Choosing a great place to dine is a challenge in Miami where the sheer variety of celebrity chefs and talented young upstarts makes for a heady mix of tasty options. Our Top Ten Guide includes landmark restaurants like Joe’s Stone Crab which got its start in 1913 and a few of the places everyone is talking about right now. While it is tempting to play it safe and book a table at a pricey steakhouse, spend at least one night discovering some of the authentic flavors that can only be found here in South Florida.
Make the call! While most top Miami restaurants have a casual dress code, the best ones do require a reservation at dinner time. Last minute diners can get on a waiting list or enjoy a meal at the bar.
Experience an authentic Japanese style omakase dinner at Chef Kevin Cory’s NAOE Miami, a subtle and stunning presentation of sushi, sashimi and deftly prepared Asian cuisine. Reservations are required and the meal progresses over the course of three hours as the chef artfully crafts each dish. Request an early or late seating Tuesday through Sunday at 6:00 or 9:30pm and prepare to be dazzled.
A seasonal tradition in South Florida, Joe’s Stone Crab is the heart of the South Beach culinary scene from October to May when the hard shelled crabs that are harvested in local waters are served in the dining room, at the takeaway and shipped to eager foodies around the country.
Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant is frequented by politicians, celebrities, and star athletes who line up for tables at the no-reservations eatery all season long. For hungry patrons not interested in waiting in line, the next-door carryout packs up every dish from Joe’s famous kitchen to take away in minutes.
A hidden gem just north of the Design District, Mandolin Aegean Bistro melds the cuisines of its owners – who hail from Greece and Turkey – into a vacation on a plate. Husband and wife team Ahmet Erkaya and Anastasia Kousioukis grow organic vegetables in a garden behind their indoor/outdoor restaurant and take pride in recreating the flavors of their family kitchen. Ingredients are handled gently, prepared simply and served with a smile at wooden tables under the stars. Ideal for a romantic evening, the couple is currently previewing a few new seafood entrees in anticipation of their second restaurant set to open later this year.
Iron Chef Morimoto got where he is today thanks to the help of his star sushi chef Makoto Okuwa who has stepped out of the considerable shadow of his mentor to open a dazzling sushi restaurant at the Bal Harbour Shops Mall. Popular with the ladies who lunch and as a late night date spot, the raw and cooked Japanese dishes are meticulously prepared and served with professional aplomb – something not often found in South Florida restaurants.
Consistently ranked one of Miami’s favorite restaurants for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch service, Chef Michael Schwartz and Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith create great food in a comfortable, casual dining room where it seems everyone knows one another. Happy Hour service at the bar is a who’s who of the Design District glitterati. Reservations are suggested with both indoor and outdoor tables available by request.
One of the most successful restaurant launches in recent memory, Chef Jeff McInnis’ Yardbird brings the authentic flavors of the Old South to eager diners who line up for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Best known for fried chicken and gooey mac & cheese, the restaurant is also home to a rich and varied bourbon collection that inspires a number of popular crafted cocktails served at the busy bar. Adding to the excitement, a nightly roster of heavenly desserts by Pastry Chef Gail Goetsch includes local berry strawberry shortcake, classic pecan pie and chocolate coconut “Mounds style” macaroons.
An unexpected oasis of sleek modern Asian design awaits diners at the Downtown Miami restaurant Zuma where Chef Bjoern Weissgerber crafts exquisite Japanese izakaya style fare for a sophisticated clientele. Popular Sundays for an abundant brunch service, the restaurant creates a feast of signature dishes and hot Japanese robata items served overlooking the busy Miami riverfront. Located on the ground floor of the Epic Hotel, Zuma is open for lunch, light afternoon bites and dinner seven nights a week.
While hotel dining rarely holds much promise, the team at Daniel Boulud’s haute Miami outpost at the JW Marriott Marquis have created a chic fusion of classic French bistro and contemporary American fare that’s honestly worth the struggle to find parking in Downtown Miami. Chef Matthieu Godard and Pastry Chef Jerome Maure fill the airy room with dishes that will make you crane your neck as they exit the kitchen. Popular at happy hour (weeknights from 5:00-8:00pm), the lounge is often filled with a smart after work crowd feasting on the legendary db Burger & crisp pommes frites.
A restaurant that prides itself on its NON-restaurant-ness, Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli originally conceived this Gables eatery as a temporary “pop-up” that gradually took root. To find out what’s cooking, follow the chef on Twitter or Facebook to see what caught his fancy at the market today. Best bet is to show up with an open mind and an empty stomach and let the eating begin! Reservations are available by phone after 5pm.
Tucked away in a featureless strip mall, this low-key American bistro serves funky comfort food for Sunday brunch and daily dinners to legions of loyal local fans. Seats facing the parking lot make up for a distinct lack of charm with a little bit of a breeze and the promise of prime people watching. Miami restaurant veterans Aniece Meinhold and Chef Cesar Zapata have crafted the kind of dining spot they always hoped to find in Miami, but ultimately had to create on their own.