Choosing a restaurant in Miami can be as challenging as choosing the right spot to park yourself on the beach (and hey, choosing which of our great Miami beaches hit up isn’t too easy, either). But that wasn’t always so. As recently as even a decade ago, the best restaurants in Miami were usually found in swanky South Beach hotel lobbies. Today, the best Miami hotels still offer amazing dining experiences, but good eating has spread throughout the miracle city—from hip Wynwood to Brickell to Little Havana and beyond. For the new breed of best restaurants in Miami, you've come to the right place.
For a South Beach Cultural Food and Walking Tour, click here.
Best restaurants in Miami
Scoring a reservation at Zuma is a small victory worth working for. The London transplant’s acclaimed Japanese izakaya, an increasingly popular style of informal dining, is anything but casual (see: no shorts or beachwear allowed). The riverfront restaurant is filled—day and night—with stunning people who know they’re as much a part of the show as the orchestrated action in the spacious open kitchen. Expect a massive selection of modern Japanese bites, from sea bass sashimi with yuzu, salmon roe and truffle oil to tiger prawn tempura. Zuma also has one of the best brunches in town. It’s a baikingu (buffet) set-up, meaning you have access to a generous spread of the menu’s most talked about items. Short on time during the workday? Opt for the set lunch that aims to serve guests in less than one hour.
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 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.
It took the folks who brought us The Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami two years to transform the quaint two-story house on the hostel’s property into the coziest space for eclectic home cooking. Open for dinner and weekend brunch, 27’s menu has an interesting set of globally inspired dishes made with fresh ingredients from local farms and purveyors, as well as herbs and vegetables from the rooftop garden above the kitchen. Start at the cocktail lounge upstairs where The Shaker’s proven bar principles are applied with enthusiasm. Downstairs in the dining room, we recommend The Shakshuka (aka the Israeli breakfast of champions), an enticing blend of North African spices with a mixture of tomatoes, red bell peppers and two fried eggs. Sop up the goodness with chunks of sourdough bread from Zak the Baker in Wynwood. The daily fish with Israeli couscous and avocado slices in a coconut-curry broth is always top-notch. Willing to share? Order the arepa platter for four with house-made Colombian corn cakes, ropa vieja, queso de mano and hogado (sautéed onion, tomato and cilantro). Don’t leave without indulging in dessert: The banana pudding is dreamy.
Brunch at famed chef Gastón Acurio’s La Mar is an experience, the kind you carve hours out of your Sunday to linger over and indulge. You’ll start with arroz chaufa (Peruvian fried rice) served tableside and move on to myriad food stations curiously plated classics like crab causa and pastel de choclo (native corn cake). Then it’s on to the entree, which varies by brunch tier, and dessert. If you haven’t saved room for a sweet ending, you’ll change your mind once you’re served an artisanal dollhouse filled with treats. No, it’s not the effects of unlimited cocktails you’re experiencing. The dessert house is, in fact, spinning.
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.
Mexican doesn’t get the high-end treatment nearly as much as Japanese and Chinese cuisines do, but that’s all changing at Cantina La Veinte. Don your best stilettos or suit for dinner at this swanky, Brickell spot that’s hip and trendy rather than stuffy. You’ll shell out more than you’re used to at your neighborhood restaurant for guacamole and margaritas, but the variety you’ll find within both will make it well worth the extra bucks. Where else can you order Oaxacan house-made guacamole sprinkled with grasshoppers (chapulines)? Executive chef Santiago Gomez is the man behind the bold menu that takes diners through seldom-explored areas of Mexican gastronomy. His preparations of king crab tacos, duck breast confit and octopus sautéed in the style of pork carnitas are flawless and taste even better than the traditional dishes Americans are used to.
Jason Odio (owner of popular late-night hangout Sidebar) and chef Michael Beltran (formerly of Cypress Room) have transformed the former La Bottega Space to a cool, brightly lit dining room punctuated by a commanding wood grill. The changes befit the new American menu the team’s putting out, made up of 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.
What’s the shortest distance between Miami and Barcelona? Dinner at KLIMA Restaurant and Bar, where you’re instantly transported to the seaside metropolis by way of sleek European architecture and modern Spanish cuisine. The menu pulls from Catalan cooking and traditional Mediterranean flavors, putting forth a selection of dishes that look and taste authentic. Take the popular fennel carpaccio with burrata, for instance, a light starter salad with lemony flavors. Or the decidedly Spanish-tasting octopus appetizer that’s cooked in a Josper oven—a unique charcoal cooker from Spain, which is currently in only two South Florida restaurants. Tapas are served at the bar and in the formal dining room, and feature such classics as tortilla, croquettes and sweet piquillo peppers.
Diehard fans of Danny Serfer’s Blue Collar know to arrive early to avoid a long wait for a table. The tiny three-year-old restaurant in an old-school motel in Miami’s Upper East Side/historic MiMo District is consistently packed, and it wasn’t until recently that it started accepting reservations for lunch, dinner and brunch service. Blue Collar’s allure stems from the chef/owner’s unpretentious approach to American classics and comfort food in dishes like conch fritters with spicy tartar sauce, fried green tomatoes with buttermilk dressing and a braised brisket sandwich on Portuguese muffins with Dijon mustard, jus and latkes and apple sauce. The veggie-only chalkboard boasts a selection of more than 20 plates for side dishes or a vegetarian smorgasbord; pair the curried cauliflower puree and the sauteed kale with crushed red pepper, shallots and white butter. A rave-worthy chocolate cake made by the lead cook’s mother (it’s literally homemade!) is the restaurant’s secret weapon. Margaret uses Valrhona chocolate from France, and one slice is oftentimes not enough.
When famed Spanish chefs Ferran Adrià and José Andrés were in town together, they dined at NIU Kitchen in downtown Miami. It’s a small eatery where guests can get the closest thing to Catalan cuisine in South Florida. The Basque-style tapas are downright delicious. Take the Llamàntol for a spin: It’s a layered cake of sorts with fresh Maine lobster, smashed avocado, a runny five-minute egg and trout roe on top. For brunch, we love the Arròs, a hearty portion of baby back ribs served with Catalan rice and spinach (commonly mistaken for paella. If you’re sticking with seafood, the dinner menu has Arròs Caldós, or soupy rice with fish. And no meal here is complete without plenty of pa amb tomàquet, the traditional rustic bread with vine-ripened tomatoes, olive oil and salt.