For more than a century now, Miami's restaurants have been known for serving quality 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 shape this 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 in Coconut Grove--have devoted themselves to preparing it.
It's difficult to go wrong eating sushi anywhere in town, as you'll soon realize after enjoying hand rolls and sashimi at places like Makoto in Bal Harbour, Katsuya on South Beach, and Zuma in Downtown Miami. When it comes to seafood, there's no wrong way to enjoy it in Miami.
Back in 2010, Kitchen 305 began offering all-you-can-eat nights, alternating in season between stone crab and Maine lobster. Two years later, the lobster scene exploded, 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)
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)
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)
The River Seafood & Oyster Bar
A hip oyster joint that features a top-notch 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 Fishbone Grill (same location) for years before, has been cooking in Miami since the 1980s and truly understands the ever-changing 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. (305-530-1915)
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 they also offer 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 knows what's best when it comes to premium seafood and European preparation techniques, which distinguish this Lincoln Road restaurant from the rest. 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 enjoying the breeze out on the 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. 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)
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Classy, 1930s-style decor ushers you back to the Big 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 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 cobia, Caribbean snapper, 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)
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 lengthy 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)
Located in Kimpton's Epic Hotel, 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 focused on the incredible cuisine. Executive Chef Wolfgang Birk gleans most of his seafare--items such as jumbo lump crab salad with spicy seared watermelon, heirloom tomato, avocado, 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)
Little Brazil Restaurant
Located in the section of North Beach on Collins Avenue that is sometimes referred to as "Little Argentina" because of all the Latin cafes that dot it, Little Brazil fits right in. Pull up a seat at this lunch-dinner bistro and nosh on bolinhos de bacalhau, croquettes made from chicken or codfish, or kibe (bulgar wheat patties). A wide selection of main courses includes plenty of grilled steaks and classic stroganoff. Shrimp is a big ingredient here, starring in Camarao no Abacaxi (shrimp sautéed with pineapple, mushrooms, light cream sauce and herbs, topped with melted mozzarella, served in a pineapple shell garnished with mashed potatoes) and Camarao no Coco ao Molho do Chefe (shrimp sautéed with coconut milk, mushrooms, herbs, served in a coconut shell, garnished with mashed potatoes). A kids' menu and sweets such as Brazilian flan make this a casual yet tasty affair for the whole family. (305-397-8215)
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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