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 restaurant, pop-up, diner, or food truck has simply increased in quality. Vegan and vegetarian dining, for example, has started to pick up with places like Choices Cafe and Plant Food + Wine picking up steam. Local and seasonal ingredients...a more conscious way to eat, is also becoming popular among restaurants like Whisk.
Hakkasan - Fontainebleau Miami Beach
The Zagat Rated, AAA Four Diamond Award Winning restaurant Hakkasan has much to brag about. This gem inside the world-renowned Fontainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach is known for its unique and authentic Cantonese dishes, including a weekend Dim Sum Lunch that high-rolling locals are raving about. Chef de Cuisine Jian Heng Loo has created incredibly delectable dishes including a Black Pepper Beef Tenderloin and a Crispy Duck Salad with Jasmine Tea-Smoked Ribs. Once seated inside this aesthetically divine restaurant, peruse the menu and pick out an appetizer (wild mushroom lettuce wrap, duck roll) for starters; then move on to your main dish (wok baked lobster in supreme stock, tofu claypot in black bean sauce); and wash it down with one of their inspired cocktails (the Hakka, Zen Garden). (877-326-7412)
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)
La Mar by Gaston Acurio
La Mar by Gaston Acurio made the Mandarin Oriental its 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 beat. (305-913-8358)
As the name suggests, Blue Collar doles out good, hearty food for the working class. But don't get confused. This isn't your average greasy spoon. Nothing of the sort. Instead, chef and owner Daniel Serfer aims to serve his patrons home-style cooking that will have them talking for days. We're not just talking macaroni and cheese. We're talking a Mac dish made with Cavatappi pasta and trugole, cheddar, and Parmesan cheese to which you can add bacon or rock shrimp. Serfer isn't just serving you a brisket sandwich. He's introducing you to the "Corben," an experience of braised brisket and Dijon on Portuguese muffin dipped into a an aus jus, accompanied by latkes and apple sauce. With influences from the Caribbean, New Orleans, and your Bubbe's kitchen, Serfer creates dishes like Cuban Sandwich Spring Rolls, year-round Chanukah Latkes, and a Shrimp Po' Boy that somehow tie in perfectly together. ((305) 756-0366)
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)
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)
Whisk is the type of place that keeps its patrons on their toes. Start your meal with the Pulled Pork Sliders (with honey cider slaw, mustard bbq sauce, and house pickles) or the Chicken' Biscuit (fried boneless thigh on a bacon-buttermilk biscuit and a clover honey gastrique...say what?), and you'll quickly realize Whisk is good southern cooking given a gourmet makeover. Their salad options range from broccoli kale caesar to buttermilk fried chicken and organic spinach. Their UN-Traditional B.L.T. (with thick cut pecanwood smoked bacon, hydroponic arugula, tomato, herb buttermilk spread, & sliced avocado) and Grilled NY Strip (with blanched jumbo asparagus, smashed potatoes, demi glace, and crispy shallots) are beyond comprehension. And vegetarians will be enamored by the Grilled Portabella Mushroom Hoagie (baby arugula, roasted roma tomatoes, crispy shallots & goat cheese spread). Complete with daily specials, you'll want to be whisked away here on a regular basis. (7862688350)
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)
Finka Table and Tap
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. ((305) 227-8818)
Plant Food + Wine
Well-known plant-based Chef Matthew Kenney has just brought his latest venture to Miami's Wynwood neighborhood and it's already taking off with vegans and omnis alike. Still fairly new, Plant Food + Wine only serves fresh, all vegan, gourmet cuisine, with a menu that emphasizes local, organic, and seasonal produce. You'll find original and flavorful sounding small plates like watermelon poke, and must-try entrees like their coconut ceviche tacos, plus an array of nut-based artisanal cheeses, and delectable desserts like the starfruit tart and their vegan banana split. A chef's tasting is also available at $65 per guest for a 5-course feast, as well as a weekday happy hour special at their bar, where you can imbibe on their Sacred Cocktail (rain vodka, watermelon, mint, lime, maple, and prosecco) and bite into some bahn mi lettuce wraps or beet and avocado tartar. ((305) 814-5365)
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.
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