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. Recent 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 pizza in Miami.
Best Miami Beach restaurants
There are certain things you expect when dining out at a steakhouse: You want the service to be top-notch, the atmosphere pleasant but not fussy and the selection superior—including the wine, of course. All of the above is true of Red, the Steakhouse, a South of Fifth neighborhood staple that’s been known to lure its share of passersby to its tastefully modern, crimson dining room. Steakhouse standards rule the menu, like jumbo shrimp cocktail and a hearty 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye. Among the tasty alternatives drawing in diners bored with the usual red-meat fare is fresh, never frozen Alaskan king crabs (though off the menu, the seasonal items warrant a little sleuthing), veal chop and a variety of pastas.
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.
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 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).
It’s not just retirees who earn Miami the dubious nickname of New York City’s sixth borough—the city’s restaurants have a lot to do with it, too. Popular Manhattan steakhouse Quality Meats is one of many transplants that’s been a hit with locals, in part for its prime cuts of beef supplied by well-known butcher Pat LaFrieda, which are even better after a stint in the restaurant’s 1,200-degree infrared broiler. Dining in the eatery’s Art Deco digs is very much an old-school steakhouse experience—expect dry-aged steaks, starchy sides, shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad. However, there are also some standout contemporary favorites, like the house-cured bacon served with chunky peanut butter and an apple-jalapeno jelly, veal shank for two and a burnt marshmallow ice cream dessert.
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. The menu, a modern take on traditional Latin cuisine, is composed of small and large plates packed with plenty of local flavors and Florida-sourced ingredients. Take the Cuban homestyle arroz con pollowith crackling skin and lemon zest, or the chipotle chicken tacos, both down-home dishes done up to five-star standards.
As the tagline reads, “STK Miami is not your daddy’s steakhouse.” For starters, the decor is more modern lair than old-fashioned den and the killer cocktail menu rivals the wine list—though that’s pretty impressive here, too. This is where the It crowd gathers to chow down on juicy Lil’ Brgs (their signature Wagyu beef sliders) before hitting the town, but also where you’re bound to run into celebrities and the rest of us mere mortals who can’t get enough of dishes like the chili-rubbed lamb, lobster mac and cheese and a decadent churro milkshake, which are so very deliciously Miami.
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, and sipping one of the tiki-themed cocktails, like a Thai basil mule or the deceptively strong mai tai made with Appleton Estate rum.
If you want the authentic taste of Mexican street food without having to eat it standing by the side of the road, Bodega’s got you covered. You’ll still place your order from a truck—except this one is permanently parked inside and afterward you can select a seat at a high-top or picnic table, inside or curbside. Dishes include tacos, tortas, street corn and guacamole, to name a few. We’re fans of the carnitas tacos topped with charred pineapple. And because Miamians love a little club-door drama, Bodega disguises the entrance to its secret back lounge as a porta-potty.
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.
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.