Eating your way through the best restaurants in South Beach can take some trial and error. We’ve all fallen prey to a South Beach bait-and-switch before. The area is ripe with places that are, to say the least, sketchy. But the chunk of Miami Beach south of 23rd Street doesn’t necessarily deserve the bad reputation it’s gotten. Off Ocean Drive, you’ll find one of the best bakeries in Miami, some of the best bars in Miami and (obviously) some of the best Miami beaches. And now, finally, South Beach has serious culinary contenders. Allow us to introduce you to them.
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Best South Beach restaurants
Backed by Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford, Stubborn Seed’s fall 2017 debut was met with a unanimous: wow. The South of Fifth restaurant executed an exquisite balance between relaxed comfort and culinary ambition. The menu changes with the seasons and ingredient availability, but expect regionally inspired dishes like JoJo Tea-cured cobia. Plates like the warm celery root with crackling maitake are a feast for both the eyes and taste buds. Can’t decide what to order? Opt for the tasting menu and let Ford lead the way.
Beloved by locals, visitors and industry vets alike, this rustic Italian restaurant sits in an unassuming space off Alton Road. Chef Michael Pirolo plates outstanding pasta alongside other Italian dishes. Signatures like the beet mezzaluna and charred salads are carefully paired with beverage director Jacqueline Pirolo’s wine selections. Strapped for cash? Stop by on Thursdays when chef Michael Pirolo’s delicious pastas are just $10 all night long.
Photograph: Adam DelGuidice
Chef José Mendín is a five-time James Beard Award Nominee thanks to his Asian-influenced, Latin-tickled gastropub dishes. His Puerto Rican roots live through the mofongo while Eastern inspirations are channeled deliciously in the udon carbonara. The corn soup agnolotti is also a foodie favorite. In a city that his head-spinning in its diversity, Chef Mendín delivers a restaurant—and menu—that we deserve.
One never forgets their first time at Bazaar. It’s less a meal and more an interactive performance, a dinner with a playful spirit that’s rarely anything but mind-numbingly delicious. Two dishes that perfectly exemplify this have to be the salmon and lox and the foie gras PB&J. What the small plates lack in size they make up for in flavor. And while nitrogen usage isn’t groundbreaking anymore, we’re a sucker for the tableside LN2 caipirinha under the restaurant’s wonderfully gaudy chandelier that never gets old.
Restaurateur Stephen Starr and Chef Justin Smilie’s New York City-import has brought California-style cooking to South of Fifth. The kitchen embraces the West Coast’s ingredient-minded approach and blends it with the East Coast’s penchant for detail and delivery. There’s beauty in simplicity here—from the crispy squash blossoms to bucatini cacio e pepe. Industry folks adore the wine menu, and scenesters love to hit the bar or brunch.
Ron Swanson sure would love Red, the Steakhouse, a no-nonsense meat mecca serving perfect and classic steak-centric dishes. You can’t really go wrong with any cut of beef alongside addicting sides like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. It’s certainly not easy on your wallet, but do remember that Red puts together one of the best—if not the best—rotating Miami Spice menus in town.
It’s been said a million times, and we’re going to say it again—Joe’s Stone Crab is the holy land for stone crabs. Cracking claws since 1913, this place is famous for its seasonal stone crabs (and the accompanying special mustard sauce). Though pricey, their catch is fresh and delicious. While the uppity tend to order Joe’s American fare formally with a table inside the dining room, locals flock to Joe’s Takeaway for casual, post-beach meals or to-go orders of fried chicken and key lime pie.
Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth’s return to Miami was highly-anticipated and it seems the duo has finally found their steady landing spot in Stiltsville Fish Bar. It’s all about Floridian coastal cooking at the Sunset Harbour hotspot a la local blue crab cakes, buffalo fish wings and crispy whole snapper. The sweet corn spoon bread is a winning way to start an evening sit-down and it can be served with butter poached lobster. There’s even a daily grab and go fish market.
Photograph: Courtesy Stiltsville Fish Bar/Grove Bay Hospitality
At Habitat, José Mendín (making a second appearance on this list) ventured from the original Pubbelly Group and found a home within 1 Hotel South Beach. He’s broken the menu down into raw bar, fire-grilled plates, veggies and small plates. Standouts on the Spanish-influenced menu include the Habitat egg, a rich assortment of manchego foam, truffles and egg.
Byblos sort of flies under the radar in the South Beach food scene. Despite the fact that Drake has dined there, the Mediterranean eatery maintains a fairly low profile. But the food is quite solid and very fresh (the daily catch is always a good choice). The Cornish hen melts in the mouth while Middle Eastern fried chicken really pops thanks to a side serving of tahini, za’atar and hot sauce. No room for dessert? Fine. But don’t leave without ordering tea!