Chow Down at Miami's Most Irresistible Restaurants
By Priscilla Blossom
Miami Local Expert
The cultural diversity of Miami creates this gorgeous culinary chorus in which each ethnicity, each chef, chimes in separately to create a fusion and unparalleled harmony that can only be found in South Florida. All the melting pot metaphors in the world cannot accurately describe the way the varying cuisines come together here, blending seamlessly while still maintaining their original flavors.
Food brings people together, and here it's no different...just better. Any night of the week you can go down to Calle Ocho, sit inside a tiny restaurant and have the country's best Cuban food served by a grandmother who's owned the place for 40 years. Dance flamenco at a Spanish tapas and wine bar, or travel to Wynwood where art galleries double as restaurants, such as at the infamous Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. In South Beach, the food is the art at restaurants like Barton G, where the cocktails smoke with dry ice accents and duck confit is served inside a giant duck decoy.
Miami is a place to be adventurous, and chefs are not afraid to explore and push their boundaries, urging guests to follow suit. Of course there are items and places every visitor MUST try, like the stone crab claws at Joe's, but if you happen to find yourself at a local Peruvian ceviche restaurant and can't understand the menu, don't be afraid to point to an item and smile. Fill your table with culture and your stomach will love you for it.
10 Smith & Wollensky
Join the power brokers at this clubby, traditional steakhouse, which offers sublime outdoor dining on the waterfront, complete with sweeping views of exclusive Fisher Island. Watch cruise ships leaving the Port of Miami as you dig into lemon pepper chicken or grilled salmon. Of course, heartier appetites will yearn for a bite of one of Smith & Wollensky's famous steaks; whether it's filet mignon, English cut prime rib, or grilled sirloin these are some of the most consistently delicious tasting cuts out there. If it's too hot on the lovely deck, enjoy views from the massive picture window inside the dimly lit, upscale interior. Reservations are strongly recommended. (305-673-2800)
9 Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
Encased in the Wynwood Walls, a grassy art park featuring 20-foot murals and collages, you'll find the painfully hip Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. Hosting pieces inside and out by world-renowned graffiti artists, this restaurant is lovingly hipster chic, yet shockingly homey. The menu is simplistic in description, offering everyday items like braised short rib, pan-seared snapper and pork tenderloin. There are no adjectives, nothing is described as succulent, decadent or even moist and tender. But what the menu lacks in poetics, it makes up for with some of the most complex tastes and just genuinely delicious dishes, expertly prepared and beautifully presented. (305-722-8959)
8 Palme d'Or
Surround yourself in luxury at this upscale French restaurant, located inside the infamous Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. First, soak up the glittering ambiance, full of polished crystal, crisp linens and gilt-lined mirrors. Then dive into the rich cuisine, prepared by Michelin starred and James Beard "Rising Star" nominee Chef Gregory Pugin and his immensely talented staff. The authentic-with-a-twist French dishes at Palme d'Or are created using local and sustainable ingredients, and include such masterpieces as lobster fricassee over linguine or chicken stuffed with foie gras. Wonderful wines and impeccable desserts complete this sophisticated yet unpretentious dining experience. Reservations required. (305-913-3201)
Named after the eldest daughter of owner Barclay Graebner, this organic-meets-soul food restaurant serves up a marvelous mish-mash of feel-good comfort food, including one of the most unbelievable brunches in Miami. Although the menu does include some less familiar foods, like a Moroccan Style Stew and Beet & Goat Cheese Tacos, it's punctuated by their contemporary twists on true classics like eggs benedict turned Benedict Burger (a meat patty topped with poached egg, ham or spinach, and hollandaise sauce), their Meatloaf with Smoky Mashed Potatoes, and the unbelievably cheesy Voluptuous Grilled Cheese (a gooey concoction of brie, gruyere, and white cheddar). ((305) 573-9678)
6 Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Chef Michael Schwartz is a celebrity all himself. The James Beard Award winner has made his mark on Miami, combining the freshest local ingredients with an overwhelming purity of flavor. The menu changes daily, and dishes vary from small to extra-large, ensuring that you get just enough to satisfy your appetite. The only problem here is that you might have too many creative choices, from wood-roasted sweet onion filled with ground lamb and apricots to crispy beef cheek with whipped celeriac, celery salad and chocolate reduction. A comfortable bar, offering wine by the glass, beer and cocktails, is an additional draw. (305-573-5550)
5 Joe's Stone Crab
Open since 1913, Joe's Stone Crab is a legend in Miami. In fact, they say you haven't truly visited South Florida until you've been to Joe's. Stick out the typical two-hour wait, and you'll be amply rewarded with some of the best stone crab known to man, mouthwatering sides like hash browns and creamed spinach and phenomenal Key Lime Pie. Another thing Joe's is known for is impeccable service. It's rumored that servers here own their own sections, making the opportunity coveted, as evidenced by the extreme attention to detail and general welcoming nature of the staff. Joe's is open full hours during stone crab season (October to May). (305-673-0365)
4 Barton G. - The Restaurant
Barton G. Weiss' penchant for spectacle has proven to translate well into the culinary world. Within the sleek dining room, showmanship joins flavor and innovation, resulting in a menu of reinvented American favorites that relies as much on appearance as on taste. Popcorn shrimp is served in a popcorn box on a bed of (you guessed it) popcorn, and sea bass is steamed in a paper bag and then unveiled at the table. Lamb chops, a NY strip, glazed duck, fried chicken and a trio of seafood pot pies also figure into the broad menu. Plus, intriguing desserts are as dramatically plated as any you'll find. (305-672-8881)
Paralleled by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami, Azul provides guests with an extremely intimate and classically elegant dining experience. Combining the best in Mediterranean and Asian cuisines to stunning effect, Azul's signature brand of fusion cooking features sumptuous dishes like Kobe beef tartare, tuna poke with pickled mushrooms, sake-marinated black cod, and lemon verbena perfumed turbot. Desserts at Azul bring decadence to another level with rich indulgences like their homemade rocky road, a marriage of marshmallow stones, creamy hazelnut, almond and guanaja chocolate sorbet. The sommelier-selected wine list boasts over 700 vintages from established and fledgling wineries, providing a range of apt accompaniments. In the serene, sophisticated dining room, an exhibition kitchen and panoramic views add distinction. Like a perfect lover, it's the type of restaurant you never forget. (305-913-8288, 305-913-8358)
2 Prime 112
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 butters 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. (305-532-8112)
Tuyo is the crown jewel sitting atop Miami Dade College's new Miami Culinary Institute, offering a spectacular view of the bay and Miami skyline. Its breakthrough recipe for culinary excellence in the 21st century infuses a trailblazing menu with the Institute's state-of-the-art approach to the culinary arts. The maestros at Tuyo set the table for food culture innovation by focusing on environmentally sound practices and by drawing upon the food grown locally and in the Institute's very own edible organic garden. Come and enjoy an exquisite fusion of New World flavors in a unique dining experience specially prepared by award-winning Executive Chef Norman Van Aken. ((305) 237-3200)
About Priscilla Blossom
Pris Blossom is a freelance writer and feminist mama with a love for travel, writing, music, film, craft beer, yoga, museums, cultural anthropology, and her awesome kid.
She spent the bulk of the past decade taking trips on a whim, falling in love with and in such places as New York City, New Orleans, and a large portion of Nicaragua.
In 2011, she took off on her own and traveled around the U.S. via bus, bunking with strangers thanks to the power of CouchSurfing. She is currently writing a novel about this.
Read her words at PrisBlossom.com.
Read more about Priscilla Blossom here.