The 30 best Miami restaurants

From well-established local favorites to the latest hot tables, these are the Miami restaurants you need to know about right now

Photograph: Noah Fecks
Go Dutch on seafood at the W South Beach hotel’s Dutch restaurant

Choosing a restaurant in Miami can be as challenging as choosing the right spot on the beach. But that wasn't always so. As recently as even a decade ago, the best Miami restaurants were usually found in a swanky South Beach hotel lobby. And while there are still plenty of impressive places to eat within the confines of the city's hippest lodgings—Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS, the Dutch at the W South Beach, BLT Steak at the Betsy, and Bianca at the Delano among them—diners willing to wander off the well-worn tourist paths will find themselves deliciously rewarded.

Cuban and Latin American cuisines

Bazaar by José Andrés

Critics' pick

Everything about the SLS is painfully hip, including the Bazaar, its house restaurant. Opened in 2012 by culinary giant José Andrés, the Bazaar has already risen to the top of local foodies’ must-visit list, earning it the distinction of being the second most-booked restaurant in the city, according to online reservation site OpenTable.com. Perhaps that’s because the food and overall vibe of the place are an experiment in decadence, bringing a playful spirit to the old-world glamor that defined the city’s art deco era. The menu is lively, combining elements of Spain and Latin America to wind up with dishes like Papas a la Huancaína (Peruvian potatoes with sea urchin) and Cuban coffee-rubbed churrasco with passionfruit. If you can snag a reservation, strap on your seatbelt and get ready for a wild ride.

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South Beach

Puerto Sagua

Critics' pick

The best place for breakfast on Collins is this trad (as in authentically old, rather than retro) Cuban diner. Choose from a long list of set combinations, many of which give change from six bucks. Later in the day, an entertaining mix of old-time Cubanos, hip-hop kids and beach bums drop by for paella-style chicken and rice, ham croquettes and fried pork chops.

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South Beach

Ola

Back in the 1980s, chef Douglas Rodriguez started the nouveau Cuban craze in Miami and then moved to New York, where he became a huge star. After returning to Miami, he opened Ola. The trendy minimalist decor feels dated, but the food is sophisticated and imaginative. Ceviche is a forte: the wahoo with watermelon jalapeño juice and cucumber sorbet is sublime. Dishes such as braised pork with black bean broth and steamed yucca remind smug foodies that Miami, not Manhattan, was first in the nuevo Latino scene. And the deconstructed key lime pie (served with meringue, vanilla bean ice-cream and toasted cinnamon walnut tuile) puts the original in the shade. Be warned: you’ll need to knock back a few mojitos to digest the Manhattan-style bill.

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South Beach

El Chalan

Miami’s best food is often found in strip malls, and this budget Peruvian caff is a case in point. The aesthetics are cheap: bright, unflattering lights, laminated menus and photographs of the food. But the home cooking is top notch. The ceviche is fresh and tangy, the lomo saltado is present and correct, and the medley of traditional Peruvian cuisine is simple and comforting (aji de gallina, boneless chicken in a creamy sauce; tripe stew in yellow mint sauce). If you can’t afford the elegant Francesco’s, this is a great intro to Peruvian cuisine.

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Coral Gables

Michy's

Brazenly located in the gritty Upper East Side, bold and beautiful Michy’s has helped to slowly gentrify the neighborhood. The flamboyant decor is pure 1970s retro glam, complete with kitsch florals and shell chandeliers. Celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein has fashioned a similarly playful menu, a brave mix of Latin, Southern, French and comfort food, all available in half portions. The white gazpacho is moreish, and the creamy polenta is chock full of truffles. Peruvian-style ceviche is a classic starter, while foie gras is done with a twist: seared and served with a crêpe and blood orange marmalade. The sinful fettuccine carbonara combines serrano ham, poached egg and Saint-André cheese, and fans drive across town for the bread pudding.

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Design District

Tap Tap

It looks like a shack from the outside, but that’s all part of the package at this funky, arty restaurant, which pays homage to Haitian culture and cuisine. Inside, colorful murals spice up the place, and music, art exhibitions and poetry readings complement a basic menu of fish, lamb and goat, plus vegetable stews. It’s like a trip to Little Haiti but with a much-improved chance of finding your car where you left it at the end of the night.

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South Beach

Classic American

Barton G the Restaurant

Critics' pick

Owned by Barton G Weiss, an A-list caterer, this unique restaurant manages to be both plush and cozy. Fabulous American cuisine is funked up with presentations that include popcorn shrimp in a popcorn box and grilled sea bass in a brown paper bag with laundry clips to keep the steam in. A phenomenal Caesar salad comes complete with mini cheese-grater and, for the grand finale, a plume of cotton candy reminiscent of Dame Edna’s wig. This is one menu that has to be seen and tasted to be believed.

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South Beach

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

Critics' pick

This buzzy restaurant is a true star. Decor and menu are classy yet casual, and the service also strikes just the right note. The interior mixes industrial chic—concrete floors, exposed ducts—with warmth (red lamps, flickering candles, modern art and a brick oven glowing from the open kitchen). With an emphasis on local ingredients, the high-end comfort food ticks all the right boxes. Mains change daily but might include a selection of wood-fired pizzas; a whole "poulet rouge" chicken with plumped raisins, toasted pine nuts and rocket; and duck confit with tangerine marmalade and spiced pumpkin seeds. Hedy Goldsmith’s innovative desserts—including bread pudding and weekend pop tarts—are indeed a grand finale.

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Design District

Yardbird

Critics' pick

Flashy though it may be, Miami is still a part of the American South: the region that spawned fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, pretty much fried anything. One need only venture a few steps off Lincoln Road to try these comfort food staples, all of them made from scratch and most of it sourced locally. The buzz surrounding Yardbird has been deafening since its birth in 2011 (plans to expand the concept to New York City and Las Vegas are currently in the works). At the center of this publicity maelstrom? Yardbird’s now-famous fried chicken—a recipe that takes 27 hours to prepare and can be ordered up as a slider (Mama’s Chicken Biscuits) or on a plate (Llewellyn’s Fine Fried Chicken). Wash it down with a whiskey-based house cocktail (Blackberry Lemonade—made with lemon juice, organic blackberries, cardamom and sparkling wine—is a customer favorite).

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South Beach

Dutch

Critics' pick

After wowing critics in Manhattan, Andrew Carmellini has duplicated his popular, roots-inspired American eaterie in Miami by way of the W hotel. Paying tribute to the kind of American culinary traditions you’d witness in neighborhood taverns and roadside cafés, the menu runs the gamut from chicken wings with pickled ramps to crisp lamb belly with couscous and tomato. The vibe is as laidback as the vintage, beach-house decor.

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South Beach

Federal Drink & Provisions

Critics' pick

Go on, play with your food. The folks at the Federal won’t mind. Experimentation is encouraged at this bustling gastropub, located in a not-so-bustling strip mall on the upper part of Biscayne Boulevard. Co-owners Cesar Zapata and Aniece Meinhold treat this gem as if it were their very own nightly dinner party, and in a way it is. Which is why you’ll see the same faces here several nights a week, chowing down on newfangled editions of classic American dishes. Starters include a Jar-o-Duck (a Mason jar full of duck, layered with charred fluff and candied sweet potato) and buffalo-style pig wings. Popular mains include the daily-changing Not Your Granny’s Pot Pie, and a lamb burger served with grilled pickled onions on a pretzel bun.

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Design District

Jumbo's

A Miami tradition for more than 60 years, this family-run place is known for its world-famous fried shrimp, fried chicken, catfish fingers and collard greens. Sure, it’s located in what locals call the "ghetto," but it’s open 24/7 and worth slumming it. And there’s history here too: Jumbo’s was the first restaurant in Miami to integrate in 1966 and the first to hire African American employees in 1967.

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Design District

Steakhouses

Meat Market

Critics' pick

No, it’s not a pick-up joint. Cited as one of the city’s "buzziest restaurants" by Condé Nast Traveler, Meat Market is one of the classier spots to set up shop on Lincoln Road. It’s enormous, too (4,400sq ft, with a cute outdoor café for al fresco dining). The "Meat" in the title refers to the high-quality slabs of beef that are trucked in from local farms and flown in from New York and Australia. Signature steaks—like a prime filet mignon—can be ordered as full or half-cuts. Vegetarians, meanwhile, can indulge in a menu of specially crafted cocktails, which are as beautiful to look at as they are fun to guzzle.

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South Beach

Prime 112

Who in their right mind would ever pay $25 for a hot dog—OK, a Kobe beef hot dog? Diners at this posh steakhouse, that’s who. Command central for carnivores and those who devour a good, star-studded scene, Prime 112 ("Prime One Twelve") is perennially packed. The aged beef is delish, as are the soy-marinated sea bass and the massive salads and side dishes, but the real dish here is the crowd, a silicone- and Botox-enhanced mass of glamazons and wannabes on the hunt for a man—or woman—who can afford to pay $25 for a wiener without batting a surgically improved eyelash.

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South Beach

The Forge

Local legend has it that Al Capone is alive and well and living in this steakhouse’s acclaimed wine cellar. The place itself is a rococo-lover’s fantasy: multi-chambered, ornately decorated (and priced) and completely OTT. Although it stands as a monument to decadent wines, steak and fish, there are plenty of options for calorie-conscious diners. You can tour and dine in the 300,000-bottle wine cellar if you wish.

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South Beach

Seafood

Joe's Stone Crab

Critics' pick

South Florida’s most famous restaurant, Joe’s (which turned 100 in 2013) is as much a Miami must-see as Ocean Drive. It attracts locals, tourists and celebs, serving seasonal stone crabs (October–May) with a "secret" sauce, garlic creamed spinach, fried sweet potatoes, coleslaw and hash browns. If you don’t like seafood, try the fried chicken, or the liver and onions. Joe’s doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared for a horrendously long wait, first to register your name, then for a table. Alternatively, if you can’t face that, just go with takeaway from the adjacent shop.

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South Beach

Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish

Critics' pick

Down by the river, tucked behind a maze of downtown freeways and bridges, this seafood shack is a hidden gem. From the nautical interior and rustic waterfront deck to the fishing boats that chug by, this place oozes character. Conch fritters, gorgeous ceviche and Florida stone crab are warm-ups for the entrées: juicy grilled jumbo shrimp, say, or grilled yellowtail, grouper or lobster, served alongside buttery parsley potatoes, green plantains, Caesar salads or fries. The Key lime pie is one of the best in town. Tricky to find, but worth the effort.

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Downtown

AltaMare

On a forgotten stretch of Lincoln Road, this mom-and-pop setup is the antithesis to glitzy Miami. But the fresh, simply prepared seafood—done with an Italian slant—has earned the restaurant a loyal following. Typical entrées might be fettuccine with wild ocean rock shrimp; beer-battered yelloweye snapper with crispy Yukon gold wedges; or local grouper with sunchoke purée and cilantro salsa verde.

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South Beach

European cuisines

Barceloneta

Critics' pick

There’s a reason why this Spanish tapas joint is sandwiched next to two members of the Pubbelly family of restaurants: she’s their little sister. Opened in 2011, small plates of well-balanced Catalan classics are the specialty here, and they’re served up by an impressive staff of true hospitality professionals (after 24 hours in Miami, you’ll understand why this is so noteworthy). Carnivores will appreciate flavorful dishes of tempranillo-braised oxtail with creamy polenta and rabbit rillettes with a cherry brandy compote, while veggie-lovers will want seconds of crispy patatas bravas, spicy shishito peppers (topped with a decadent valdeón cheese) and a rich potato and onion omelette. If nothing on the extensive wine list strikes your fancy, opt for an exotic specialty martini (the Cardamomo, made with tequila, lime juice, fresh pineapple and cardamom pods, complements much of the menu).

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South Beach

Villa Azur

In the heart of nightclub central, Villa Azur is a welcome reminder that the art of fine dining is not always lost on the party-’til-the-sun-rises crowd. This French newcomer—co-owned by actor Olivier Martinez (who, at press time, was set to become Mr Halle Berry)—channels a bit of the French Riviera with an inspired France-meets-Italy menu (Mediterranean bouillabaisse casserole and risotto with fresh lobster and purple artichoke hearts are two standout dishes). You’ll be transported the moment you walk inside the door into a lobby that Marie Antoinette would have loved—crystal chandeliers, antique wood fixtures and sleek chairs and couches lead the way to the dining room. But the courtyard is where the action happens. All the usual accoutrements—like a $600 helping of Kaluga caviar and more celebrities than you can shake a stick at—are here. But the end result is surprisingly down to earth.

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South Beach

Balans

A longtime fave of pink brunchers in London, Balans’s first US venture is on Lincoln Road. Curiously, despite the laid-back locale, it’s more uptight than its Anglo counterpart. On our visit, wait staff wanted us to know that they’re only doing this job until the call from their agent comes through. Still, the food is good (a mix of Asian and Mediterranean, and keenly priced). And, unlike in London, the umbrellas outside are there to keep the sun off, not the rain.

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South Beach

Icebox Cafe

The Icebox is a curious mix of industrial space (exposed ducting, hard metallic surfaces), matronly tearoom (creamy chocolate cakes on frilly stands) and gay bar (beefcake waiters serve a campy crowd). But it’s quite pleasant, especially for a quick cuppa while shopping on nearby Lincoln Road. However, lingering over coffee and cake earns you scowls around lunchtime, when hungry shoppers queue for the Med-style cuisine from a surprisingly ambitious daily changing menu. Don’t forget to save room for dessert; the restaurant’s Chocolate Delight was named one of the "best cakes in America" by Oprah Winfrey.

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South Beach

Italian restaurants

Escopazzo

Critics' pick

The name may mean "crazy," but the only sign of insanity at this organic Italian stalwart is the fact that there are only 90 seats—nowhere near enough to accommodate the legion of die-hard escopazzosos. Their continued loyalty is maintained by superb home-made risotto (we recently had one made with dark chocolate and topped with edible gold), excellent pasta, some outstanding wines and doting service. It’s pricey but, we have to say, it’s worth it.

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South Beach

Cecconi's

Critics' pick

If you’re hoping for a star sighting, your chances will be greatly improved by taking in a meal—and the gorgeous decor—at Cecconi’s, the open-to-the-public Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the members-only Soho Beach House. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Miami outpost of the Venetian original serves up the same inspired dishes, from braised lamb ravioli with peas and pecorino to veal saltimbocca with sautéed spinach.

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Mid Beach

Macchialina

Critics' pick

Rustic and homey, this off-the-beaten-path Italian (from the same folks behind the Pubbelly family of restaurants) is full of locals looking to escape the madness of South Beach. Luckily, they’ve found a place to do it where the laid-back vibe is totally authentic and the food is damn good, too. Antipasti includes a creamy burrata cheese (locally made) served with pickled aubergine. A small pasta menu ticks all the right flavor notes (the short rib lasagna is a customer favorite). Pizza, too, is dependably delicious and well thought out, with fried eggs, meatballs and mushroom fricassée as toppings.

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South Beach

Café Ragazzi

Size definitely doesn't matter at this tiny neighbourhood Italian spot, where people willingly wait out on the street for a table. The stellar cuisine includes garlicky, home-made orecchiette with broccoli, salmon puttanesca and stuffed veal chop. Also tasty is Ragazzi's stunning male host.

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Surfside

Casa Tua

One of the city’s finest and fussiest big-bucks restaurants, Casa Tua is a sleek and chic country Italian-style establishment set in a refurbished 1925 Mediterranean-style two-story house. It has several dining areas, including an outdoor garden, comfy Ralph Lauren-esque living room and a communal eat-in kitchen. The lamb chops are stratospheric in price ($40), but orgasmic in taste. After dinner, head upstairs to the lounge (if staff let you—the place is technically a members-only club), where the beautiful people commune over $15 cocktails.

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South Beach

Asian cuisines

Hy Vong

Critics' pick

A neighborhood mainstay for more than 25 years, this tiny Vietnamese restaurant has only 35 seats, all constantly occupied by locals. Fill up on expertly prepared Asian specials such as kingfish with yellow curry sauce, cooked on a six-burner stove. If you arrive after 7pm, the wait for a free table can be brutal—up to two hours on occasions—and the service can be slow too. But fans swear the food is worth it.

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Little Havana

Nobu at the Shore Club

Nobu Matsuhisa is regarded as the world’s greatest sushi chef, but that’s not why this place is booked up weeks in advance. No, this outpost of the global raw fish superpower is lodged at the Shore Club and it’s the combination of hotelier-with-the-Midas-touch Ian Schrager and Nobu backer Robert De Niro that makes it celeb central. The likes of Madonna and J-Lo might only drop by once in a blue moon, but it’s the people hoping to spot them who pack Nobu every night.

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South Beach

Pubbelly

Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin and Sergio Navarro—the trio behind Pubbelly—have got quite a growing business on their hands. In addition to this original outpost, the city’s first Asian-inspired gastropub, they’ve grown their family of restaurants to include Pubbelly Sushi right next door, which—yep, you guessed it—is more than just Asian-inspired. And now there’s Pubbelly Steak. Rustic Italian eaterie Macchialina and tapas-focused Barceloneta are all part of the family too. Could Pubbelly Vegan be next?

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South Beach
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