March 2020: As spring nears and the city prepares to welcome a new season (on paper at least because we all know this is the land of forever summers), we’re taking this opportunity to freshen up our list of the best restaurants in Miami. The local food scene is blooming as we welcome newcomer Balloo to the list—the small, neighborhood spot may have recently opened but it is already making a ton of noise. Looking for something fancier? We’ve also introduced The Surf Club by Thomas Keller—because no one does fine-dining as well as the award-winning chef. Hungry or not, you’ll want to keep this list handy: Our EAT List covers the city’s places to feast right now.
Miami's culinary scene is so hot right now. Popping up everywhere are chef-run establishments pioneering new concepts (think Vietnamese fusion or farm-to-table Indian) and tourist-approved eateries in Little Havana that even discerning locals can get behind—and the good news doesn’t stop there. Craving the best of the best? Check out our EAT List, a compact guide to the top restaurants in Miami. Some offer expensive tasting menus in Wynwood, some serve giant, delicious Cubanos on the cheap, and some are the quaint mom-and-pop cafés that we just can’t quit.
Time Out’s local experts scour the city every day for great eats, great value and insider info (like a certain Italian place’s discounted pasta night). We value fun, flavor, freshness—and value at every price point. We update the EAT List quarterly, plus whenever there’s a truly spectacular new opening. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a pop-up-turned-permanent spot: if it’s on the list we think it’s awesome and think you will too.
We should also note that a number of the best chefs, restaurants and concepts in the city have been welcomed into the Time Out Market Miami. Because that is the highest honor we can award, and we now have a tighter relationship with them, establishments related to market vendors have all been included in the EAT List but not ranked alongside other great establishments in the city. You can find those amazing places here.
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Find out more about how we eat through the city to make the list.
Best restaurants in Miami
A cross between an L.A. strip-mall gem and a cozy, narrow Brooklyn dive, Boia De sits on the edge of Little Haiti, an immigrant neighborhood on the brink of big change. Grab a seat at the black-and-white terrazzo counter to spy Michelin-trained chefs Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer doing their thing, which in their case means making dishes that are turned up an extra notch: The beef tartare, for example, is topped with a crunchy shallot-garlic concoction as well as capers, which are fried for a burst of briny flavor, and then the whole thing is smothered in a yummy tonnato sauce, a tuna-based Italian condiment that holds everything together like some kind of fancy picnic salad.
Timon Ballo’s funky namesake restaurant in the heart of Downtown features an eclectic, deeply personal menu that draws from the chef’s Caribbean and Asian background. Never tried goat, bull or some other form of island delicacy? This is the place to be adventurous. Seasonality, creativity and nostalgia all seem to drive the frequently changing selection. Expect the pickled veggies in the small-plates section to be whatever’s the freshest and the seafood proteins to rotate depending on availability.
At this farm-to-table Southeast Asian restaurant, chef Niven Patel, who was short-listed for a James Beard Award last year and again in 2020, grows about a quarter of his ingredients at his Rancho Patel in Homestead. And the whole operation is a family affair: His wife, mother and mother-in-law can be seen whipping up smoked lamb neck, crispy cauliflower and steamed green millet, and other specialties in the open kitchen. The dishes are seasonal, the curries are made fresh, and the naan is so flavorful, it should really be savored on its own.
In only three short years, this modern Asian eatery has nabbed a James Beard Award nomination and become one of Wynwood’s toughest reservations to snag. Chef Michael Lewis elevates comfort-food classics like pork buns, Korean fried chicken and crab-fried rice into uniquely satisfying, visually arresting dishes. Try the crowd-favorite roasted cauliflower: Served over a bright-chartreuse herb vinaigrette, the enormous charred head is tender but still has plenty of bite. Make sure to save room for the spot’s signature dessert: a towering slice of coconut cake (courtesy of a recipe from Lewis’s mother), accompanied by toasted coconut shavings and a scoop of house-made coconut ice cream.
A modern take on a Cuban cafeteria, this Little Havana counter infuses the proud Cubano with house-made ingredients, such as cured ham, brined pork, fresh pickles and artisanal mustard. (Hell, even the doughy bread is made to Sanguich’s strict specifications.) Obviously, the best Cubano in Miami resides here. Plus, its Cuban version of nachos—with fried plantain strips and garlic aioli sauce—is utterly out of this world.
You will most definitely have to stand in line for the curries at chef Bas’s small spot, a delicious ode to his native Thailand. But trust us: Every single one of them is worth it. Part of the schtick here is that you’re only allowed to order your food once, so make sure the pad see ew with beef (a stir-fry with thick rice noodles) and the khao soi gai (a golden curry) find their way to your table. You’ll want to slurp up the latter like a soup to get every last drop.
Can a restaurant survive the neighborhood’s high-rise boom and still have one of the best fresh-oyster happy hours around? Yes, if it’s this tiny, one-story corner bistro. It beat the odds thanks to its stellar martinis and reliable seafood, most of which is sustainable and locally sourced. The wholesome fare includes a bun-less salmon burger served over a stir-fry of bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and carrot, as well as the octopus a la plancha with a gigandes bean salad. Looking to go all out without breaking the bank? Swing by on a Tuesday for Lobster Night: One and a quarter pounds of Maine lobster are prepared five different ways for a low $24.
Thomas Keller’s restaurant inside the Four Seasons Surf Club is a shining example of the quality and elegance the chef is known for. From the tightly edited classic American menu to the midcentury stylings to the special moments afforded by the numerous tableside preparations available, it’s all class, baby. It’s not stuffy though, as classic rock and dim lights give the warm space a lounge feel. Go in knowing you’re going to spend all fortune but it’ll all be worth it for shareable dishes like the flaky beef wellington that’s baked and carved to order.
When it comes to pizza and bagels, Miamians defer to New Yorkers. Brooklyn export Lucali opened its hip, low-key joint in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood six years ago, and there hasn’t been a slow night since. The thin, wood-fired pies are the best-seller, closely followed by the lauded kale Caesar salad and the made-to-order Black Angus meatballs.
Devotees of Florida stone crabs worship at Joe’s every October through May, the peak season for the coveted crustacean at South Florida’s most famous seafood restaurant. You’ve waited all year for Joe’s namesake crustacean, but so has the rest of the city. Queue up and prepare to wait with the swarms of locals and tourists who swarm the joint for the freshest claws in town.
Styled after the striking white-and-blue paint seen in Cycladic landscapes, Mandolin is a dreamy outdoor eatery shaded by rows of oversize linen umbrellas. A traditional Greek menu comprised of shareable dishes—think mezzes, baskets of freshly baked pita bread and a fresh whole grilled fish for two—helps play up the romantic atmosphere. Mandolin’s satisfying homemade sangria really evokes the feeling of an island vacation, but don’t take too many sips: You might just confuse its whitewashed exterior for Santorini.
This third-wave coffee shop is a pioneer in the artisanal brew scene. Beyond celebrating the humble cup of joe and its powers of caffeination, ALL DAY is proving that café grub can be absolutely delish. We love the lattes, but we keep coming back for the assorted Cuban snacks and breakfast staples (served till 5pm), such as the Runny & Everything egg sandwich or the avocado toast topped with pickled onions.
A steakhouse for nonbelievers, Bourbon keeps things casual with a sleek wraparound bar and a lounge where snug booths and high-top tables are available sans reservations. The menu sticks to tried-and-true standards: a crisp wedge salad, a tuna tartare that’s finished tableside, and myriad cuts of prime Angus beef and wagyu. Don’t overlook the burger, which pairs perfectly with the free (and unlimited!) duck-fat fries, served in lieu of the usual bread basket.
NIU Kitchen Chef Deme Lomas and wine director Karina Iglesias’s compact Catalonian café is located deep in Downtown Miami. Cozy and intimate, NIU is ideal for adventurous eaters: Irreverent tapas—glazed pork cheek, for example—fill the frequently changing, seasonal lineup. Go halfsies on delicious pa amb tomàquet (the traditional rustic bread with vine-ripened tomatoes, olive oil and salt) a bottle of rioja and something starring a running yolk like the ous, a creamy bowl of poached eggs, truffled potato foam, jamón ibérico and black truffle. Do you like what you see going down in the open kitchen? Buy the staff a $5 beer to enjoy after-hours to show them your appreciation.
Chef Diego Oka’s innovative Peruvian fare has helped to raise the profile of Latin American cuisine in the city. Significant technique is used to craft the seemingly simple ceviches, causas and other traditional fare, such as the cheese-soaked tiradito bachiche with snapper and aged Parmesan. And then there’s the view: La Mar’s waterfront patio offers diners a 360-degree vista of Downtown and Brickell. Swoon.
Tasting menus weren’t a thing in Miami until decorated chef Brad Kilgore showed us what we were missing. His Wynwood restaurant thrives on prix fixe, guiding diners through up to eight courses, including signature dishes like Kilgore’s famed soft egg with sea scallops espuma, chives, truffle pearls and Gruyère. This is refined American cuisine done in raw, industrial digs for hungry diners with oodles of disposable income.
The eponymous baker’s sourdough is a well-known team player in sandwiches and toasts at countless other restaurants. But Zak Stern’s certified-kosher Wynwood eatery has intricate breakfast sammies of its own, with ingredients like alfalfa sprouts and heirloom tomatoes, as well as spectacular bagel platters, classic deli-style food and a daily vegan soup. Beyond doling out naturally leavened bread and handmade pastries, ZTB crafts the city’s best chocolate babka—soft and fluffy, with discernible notes of cinnamon.
James Beard Award–winning chef Michael Schwartz’s premier restaurant is one of those iconic Miami institutions that you’re supposed to like. But even putting buzz, accolades, celebrity sightings and longevity aside, the Design District staple still wows us 12 years later. The food and atmosphere walks the
line between casual and showy, making it the perfect standby for a quick happy-hour cocktail, a business lunch of grilled escarole and a short-rib–and-fontina panini, or a date- night dinner of oysters, wood-oven snapper and pour upon pour of that ambrosial French wine that Schwartz keeps in stock.
An immense open kitchen occupies the first stateside concept from master chef Carlos Garcia, whose previous restaurant in Caracas, Venezuela was hailed as the best in Latin America. Grab a seat at the long, U-shaped counter and bask in the culinary spectacle as Garcia and his sous chefs serenely transform complex ingredients like octopus, uni and snapper into beautiful bowls of pasta, bite-size arepas and other dishes.
This enchanting import from Nice draws on its Mediterranean origins, serving a medley of seafood plates alongside a smattering of traditional French cuisine. Try the escargot and the french fries, which are made with as much care as the entrées, such as the whole sea bream baked en papillote. In fact, the spuds cook for hours, going from boiling pot to fryer to oven.
Converted from a 1930s gas station, this is a genuine oyster bar, with the marquee to prove it. Find the day’s Atlantic and Pacific bivalves listed on a retro signboard that’s perched above the counter, where you can take a load off and watch all the shucking action. The casual space has a definite diner feel, but with much better food: Overflowing with chunks of buttery claw meat, the Connecticut-style lobster roll comes complete with house-made potato chips.
Visitors can tick off all the boxes of what they might look for in Miami at this Little Havana restaurant: a Cuban menu, live Spanish music and handcrafted mojitos. But unlike the fare at the nearby tourist traps, La Trova’s food and drinks are actually great. James Beard Award winner Michelle Bernstein gussies up arroz con pollo, lechón y yuca and other Cuban clássicos, while the decorated mixologist Julio Cabrera whips up a slew of stiff, rum-based cocktails that will give you the courage to get up and salsa the night away after dinner.
Rustic and homey, this off-the-beaten-path Italian 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 include 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). Time Out tip: Macchialina won’t burn a hole in your pocket like other South Beach restaurants, but it doesn’t hurt save when you can. Book your table for Thursdays, when most of the homemade pasta dishes on the menu are priced at just $10 all night long. We won’t judge you for ordering seconds—or thirds.
Dark, cozy and bustling, the South of Fifth outpost of Stephen Starr’s contemporary American restaurant from New York City sexes things up for South Beach. Still, the well-appointed space is not so over-the-top you should hesitate to take your parents. It’s priced for the neighborhood but portions are so generous that you’ll forget you’re dining in any notorious for its see-and-be-seen establishments, where leggy celebs push around their meal. Upland’s roasted chicken is the unsung hero of this entire joint. It’s simplicity done at its finest, and a taste alone is worth a visit.
Like the questionable relationship we just can’t quit, our love for Erika Kushi’s food is impractical and ceaseless. It’s in a strip mall along the 79th Street Causeway (which is, by most accounts, far), opens inconvenient hours and you’ll always have to wait for a table. Yet it’s like amnesia hits the moment sake touches our lips and we take a bite of the signature sweet shrimp and the macadamia roll. For traditional Japanese sushi made with heart by local sushi royalty—Kushi is the daughter of the former owner of beloved local eateries Sushi Deli and Japanese Market.
The Grove’s command central for people-watching and dog ogling has long occupied the same bustling corner. There’s a small indoor dining room, though few would know it by the throngs of people who spill out onto the street waiting for a coveted table on the sidewalk. It’s a trusted breakfast and brunch spot, which is why you can get omelettes and pancakes every day well into the afternoon. Good weather days are best enjoyed here with one of Greenstreet’s signature Bloody Marys in hand and eggs and bacon on the way.
A homey, bi-level restaurant housed inside a former Art Deco home that serves globally inspired dishes made with fresh ingredients from local farms. Hipster home-cooking is the thing here—familiar recipes featuring unexpected ingredients and portioned to share. The kimchi fried rice is a must at brunch or dinner while the arepa platter dominates the appetizer game. And you can’t leave without ordering a cocktail by the famous Bar Lab team.
This upscale Mexican restaurant doles out fresh, house-made tortillas and authentic eats in swanky environs. Proving there’s more to the country’s cuisine than tacos, Cantina serves an extensive assortment of regional dishes and the best margaritas in Miami—even though each sets you back $16. Stop in on Friday and Saturday nights to be serenaded by live mariachis.
This 24-hour walk-up window is attached to a laundromat, but it's so much more than a place to grab a snack while you do your laundry. Fuel up after a night out with a scrumptious pan con bistec—tender steak, lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup and crispy potato sticks—or a tasty medianoche sandwich (like a Cuban but on sweet, challah-like loaf). Round-the-clock hours make it the ideal pitstop for a strong cafecito, an afternoon smoothie or a late-night Cubano.
Dubbed the “Casa de Masa,” Taquiza has quickly grown a following across Miami for its signature blue masa tortillas, which serve as the base for a variety of street-style tacos, from traditional asada and pastor to more adventurous lengua (beef tongue) and chapulines (toasted adobo-seasoned grasshopper) options. The tacos are simple and well seasoned and the corn tortilla is soft yet durable. The main attraction, though, are the totopos, a style of corn tortilla chips that originates in Mexico’s Oaxaca region. Crispy yet chewy, salty and fresh from the fryer, they pair perfectly with a side of guac and a refreshing michelada.
Versailles bills itself as Miami’s most famous Cuban restaurant—and they’re not lying. This place is slammed at all hours of the day. If you’re visiting, tick off every Cuban thing from your Miami bucket list—coffee, sandwich and pastelito. If you live here, you’re probably well acquainted with the ventanita dispensing thimbles of addictive cafecito.
Local chefs, restaurants and concepts we love so much that we welcomed them into Time Out Market
Why we selected it? The “new American” food genre can sometimes fall as flat as it sounds, but in the case of Ariete, fresh, local ingredients combined with Chef Michael Beltran’s modern spin on his Cuban roots translates to exciting, bold dishes.
Why go? The cool, brightly lit dining room is punctuated by a commanding wood grill that churns out traditional dishes like burrata, local fish and porterhouse steaks. Find slightly more audacious starters that challenge diners with ingredients like chicken liver mousse, oysters with bone marrow butter.
Why we selected it? If Azúcar was just your average ol’ scoop shop, it would still be hard to pass up thanks to its prime Calle Ocho location, but this place serves varieties that could come only from a Miami mind (which, in this case, is founder Suzy Battle).
Why go? The flavors are ridiculously tasty and desserts double as an education in famous Cuban-American dishes. Azúcar’s super-popular Abuela Maria scoop features ribbons of sweet guava paste, chunks of cream cheese and crumbled Maria cookies—a classic Cuban combination.
Why we selected it? Bachour could probably charge admission just for folks to come in and stare at its artful pastries through the sleek display cases. Thankfully, it doesn’t. Also, unlike a museum, guests are encouraged to taste the works of art—which are as satisfying to eat as they are to look at.
Why go? For the red velvet croissant or the hypnotizing tulip confection (you can practically see your reflection in the red glaze). Other tempting options include the veggie burger topped with perfectly symmetrical slices of avocado and a tartine piled high with bright, fresh ingredients.
Why we selected it? You don’t even have to step inside Coyo Taco to see that it’s special: A quick glance at the outdoor picnic benches, crammed with people tearing into tacos, burritos and other Mexican plates, makes that obvious. They’re all either smiling or chewing.
Why go? The attention to authentic, fresh Mexican flavors and ingredients—including the hand-pressed corn tortillas. It also helps that Coyo Taco is just plain cool, with an aesthetic and a secret back-room speakeasy as hip as the neighborhood it calls home.
Why we selected it? Locally sourced ingredients find their way into artfully presented, whimsical dishes at this low-key gem at the edge of Coral Gables.
Why go? Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli puts a fun twist on upscale dining—and even hosts a special, eight-course 4/20 menu once a year that always sells out. Dishes veer from the ordinary, like the meaty cauliflower steak or seemingly straightforward mushrooms, which give forth an explosion of earthy flavors.
Why we selected it? Matthew Kuscher’s neighborhood burger joint is popular with people and canines alike (yep, they’ve got a special dog menu, too). Its selection of grass-fed beef burgers runs the gamut from traditional to only-in-Miami, like the famous Cuban frita burger with guava jelly.
Why go? Most of what you’ll find on the menu is made from locally sourced ingredients (including the tender gator bites) and produced in-house. Brew-loving Kuscher has also made sure to stock an assortment of local beers.
Why we selected it? The Wynwood spot has been quietly (until we started shout-singing its praises) serving the best vegan food in town at prices that are decidedly un-vegan.
Why go? Cofounder Veronica Menin is one of the OGs of Miami’s plant-based scene: She has owned a healthy dessert company, established the vegan dinner series Conscious Bite Out and holds multiple degrees in nutrition. Love Life Cafe, though, is her magnum opus. Need proof? Order the veggie burger, cooked to perfection by Menin’s chef and partner, Diego Tosoni.
Why we selected it? A grilled cheese sandwich done right is a meal for all ages. At Ms. Cheezious, the popular food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar, the kiddie classic is made especially for grownups.
Why go? There’s the pulled-pork version, with barbecued pork and sharp cheddar; a popular goat-cheese-and-prosciutto on marble rye bread; and a Southern fried chicken sandwiched between two buttermilk waffles—just to name a few. The MiMo outpost boasts a charming outdoor garden with picnic tables and plenty of shaded seating for your dining pleasure.
Why we selected it? Cesar Zapata’s great Viet-Cajun experiment began as a pop-up in 2011. The response? More, please. And so Phuc Yea was born in Miami’s MiMo District, an area that has thankfully ballooned with culinary talent over recent years. Phuc Yea is no small part of that balloon.
Why go? The restaurant enjoys a prime location on Biscayne Boulevard in a building that once housed the Sir William Hotel. If the outside of Phuc Yea sings old-school glamour, the inside screams a more modern Miami attitude—with dashes of Wynwood industrial chic, Asian flare and a tiki bar aftertaste.
Why we selected it? “Star chefs” can feel like a dime a dozen in showy Miami, but Top Chef Season 13 winner Jeremy Ford truly stands out.
Why go? The eight-course tasting menu is sign of a chef who’s poured over every detail of the culinary experience: small, meticulously plated dishes that surprise (think a Spanish-inspired smoked foie gras paired with quince paste), delight (a warm celery root purée with a crackling maitake mushroom explodes with flavor) and amuse (foam, like the green curry froth beneath Seed’s Maine lobster claws, really makes everything taste better).
Why we selected it? You can tell that chef Shuji Hiyakawa has poured himself into his Upper Eastside restaurant. The passion is evident in the authentic Japanese shop’s subtle but important details: Hand-folded origami cranes hang on the wall (Shuji and his friends folded some themselves).
Why go? The effortless style goes wonderfully with the restaurant’s pared-down menu of simple, satisfying sushi bowls. The bowls—big on flavor and low on ego—don’t skimp on portions. Patrons choose from hearty combinations of fresh tuna, salmon, crab, rice, seaweed and more that will leave you feeling full but not sluggish.
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