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Winker's Diner
Photograph: Michael Pisarri

It’s worth braving a causeway for 12 killer Miami Beach restaurants

There’s a life-changing lobster thermidor waiting for you, and other reasons to visit the best Miami Beach restaurants

Eric Barton
Written by
Eric Barton
Contributor
Time Out Miami editors
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Look, we’ve heard the arguments before against heading over to the best Miami Beach restaurants—the drive, the touristy vibe, the fact that Lincoln Road just isn’t the same. The counterargument is simple: on the other side of the causeway awaits a few of the tastiest things in town, served by some of the finest restaurant staff in the metro. It’s not just all South Beach. For this list, we looked in every corner of the beach, from that cruise-ship-viewing stretch down south to the bit up north where your grandma probably had a condo. It turns out there’s good food to be had everywhere on the beach these days, everything from Miami's best tacos to chef-driven menus that you should hit if you’re truly food-obsessed and living in Miami. How about we carpool?

Best Miami Beach restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • South of Fifth
  • price 4 of 4

Have you had the cacio e pepe cheese puffs? They’re like grilled cheese sandwiches with bread and butter pickles turned into fine dining—tasty, beautiful, inventive, and something that’ll take you back to after-school snacks. They’re indicative of what chef Jeremy Ford does in his buzzy restaurant, where he reinvents and rethinks a dish into something tastier and prettier and something we want to eat again and again.

There’s a bit of an Italian restaurant war these days on the beach with Carbone (good luck getting in) and Osteria Morini (delicious but meh vibe) and this one, from the Pubbelly folks. The prices here are more weeknight-appropriate than the other two and the dishes are inventive and quite good, like the carpaccio with a fresh snow of truffles, and a pair of crispy branzino filets draped over a bowl of brothy clams. There’s a rigatoni ala vodka, a shot at Carbone perhaps, that’ll feel like grandma just plopped down her signature dish. It’s worth noting this is the only local-bred of the three new Italian newcomers, and while supporting the homegrown folks is all well and good, we’re happy to report it’s also quite good.

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  • Restaurants
  • Diners
  • South Beach
  • price 2 of 4

To call this a diner is a bit like calling a yacht a large dingy. This is the glamorous 1920s Hollywood version of a diner, with patterned pastel wallpaper, glittering accents everywhere. Blue leather-ish gangster booths along the wall give the place the feel of an Art Deco-era hangout. The menu too strikes out into far nicer (and more expensive) territory, with a lobster cobb that'll haunt your dreams and a big hunk of prime rib roast to define all others. Like the way Wes Anderson movies just look like Wes Anderson movies, this is the creation of nightlife mogul David Grutman, and it feels very much like one, a bit of diner-inspired glamour that you should see for yourself.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • North Beach
  • price 2 of 4

Excellent tacos, great quesadillas, even better margaritas—these are the things that win our hearts. Add to the fact that this location is right across from the beach, and casual enough to show up with sand on your flip-flops, and you have a place that has to be among your favorites.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bistros
  • Normandy Isle

Miami Beach has lots of glitzy and glamorous, but sometimes what you want is a neighborhood spot, a place like Silverlake, where the food is just always good, the service is consistently friendly, and where we’ve yet to find anything on the menu we couldn’t recommend. Test that theory with the double patty cheeseburger, slathered in an umami-punch of porcini mayo, bacon and cheddar, served alongside nostalgia-inducing shoestring fries.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Mid-Beach
  • price 4 of 4

No one beats grandma’s cooking but for homemade Italian in a slightly nicer setting (no offense, nonna), we head to Scarpetta. Celebrity chef Scott Conant has refined his own family recipes to bring the masses elevated on regional dishes, including creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms and Mediterranean octopus. And you can’t say you’ve experienced Scarpetta until you have Conant’s classic spaghetti with tomato basil—it’s fresh pasta in a simple sauce but it tastes like magic.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Surfside
  • price 4 of 4

There’s a reason everyone agrees Thomas Keller is one of the greatest American chefs alive right now. Sit down in the stunning Surf Club Restaurant and you’ll understand why before dessert arrives. Keller’s first Miami outpost does classic dishes and channels old American glam of the ‘50s and ’60s. We’re happy to report that it’s not as boring as it sounds, with lively music, friendly service and a Maine lobster thermidor so pretty you might want to buy a frame for the family room.

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  • Restaurants
  • Latin American
  • Miami Beach
  • price 4 of 4

With a name such as Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten attached, Matador Room sets the expectation way high for diners—and it delivers both in experience and cuisine. Its midcentury design is reminiscent of 1950s glamour, though the vibe is far more upscale than stuffy. The Caribbean, Spanish and Latin flavors all find their way to the seasonal menu, featuring artisanal pizzas, delicate seafood options and plenty of small plates to pass around before making your way to Basement downstairs.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Bal Harbour
  • price 3 of 4

This adorable French bistro is inside a mall, but you’d never tell based on its lovely string lights and overall chic decor. Le Zoo, being a Stephen Starr restaurant, has a certain reputation to uphold and it does so beautifully with a menu that’s equal parts classic and modern, featuring items like steak frites and duck confit pizza.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Bal Harbour
  • price 4 of 4

Yes, we’re suggesting another mall restaurant and the second Stephen Starr property at that, but there’s good reason for it: spicy tuna crispy rice. Though Makoto is more than its famous appetizer, luring diners from all over with its upscale Japanese fare and sushi plus a superb selection of robata-grilled proteins and vegetables.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Miami Beach
  • price 3 of 4

Cecconi’s popularity hasn’t waned since it opened as the only public offering inside the exclusive Soho Beach House. It’s here where you can rub elbows with members and experience the same five-star treatment. But who are we kidding? We’re here for the pasta—stuffed, baked or doused with house-made sauce. The romantic lighting courtesy of a small forest draped in dazzling garlands ain’t bad either. 

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