Welcome to Miami!
Miami is home for me and fortunately I know it well. As I travel around the world, friends old and new always ask me where I like eat and drink. This ever-evolving list is a direct response to that question! I hope you enjoy these places as much as I do. And if I'm in town when you visit, let's meet up for a glass of wine! Salud!
Quick note: Miami's food scene has exploded in the past few years. Now you'll find a level of quality and creativity that was absent just five years ago. With that said, the following recommendations are my personal favorites as a local who's seen many places come and go. I'm a strong believer that life is too short to eat a bad meal or drink uninteresting wine. Each entry below (in one way or another) has passed my "quality-to-price-to-service" test. So enjoy and please send me your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
*Niu Kitchen- “Rustic cafe & wine bar with a chalkboard menu of authentic & unusual Spanish small plates.” Since you all mentioned liking Catalan food, I thought that Niu was a definite must. I take foodie friends here all the time and they LOVE it. I always order the steak tartare (I asked that they make it the “old way” when they used to make it spicy.) I also like the Wahoo, all of the rice dishes (which take a little longer to make), and the catch of the day are always great. The place is tiny. You must have a res. I believe they maybe open for lunch now. 134 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33132, USA+1 786-542-5070. (If they give you a hard time getting in, tell Karina (one of the owners) that Andrés Ferrandis from Valencia sent you!)
*Bali Cafe - "Restaurant supplying sushi & Indonesian offerings in a cozy dining room filled with native artwork.” I mentioned this place when I met you two. It’s the hole-in-the-wall Indonesian spot. CASH ONLY. Great for lunch as the traditional dishes can be a bit heavy. I suggest sticking to Indonesian here and not ordering from the sushi menu. Did I mention CASH ONLY?! It’s in front of NIU Kitchen (above). The Rijsttafel is the way to go! (Warning, it’s a lot of food!). Call ahead of time as sometimes they’re closed. 109 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33132, USA +1 (305) 358-5751
*Ceviche 105 - “Peruvian eatery with a hip, boisterous crowd, cocktails & ceviche & sleek space with eclectic art.” This is a South American favorite. Great ceviche in a fun (very latin) environment. The story of the owner, Juan Chipoco, is a local success story. You’ll feel like he’s dinning with you because you’ll see his picture everywhere! There are now 2 locations. One dwntwn (very close to MDC) and the other on South Beach. Stick to the ceviches, they are all great. I prefer the dwntwn location. They have a bar in the back if you’re eating alone. The cocktails are very creative. You may need a res. 105 NE 3rd Ave, Miami, FL 33132, USA+1 305-577-3454
Valentia: Great quality Mediterranean cuisine (very Spanish-influenced) in the middle of our financial district. I can honestly recommend everything on the menu. The owners are from Valencia, Spain and they know what they're doing. The paellas are great, the grilled whole-fish and veggies is my favorite, the croquetas (especially the lobster one) are better than what you'd find in Madrid and the wine list is reasonable and varied enough to keep me interested. There's indoor seating, a European-style bar and patio seating outdoors. I love that they have a huge open kitchen setup where you can literally watch the magic take place. The only downside (unless they've fixed it) is the lighting. It feels more institutional and cold than warm and welcoming. Other than that, it's one of my favs for dinner and happy hour. 1450 Brickell Ave, Miami, 33131. (786)-542-8098
Tacology: I didn't want to like this place at first (the name alone is a turnoff and it can be a bit pricey) but I have to admit that the food is really good. It's in the new Brickell City Centre (outdoor shopping mall) and it's worth a visit if you love sophisticated renditions of simple Mexican street food. My favorites are the shrimp and fish tacos and the regular guacamole. If you like pork rinds, get the chicharón. (It will be so impressive that you'll have to take a picture!) They also have a nice, crisp sauvignon blanc that goes well with the spicy sauces. Befriend your server and ask for suggestions. Tacology gets really busy on the weekends so either make a reservation, or just walk past the line, straight to the bar like you own the place and start ordering. They also have happy hour, but I haven't tried it yet to comment. If you check it out, please let me know. ¡Buen provecho! Brickell City Centre, 701 S. Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33130. (786)-347-5368
Doraku: If you like Japanese and you need something quick, tasty and relatively inexpensive, Doraku in the Mary Brickell Village Shopping Center is my go-to. It's like eating high quality fast-food. They have all the regular goodies that you'll find in a Japanese restaurant, plus the best food and drink happy hour menu in town (available everyday M-S)! My favorites are the salmon kama, eggplant miso, raw salmon salad (you have to specially ask for it raw), Brussels sprouts and the green tea ice cream. Doraku is probably the only chain restaurant that I recommend in Miami (they also have one on Lincoln Road on Miami Beach) so if I say it's good, it really is good. Just a heads up, the service leaves a lot to desire...so just down some sake and enjoy. (It's walking distance from the Brickell City Centre.) 900 South Miami Ave, Ste 133, Miami, FL 33131. (305)-373-4633
River Oyster Raw Bar: This is one of my all-time favorites in the Downtown/Brickell area. If you're at or near the Brickell City Centre, River Oyster is worth a stop. Everything here is great. I mainly order the whole fish, kale salad, fish soup, spicy tuna tartare, and of course, raw oysters. The wine list is impressive without being overly exploratory. The bartenders (especially Matt) are pros compared to what you normally find in Miami. This is definitely a good place for a break-from-the-typical-Miami-scene type of place! They also have a good happy hour menu. ;-) 650 S. Miami, Ave, Miami, FL 33130. (305)-530-1915.
BRICKELL HAPPY HOUR PLACES:
Valentia: Great food, great wine and drink selections. Awesome happy hour prices. See my description above.
River Oyster Bar: Feels like a piece of New York in Miami. More sophisticated bar scene. If Matt my favorite bartender is there, say "hi"! Great drinks, decent happy hour small bites selection. See my description above.
LITTLE HAVANA RESTAURANTS:
Lung Yai Thai Tapas - “Small spot with a patio serving authentic Thai cuisine, including coconut curries, soups & salads.” The best Thai in the city. The owner, Chef Bas, is locally known as the Thai version of the Soup Nazi. He’ll kick you out (literally) if you have too many requests, questions or demands (or if you try to add more food to your initial order). For example, a kosher friend of mine went (based on my recommendation) and asked to have his order made without the fish sauce (not based on my recommendation.) Chef Bas mumbled something in thai and kicked him out. So you’ve been forewarned! This place is the perfect “get in, eat and get the hell out”. I don’t even bother ordering wine here as I’d feel too rush trying to finish it as there’s always people waiting to be seated.
I love everything on the menu. Please note that when a dish says “spicy”, they are not kidding. It’s located in the HEART of little Havana. Have lunch or dinner here and wander down a few blocks EAST for a traditional cafe con leche. Metered street parking only. (Just take an Uber..much easier). 1731 Sw 8th St, Miami, FL 33135, Little Havana, (786) 334-6262
Kyu -“Modern Asian-style eatery offering grilled meats & sashimi, plus cocktails.” My new fav in Wynwood (our used-to-be-cool-now-overly-commercialized Art District). This place has an amazing Happy Hour menu if you just want to sit at the bar for a snack and drinks. I love everything on the menu. Especially the roasted cauliflower, Korean fried chicken and the short ribs are absolutely amazing!! If you actually want a table, you need a res. 251 NW 25th St, Miami, FL 33127. +1 786-577-0150. After you finish here, walk around the neighborhood to check out the street art and/or stroll over to Panther Coffee for coffee, tea, a pastry or just to hang out. Great fun, young spot. Hip local cafe with barista drinks plus coffee beans roasted in small batches & sold by the pound. 2390 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127, USA
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill- “ Eclectic small plates & artisanal cocktails are offered in stylish digs with outdoor seating.” This place is a latin inspired robata grill-raw bar-small plates joint in the heart of Midtown. The space is fun and the service and quality is consistent. Very small bites so you can try a lot of different things. I like everything on the menu, especially the Brussel sprouts, stuffed dates and all the raw dishes. The mojitos are also amazing!! (Just ask that they make it 1/2 sweet as the normal ones…..Miamians tend to abuse sugar!) They have a GREAT happy hour where you can hang out around the bar (either inside or out). You need a res if you’re dinning with a group. HHr at the bar is first-come-first-served. Gets busy fast. SUGARCANE raw bar grill 3252 Northeast First Avenue, Miami, Florida 33137t: (786) 369-0353
Mignonette- “Former 1930s gas station turned oyster bar/seafood haven with luxurious and down-home options.” Great for fish and raw dishes. This chef is a local success story and has a large following. The waiters sometimes have the typical I don’t give a F attitude, but the food is good enough to kind of ignore it. For lunch I can normally just walk in, for dinner you need a res. Parking is metered street parking. Kind of scarce. 210 NE 18th St, Miami, FL 33132, +1 305-374-4635
WYNWOOD/MIDTOWN HAPPY HOUR PLACES:
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill- One of my favorite happy hours in the city. Beautiful outdoor bar, great drink specials and nice selection of small bites.
Kyu- Amazing happy dishes and decent drink specials. Bartenders can be a little aloof at times, just ignore them, the food is worth it.
CORAL GABLES RESTAURANTS:
Su Shin Izakaya- “Creative Japanese kitchen serving choice sushi & unusual small plates in utilitarian surrounds.” If you’re in the mood for a non-pretentious authentic Japanese experience, go here! I’ve been to all the highend Japanese restaurants in town and I continue to prefer Su Shin. It really does feel like the little restaurants you find on the side streets of Tokyo! Make sure to check the black chalk boards for daily specials. If you like sashimi, they don’t advertise it, but they will sashimi a whole fish for you (if they have some left). The unfiltered sake here is amazing!!! Very low key in the heart of not-so-low key. Weird schedule. Call ahead. 159 Aragon Ave # 1, Coral Gables, FL 33134, (305)445-2584.
SOUTH BEACH RESTAURANTS:
The Cafe at Books and Books. - This is Mitch Kaplans’ 2nd newest spot. It’s located in our performing arts venue so it almost impossible to get into when there’s an event. It’s cute, full of great books and my go-to for a solid lunch and lite dinner options. Plus it's literally 4 blocks from my flat! Address: 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132, USA :+1 786-405-1745
Milos - “Elegant lofty space with high-concept Greek preparations of seafood flown in from the Mediterranean.” One of the few “high-end” Miami Beach restaurants that I actually enjoy repeating (and recommending to friends). I love everything on the menu. (You may already know Milos from midtown NYC.) You definitely need a res. 730 1st St, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA. Metered street parking.
Prime 112 “Contemporary steakhouse packing in diners for its people-watching scene & sophisticated cuisine.” Great food, fun ambiance. All of my nouveau riche friends love this place because we always run into some famous ball player, singer, model, etc. Definitely one of Miami’s people watching spots. The only reason I continue to go is because the food (and wine list) are among the best in town. You definitely need a res and lot of patience as you wait for your res to be honored 30-45 min late. There’s a bar in the entrance where you can have a drink and a snack while you wait. Brown's Hotel, 112 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA+1 305-532-8112. Ridiculous valet parking only. Uber over.
Pubbelly - “Exposed-brick gastropub with Asian-fusion small plates featuring pork paired with craft beer & wine.” Love this place. Fun, delicious, small plates, non-pretentious place tucked away on a lesser-known area of SoBe. The owners/chefs created such a following with this one that they opened up two more locations, similar concept, on both sides of the restaurant (and others around the city). Dinner only. Res would be smart. Parking is a bit tough. 1418 20th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA +1 305-532-7555
SOUTH BEACH HAPPY HOUR PLACES:
Coming soon! For now, just google "best happy hour in South Beach" and make sure it's a current article!