Craving Stone Crab, Lobster, Snapper, Grouper? 10Best Has You Covered (and Sauteed, Ceviched, Roasted, Jerked and Fried)
For more than a century now, Miami's restaurants have been known for serving seafood. Beginning with Joe's Stone Crab on South Beach and continuing with Captain's Tavern in South Miami and Captain Jim's in North Miami, some of the most authentic and freshest dishes come from restaurants that are (or were, originally) attached to fish markets. Others spring from the hands of our talented chefs working in establishments such as Area 31, which sells only local and sustainable product. A few are even one-night-stands, like the all-you-can-eat Maine Lobsters for $35 at Kitchen 305 that goes on every Wednesday like a poker game.
In addition, the ethnic influences that so shape this quirky, colorful city also flavor our seafood dishes, and you can find everything in Little Havana from Puerto Rican seafood asapao (soupy rice) to Bahamian conch chowder to Peruvian ceviche. The latter is especially innovative at De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean on South Beach, but the dish is so popular in the city that entire restaurants--Ceviche 105, for example, in downtown, and Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar and Latam Grill in Coconut Grove--have devoted themselves to preparing it.
It's also very difficult to go wrong eating sushi anywhere in Miami. After experiencing so many wonderful specimens and so many master sushi chefs working in places such as Makoto in Bal Harbour, Katsuya on South Beach, Zuma and Aijo in downtown, and even the smaller places like the Sushi Siam chain with several locations around the city, you will be hard-pressed to return to your own, favorite sushi joint at home.
Yeah, Miami seafood is that good.
10 Truluck's Seafood Steak and Crab House - Miami
Although Truluck's is a chain--something many local Miamians won't admit to wanting to visit--it's a terrific one. Specializing in out-of-town seafood, as well as local, in-season items, the high-end restaurant is ideal for when that crab craving hits you. Whether it's Pacific stone crabs or South Florida stone crabs doesn't seem to matter. Truluck's will have something to fit that crack-and-dip in-drawn butter or mustard sauce or cocktail sauce bill. Alaskan king crab is a favorite here, as are some main courses, including cioppino, jumbo fried shrimp and miso-glazed seabass. Naturally, for a restaurant that has steaks in its title, the beef is plenty good, too. Be warned, however, that portions are big and rich, so if you're counting on ordering dessert, surf and turf dishes can almost be your undoing. (3055790035)
9 Kitchen 305
Kitchen 305 has distinguished itself on the seafood market for creating a market. Quietly, in 2010, the restaurant began offering all-you-can-eat nights, alternating in season between stone crab and Maine lobster. Two years later, the lobster scene exploded when the television media finally got wind of it, and now it's such an extravaganza that the owners, who receive anywhere from 400-800 reservations for these evenings, open two extra dining rooms with banquet furniture on lobster nights. It's like attending a wedding with as many one-pound lobsters as you like served to you. Not that it's a contest, but the current record held by a single diner, 10Best was told, is 27 lobsters. The kitchen has run out of crustaceans on nights when reservations were especially high and less competitive eaters were in the house. So don't say you weren't warned--make a reservation and, if you think you might want more than one or two lobsters, go on the early side! (305-949-1300)
8 Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay - Catch Bar & Grill
Sure, this is a hotel restaurant. But Catch Bar & Grill, which opened in the late summer of 2011, is a new breed of eatery--not one that keeps a tourist trapped because there's nowhere else to go, but one that tempts a traveler to stay put via setting and sumptuous seafood. Perched alongside Biscayne Bay, Catch offers local fish and seafood seasoned with a Miami sensibility. There's always a great shrimp cocktail to be had, for example, but better still? Barbecue shrimp over manchego-flavored grits with chorizo and tomato fondue. And while you can always get a delectable seafood pasta with green-lipped mussels and tender rings of squid, why not gear up instead for whole Miami snapper drizzled with a mango-habanero sauce and served with jicama slaw? True, it's probably part of a diabolical plot to make you love the city so much you'll never leave. Is it working yet? (3055366362)
7 La Dorada
La Dorada features seafood with an elegant Spanish twist. The dining room makes you feel like you are being whisked away to an exotic locale, thanks to its ocean-liner decor complete with portholes, plants and a pianist. Simple, flavorful dishes include fresh fish baked in rock salt, filleted right in front of your table. Or try the gazpacho, followed by the seafood-studded paella. The efficient staff will help you navigate the authentic Spanish menu and can also help you select a wine from the well-chosen list. But it's helpful if you also know a little Spanish here to facilitate the process. Although romantic, many business deals are also being made over meals. Reservations recommended; business casual attire. (305-446-2002)
6 The River Seafood & Oyster Bar
A hip oyster joint that features a topnotch raw bar, innovative main dishes, small plates and an extensive wine list, The River Seafood & Oyster Bar has been a mainstay among Brickell area professionals since it opened in 2003. Executive chef David Bracha, a longtime favorite who ran the funky Fishbone Grill (same location) for years before, has been cooking in Miami since the 1980s, and truly undersatdns the ever-chaning vibe of the city. For The River, he sources a combo of local and exotic--Florida snapper and Spanish sardines, for example--and puts them together with global touches (his whole Florida snapper prepared Chinese style is outrageous) that make the dishes his own. Until they become yours, that is. Not too hungry? Sit at the bar, snacking on the minerally oysters of the day and cleansing your palate with cold white wine. The list, like the menu, is changeable, but always interesting and well-priced. (305-530-1915)
5 Captain's Tavern
This seafood specialist has been a mainstay in the South Miami area since the early 1970s. The decor has a stylish seafaring theme, with dark wood and brick, dim lighting, nautical art and various other nautical antiquities on the walls. Saltwater aquariums are scattered throughout the dining room, offering plenty to look at as you await your feast. "Captain" Bill and Andrea Bowers wants to make sure their clients go away completely satisfied, so he also offers an enormous variety of main courses for landlubbers, including steaks, lamb chops and chicken. But the fresh catch is still king, as the adjacent seafood market proves. The wine list is legendary, featuring plenty of well-known wines as well as hard to find labels, all at attractive prices. (305-666-5979)
Restaurateur Claudio Giordano and executive chef Simon Stojanovic are an unbeatvale team when it comes to premium seafood and European preparation techniques, which distinguish this Lincoln Road restaurant. Situated in a discrete location west of the neighborhood's tourist hoopla, AltaMare features a quaint interior accented with black and white photographs and an open kitchen, though many guests prefer the breezes on an adjoining sidewalk patio. The New American menu changes daily, but you can count on crudos, ceviches and entrees reflecting South Florida such as grilled cobia with Swank Farms watercress, Teena's Pride heirloom tomato, Florida avocado and arugula vinaigrette or house-made house made fettuccine with Wild Ocean rock shrimp, sautéed asparagus and snow peas. An excellent wine list complements meals, and for pre-theater diners hoping to catch a movie across Alton Road, there's usually a prix fixe menu. As an fyi, this team opened TIKL in August 2012, an indoor-outdoor raw bar and grill at 1450 Brickell Avenue, Miami. (305-532-3061)
3 The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Classy, 1930s style decor ushers you back to the Band Era at this popular seafood restaurant, flanked with red leather booths, curving architectural details, and globe lamps. It's an ideal venue to feast on the nine different types of oysters and sip Champagne. The menu is too tempting to leave it at that, though, packed with all manner of global treats: Panamanian golden corvina, Mexican black grouper, Caribbean triggerfish, whole Nicaraguan lane snapper. You can enhance any of the simply grilled or broiled items by making them "dirty" or "black & bleu," as well as topping them with shrimp or crab Oscar. But the real treats lie in the daily specials, which often reflect executive chef Kareem Anguin's Caribbean heritage, and incorporate local and seasonal products. (305-372-8862)
2 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, plus desserts like the phenomenal key lime pie. Joe's is open full hours during stone crab season (October to May). Want a really good long-timer trick or two? Visit during off hours (yes, that means dining at 4 p.m.); order the fried chicken (it's a hidden secret but it's some of the best in town); and don't ever try to visit during the first or last few days of stone crab season (you'll be mobbed, and the claws will be small and, if a hurricane has recently passed through in October, previously frozen). (305-673-0365)
1 Area 31
Located in Kimpton's Epic Hotel in downtown, this restaurant's setting affords skyline views of both Miami (to the north and west) and Biscayne Bay (to the east and south) that guests find truly breathtaking--that is, if they aren't too intent on the incredible cuisine. Executive chef E. Michael Reidt gleans most of his seafare--items such as jumbo lump crab salad with spicy seared watermelon, heirloom tomato, avacado, mint and basil or yellowfin tuna with mixed grains, smoked black beans, shrimp guacamole and ginger juice--either locally or from the region of the ocean for which the restaurant is named, Area 31, one of the only self-sustaining spots that is said to be left in the ocean. Meat and pasta dishes are just as delicious and contain sustainable items from nearby farms and other trusted sources. So not only should you leave you leave your diet at home, but drop your guilt behind, too. (305-424-5234)
About Jen Karetnick
Jen has lived and written in Miami for more than two decades. She works as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine, part of the Modern Luxury Group; a columnist for the newspaper Biscayne Time; and the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School. The author/editor of nine books, including Mango: Tour de Force (forthcoming from University Press of Florida) and three poetry collections, Jen has work appearing widely in publications including Florida Travel & Life, Southern Living and Vegas Player. Jen lives in Miami Shores with her husband, two children, three dogs, four cats and fifteen mango trees.
Read more about Jen Karetnick here.