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Best of the City 2021
Photograph: Time Out

Revealed: Time Out Miami’s 2021 Best of the City Award winners

The greatest events, parties, restaurants, bars and cultural institutions in Miami this year

Virginia Gil
Edited by
Virginia Gil
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If we’ve learned anything about Miami from the last year it’s that there’s no holding us back. When the rest of the world seemed to pause, we marched on to the beat of our own drum and made our own rules about what city life should be. Sure, it wasn’t without controversy or consequences but our resilience and persistence served us well. Our steady tourism, constant traffic and stream of events and festivals told the same story. And now it’s time to celebrate the people, places and happenings that made it all possible for us.

Aligned with all the other Time Out teams around the world, we’re announcing our Best of The City Award winners for 2021. Expect the outdoor theater performance that wowed us with its ingenuity, the book fair that once again brought us face to face with our favorite authors and the new culture spot that made immersive art more than just an Instagram fad—and so many more deserving mentions. Want to feel great about the future of our city? Read on…

Disagree with our choices? You can still vote for your beloved venues in our Love Local Awards. Support your favorite here.

Food & Drink

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Buena Vista
  • price 2 of 4

It’s been at the top of our list of best restaurants in Miami practically since inception, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. Boia De defied the odds when many small restaurants were forced to shutter and continues to thrive in its tiny corner in Little Haiti, where it doles out expertly made pasta, veggie-forward small plates and crispy, caviar-topped potato skins that haunt us for days after each visit.

  • Bars
  • Gastropubs
  • Downtown
  • price 1 of 4

The quirky, Florida-inspired dive bar hit a bit of a speedbump this year, closing most of the summer (and currently still). But the few months it was open were glorious and filled with boozy slushies, late-night DJ sets and copious orders of the best burger in Miami. We’re counting down the days until we can resume our perch on the backroom bleachers, cocktail in hand. Until then, we’ll be drinking out of our color-changing Over Under cups at home.

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  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • North Miami
  • price 1 of 4

Part coffee shop, part natural wine bar and part bookstore, Paradis ticked off so many boxes for us this year. It gave us a quiet place to work, where we could at once caffeinate and wind down (good luck finding that anywhere else). While off the clock, we gathered for vino, conversation and so many slices of its perfectly crispy sourdough pizzas. You can’t be everything to everyone but Paradis comes pretty damn close.

The brick-and-mortar’s food truck went on a brief hiatus before settling down in the Miami Design District this year, an artsy neighborhood brimming with designer shops but seriously lacking in A+ tacos. The need was clear as throngs queued up to experience chef Mika Leon’s signature Cuban creations—from croquetas and empanadas to tortillas stuffed with lechón and black-bean pico. Caja Caliente has since moved on to a new location outside of Superblue, taking over a different art space one taco at a time.

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  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Downtown
  • price 2 of 4

We waited for a proper natural wine bar for a very long time and Margot’s arrival did not disappoint. Following a delay and an adorable outdoor pop-up, its downtown brick-and-mortar finally opened this year, wooing us with its feminine blush tones and Swedish disco aesthetic, and wowing us with an impressive list of bottles and labels we’d admittedly never heard of before—but were so excited to try.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary Asian
  • Coral Gables
  • price 2 of 4

From lockdown Instagram concept to a sensational restaurant in Coral Gables, Zitz Sum is one of the year’s tastiest success stories. The contemporary Asian spot wows with its delectable hand-rolled dumplings, creative Chinese dishes and seasonal plates that basically made us quit our regular takeout. Chef Pablo Zitzmann, who’s of German-Mexican heritage, lets his creativity run free with unexpected pairings like charred cabbage with habanero butter and aged parmesan and chicken potstickers with Oaxacan salsa macha.

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  • Restaurants
  • Argentinian
  • Miami
  • price 3 of 4

Tigre Miami transports diners to a charming Buenos Aires bistro, albeit one tucked away on Miami’s Little River. The scenic waterfront restaurant and bar overlooks an active manatee sanctuary and fits right in among its Art Deco-era neighbors. Tigre’s inventive menu bridges the two cities, putting forth Argentinian classics alongside a seasonal selection of vegetable-forward shared plates that please a wide range of palates.

Culture & Entertainment

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Allapattah

Home to one of the country's largest personal contemporary art collections, the Rubell Museum's display only scratches the surface of its nearly 7,200 works by more than 1,000 artists. And what you see is absolutely exceptional, from works by Basquiat and Warhol to Koons and Sherman. The museum also champions local artists, regularly adding Miami-made works to its permanent collection.

  • Movie theaters
  • Independent
  • Coral Gables
  • price 1 of 4

This 141-seat theater brings Miami's moviegoers the finest American and international independent features in a warm, inviting environment. The Gables Art Cinema caters to the movie buff as well as lovers of classic flicks and film festival darlings with special screenings, late-night showings and even family-friendly events on the weekends. 

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  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Wynwood

The Freehold offers everything you like about a hotel—think fun lobby, hip coffee counter, cool bar dotted with beautiful people—minus the rooms. Once the sun sets, find your place by the imaginary pool, order up a disco ball punch bowl filled with your favorite large-format cocktail and brace for one of the best parties in Wynwood and, if we're being honest, all of Miami. There's just no better vibe out there.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Allapattah

The massive 50,000-square-foot space is dedicated to the production of experiential mediums. And lest you think it's all for Instagram, the Allapattah cultural institution is backed by Pace Gallery and debuted with an inaugural program titled "Every Wall Is a Door," which features a new immersive environment by stage designer Es Devlin, a transcendent digital experience by Japanese art collective teamLab and an extrasensory light-based work by American artist James Turrell. Talk about an entrance!

City Life

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs

If your mouth waters when you think of Korean bibimbap, cinnamon bread, pastelitos, and dumplings, this monthly market has you covered. It started as a pop-up for local food artisans to promote their business during the height of the pandemic and now has more than 75 vendors from all around South Florida selling their creations in Miami Beach six months out of the year.

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  • Art
  • Art

From barges cruising down the Seine to ports of call in Shanghai and Tokyo to its first interactive experience in Jungle Plaza, Louis Vuitton Men’s whimsical creation took over the Design District neighborhood this past winter with larger-than-life inflatable characters set atop LV-branded shipping containers. The fashion-forward installation provided a colorful burst of joy to kick off the year. 

Party Time

Performed inside empty storefronts on Lincoln Road, the pop-up play invited the country’s most accomplished writers and playwrights to give their perspective on the seven deadly sins. In rotation over 90 minutes, small audiences watched in awe as actors played out gluttony, envy, wrath, greed, lust, pride and sloth from inside vacant storefronts while listening to the action on headphones.

It needs no introduction but it's always deserving of praise. For years, celebrity chefs (hundreds of them) and hungry people from around the U.S. have descended on Miami for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. One of the largest in the country,  it also raises funds for the Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management school. It’s major and always so much fun.

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The annual weeklong celebration of all things literature returned for its 38th edition with a bang. Each year, the program boasts seven full days of programming, including readings and a massive outdoor street fair. In previous years, notable guests have included former Vice President Joe Biden, Dan Rather, Patti Smith, Isabel Allende, Pete Souza (President Obama’s official photographer), Bill McKibben, Michael Eric Dyson, Edwidge Danticat and Kevin Young, plus numerous others.

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  • Art
  • Digital & interactive
  • South Beach
  • price 2 of 4

Vince Fraser offered his own perspective on Black identity as a Black creative with "Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies," his solo exhibition at the experiential museum Artechouse. Fraser's concepts of aṣẹ and Afrocentricity exist as their own frequencies—metaphorical wavelengths that people can tap into. Through the use of technology, lights, sounds and projections, he brought these frequencies to life and gave them a new digital context for all to enjoy.

Best nightlife event: Miami—all of it!
Photograph: Shutterstock

Best nightlife event: Miami—all of it!

The best place to party in 2021? Everywhere! From South Beach to Wynwood to Brickell, every single corner of Miami became a destination to drink, dance and gather. Cheers to you, Miami! To more good times in 2022.

Sustainability

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • North Beach
  • price 1 of 4

The historic North Beach Bandshell is a beachfront amphitheater that hosts local and international talent from rock bands to salsa dancing to creative orchestral performances. The venue is managed by the Rhythm Foundation who is a founding member of the City's PlasticFreeMB business certification program. The bandshell has eliminated straws, plastic cups, and has free water bottle refill stations that make it easy for concertgoers to eliminate their own plastic footprint.

In September, every year people from around the world participate in International Coastal Clean-up Day. This year VolunteerCleanup.org hosted 53 sites for Miami-Dade's International Coastal Clean-up Day. This year's event boasted the largest yet, with close to 3,000 volunteers that collected over 17,700 lbs of litter. This impressive event helps to bring awareness to the environment and engages the community to help be a part of the solution. Check out VolunteerCleanUp.org to find a local shoreline cleanup near you.

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Green space of the year: Biscayne Bay
Photograph: Shutterstock

Green space of the year: Biscayne Bay

Biscayne Bay never disappoints. From clear, turquoise blue waters to the pastel-painted sunsets, the Bay is a gem that can be enjoyed by everyone. You can kayak through the mangrove-lined waterways of Oleta State Park, rent a standup paddleboard in Sunset Harbour in Miami Beach to frolic with dolphins and manatees, set sail in Coconut Grove, or boat out to the coral reefs and seagrass meadows in Biscayne National Park that are perfect for snorkeling and fishing. In recent years, fertilizer runoff, leaking septic tanks, and land-based pollution threaten the health of Biscayne Bay. We can each do our part by putting the environment first and voting for elected leadership that puts dollars to environmental action. (if this is too much, don't hesitate to remove)

Special Awards

Miami's foremost party photographers ramped up its coverage in 2021, giving the rest of us a peek into the city's hottest parties, can't-miss events and more of the things you should know. But rather than leaving us with a serious case of FOMO, we appreciate WRE as the eyes and ears to a part of the city not everyone gets to experience—striking the perfect balance between voyeuristic and aspirational. Maybe we'll get invited one day, too?

Camp W South Beach proved that one is never too old for summer camp. This summer, the property welcomed “campers” (bored adults looking for a local escape) for three incredible weekend sessions filled with team sports activities (think tennis with a gin-and-tonic refreshments cart), crafting (DIY jewelry with renowned designers) and movie nights like you’ve never experienced before. Watching Troop Beverly Hills under the stars while noshing on caviar and champagne just hits different, ya know?

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The Instagram account everyone is following, Only in Dade highlights all of the weird, wonderful and downright ridiculous moments you can, well, only experience in Miami-Dade. User submissions pour in as people from around South Florida eagerly tag and share for the opportunity to be reposted on what’s arguably the most important social media account in these parts of the world.

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A post shared by ONLY in DADE (@onlyindade)

The City of Miami Beach partnered with artist studio and exhibition space Oolite Arts a new Sustainability in Action PSA video contest to encourage Miamians to reduce waste. Ten winners were selected and received a nice chunk of cash to produce their own videos and get the word out about being green. Sounds like a win-win to us.

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A post shared by Oolite Arts (@oolitearts)

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