By: Shayne Benowitz
Explore the flavors of Miami through its diverse neighborhoods.
If you’ve come to Miami to eat your way around the city, there’s never been a more exciting time in the culinary landscape. With a rise in locally-owned restaurants and homegrown chefs, the flavors of Miami are being showcased in a modern and inviting way.
Of course, never one to shy away from glamour, Miami is a mecca for splashy celebrity chefs, especially in South Beach’s lavish hotels. Then there’s Miami’s diverse ethnic heritage, ranging from Cuban food to the Caribbean and beyond.
Each neighborhood has its own personality, from the type of food to the vibe in the dining room and the surrounding area. Read on to get a taste for what each Miami neighborhood brings to the table.
South Beach & Miami Beach
When it comes to glitz and glam, South Beach doesn’t let you down with an abundance of trendy and luxurious restaurants, many of which are housed inside over-the-top hotels.
New to the scene is the Faena Miami Beach Hotel. Flamboyant hotelier Alan Faena has recruited Argentinean asado grillmaster Chef Francis Mallman to take the helm of Los Fuegos and James Beard Award-winning Texas chef Paul Qui at Pao. The former, a rustic Argentinean steakhouse, and the latter, an upscale pan-Asian eatery, these are two of the hottest tables in town.
Other upscale Miami Beach hotel restaurants to score a reservation at include StripSteak by Michael Mina at the Fontainebleau, Dolce Italian at The Gale, Byblos at The Royal Palm, The Sarsaparilla Club at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand, The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS South Beach and Lure Fishbar at Loews Miami Beach Hotel.
But that doesn’t mean that everything is a pricy, formal affair in South Beach. A laid back local scene has crystallized over the last few years with many new restaurants serving fresh, quality dishes at reasonable prices in a more relaxed setting. Take 27 Restaurant, for instance, at The Freehand. With flavors inspired by Miami’s diverse cultures—Latin, Caribbean, Jewish and Haitian—and associated with one of the trendiest cocktail bars on the beach, aka The Broken Shaker, it’s one of South Beach’s most popular restaurants.
For other cool, local-approved haunts, head to Sunset Harbour with restaurants like Pubbelly, Icebox Café, Naiayara and Lucali.
Midtown is a neighborhood that’s come into its own in the decade or so. With luxury condominiums, the neighborhood is home to many young professionals and there’s a wide variety of nearby restaurants catering to them. The vibe is decidedly more laid back than the beach, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get dressed up and have a nice meal out here. Popular spots in the heart of midtown include Sugarcane, Bocce, and Brasserie Azur.
Wynwood, once an up and coming neighborhood, is considered Miami’s premiere arts district. It’s a colorful neighborhood with art galleries, chill bars and new restaurants opening every day. Neighborhood standbys include Wynwood Kitchen & Bar and Joey’s, but newcomers like Alter, Wynwood Diner, Kush and Plant Food + Wine are also popular spots.
Wynwood is a great neighborhood if you’re looking for a chill (or sometimes lively) café to spend an hour or two behind your laptop with lunch and a cup of coffee. For this, head to Panther Coffee, Zak the Baker or Miam Café.
Miami Design District
The Design District, originally named for its high-end furniture showrooms, is now a mecca of luxury fashion with Prada, Louis Vuitton and Maison Martin Margiela flagships, to name a few. It’s also home to both upscale and casual eateries that make for a great lunch break between shopping. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink put the neighborhood on the map back in 2007 with its authentic, farm-to-table cuisine. Other popular spots include MC Kitchen, Mandolin Aegean Bistro, Crumb on Parchment and Buena Vista Bistro.
Coconut Grove is Miami’s oldest neighborhood. With its bayfront location near Dinner Key Marina, it has a bohemian heritage and a village-like setting. With an easily walkable downtown area lined with sidewalk cafes, it makes for a pleasant place to stroll on the weekend and grab a bite to eat. Snag a table at Greenstreet Café, Monty’s Raw Bar, Harry’s Pizzeria (there's also a location in the Design District) or Jaguar Spoon Bar.
Fittingly known as The City Beautiful, Coral Gables is a picturesque community created by developer George Merrick in the 1920s. With wide avenues, Mediterranean Revival architecture, plazas with fountains and lush landscaping, it’s one of Miami’s most desirable residential neighborhoods and a lovely place to explore. It’s also home to some of Miami’s best restaurants, including Eating House, Swine Southern Table & Bar, The Café at Books & Books and Bread + Butter.
Downtown & Brickell
The center of the city, Downtown Miami and Brickell are home to a collection of ritzy restaurants for entertaining clients and more down-to-earth spots designed for lunch breaks. The area also has a buzzy happy hour scene, ranging from luxury hotels with scenic views of Biscayne Bay to casual pubs in Mary Brickell Village.
If you’re out to impress, head to Zuma for the best Japanese in town. With high-flying décor, mouth-watering sushi and a dessert platter that’s positively swoon-worthy, it’s a favorite amongst celebrities. Similarly, Coya is a destination for upscale Peruvian in Brickell by the same owners. Both are also excellent spots for indulgent Champagne Sunday brunch.
For a more casual vibe, head to Mary Brickell Village where you’ll find outposts of Rosa Mexicano, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and Burger and Beer Joint.
For a great happy hour, EAST Miami's Quinto La Huella, Mandarin Oriental’s MO Bar & Lounge and the Epic’s Area 31 are popular amongst the post-work crowd. Both serve up drink and food specials.
Of course, what’s a visit to Miami without sampling Cuban food? Head straight to the source in Little Havana for the full experience. Here, you’ll find Cuban bakeries, grocery stores, fruit stands and coffee windows, as well as restaurants serving traditional Cuban fare like ropa vieja (stewed beef with spices) with black beans, rice and sweet plantains. Pair that with a mojito and you’re in for a treat. In Little Havana, head to Versailles, El Cristo or Exquisito.
Check out more Miami restaurants.
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