The List: Where to Eat in Miami

I'm often asked "What are the best places to eat in Miami?" It's a fair question, given that it's kind of the primary subject matter of this blog. And yet I rarely have an immediate answer. Instead, I'll typically pose a number of follow-up questions in response: What kind of food do you like? What neighborhood? What price range? Are you a  local, or a visitor looking for "local flavor"?

I've always struggled to name "favorites" because my own answers depend on many of the same questions, my mood, my appetites any given day. But I do, of course, find myself going back to the same places, and recommending the same places, fairly frequently. So why not make a list? When visiting other cities, I've often wished local writers would do the same. So here's my version of Where to Eat in Miami, now updated as of January 2017.

This particular list is surely reflective of many of my own personal predilections. So it leans towards chef-driven restaurants, creative cooking, local ingredients, and probably disproportionately, Asian flavors. And there are many good restaurants in town that I've not included in this list. Omission doesn't necessarily mean they're bad restaurants; it could mean that they're not consistent enough, or unique enough, or just that I haven't gotten there yet or not often enough. This doesn't purport to be the result of a comprehensive or encyclopedic survey of all the Miami restaurant world has to offer. Invariably, my "to do" list of places I've yet to visit, or need to revisit, grows longer every month.

I'm a homer through and through, and so I tend to favor locally grown chefs, but more and more of the outsiders are making their way into my rotation. We are blessedly past the days when out-of-towners would throw their names on a steakhouse and head back home, and several of these foreign imports are, I will grudgingly admit, among the best restaurants in Miami these days.

Also highly recommended for further reading: my list of "Thirty Great Cheap Things to Eat in Miami," which maybe even better than this list, captures some of the real flavors of Miami. This list is un-ranked and presented in alphabetical order.



This offshoot of the wonderful Broken Shaker bar in the Freehand Hotel, with its mismatched furnishings and odd tchotchkes, feels like it could be your Jewish-Cuban abuela's casita. The food may also seem mismatched: the menu jumps from Israeli falafel to Haitian griots and pikliz to Gabe's arepa platter to kimchi fried rice. But underneath it all runs a commitment to local ingredients and clean flavors; in its own unique, hodgepodge way, 27 tastes distinctly like Miami.




This list is not ranked, and I usually avoid such superlatives, but Alter is currently my favorite restaurant in Miami, and a place which I think could hold its own in any city in the country. Brad Kilgore's cooking is creative, smart, beautiful, lush without being overly heavy, and most important of all, flat out delicious.



I don't pretend to be any kind of coffee expert. I'm also not a regular breakfast eater. But I still love All Day, ex-Panther Coffee barista extraordinaire Camila Ramos' spot serving coffee and eggs all day in the "Entertainment District" fringe of Miami's downtown. Get a coffee prepared exactly to your preference, or perhaps the cold brew and rosemary limeade concoction I tried recently which kind of blew my mind, together with a "Runny and Everything" egg sandwich or a pan con croqueta, and your day will be off to a great start.



There's a new generation of young Miami chefs who trained under the old guard and are now opening their own restaurants; and the one I'm most excited about currently is Michael Beltran. Beltran worked with culinary godfathers Norman Van Aken and Michael Schwartz before opening Ariete in Coconut Grove, and his cooking bears the influences of both mentors. Schwartz's farm-to-table ethos shows in pristine locally-sourced fish like his pumpkin swordfish in a peanut hollandaise. Van Aken's knack for incorporating local flavors can be seen in a foie gras dish with sour orange vinegar, temptation caramel and ember-roasted plantains, which echoes Norman's Down Island French Toast.



José Andrés' Bazaar in the SLS South Beach is a lot of things at once: both contemporary and traditional Spanish tapas, some local flavor (a liquid nitrogen chilled caipirinha, a "Colada Cubana" with coffee yogurt mousse and foie gras), even a bit of Singapore, with its shared love of Art Deco architecture as the tenuous tie-in. But amazingly, almost all of it works, and really well, in one of the most beautiful dining rooms on the Beach.



Chinese food is not a strong suit in Miami. We have a few decent dim sum places, and really very little else that captures the variety and excitement of Chinese regional cooking. Richard Hales' BlackBrick aims to cover a lot of that ground: here you'll find Chinese breads like laobing, fiery Sichuan dishes like ma po tofu or ma la chicken loaded with chiles and numbing Sichuan peppercorns, an assortment of dim sum, and the occasional mash-up like General Tso's alligator or fluffy Parker House rolls with sweet, chewy char siu pork. "Authentic?" I have no idea, and don't really care. Because I know this is delicious stuff, and you're not likely to find much else like it anywhere in Miami.[1]



There are few things I'm less inclined to like than a steakhouse by an out-of-town chef. And yet, Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak serves some of the best food, provides some of the best service, has one of the best wine lists, and mixes some of the best cocktails, in Miami. The steaks and the Mina staples are good, but pay special attention to chef de cuisine Gabriel Fenton's specials and seasonal dishes, where he gets to spread his wings a bit.[2]



Byblos is a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant in the old Art Deco Shorecrest Hotel on South Beach, and it's part of a Toronto-based group that includes a half-dozen or more other concepts orchestrated by Chef Stuart Cameron. Despite my general aversion to South Beach hotel restaurants, especially those by out-of-town restaurant groups, I have had nothing but really good experiences at Byblos. They're putting out really flavorful, creative Middle Eastern food in a beautiful space and providing excellent service. It is one of my go-tos when folks ask for recommendations on the Beach.[3]



Cake Thai, now with locations in Miami's Upper East Side and Wynwood, serves Thai street food that goes beyond the "regulation issue" menu so many local places seem to be stuck on, and does so in a way that captures the vibrant punch of salty, sour, spicy, sweet, bitter, herbaceous and funky that makes Thai food done right so exciting.[4]

(continued ...)



While the Miami dining world has advanced in a lot of ways over the past several years, there are still not nearly as many places as I'd like pursuing creative, contemporary cooking. Giorgio Rapicavoli's Eating House is part of that small group. In particular, I enjoy how several of his dishes of late have explored the range of vegetable flavors between raw and cooked and burnt, and incorporate local cuisines and ingredients without relying on the "Mango Gang" tropes of decades past.



There may be no restaurant in Miami I've eaten at more often than Hiro's Yakko-San. Originally a hole-in-the-wall izakaya on Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach, it moved a few years ago into more spacious digs along 163rd Street Causeway. When they moved, they also added regular sushi and maki items to the menu, the absence of which was long a bulwark against less serious izakaya fans. But it's still a go-to for me to address any number of cravings: translucent thin-sliced usuzukuri of some fresh catch with ponzu for dipping, the crispy fish and onion salad, takoyaki, una tama tofu, or another of the hundred-plus other items that I've enjoyed there.

A photo posted by @frodnesor on


Not every place that becomes an "institution" is necessarily all that good. Many of them manage to survive on reputation and nostalgia. No doubt my own opinion is shaded a bit by nostalgia, but I still always enjoy going to Joe's Stone Crab, which has been around since 1913 (even a little longer than me!). An order of stuffies (the best thing that happened in 2016 was Joe's putting these back on the menu), maybe their peculiar DIY cole slaw, some stone crab claws (no I'm not splitting an order with you; and I get the selects, even if they're more work than the larger sizes, they taste sweeter), a side order of the 1/2 fried chicken (c'mon, it's only $6.95), some Lyonnaise potatoes, the grilled tomatoes topped with creamed spinach and melted American cheese, a slice of key lime pie for dessert – that's a happy meal for me.




Miami used to be filled with Jewish delis. Now it seems like the place where deli went to die. But Joshua Marcus is doing his part to resuscitate the genre with Josh's Deli in Surfside, where he cures and smokes his own fish, makes his own corned beef and pastrami from scratch, bakes his own bagels, and then occasionally goes off the rails with things like his "Jewban" sandwich (pastrami, pork belly, Swiss cheese and pickles on pressed Cuban bread) or his hush-hush "Barbacoa" pop-up dinners.



At Kyu, Chef Michael Lewis seamlessly fuses Asian flavors with Southern barbecue technique in a way that's both exciting and accessible, like in a whole short rib marinated Korean kalbi style with sweet soy and garlic, but then smoked low and slow like like a Texas pitmaster would do. Other dishes, especially smaller plates, show the razor-honed balance of salt, acid and spice that he developed cooking with Jean-Georges Vongerichten. This is food made with some real attention to detail, but served in a way that's relaxed and unfussy.



Miami's got several good Peruvian restaurants. With Gaston Acurio's La Mar, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Brickell Key, it's got a great one. In the hands of talented young chef de cuisine Diego Oka, La Mar takes the bright flavors of Peruvian cuisine, and prepares them with finesse, creativity and attention to ingredient quality.



This spot across from the mediocre and inexplicably popular Carpaccio in Bal Harbour Shops (a restaurant that embodies the adage that money can't buy taste) has seen a string of failures. But Stephen Starr – who also runs Makoto, which is on this list as well – found something that works. Le Zoo doesn't try to do too much. It's a brasserie with a menu covering most of the basics: seafood towers, steak tartare, foie gras terrine, moules frites. I still pine for the days when Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert had Brasserie Le Coze in Coconut Grove, and this is not that; but Le Zoo does what it sets out to do well, and hits a particular spot better than anyone else in Miami right now.[5]



Miami's also got plenty of decent Argentinian restaurants. It's now got a great one with Francis Mallmann's Los Fuegos, in the incredibly luxe Faena Hotel on Miami Beach. Like Gaston Acurio with La Mar, he's taking the flavors and dishes of his home country, and serving the best examples of them I've ever tasted in Miami, from the wood-oven baked empanadas to the grilled sweetbreads to the melting-soft morcilla on his parrillada.[6]



I don't usually get all that excited over Italian restaurants, for reasons I've explained in more graphic terms in the post linked to above. But Macchialina is an exception: Michael Pirolo approaches the genre with a fresh eye, crafting flavorful vegetable-based antipasti like his broccolini al cesare showered in egg and anchovy, toasted garlic and big shards of parmesan, and pastas like beet mezzaluna with hazelnuts and brown butter. But he can do old school equally well: his polenta with sausage ragu is one of my favorite dishes, and his pasta game may be the best in town.



I am disappointed in the overwhelming majority of Japanese restaurants in Miami, but I do have a few favorites. Naoe, also on this list, is exceptional, but between the price and the omakase format it's a special-occasion meal. For slightly less special occasions, my go-to is Makoto in Bal Harbour. If you sit at the sushi bar, the sushi can be very good, and often features neta you won't find elsewhere, or if so won't find done well – kinmedai, aji, shime saba, hotate, aoyagi, ikura. And Chef Makoto Okuwa's cooked dishes are also highlights: the salmon tataki rubbed with five-spice and served with pickled apples and barley miso, the Taiwan-style ramen as served in his hometown Nagoya, the "frosty wagyu" fried rice topped with frozen shaved beef warmed by the heat of the rice, plus foie gras and a fried jidori egg.



Mignonette isn't the flashiest place in Miami: it's an oyster bar with a seafood-focused menu that divides itself between "plain" and "fancy" dishes. So you can get a platter of oysters, a shrimp cocktail and a po'boy, or you can get a "fancy" seafood tower, and redfish in a lobster broth with rock shrimp and bomba rice. I love it because of the constantly rotating selection of oysters, the spotlessly fresh seafood, the reliable execution, and the subtle nostalgic touches, like the Boston lettuce salad inspired by The Pub at the downtown location, and the "GD" fruit tart at the new uptown location, a tribute to the Gourmet Diner which occupied the shiny aluminum-sided diner before them. For diners that aren't looking for an adventure and just want good food, this is often my first suggestion.[7]




This year will mark the ten-year anniversary for Michael's Genuine, and it's remarkable to think what's transpired over that decade. MGFD opened just before the last financial crash, in a Design District that had little else going on unless you were buying expensive furniture or plumbing fixtures. The farm-to-table restaurant – at a time that was a relatively novel thing in Miami – breathed life into the neighborhood (which has now turned into a shopping destination housing as many luxe brands as Bal Harbour Shops), and Michael Schwartz now sits atop a restaurant mini-empire with over a half dozen restaurants and still more in the pipeline. Over all that time, it's still one of the first places I think of when I want a meal that's flavorful and fresh and straightforward and satisfying. New chef de cuisine Saul Ramos seems to be breathing some new life into the menu, I'm interested to see what's to come.



It's not like Miami's got a bunch of great sushi spots. But it's got a few very good ones, and it's one of my favorite things to eat, so they are perhaps over-represented on this list. Myumi, actually, isn't even a restaurant – it's a truck, camped out in Wynwood Yard, which serves an omakase-only sushi menu with ten rounds for $60. I didn't have high expectations for sushi from a truck, but Myumi was a very pleasant surprise. Very good fish, good rice, good value. Indeed, it is better sushi than I've had anyplace else in Miami aside from the couple other places on this list.



When Naoe first opened, I couldn't quite believe it even existed: a tiny omakase-only restaurant serving a bento box laden with an assortment of treasures, prepared in a Japanese style but using fresh, often local, seasonal ingredients, followed by a piece-by-piece procession of the best sushi I'd ever had in Miami. Happily, Naoe has thrived, and it was such a pleasure to recently celebrate – just a few months early – its eighth anniversary. It remains one of the best dining experiences in Miami, and one of the best Japanese meals I've had outside of Japan.



The only thing I miss about not having an office downtown is that I'm not close enough to Niu Kitchen to go there regularly. This tiny place, opened by Karina Iglesias (who took care of our family more times than I can count at Red Light) and chef Deme Lomas, serves creative, Catalan-inspired dishes that are more interesting, and more delicious, than countless other Miami restaurants with bigger spaces and budgets.



Paul Qui's restaurant, Pao, in the Faena, is a stunner with its gilded domed ceiling and multi-million dollar Damien Hirst unicorn sculpture as its centerpiece. Qui's food can be flashy too, like his "unicorn" dish inspired by that sculpture, combining sea urchin with a sweet corn pudding accented with kalamansi juice, arbol chiles and sake-spiked aioli. But he can also do elegant and clean, like a madai carpaccio paired with smoked soy, leek oil and citrus jam. Some of those most exciting dishes are those that feature Filipino flavors, and I'd love to see more of that worked into the menu.



Proof is an exceedingly rare thing in Miami: a restaurant that under-promises and over-delivers. It was originally named "Proof Pizza and Pasta," and yes, that's mostly what it served. But what might sound like a utility slice joint actually made deliciously puffy, chewy pizzas with toppings like oxtail, black garlic and caramelized onion, or n'duja, soppressata and broccoli rabe. And the pastas – well, Proof has got every right to be sore about what I said about Mike Pirolo's Macchialina, because these just might be every bit as good. The name change is part of a push to expand the menu past just pizzas and pastas, which can only be a good thing: Chef Justin Flit's got skills well beyond what this modest place suggests.[8]



I don't get to Pubbelly as often as I'd like, but that may be for my own good: I always come away aching a bit from overeating. Pubbelly initially styled itself as an Asian gastropub, but it's become much more of a free-for-all in recent years. Old favorites like the "McBelly" sandwich share space with things like veal brains in a black butter meuniere with blue crab tartar sauce, sunchoke "carpaccio" with burrata and Sichuan chile oil, and spaghetti with uni, harissa butter, horseradish and bread crumbs. It's all a bit over the top in the best possible way.



Great food cites depend not just on great restaurants, but the rest of the food supply chain as well: bakers and butchers and fishmongers and farmers with a similar dedication to quality. Zak the Baker is doing his part, and finding success perhaps beyond even his own imagination. Who knew the hipster / haredi crossover audience would be so big? After supplying restaurants out of makeshift facilities for years, he took a space in Wynwood a couple years ago to operate his bakery, with a small café in front serving simple, kosher, immensely satisfying bites on his outstanding, hearty breads: schmaltz herring, fresh vegetables and herbed cream cheese, of course some avocado toast. He's now expanded the bakery to a much larger space, and just turned the original bakery space into a traditional deli.[9]

Too Soon:

A few places I've not yet visited, or haven't visited enough, but which show promise.


Bachour Bakery + Bistro - I know from experience, including the phenomenal pastry work he's done at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, that Antonio Bachour is one of the most talented pastry chefs, not just in Miami, but anywhere (for just a small sample, check out this Cobaya Bachour flickr set). So how the heck haven't I been to his bakery and bistro, which opened last March? Well, I have something of a Brickell aversion, and whenever I've had an opportunity to swing by, it's been crazy busy. I can say without having ever been there that it's excellent. I just need to figure out when I can actually experience it for myself.

Bazaar Mar - José Andrés doing the Bazaar thing, but with a seafood theme. The menu looks fantastic.


Olla (read my thoughts and see all my pictures) - Scott Linquist, who also runs Coyo Taco, just opened Olla last month. I was there the first week, and back more recently for another meal. While it's too early (for me anyway) to form any definitive opinions, I really like the approach to Mexican cuisine, simultaneously cognizant of traditions (like this menudo laden with tripe in a sticky broth) while often creative with the format.


Plant Food + Wine (read my thoughts and see all my pictures) - I never thought I'd like, much less get excited, over a vegan, raw food restaurant. But pretty much everything we ate at Matthew Kenney's Plant Food + Wine was delicious on its own terms. There's an attention to product, to technique, to presentation that I've rarely seen at a restaurant that features exclusively plant-based cuisine. For those who have chosen to eat that way all the time, but still care about good food, a place like this must be an absolute godsend. And even for omnivores like myself, it's a pretty exciting and well-executed change of pace. Having said that, I've only made one visit.

Upland - Justin Smillie is getting lots of love for his California cuisine inspired cooking at Upland, a New York restaurant which just opened a second spot in South Beach. I'll have to go see.

So what did I miss? What did I get wrong? I'd love to hear what you think.

[1] Hakkasan also does very good quality dim sum, for a very high price, but the selection is limited and the rest of the menu holds little interest for me. Lately I've been stopping off at Gold Marquess in Hollywood for a dim sum fix when the opportunity presents itself.

[2] Another steakhouse which I'm sure would be on this list if I got there more often is Edge in the Four Seasons. Aaron Brooks is one of Miami's most talented chefs, as I'm reminded every time I try one of his dishes at a food event. But due to my Brickell Aversion, as mentioned in the body above, I rarely have opportunity to visit the restaurant. I've also had a couple good meals at Quality Meats, though I've not been back since chef Patrick Rebholz left.

[3] Estiatorio Milos is also very good, especially if you're a seafood buff and have lots of money to spend. And Mandolin Aegean Bistro has always been solid, even before chef Roel Alcudia headed over there, but I haven't visited since he took over.

[4] Also worthy of mention among Thai restaurants: Ricky Thai Bistro in North Miami and Panya in North Miami Beach.

[5] Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne is arguably a better restaurant than Le Zoo, but I find myself wanting to go there less often. The room's a little too stilted, and for reasons I can't fully explain, I'd prefer the food either push a little downscale or upscale. Having said that, there's probably no better charcuterie in Miami and the execution there is always sound.

[6] For a long time, Graziano's would have held this position. It's still good, but Los Fuegos is in a different league.

[7] I haven't been to Izzy's Fish and Oyster enough for it to make this list. I'm also a fan of River Oyster Bar, especially for the happy hour oyster and drink specials.

[8] I've not included a true pizzeria in this list, because I guess I just don't love pizza enough, but if I were to do so, it would probably be Brooklyn import Lucali, which is great (the calzone may be even better than the pizza). Also very good: Ironside Pizza in the Upper East Side. I just had a nice enough first visit to Paulie Gee's, also in the Upper East Side, only about a half-mile north of Ironside. And I've not yet been to Visa-01 on South Beach half a mile from Lucali, which I've also heard is very good, and which just opened a new location in Brickell, less than two miles from Klime Kovaceski's Crust on the Miami River. Visa-01 also has another location in the works in Wynwood, less than a mile from the original Harry's Pizzeria in the Design District, which just opened a second location in Coconut Grove, which also has Farinelli 1937 right down the street. Did I mention that Antico Pizza, an Atlanta-based Neapolitan pizza outfit, just opened at 10th and Collins Avenue on South Beach, a mile from Visa-01? Or that 'O Munaciello, an Italian-based Neapolitan pizza outfit, is opening in the Upper East Side, a mile away from Ironside? Again, maybe I just don't love pizza enough, but that seems like an awful lot of gourmet pizza places to me. Don't even get me started on the impending Great Poke Craze of 2017.

[9] Another "maker" doing its part to help Miami eat better is Proper Sausages in Miami Shores. The sausages at this butcher shop are excellent, it's a great source for responsibly sourced meats, and their prepared sandwiches, like the BBQ tongue slathered with cole slaw, make a great lunch.



Comments

  1. 2 restaurants that have been around for a couple months, 4 restaurants that I have had absolutely awful meals at, throw in Michael and Michelle's spot, and don't forget to include the social media club that will know if they were listed.

    FAILURE

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  2. Have you been to Yardbird yet? They just got nominated for two James Beard awards.

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  3. I don't know many people that have been to Hiro's Yakko-San. Most people go to Hiro's Lounge just west of Yakko-San. I'm glad to see it on the list since I always enjoy dining here.

    Also, I've been lucky to not need a reservation when I've got to Michael's. I guess I go on a night when people aren't expected to be out.

    And Sakaya, I really wanted to like that place, but I always get crappy service. My first time going, the girl at the counter was very unfriendly, uninterested in being helpful, especially since I didn't know how the whole "menu-thing" worked. She was very rude, actually. And the serve staff was just the same. :-/

    However, thank you for posting the list. I can always use a suggestion for new restaurants to check out. I am looking forward very much to Naoe's reopening so I can finally go!

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  4. The Local? Fed? Eating House (weeks old)? Sakaya? Surprised you didn't put Harry's.

    If I owned a restaurant and cared about getting you bloggers in the door, I would take the weirdest animal, wrap its shit inside intestine casing, sous vide it, and serve with exotic piss.

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  5. Anon 1 - I didn't realize that Chef Ho and Chef Kushi were trending on twitter.

    But seriously, if you (or anyone else) has specific thoughts on any of these places, or any you think I've missed, I'd love to hear them. Or you can just generically whine, that's always good too. Of course, you can always request a refund for your FFT subscription, it comes with a money back guarantee.

    Ana - yes, I've been (a few times) to Yardbird, thoughts here. It is, like a number of other Miami places - Barceloneta, Gigi come to mind - a restaurant where I like the idea and have had some good things, but not enough, and not consistently enough.

    Anon 2 - I've been to Eating House 3x already and it's some of the most exciting food I've had in Miami in a while. You should call your restaurant "Coprophagia Genuine Food & Drink," it'll be a big hit.

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  6. How many people, obviously including myself, just looked up coprophagia? Pretty funny.

    Please do not take the wrong way, as I have been reading your stuff for quite some time now. Further, I have followed your suggestions on a handful of occasions when deciding where to eat and have attended a "Cobaya" event. so, most importantly, I appreciate what you do.

    I have been disappointed at many of the restaurants you tout as the best, and have had consistently incredible meals at some places I never hear about.

    Immediate disclaimer...I am not very into weird animal parts or experimental cooking. But I don't think most people are. And I think you miss the mark because of this.

    I get it, it's your blog, so of course these are your opinions. But I think a following like yours comes with some responsibility. Maybe you should write in your bio what kind of eater you are? Maybe separate places most people will like and those that the more adventurous would like? Also, say that service doesn't matter to you because most of your places are some of the worst in town.

    And while I am boring you, these are some of the spots that I think should make your list:

    Panya Thai- incredible food, friendly service
    Whisk- would think this is right up your alley. Best lunch spot in Miami, period.
    Hakkasan- holy shit!
    Red Steakhouse- its ok, Bourbon Steak won't hate you and these guys put out some kick ass steaks
    Route 9- read your review a while ago and pretty surprised you were so harsh after disagreeing with NT negative review when so young. Try again as this has been our go-to spot for past 3-4 months
    River Oyster- never taken anyone here who wasn't happy. Great place to being out of towners and incredible happy hour
    Hy Vong- terrible service but great food
    Petite Rouge- classy with great food
    BLT- might be pricey but damn it's good.
    Il Mercato- random strip mall in Hallandale with great food, vibe, amd friendly (but slow) service.

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  7. Anon 3 - Thanks for your comments.

    That's a great list and there are a several places on there that I like quite a bit, and which if I expanded the list would probably be on it - in particular, River Oyster, Petit Rouge and Il Mercato. Haven't been back to Hy Vong in ages, used to love it but last experience wasn't quite as good. I like Route 9, and my most recent meal (which was a special event dinner) there showed a good bit of improvement over my last visits - it's a good neighborhood place.

    I've heard great things about Whisk but haven't made it there. Ditto Panya. Hakkasan has very good food but the prices and portions are such a disconnect that I have trouble recommending it - and almost never go myself.

    I had a couple good meals at BLT when Sam Gorenstein was there but haven't been back since the new chef took over. Haven't been to Red and just don't see much that excites me, though I'd give it a shot.

    Which kind of circles back to your bigger point. Yes, this blog is unquestionably geared to my personal preferences and predilections. I like creative cooking, I like offal, I like vegetables (but usually not salads), I have particular hankerings for Spanish and Japanese cuisines. I don't particularly like steakhouses and generic Italian joints, and I think Cuban food is boring.

    No, I don't feel any obligation to make any disclaimer as to those preferences, or adjust my writing or recommendations to account for what I think other people might like. My tastes won't correlate with everyone's, and maybe not with yours. I can say the same of every critic I read. But if anything, I do see myself as something of an advocate for those places that are doing things I like. The last thing I want to do is say "You know, you probably won't like it." Rather, by saying why I like it, I'm hoping to maybe convince others to try things they might not otherwise try.

    If you want everymans' opinion, go read Yelp. If you want mine, here it is.

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  8. Agree with previous comment.Love to read your stuff, but dislike meals at your most of your places. Nice to see Timo get a little love. That place has been great for years and no one ever talks about them. Local is pretty bad. Ive given it 3 chances. Eating House was very good once and decent second time. I'm tired of the places that bring out food at their own pace. I like the option to conventionally dine with everyone getting food at same time. Same reason I didnt like Phuc Yea (dont really like the new place either, Fed, which somehow made your list). Whisk is awesome. Route 9 is solid every time. Hy Vong kind of sucks.

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  9. My places in town where food, service, ambiance, and price come together for great, complete dining experience (not just great flavors):

    Timo
    Yakko-san
    River Oyster
    Whisk
    Dining Room
    Route 9
    Eating House (I know its new)
    Mandolin
    Buena Vista
    Michys
    Harry's (screw the haters)
    Il Mercato

    Probably missed a couple

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  10. Yes:
    Bourbon Steak (my thoughts)
    Chef Philip Ho (my thoughts)
    Hiro’s Yakko San (my thoughts)
    Joe’s Stone Crab

    Michy’s (my thoughts)
    Naoe (my thoughts)
    Sushi Deli (my thoughts)
    Red Light (my thoughts)
    Timo (my thoughts)
    Graziano’s

    No:
    Pubbelly (my thoughts)
    Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink (my thoughts)
    Chow Down Grill (my thoughts)
    La Camaronera (my thoughts)
    Sra. Martinez (my thoughts)
    Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill (my thoughts)
    neMesis Urban Bistro (my thoughts)


    Are you serious?:
    The Federal
    The Local (my thoughts)
    Sustain (my thoughts)

    Haven't tried:
    Eating House
    gastroPod (my thoughts)
    Makoto (my thoughts)

    Missing:
    Route 9
    Whisk
    The River Oyster Bar
    Escopazzo? (havent been in a couple years)
    Izakaya
    El Carajo

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  11. As someone who does not get special attention at many places, you should know that service at 2/3 of these restaurants is awful. Do you take that into account when choosing your favorites?

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  12. There are a handful of places where I'm "known," and I'm fully aware of it. But there are plenty more places where I'm just another peon, and I guess it's true - I generally don't pay much heed to service if the food is good.

    But I'm either a low-maintenance customer, or other people have pretty lofty expectations for how they're to be treated. I've got a few pet peeves - don't make me wait a half hour if I have a reservation, don't send me to the bar if a table's ready - but beyond that, take the order, bring the food in a reasonable amount of time (though even this isn't a strict requirement if the food is good, or Red Light and Naoe would be out of my rotation), and I'm copacetic.

    I mean, someone above commented about the service at Sakaya Kitchen. It's a counter service place. You order at the register, and someone brings your food when it's ready. What else do you need to be pleased in that scenario?

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  13. Yeah . . . that was me who made a mention about the disappointing service at Sakaya. I realize that a lot of these places are modeled after a trend, but some people aren't aware of these menu-ordering trends. At least my first time at Sakaya, I didn't know how to order. I'm pretty sure this came across to the person at the counter. The person just looked at me like I was an idiot and should not be there if I didn't know how to order form the menu. The arrogance on behalf of the staff at same of these places is very much off putting, despite the great food.

    However, I do realize that everyone has a difference experience at every place. Fair enough.

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  14. So weird to read this now. We had such a good lunch at Whisk yesterday. Our server recommended trying Route 9, which we did last night. 2 great meals in 2 different independent restaurants in Coral Gables all in one day

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  15. Sounds like I really need to try Whisk.

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  16. Yes, I've been telling you about Whisk for years now... Oh, and I too looked up coprophagia haha.

    I don't get the service complaints either, especially the Sakaya one where it's counter service "I'd like to order X. That will be $Y. Please have a seat and we will bring your food to you." Maybe because, I too, am a pretty laid back diner. As long as the server is somewhat attentive with ordering food and drinks, that's about all I need.

    It's pretty funny how much negative attention this list has gotten considering it's all opinion. Everyone has one. It really shouldn't matter if we all don't agree. I don't think there is one place you listed where one would have a "bad" meal.

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  17. I'm headed to Miami for a couple weeks, and I want to hit up the dives/hidden gems. Any suggestions guys? As a grad student, I'm looking for cheap and delicious.

    Thanks!

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  18. Try Otentic on 710 Washington Avenue in Miami Beach. I had the speacial for the night, Beef Stroganof with Gratin Dauphinois potatoes, it was awesome. Everything on the menu is under $20!

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  19. I agree with a lot of the comments above. I think restaurants are hit or miss in this city depending on the day you go to dine. Unfortunately they are not perfect and have their good and bad days. There is one restaurant that is tried and true....I have been going for 9 years and have yet to have a bad experience. TIMO is consistently on point! Great service, great food and a beautiful wine list.

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  20. What is up with everyone posting negative comments as anonymous?! Whiners!

    Love the list! Love the "food for thought"! Love how you shed light on some of the creative and innovative cuisine in Miami. (Miami is NOT an easy city to live in as a foodie... Not like NYC or SF or even LA or Seattle.)

    I just want to thank you for putting it all out there. I truly would have been lost (and trapped in a sea of bad restaurants) when I first moved here a couple years ago without your insight.

    PS- I totally agree with you on the Cuban food being boring... But I like a lot of flavor and spices or sauces in my food- so what do I know?!

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  21. I've not been to Tap Tap in ages. Should probably go back.

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  22. "Graziano's" as your italian favorite/suggestion... mmm. I'm surprised that your list does not include Il Gabbiano and Pescecane Ristorante as fine italian cuisine. Those are the best italian restaurants in Miami, hands down! Try them out :)

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  23. I think of Graziano's as Argentinian rather than Italian, and I've also got Salumeria 104 and Timo in there on the Italian front (and would probably add Sardinia and Macchialina if I were to ever get around to updating this). I'm not a huge fan of Il Gabbiano, but haven't tried Pescecane yet. Thanks for passing along the suggestion.

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    1. You're welcome... I'm a regular at Pescecane since is closer to my home than Il Gabbiano and I love it. It's a place that you go for the food and service more than "being seen", you know what I mean. Let me know when you go to recommend you a few dishes :)

      Steph

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  24. Myself, my husband ( who is a chef), my best friend (who is a chef), and her husband, will be visiting south Miami in January. I'm so happy to have found your blog as I conduct my advanced scouting. We live in San Francisco and feel that your reviews of the restaurants here have been spot on, we love offal, and, as an aside, I love your writing style. Just wanted to say that I appreciate your blo and can't wait to dig in!

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  25. I have been looking at comfort food for my kids that goes beyond usual junk food chains and have found three great places I'd like to share. These places combine comfort food with great quality products, family owned flair and an ethnic connotation. All three are in Miami Beach. The first one is "Chivitoteca - Made in Uruguay", their signature dish is the Uruguayan Chivito (a huge steak sandwich with mozzarella, ham, egg, bacon, sauteed onions, lettuce, tomato and more), but they also have great grilled meat (for the adults!), good selection of wines, pizza, pasta and salads. The second place is "Eat Greek", where my kids would have from the salad to the shrimp skewers or their amazing pitas. You can hear the cooks singing in the kitchen, the ingredients are colorful, fresh, full of taste and the fries are awesome. The third place is "Burger & Beer Joint", which is fun and entertaining for kids and has amazing burgers that can be customized. They even have Bison meat! In any case, I think comfort food gets always underrated and even for conscious organic eaters with kids -- like me -- it would be great to have more of these gems in your list.

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  26. Thanks for the input. Chivitoteca is a new name for El Rey del Chivito, which I am a fan of, though it's been a while since I've gone (there's only so many times a year you can eat a chivito)

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  27. Pretty extensive list! Thanks for the detailed post!!

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  28. Have you tried News Cafe? Casual cafe for sightseeing, but def a breakfast favorite that should be on the list.

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  29. Myumi, Niu, Kyu, Cake are all great.

    Sadly River and Joe's have both slipped over the years.

    Proof's dishes looked good, but tasted meh. Macchialina is much tastier, the polenta is ridiculously delicious. Haven't been to Osteria since the move, but it was our favorite Italian spot years back.

    Upland was good, but wouldn't be on my best of list.

    My Ceviche is damn good (esp the shrimp), nothing fancy, but pop by for lunch whenever we're in town.

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  30. Also just wanted to say thanks for posting your chowfinds throughout the year!

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    1. Thanks! I did FINALLY get to Osteria (before the move) - it had long been on my to-do list - and had a perfectly good osso buco. Sorry to hear you didn't like Proof, I think their pastas are outstanding. I can't recall the last time I had a full meal at River, but the happy hour with 1/2 off oysters and drinks is still a reliably solid deal and their oysters are always good. My Ceviche is on my "Cheap Eats" list and is a regular lunch place for me.

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  31. Loved that you updated the list and appreciate the insight;however,some noticeable commissions Im curious to hear your thoughts on.

    Pinch
    sarsaparilla club
    Glass & Vine
    The Local
    Phuc Yea
    Fooq's
    Lung Yai
    Blue Collar
    Cypress Room

    I love Michael's Genuine, but Im on the fence with the new chef. I've had some hit or miss recent experiences and was absolutely crushed when I found out that the chicken liver toast was taken off the menu....heresy!

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    1. Thanks!
      - Fooq's I've not yet been to, and I've not been to Cypress Room in a long time (not sure I've been since Roel left).
      - Phuc Yea and Glass & Vine I'm still getting to know. Been to both a couple times, have liked some things, others not as much, and not quite ready to form an opinion yet. I've been to Pinch a little more often, and have had some very good things and some that are just nebbish. All of these are places I'll be heading back to, but I'm not ready to put them on this list yet.
      - Sarsaparilla Club and Lung Yai I've only been to once each, and don't feel like I know them well enough. (Though I'll be honest, had a fine enough meal at both, but not so good I'm itching to go back).
      - I like Blue Collar, but I like Mignonette (which is on my list) a lot more. Though BC is more casual it's usually a pretty heavy meal and I can eat lighter at Mignonette, so I'm there more often and enjoy it more.
      - I like The Local too, and am there fairly frequently for lunch. Feel like I need to try it for dinner.
      - Try the banh mi shrimp toast at MGFD. It won't quite make you forget the chicken liver toast, but it's pretty good in its own right.

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    3. Thank you for the thoughtful response.

      I've had wonderful brunches at Cypress Tavern (Still Cypress Room to me);however, when Im there for dinner I always go for the burger. That burger deserves more attention and is my monthly habit. I agree with you on your other thoughts as well. Pinch is solid, but I feel like they could "Amp Up" the menu a bit and Lung Yai is good, but when you have Cake, there really is no need to go anywhere else, plus I can get into Cake much easier than Lung Yai given space and location. The Local should also be getting more attention as Chef Phil has really been producing some interesting dishes by truly focusing the theme (Southern) and sharpening the composition and technique.

      Will do on the banh mi shrimp toast, but at least they still have the pig ears!

      Delete
  32. Couple of suggestions:

    Farfalle (downtown)--very good authentic Italian. All native Italians.
    Zest--best burger in town.
    Il Gabbiano--very good Italian (did not know owned by Il Mulino)
    River Oyster Bar--agree...great Lobster roll
    Upland--very good.
    Salumeria 104 (Midtown)--good.
    Fooq's--excellent, surprised not to see on your list.
    Lucali and Machiallina--vastly overrated in my opinion.
    Sylvano's--very good and reasonably priced Italian--ditto for Perricones
    J&G Grill--another great Jean-Georges outpost (much better than Matador)
    Forge--classic steakhouse.
    Niu--agree, very good as is their new spot, Arson.
    Sardinia Enoteca--much better pizza and cheaper than nearby Lucali

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions.
      The Swine Burger at Swine in Coral Gables is the best burger in town.
      Noted above, I've not been to Fooq's yet, aiming to fix that.
      JG Grill was great when Brad Kilgore was there, but Brad is gone, and now JG is gone. The restaurant at the St. Regis Bal Harbour is now Atlantikos, a Greek place.
      I've not been to Sardinia in a long time but have always enjoyed it - and never had the pizza (I like all their vegetable antipasti and salads, and the spaghetti with bottarga).

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