When it comes to Miami Beach restaurants, locals used to fall into two camps: residents of the resort city, who never have a reason to leave, and mainland-bound Miamians who only “schlep” there under protest. Innovations like Uber have made the commute more bearable, but it’s the thriving dining scene that has everyone flocking without any complaints—no matter the distance. Suddenly, top Miami Beach restaurants are some of the top in Miami, period. These are the best restaurants in Miami currently luring us with thick, juicy steaks, inspired sushi rolls, seasonal off-menu items and some of the best cocktails in Miami.
Best Miami Beach restaurants
Restaurateur Stephen Starr has a large footprint in Miami (Le Zoo, the Continental, Makoto), but Upland marks the first time he carries over a concept from New York City. The South of Fifth location is a close adaption of the contemporary American restaurant in NYC’s midtown, serving an array of pasta dishes, wood-fired pizzas and seasonal vegetables. Hungry? Dig into the coal-roasted short rib for two, a beautiful, bone-in chunk of meat that tastes equally fantastic the next day (trust us, you'll have plenty left over). Desserts are at once simple and artful, like the beautiful chocolate mousse with chunks of shaved cocoa that you won't want to share no matter how stuffed you are.
James Beard Award–winning chef José Andrés—a spirited Spaniard whose frequent television appearances have made him a veritable ambassador of Iberian cuisine—knows how to turn a tapa on its head. At the Bazaar, croquettes come served inside a glass “sneaker,” caprese salad is skewered on a dropper filled with mozzarella and olive oil and caipirinhas are made tableside using dry ice. Unlike other gimmicky restaurants that value presentation over flavor, food here not only looks cool but actually tastes great too, which is partly why as many locals as tourists flock to this South Beach staple.
The Pubbelly boys put a fresh spin on sushi at their foray into Japanese cuisine. Chef/co-owner José Mendín and sushi chef Yuki Ieto introduce unexpected ingredients and Latin flavors to create inventive rolls you won’t find anywhere else: pork belly and clams, soft-shell crab and bacon—the list of interesting pairings goes on. Pubbelly’s gastropub pedigree means you’ll find heartier fare here too. Feast on a variety of New England–style sliders filled with rock shrimp or Maine lobster, or super-fresh fish skewers. Check the chalkboard wall for daily specials and a list of rotating brews from around the world.
At Beachcraft, Tom Colicchio marries his signature farm-to-table style with Mediterranean ingredients to create a breezy, seaside eatery that's perfect for South Beach. Don't fill up on bread—though it's tempting since it's all baked in-house—and instead go heavy on the small plates, like the short rib flatbread and the charred octopus, which is known to turn non-seafood eaters into seafood enthusiasts. And in keeping with the Colicchio Craft restaurant tradition, Beachcraft also serves a solid New York strip (aged and grilled, of course). Most ingredients are culled from local farms or picked straight off the property's living walls, so diners can expect dishes to change seasonally (don't fall too hard for a menu item here, you may not see it again for a while). Cocktail offerings follow suit: new drink creations are constantly popping up on the menu as are different batched varieties, all of which are flavored with fresh fruits and herbs.
Miami’s beloved Chef Bee brings street food from his homeland of Thailand to his adopted hometown of South Beach, where an open kitchen and expert staff take the place of roving carts and questionable vendors. Menu standouts include the popular tom khagi, a creamy mushroom and chicken soup in coconut broth, and popcorn shrimp—both delectable small plates that whet the palate for bold, flavorful dishes like massaman curry and the crowd-pleasing pad Thai. NaiYaRa’s cocktail program is a little more unflinching, boasting spirit-forward cocktails comprising an array of Thai herbs and spices. Enjoy them (along with a selection of wines and beers) for just $7 during the restaurant's daily happy hour from 5 to 7pm.
The undeniably chic Matador Room from Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten looks like the kind of place where you might have spotted Frank Sinatra or Marilyn Monroe circa 1960. But the Art Deco decor and oversized supper-club-style booths is about where the retro influences end. Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford helms the predominantly Latin menu—but it's not the kind you're thinking. Take the Cuban homestyle arroz con pollo with crackling skin and lemon zest, or the chipotle chicken tacos, both down-home dishes done up to five-star standards. You'll find traditional Floridian classics sprinkled throughout as well, such as the delicate Florida Keys wild shrimp served in a spicy agua.
The Sunset Harbour outpost of Lucali, the famed Brooklyn-based pizza shop and wine bar, is perpetually slammed. Neither the limited menu—pizza, salad, two desserts and not much else—nor the higher-than-usual prices for a pie ($24 for plain cheese) deter crowds from stopping in daily. To understand why no one can resist Lucali in all its costly and crowded splendor, simply dig in to a slice of the traditional pizza (which you can sprinkle with free fresh basil), the kale Caesar (the best around) and the warm Nutella dessert pizza (sprinkled with powdered sugar, no less).
Whether you come for red-sauce Sundays (a supper inspired by chef Michael Pirolo’s own family tradition), a daily risotto special or any of the house-made pasta dishes, Macchialina promises the best and most authentic Italian experience in town. The dining room’s exposed brick walls add to the rustic feel, which bodes well for diners looking for an uncomplicated, straightforward meal. You won’t go wrong with the popular beet-filled mezzaluna (crescent-shaped ravioli) with hazelnuts, the local burrata with heirloom tomatoes or the whole Florida snapper. Though why choose? The $50 chef’s tasting menu is a great way to try them all.
Years after introducing South Beach to true Southern fried chicken, Yardbird remains one of the toughest reservations in town. Brunch is still the most popular meal here, with diners arriving early to dig into eggs Benedict and elaborate Bloody Marys, piled high with pickled green beans, okra and crispy bacon. Though judging by the crowds that spill over into the bar area on most busy evenings, it’s the fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese, chicken biscuits and macaroni and cheese—among other Southern favorites—that are giving new meaning to the term South Beach diet.
This isn’t just your typical Korean restaurant, which is immediately evident from the nondescript entrance. It’s dark with low-slung ceilings and always abuzz with attractive twentysomethings. There are grill tables where groups of four can char up their own Korean barbecue, though any seat in the house is a good spot for feasting on kimchi noodles, tender short ribs and twice-fried chicken wings. Vegetarians aren't left behind either, as the popular shitake mushroom board and barbecue vegetables give diners plenty of satisfying options. To drink, choose from one of the tiki-themed cocktails, like a Thai basil mule or the deceptively strong mai tai made with Appleton Estate rum.