Mandolin Aegean Bistro lies in Miami’s Design District | Courtesy of Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Diverse and intriguing, Miami’s best restaurants are an ode to the city’s tangible immigrant influences.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Cafe, Restaurant, Bistro, Greek, Turkish, $$$
Mandolin Aegean Bistro is renowned for its Mediterranean dishes | Courtesy of Mandolin Aegean Bistro
When you step through the cerulean front door and into Mandolin’s whitewashed courtyard, it feels as though you’ve teleported to Santorini. The Aegean restaurant opened in 2009, before the Design District developed into a popular Miami destination, and quickly garnered fans thanks to its fresh menu of Greek-Turkish classics and fruit-filled sangria. Snag a spot on the shaded terrace, and cover the table with grilled halloumi, fish swimming in olive oil and lemon juice, chunks of watermelon served with mint and feta, and spicy meat kebabs with thick yogurt.
Celebrated Venezuelan chef Carlos García was previously known as the man behind Alto in Caracas – one of the Latin American 50 Best Restaurants for four consecutive years. His American restaurant debut, Obra Kitchen Table, is a bright 3,000-square-foot (279-square-meter) space designed by James Beard Award winner Alejandro Barrios Carrero. The interior features turquoise tiles, plus an open kitchen and bar seating, allowing patrons to watch the chefs at work. The menu is influenced by García’s Venezuelan heritage and includes a soft shell crab arepa, ceviche with corn crumble and pumpkin puree, and a traditional Venezuelan quesillo (flan) for dessert.
Situated inside a Mediterranean-style villa with an adjoining garden, Casa Tua is a peaceful respite from the bustle of Miami Beach. The menu here is classic Italian – satiating pasta dishes in creamy sauce dusted with parmesan, and succulent cuts of meat accompanied by sautéed greens and crisp roasted potatoes. What really makes Casa Tua stand out, though, is the stellar ambience. Come for dinner and reserve a spot in the garden under flowering trees illuminated by hanging hurricane lanterns.
This traditional Mexican taqueria may look like your standard fast-casual restaurant, but it goes the extra mile in terms of its food quality. All of Taquiza’s tacos are served on handmade blue corn masa tortillas that are non-GMO and certified organic. There are 12 taco fillings to choose from, including four pork varieties, traditional tongue and the gutsy adobo-seasoned grasshoppers with guacamole. While it’s a meat-heavy menu, vegetarians are taken care of with the Huitlacoche (Mexican corn truffle, sweet corn, fresno chile and green onion) and the Rajas (charred peppers and onion tossed in oregano with crema and cotija cheese).
The food at The Bazaar by José Andrés encapsulates flavors from Singapore and Miami – two Art Deco cities that embrace extravagance. The restaurant’s eponymous founder is a Michelin-decorated chef and humanitarian (famous for cooking 3.8 million meals for the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of 2017’s Hurricane Maria). His carefully conceived dishes include the 20-vegetable quinoa, baby Japanese peaches with creamy burrata, and a frozen blue cheese sandwich with lemon marmalade and walnut bread – a savory twist on a nostalgic childhood treat.
Restaurant, Healthy, Gluten-free, Vegan, American, Vegetarian, Fast Food, $$$
Plant Miami | Courtesy of Plant Miami
Plant Miami’s serene setting, overlooking a tropical garden decorated with giant crystal geodes, feels aligned with its cuisine – a wellness-minded menu of vegan delights, including raw options. Chef Horacio Rivadero and his team think outside the box to create unusual flavors and moreish textures such as the sweet-with-a-kick jackfruit tacos al pastor, served on circular collard green leaves (a healthier stand-in for flour tortillas). If you’re curious to learn more about Plant Miami’s cooking techniques, ask for a kitchen tour after your meal and the staff will oblige.
Situated in The Surf Club’s restored Peacock Alley, Le Sirenuse Miami oozes Art Deco glamour, with decorative carved ceilings, hexagonal prism light shades, velvet-covered chairs and a jungle of plants. The menu is a refined take on southern Italian cuisine – think buffalo ricotta ravioli, langoustine tartare and rosemary-smoked filet mignon. Sharing the restaurant’s signature dessert, the Amalfi lemon delight, while enjoying the ocean view is a perfect way to finish your meal.
Bar, Restaurant, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free, $$$
Yardbird Southern Table and Bar serves up Southern hospitality from a light-filled corner restaurant near South Beach’s bustling Lincoln Road. Brunch is the highlight here – a feast replete with Southern favorites including blueberry pie pancakes and crab cake benedict with fried green tomatoes. First-time diners should not skip out on Yardbird’s famous fried chicken with watermelon and waffles or Mama’s classic buttermilk biscuits. Wash it all down with a blackberry bourbon lemonade or a Southern Revival – a sweet-and-sour mix of Jim Beam with passionfruit and basil.
In 1913, Joe Weiss opened up a small lunch counter down on the beach and gradually garnered a loyal customer base with his fried-fish sandwiches. However, it wasn’t until Weiss discovered stone crabs (which no Miamians ate in those days) that the business really took off. Now Joe’s Stone Crab is a Miami institution that does a busy trade during the crab season, October through May. The crabs come chilled and cracked with a mustard sauce – a simple recipe that’s stood the test of time. Though it doesn’t accept reservations and wait times tend to run long during busy hours, the neighboring over-the-counter takeaway option now offers cafeteria-style seating so that you can enjoy crab cakes and lobster rolls straight from Joe’s kitchen.
Amara at Paraiso’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer unobstructed views of Biscayne Bay. It’s a quintessential Miami scene, designed to work in harmony with a menu that embodies the city’s mishmash of Latin cultures. James Beard winner Michael Schwartz offers up coastal ingredients such as grilled Atlantic shrimp, crispy octopus alongside wood-grilled ribeye and house-made chorizos. All are served with farm-fresh veggies and fresh condiments, including fermented chile hot sauce and smoked paprika aioli.