imported olives, meats and cheeses to start your meal service as they do in Italy. Entrees of roast suckling pig, grilled octopus or flaky branzino crusted in sea salt are soulful and satisfying. Braised rabbit, wild boar sausage, and delicate house made pastas offer diners a broad range of authentic rustic fare. Open for lunch, cocktails or a full chef’s tasting dinner, Sardinia sizzles from noon to midnight seven days a week.
Indomania / 131 26 Street / Miami Beach, FL / 305-535-6332
Foodies visiting South Beach who want to experience the truly unique flavors of Dutch-influenced Indonesian cuisine should stop in to Indomania, a tiny family run restaurant serving spicy Asian dishes unlike anything else in town. To take advantage of the full scope of the kitchen’s craftsmanship, order a rijsttafel; a set group of small plates that may include grilled chicken skewers, curried chicken, slow cooked beef, pork in ginger, white and flavored rice, curried eggs, spiced green beans, coconut vegetables, pickled cucumbers, fruit salad and shrimp crackers. Sample each of the flavorful dishes and share the experience as a group or as a great ice breaker on a date. Single entrees and vegetarian dishes are also available including fried rice or noodles with pork or chicken, grilled Florida red snapper wrapped in a banana leaf and a braised beef in coconut sauce. A reasonably-priced wine list and beer menu make ideal pairings with small plate appetizers like crisp spring rolls, pastry wrapped lamb martabak and skewers of shrimp, chicken or lamb. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, Indomania’s flavorful dishes and friendly service ensure an unforgettable experience.
Katana Sushi / 920 71 Street / Miami Beach, FL / 305-864-0037
If the secret to fresh sushi is the quick turnover of satisfied diners, then Katana Sushi has perfected a unique rapid delivery system for traditional nigiri sushi rolls at their tiny storefront eatery in mid-Miami Beach.
Kaiten-zushi conveyor belt restaurants are gaining popularity across the globe but at this “Only in Miami” concept spot, guests line up for a seat at the goofy sushi water slide that propels little wooden boats laden with pairs of sushi rolls past the hands of hungry patrons. Obviously enchanting to children of all ages, diners simply grab the plates that capture their fancy and stack them on the bar until they have eaten enough. With a wave to a nearby server, the color-coded plates are quickly tallied up to make way for the next hungry customer. Because the no-ordering process requires an immediate familiarity with the rolls, most of the sushi is recognizable tuna, salmon, shrimp and hamachi with a few combinations of seafood and vegetable tempura also making the rounds. For a fun, fast and filling “no-frills” sushi dinner, Katana is always ready to roll!
Makoto / 9700 Collins Avenue / Bal Harbour, FL / 305-864-8600
Fans of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto may have noticed his loyal sous chef toiling by his side through 13 epic battles in Kitchen Stadium on the Food TV network.
After a stint as first sushi chef at a number of successful Starr restaurants in New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Sashi in Los Angeles, Chef Makoto Okuwa is definitely ready for his close-up at his brand new eponymous Japanese restaurant in tony Bal Harbour Shops Mall. Well-heeled patrons are already flocking to the brand new 200-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant where the chef crafts a unique small plate menu that’s a big step up from gourmet sushi bar fare. While fresh seafood plays an important part of Makoto’s menu, the pristine nigiri is joined by a variety of upscale riffs on traditional Asian tapas like foie gras filled gyoza dumplings, spicy chicken tskune meatballs, and the chef’s signature fried rice incorporating a tasty dice of Kobe beef. Modern rice and noodle dishes accompany fresh grilled seafood, premium Wagyu beef and Kurobuta pork belly. Cruise the racks of Chanel, Saks and Gucci to whet your appetite and then settle into this elegant new restaurant to explore some unique designer riffs on classic Japanese cuisine.
Timo Restaurant & Bar / 17624 Collins Avenue / Sunny Isles Beach, FL / 305-936-1008
The coast of Miami Beach encompasses a number of seaside communities where tourists from across the world gather to bask in our 365 days of sunshine including the family friendly stretch of North Miami Beach known as Sunny Isles. Recently razed to make way for massive resort highrises, much of the Mid-Century charm of the city succumbed to the developer’s wrecking ball with the exception of Timo Restaurant, one of the best dining destinations on busy A1A. Chef Tim Andriola crafts a modern Mediterranean menu with wood-fired pizzas, house made pastas and a solid wine list that’s perfect for date night, family gatherings or just a quick and satisfying lunch. Enjoy a variety of small plates at the bar, a slow braised short rib dinner served over velvety potato puree or a grilled selection of fresh Florida seafood. Andriola offers foodies a 4-course Chef’s Tasting Menu to pair with a wine flight or composes his famous Millionaire’s Salad of poached Maine lobster, warm foie gras and black truffle vinaigrette. Savvy Sunny Isles travelers know how fine it is to dine at Timo.