By Virginia Gil
Posted: Friday November 30 2018
Welcome to the Time Out EAT List, our handpicked ‘best of’ Miami’s food scene. These are the tastiest places to eat in this city right now: the freshest, most inventive and most memorable, ranked by expert local editors.
As recently as even a decade ago, the best restaurants in Miami were usually found in swanky South Beach hotel lobbies. Today, the best Miami hotels still offer amazing dining experiences, but good eating has spread throughout the city—from hip Wynwood to Brickell to Little Havana and beyond.
Time Out’s local experts scour the city every day for great eats, great value and insider info (like a certain Italian place’s discounted pasta night). We value fun, flavour, freshness – and value at every price point. We update the EAT list monthly, plus whenever there’s a truly spectacular new opening. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a pop-up-turned-permanent spot: if it’s on the list we think it’s awesome and reckon you will too.
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Find out more about how we make the list.
Best restaurants in Miami
What is it? Floridian cuisine pioneer Norman Van Aken’s return to Miami marks the chef’s first Wynwood restaurant. The bright, glamorous dining room is striking—but wait till you see the food.
Why go? Prix-fixe menus of three, four or seven courses instantly elevate the experience. Pairings are done for you as well-portioned dishes make their way to the table in harmony, freeing you up to pore over the exceptional cocktail list.
South of Fifth
What is it? Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford’s intimate, 74-seat restaurant exemplifies Miami’s new wave of fine dining—sophisticated, edgy and with a hint of playfulness. Ford doesn’t take himself or his food too seriously.
Why go? Whether it’s your first or 10th time, the chef’s tasting menu is always a good idea. Combining restaurant staples with seasonal updates, every course builds on the last and offers loads of tasty surprises.
What is it? In just two short years, the modern Asian eatery has nabbed a James Beard Award nomination, a Time Out Bar Awards win and asserted itself as one of the best restaurants in town—and the toughest reservation in Wynwood. Its airy, industrial dining room fits right in with the gritty ’hood.
Why go? Chef Michael Lewis elevates Asian comfort food, wielding classics like pork buns, Korean fried chicken and crab fried rice into satisfying, visually arresting dishes. For every tree used in the wood-fired grill, like the mouthwatering wagyu beef brisket, the restaurant plants five more.
What is it? A sexy waterfront terrace and an irresistible Peruvian menu sum up the celebrated Brickell Key restaurant.
Why go? Gifted chef Diego Oka has raised the profile of traditional Latin American cuisine with unexpected ingredients and combinations, like the rare cheese-soaked tiradito bachiche—snapper delicately dressed in aged parmesan. It works. Brunch here is an experience and so worth carving out an entire afternoon to enjoy.
Ghee Indian Kitchen
What is it? James Beard nominee Niven Patel boosted Indian cuisine in the city with the opening of his Dadeland restaurant. The chef grows a large percentage of the produce and herbs he serves at Ghee at his Homestead farm.
Why go? Unlike the batched, reheated curries you’re used to eating in Miami, Ghee’s made-to-order meals are an explosion of fresh flavors. The cheddar naan, green millet—which Patel ships from a small village in India—and smoked lamb neck are consistent crowd pleasers.
What is it? A casual, diner-themed seafood haunt serving Miami’s best selection of oysters, Connecticut-style lobster rolls (buttered claws, no mayo) and delicious bread pudding.
Why go? The old-school marquee that hangs above the kitchen lists the day’s oysters. There are usually about eight East and West varieties to choose from, though you’ll want to ask your server to pick a dozen of their favorites. The staff here knows their stuff.
27 Restaurant & Bar at Freehand Miami
What is it? A homey, bi-level restaurant housed inside a former Art Deco home that serves globally inspired dishes made with fresh ingredients from local farms.
Why go? Hipster home-cooking is the thing here—familiar recipes featuring unexpected ingredients and portioned to share. The kimchi fried rice is a must at brunch or dinner while the arepa platter dominates the appetizer game. And you can’t leave without ordering a cocktail by the famous Bar Lab team.
What is it? Chef Brad Kilgore helms the modern, minimalist restaurant in Wynwood. Nominated for James Beards three times over, Kilgore took his previous fine-dining experiences and channeled it into the delicious, refined American cuisine he and partners Javier Ramirez and Leo Monterrey put forth at Alter.
Why go? The progressive menu is a treat from start to finish. There’s a $65 tasting menu for those needing a little guidance but a la carte works too—just make sure to order Kilgore’s soft egg with sea scallop espuma, chive, truffle pearls and Gruyere. You’re bound to get asked about it.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
What is it? James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz’s buzzy restaurant is a true star. Decor and menu are classy yet casual, and the service also strikes just the right note.
Why go? This is the restaurant that put the prolific chef and his high-end comfort food on the map. With an emphasis on local ingredients, specials change daily and might include duck confit with brussels sprouts or steak au poivre. Pick any and prepare to be impressed.
What is it? Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli’s small, rustic eatery at the edge of ritzy Coral Gables. Dishes here veer from the ordinary, like the meaty cauliflower steak or seemingly straightforward mushrooms, which give forth an explosion of earthy flavors.
Why go? You never know what sort of madcap creation Rapivacoli, who’s known for his playful interpretations of the classics, put on the menu next. Though once you try his foie chicken and waffles and Cap’n Crunch pancakes, you’ll never go back to the regular stuff.
What is it? The phrase “neighborhood gem”
gets thrown around but Pinch is truly deserving of the epithet. Nestled in Shorecrest and housed in a former pizza joint, this homey, chef-owned-and-operated restaurant borrows from all sorts of cultures to create its compact but solid menu.
Why go? People drive from all over to try Pinch’s juicy burger, though it’s only served at lunchtime and during brunch service. At dinnertime, turn your attention to Pinch’s vegetable-forward dishes made with ingredients sourced exclusively from local farmers.
What is it? Matthew Kuscher’s neighborhood burger joint is popular with people and canines alike (yep, they’ve got a special dog menu, too).
Why go? The Coconut Grove restaurant’s selection of grass-fed beef burgers runs the gamut from traditional to only-in-Miami, like the famous Cuban frita burger and Juan’s Fidy-Fidy—a decadent patty made from 50 percent Florida beef and 50 percent Florida bacon. Brew-loving Kuscher has also made sure to stock an assortment of local beers.
Cantina La Veinte
What is it? This upscale Mexican restaurant doles out fresh, house-made tortillas and authentic eats in swanky environs.
Why go? Proving there’s more to the country’s cuisine than tacos, Cantina serves an extensive assortment of regional dishes and the best margaritas in Miami—even though each sets you back $16. Stop in on Friday and Saturday nights to be serenaded by live mariachis.
What is it? The cozy, urban bistro serves the closest thing to authentic Catalan cuisine in Miami—even the names of dishes are written in the ancient Spanish language.
Why go? Small and hidden, touting a menu of mostly shareable plates, NIU is ideal for couples. Go halfsies on delicious pa amb tomàquet (the traditional rustic bread with vine-ripened tomatoes, olive oil and salt) a bottle of rioja and something starring a running yolk like the ous, a creamy bowl of poached eggs, truffled potato foam, jamón ibérico and black truffle.
What is it? This Sunset Harbour outpost of the popular Brooklyn pizza joint is just as trendy and crowded as the NYC original.
Why go? New York knows good pizza and Lucali delivers on its home state’s best export, serving large pies (no slices here) topped with all sorts of fresh ingredients (basil is free to add). Diet or not, the kale caesar salad makes for an excellent starter.
Joe’s Stone Crab
South of Fifth
What is it? Opened in 1913, South Florida’s most famous seafood restaurant opens October through May for stone crabs season.
Why go? You’ve waited all year for Joe’s namesake crustacean, but so has the rest of the city. Queue up and prepare to wait with the swarms of locals and tourists who swarm the joint for the freshest claws in town.
West Little Havana
What is it? Versailles bills itself as Miami’s most famous Cuban restaurant—and they’re not lying. This place is slammed at all hours of the day.
Why go? If you’re visiting, tick off every Cuban thing from your Miami bucket list—coffee, sandwich and pastelito. If you live here, you’re probably well acquainted with the ventanita dispensing thimbles of addictive cafecito.
Love Life Cafe
What is it? A hip, airy vegan cafe in Wynwood where the walls are as pretty as the food. From pizza and cheeseburgers to cake, every not-so-good-for-you staple you might be craving is on the menu in a decidedly healthier and tastier version.
Why go? The aforementioned prize-winning burger (it was named the best veggie burger in the city by Seed Plant Based Food and Wine Festival) is mind-blowing, and not just for vegans. Its perfectly cooked superfood patty is topped with fresh guac, pickles, plant-based cheddar, kale and cilantro aioli. Got all that?
Obra Kitchen Table
What is it? The first stateside concept from master chef Carlos Garcia, whose previous Caracas restaurant was ranked among the best in Latin America, serves elevated Venezuelan cuisine in a laid-back environment.
Why go? Grab a seat along the massive counter, sit back and enjoy the culinary show. Watch as Garcia as his sous chefs placidly wield ingredients such as octopus, uni and snapper into beautiful bowls of pasta, bite-size arepas and more.
What is it? A shining star in Miami’s Japanese culinary scene. Stephen Starr’s Makoto doles out modern Asian fare like yummy veggies grilled on a fancy bincho charcoal robata and sashimi so fresh you’d think it was fished-to-order.
Why go? It’s Stephen Starr. Though beyond the well-known restaurateur, Makoto kills the game with stellar sake-based cocktails and that ever-so-popular crispy rice.
Little Haiti / Lemon City
What is it? Probably the only restaurant in Miami serving Viet-Cajun cuisine, a delicious experiment that’s yielded cajun fried rice, an assortment of soul-soothing pho and pillowy bao buns stuffed with veggies, meat and more.
Why go? Phuc Yea is in a constant state of flux—for good reasons. If it isn’t a pop-up Sunday party, a tasty addition to the brunch menu or a fresh cocktail lineup, there’s always something new and exciting worth coming back for.
Lung Yai Thai Tapas
East Little Havana
What is it? Chef Bas’ perennially packed Thai restaurant on Calle Ocho is not what you’d expect from Little Havana but, judging from the nightly lines to get in, is just what the Cuban neighborhood needed. Bonus: Lung Yai has plenty of pork of the menu.
Why go? Stuff your face with authentic curries and noodle dishes (don’t leave without sampling the pad see ew with beef or the khao soi gai, a chef specialty). Speaking of chef Bas, he’s implemented a strict one-time order policy, so choose wisely.
No Name Chinese
What is it? A sleek Chinese restaurant that puts your favorite takeout joint to shame every single time. Though despite the moniker, No Name’s menu is an all-encompassing celebration of Asian cuisine with a splash of Mediterranean and Latin thrown in. You’ll get a little Thai, some Japanese and loads of umami flavors.
Why go? DIY dim sum with small plates like the signature angry dumplings that make us so, so happy, as well baos and the crispy turnip cakes. No Name does a fine job with the classics (kung pao chicken, beef and broccoli, honey chicken) but it’s in the unexpected, like the Yunnan-style roasted red snapper, where it really impresses.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
What is it? A charming Greek spot tucked away in a quiet corner of the Design District. Sip too many glasses of Mandolin’s delicious housemade sangria and you might just confuse the Mandolin’s whitewashed exterior for the Cycladic islands.
Why go? For a meal that doubles as a staycation. Tuck into traditional mezzes, grilled octopus and warm, toasted pita bread fresh out of the oven.
West Coconut Grove
What is it? Part American, part Cuban and entirely Miami—this Coconut Grove restaurant churns out solid dishes made from scratch. Subway tiles, dim lighting and a notably calm open kitchen keep the vibe casual and relaxed.
Why go? Chef/owner Michael Beltran keeps things weird, in the best way possible. He puts head cheese in his croquetas, mushrooms in his flan and foie gras in his pastelitos. Just go with it—the Cuban bred chef knows exactly what he’s doing.