By: Shayne Benowitz
From Cuban, South American and Caribbean to pan-Asian, French & Italian, Miami has a flavor for everyone.
Miami is famous for being an international city with a melting pot of cultures. There’s perhaps no better way to get a taste of the city’s diversity than through its cuisine. While Miami’s connection to Cuba is well noted, there’s also a rich population from Central and South America, each with its own cuisine.
You’ll find Caribbean influences, as well, ranging from Haitian to Jamaican. Recently, the city’s seen an uptick of delicious fare from the Middle East. It’s also a destination for Asian, Italian and French cuisine. With a dining scene that’s only heating up, here’s your primer to Miami’s rich international fare.
Cuban & Latin American
Little Havana is ground zero for a taste of Cuba in Miami, but really, any neighborhood you visit from South Beach to Sunny Isles Beach will have a venue for you to sample Cuban coffee, pastelitos (pastries) and traditional dishes like ropa vieja (stewed beef with tomatoes and onions) with black beans, yellow rice and sweet plantains.
Versailles in Little Havana is one of the most iconic destinations for Cuban food. Don’t stop with Cuban, though. Miami is also home to Venezuelan, Peruvian, Brazilian, Argentinian, Colombian, Nicaraguan fare and more.
To the west, Doral is sometimes called Doralzuela for its abundance of Venezuelan eateries like La Uchirena where you can enjoy, arepas (corn pancake sandwiches), patacones (fried plantains also known as tostones) and pabellon criollo (a traditional plate that consists of shredded meat, rice and beans, fried plantains slices and an egg).
Argentinian restaurants are known for their churrasco skirt steak, empanadas and Italian-influenced pasta dishes. Try Fiorito’s in Little Haiti or Las Vacas Gordas in Miami Beach.
Miami is also famous for its Peruvian cuisine. Whether you opt for fine dining at Coya and La Mar by Gaston Acurio at the Mandarin Oriental, casual at Cvi.che 105 or classic at Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar, don’t leave Miami without sampling fresh ceviche, potato causas, tiradito (sashimi-style raw fish) and lomo saltado (beef tenderloin stir fry). Be sure to pair your meal with a traditional pisco sour cocktail.
In the last couple of years, Miami has also seen an uptick of casual Mexican-inspired taquerias. From HuaHuas to Taquiza to Bodega and Coyo, there’s never been more options around town for tasty tacos. The latter two even have secret speakeasy bars in the rear.
Haitian & Caribbean
The flavors of the Caribbean have just as strong a presence in Miami with the city’s long-held ties to the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. Try Chez Le Bebe in Little Haiti or Tap Tap in South Beach for a taste of criollo stews and fried pork griot.
Bahamian influences can be found in the soul food of Historic Overtown and Coconut Grove’s Village West, which was home to the first Bahamians in Miami. In Overtown, head to Jackson’s Soul Food and People’s Bar-B-Que for a taste of down home cooking. There’s also a strong Jamaican presence in Miami and you can sample traditional Jamaican patties at Sonia’s stuffed with everything from spicy beef to Caribbean lobster. There’s also Clives for jerk chicken, stewed peas, ackee fruit and salt fish.
For Japanese, Chinese and Thai food, Miami has a wide variety of upscale and casual Asian eateries. Popular sushi spots include Pubbelly Sushi, Sushi Garage and Doraku, while Makoto and Zuma meet the upscale expectations for the best sushi and Japanese food in Miami.
For haute Cantonese, try Hakkasan or Mr. Chow, while dim sum palaces include Tropical Chinese at The Sarsaparilla Club on South Beach.
Chef Bee Naiya is Miami’s beloved hometown Thai chef with both Oishi Thai in North Miami and his brand new Naiyara in Sunset Harbour. On the pan-Asian fusion front, Bazi is a new spot in the Astor Hotel by James Beard Award-nominated chef Michael Pirrolo.
Middle Eastern & Greek
Miami has seen an abundance of Middle Eastern restaurants opening up, from Greek to Turkish to Persian. A longtime favorite, Mandolin Aegean Bistro, in the Design District is home to a lovely outdoor patio shaded by blue umbrellas for a taste of Turkey that includes fresh Mediterranean fish, lamb burgers and bright salads crumbled with feta and drizzled in olive oil. They’ve also opened a second outpost inside the members only Soho Beach House.
Other hot spots for such fresh bites include Cleo at the Redbury Hotel, Byblos at The Royal Palm and Fooq’s in Downtown Miami.
Like many cities, Miami is no stranger to Italian restaurants, from rustic to refined, pizza to pasta, there’s so much to choose from. For fine dining, consider Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau by celebrity cheff Scott Conant, Dolce at The Gale, Casa Tua or Sardinia in Sunset Harbour.
For a casual, hidden gem with authentic flavors, head to Sylvano’s in South Beach’s Collins Park neighborhood. There’s also the newly opened La Moderna for Italian fare with a Roman heritage. As far as pizza goes, Lucali is a favorite in South Beach.
There’s something so charming about a French bistro and you can find them throughout Miami. In Coconut Grove Le Bouchon du Grove is a longtime favorite for steak frites and onion soup gratinee. In Bal Harbour Shops is Le Zoo, a Stephen Starr restaurant with all the refined charms of a Parisian café, including a delicious menu of oysters, quiche and croque monsieurs.
Check out more Miami restaurants.
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