Miami‘s unique cultural diversity is clearly reflected in the array of culinary creations that dot the Magic City. Yes, perhaps the melting pot metaphors have been used enough, but then again how else would you describe a town where you’re just as likely to discover a Korean-Peruvian-Cuban tapas joint hidden in the suburbs, a popular 24-hour fritanga, a fine dining establishment whose main attraction is the dim sum, and enough burger and craft beer joints to make your head spin?
Ideas thrive in our tropical climate. Chefs thrive here, too. In fact, many of them flock here from colder regions where they’ve made a name for themselves and now simply want to provide quality food without the need of a snow shovel for half of the year.
The flavors found in South Florida are something we locals are all proud of. And in recent years, the cuisine that has been permeating every neighborhood in town, via the restaurant, pop-up, diner, or food truck has simply increased in quality. Plant-based dining has also begun to enjoy a renaissance, with places like Planta at the forefront. There are James Beard Award winners on here, places where you might run into a number of celebs (hello, Prime 112), as well as places where you can get a huge meal you can eat outdoors for just $10. Basically, this list is as diverse as the city, and we like it like that.
Photo courtesy of El Palacio de los Jugos
Since opening in 1977, El Palacio De Los Jugos has embodied Latin American Miami in its most authentic form. It’s not fancy, doesn’t have a dress code, and everyone is welcome–so long as they enjoy delicious food and won’t ask for a copy of their “nutrition facts”.
The name of this popular eatery translates to “the juice palace” as it serves freshly made, exotic juices in mass volumes. El Palacio also cooks down-home Latin fare; generous, juicy pork sandwiches and classic Cuban rice and bean variations fill the outdoor air with enticing aromas. After ordering, purchase tropical produce or sip cooling coconut water, chopped on-site by a man with his machete.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: El Palacio will always be number one in the hearts of Miami’s born and raised. It’s a no-frills spot that captures local flavors precisely.
Priscilla’s expert tip: If you’re unsure of where to begin at this place, relax. Start by ordering one of their fresh-squeezed juices and the rest will make sense once you start sippin.
Read more about El Palacio De Los Jugos →
West Kendall has long hungered for a restaurant that caters to refined palates and a thirst for craft beer. Fortunately, now there is Finka, an unbelievable gastropub and tapas joint that fuses Peruvian, Korean, and Cuban cuisine into something that is altogether beautiful. You can begin your culinary escapade at Finka with the tartare of the day, some kimchee and potato wedges, or the black bean hummus for the herbivores in the bunch. From there, order yourself a lomo saltado fried rice, Korean ‘japchae’ noodles, Cuban bibimbap, or a churrasco flatbread. Wash it down with their fine selection of craft beers on draft (because why settle for bottled) or hand-crafted cocktails.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: We can’t put together a list of Miami’s top restaurants without recognizing the excellent cuisine on the west side of town. Finka represents this perfectly.
Priscilla’s expert tip: If it’s your first time here, come during happy hour for awesome food and drink specials that’ll totally turn you into a fan.
Read more about Finka Table and Tap →
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar puts a sophisticated spin on classic Southern specialties without taking away their Dixie souls. Located in the heart of South Beach, Yardbird has grown a loyal following among foodies and chefs since its opening in Fall of 2011. Its success has been such that the owners have since opened a second joint out in Vegas. Despite the casual setting, scoring a spot for supper can prove daunting, but it is worth fighting for. Yardbird’s chicken biscuits, sweet-tea brined ribs, and macaroni and cheese leave guests weak in the knees, but everyone knows they’re most famous for their not-to-be-missed chicken and waffles (cheddar cheese-topped waffles and fried chicken served with bourbon maple syrup and a hot honey sauce, with a side of spiced fresh watermelon). To boot, the impressive bourbon selection reels in its own loyal sect of sipping connoisseurs.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The late, great Anthony Bourdain and the supremely talented Questlove have both eaten here, as have droves of locals who can’t say enough good things.
Priscilla’s expert tip: You can bring your vegetarian friends but leave your vegan friends at home.
Read more about Yardbird Southern Table & Bar →
It was only a matter of time for Miami to embrace the sheer beauty of eating tapas. These Spanish-style gastrobars have been slowly popping up around town, but the one folks won’t stop chatting about is Bulla. Pronounced “boo-yah!” (which you know folks love saying), this exciting eatery created by Por Fin’s Carlos Centurion has exploded from a trendy tapas spot for locals into a fast-growing concept now with locations in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. But since we’re in the 305, let’s dish a little more on the original locale in downtown Coral Gables. Bulla’s a great place for happy hour cocktails or a chic date night, as ambiance is generally a bit more grown up and smartly dressed. They’ve also got prixe fix lunch menus for under $20, bottomless brunch mimosas, seasonal menus, and of course scrumptious bites. From patatas bravas and albondigas to impressive meat and cheese platters to churrascos and paellas if you’re feeling extra hungry, you’ll find plenty to nosh on here.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Sometimes all you need is fun vibes, flirty drinks, and food that brings you life, and Bulla has all of those in spades.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Tapas are best enjoyed with friends so you can sample a variety of small dishes. Save the solo dining for someplace else.
Read more about Bulla Gastrobar →
If you’ve spent more than a few days in Miami, someone at some point has recommended CVI.CHE 105. It’s the kind of restaurant that came up on the scene long before everyone became ceviche crazed, and has long held its position since. More than fifteen years ago, Juan Chipoco & Luis Hoyos came to the United States from their different natal countries with many hopes and dreams of success as many immigrants. First opened in 2007, the restaurant went under a total overhaul in 2009 into a Peruvian restaurant and has experienced tons of success as a result. Juan and Luis now operate one of the most successful South American restaurants in Miami and have arguably the best Peruvian cuisine anywhere on the east coast.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Few restaurants are as synonymous with Miami as CVI.CHE 305. Ceviche has blown up here, and this Downtown spot remains a favorite among the masses.
Priscilla’s expert tip: When the restaurant is a bit too busy for immediate service, drop by their sister restaurant next door for a few quick cocktails or apps to hold you over.
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Vegan and plant-based diets have slowly been gaining popularity around the country, and Miami is no different. While some older establishments in the scene have come and gone, we’re happy that Planta is still making a splash on South Beach just a bit over a year since its opening. The original Planta opened in Toronto several years back, and when hospitality-and-entertainment mogul David Grutman happened upon the vegan Canadian favorite, he decided to bring it back to the 305. The establishment is more than just plant-based; Chef David Lee only uses ingredients from ethical suppliers, making this a vegan’s paradise. What’s even better is the wide variety of foods to try while here: spicy tuna (with watermelon “ahi”), a “meat lover’s pizza” topped with cashew cheese and farro sausage, heart of palm “crab” cakes, coconut ceviche, and of course, a Planta burger, are all on the menu. Bring a group, order everything, and get to tasting!
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Aside from having an unbeatable brunch, this restaurant’s commitment to seasonal and local ingredients makes it a hit with conscious-minded foodies across the 305.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Definitely try their brunch at least once. With dishes like “crab” cake tostadas and land “lox” scrambles, you’re in for a very unique treat.
Read more about Planta →
Photo courtesy of Courtesy Makoto Bal Harbour
Makoto is one of the top Asian restaurants in the area, located in the ritzy Bal Harbour Shops. This modern Japanese spot is the dream-child of James Beard semifinalist Stephen Starr and Iron Chef competitor Makoto Okuwa. Chef Okuwa has over twenty years of experience and was once head chef at Morimoto New York and Philadelphia. You’ll find plenty to write home about at Makoto’s, including traditional and contemporary Japanese flavors enjoyed in a chic-yet-casual ambiance. Opt to dine in the elegant, wood-heavy dining room or enjoy sitting in the lush, green outdoor patio area. You can also grab a quick cocktail at the lively bar.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: James Beard Award-winning Chef Makoto Okuwa maintains one of the most impressive restaurants in town that’s become a must for locals and visitors alike.
Priscilla’s expert tip: If you’ve got a date, try the Chef’s combination sushi platter. You’ll enjoy a number of robust flavors and probably even take home some leftovers.
Read more about Makoto →
Photo courtesy of Gary James Photography
The Art Deco facade of Prime One Twelve’s Exterior is sharply juxtaposed by the sleek, black, vinyl-lined booths and supremely modern interior decor. One of Miami’s most upscale steakhouses, Prime blends impeccable service with piquant dashes that are pleasing to both the eye and palate. The menu is a smorgasbord of reconstructed classics like deviled eggs with white truffle and caviar, a Kobe meatball hero and even fried chicken & waffles. Dry-aged prime beef arrives sizzling, cooked to your specifications, and topped with a choice of butter or sauces. “Accessories” are sublime: truffled mac and cheese, sauteed forest mushrooms, or even rum-baked sweet plantains. Desserts, too, get stylish attention; apple pie is topped with candied walnut streusel, while chocolate pudding cake flaunts Amarene cherries and a dollop of sweet cream.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Prime’s reputation among Miami residents and celebrities worldwide make it worthy of this list.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Three times a week anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds of Hawaiian Big Eye Tuna is placed on overnight delivery to Prime One Twelve. Served raw, the rich, buttery texture deconstructs perfectly with a drizzle of soy sauce and sesame oil. Simplistic and sublime, this dish is a must.
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La Mar by Gaston Acurio made the Mandarin Oriental it’s home in 2014, dazzling patrons with passionately prepared Peruvian food by their namesake global icon. A table on La Mar’s deck frames Brickell’s concrete landscape, its soothing bay waters reflecting the city’s rising towers. The al fresco decor is minimal, with only a handful of over-sized umbrellas acting as sun shields. La Mar’s serenity seeps inside as well; an open ceviche bar and vertical garden line the far walls, while teal chairs carry the eye to the bayside windows. Enjoy Peruvian-style sushi, lomo saltado, chaufa, tiraditos, and other Latin American favorites with a view that can’t be beaten.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Between world-renowned chef Acurio’s expertise, and the service at and aesthetic of La Mar itself, there’s no way we could leave it off the list.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Parking at the Mandarin Oriental is valet only.
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The Grove has undergone several transformations over the past few years, but no one can deny that one of its improvements came in the form of a gem known as Ariete. This delightful, farmhouse-inspired restaurant nestled behind and beneath the lush greenery on Main Highway opened in 2016 and regularly receives praise from critics and everyday folks alike. Chef Michael Beltran (formerly of Cypress Room) has created a New American dining experience that’s sublime without being stuffy. The establishment itself has wood-paneled and white-tiled walls, a cozy, well-stocked bar, and plenty of seating both indoor and out (they’ve also got a more regal basement room for private occasions). But what you really want to know about is the food, right? If the highly-praised grilled oysters (buttered with bone marrow) doesn’t impress you, go for a safe bet like the Chug Burger or any of their brunch options, or move quickly onto dessert where their tres leches, flan, or churro donuts will certainly win you over.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Ariete’s seasonally changing menu is a celebration of flavors, with a chic ambiance that’s still welcoming to everyday folks seeking quality bites and impressive cocktails.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Happy hour cuts the cost of many beloved dishes nearly in half, so you can totally enjoy Ariete even if you’re on a budget.
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