27 Restaurant and Bar serves an array of Middle Eastern dishes | Courtesy of Justin Namon
Miami Beach is a bona fide American paradise: a city of year-round sunshine, colorful beaches and incomparable cuisine. There are plenty of reasons to cross the bridge from Miami, and these must-visit restaurants are a good start.
27 Restaurant and Bar
Bar, Restaurant, American, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, $$$
27 Restaurant and Bar is your go-to for Middle Eastern fare | Courtesy of Justin Namon
Behind the Freehand Hotel is a historic house, one that’s been transformed into a haven for eclectic Middle Eastern fare. It still possesses the charm of a home – flush with cozy couches and funky trinkets – with the air of a sophisticated restaurant. Roasted cauliflower and smoked eggplant are shuttled out of the kitchen, ready to be mopped up with warm malawach (a Yemenite bread). There are house-made arepas, chicken tagine and bulgur couscous, and kimchi fried rice presented with a sunny-side-up egg. As you rub shoulders with your neighbors and bop to the music, you may as well nurse one (or two) Half-Baked Spritzes, swirled with Campari, vermouth infused with apricot and plum, and CBD.
The Florida coast shines at Stiltsville Fish Bar, home to locally sourced fish, in Bayshore. It helps that the restaurant is stationed in a prime location on the Intracoastal Waterway, so you can dine by the water as you feast on food pulled out of the water. You’ll want to share some local blue crab cakes, paired with pickled kohlrabi and slaw, along with an order of sweet corn spoon bread, plated in a mini cast-iron dish and swiped with buttermilk cream. There are dishes such as crispy coconut shrimp, buffalo fish wings, and a crispy whole snapper for two, brightened by a lemon-basil salsa verde. Even the wine list leans into the ocean theme, touting wines made from grapes influenced by the sea.
Upland blends California and Italian cuisine | Courtesy of Andrew Hektor
At the helm of this New York City import is restaurateur Stephen Starr, who brings a bit of Italian and Californian flair to South Beach. Cozy up in the plush green booths and dive into sausage and kale pizza, wood-roasted beets cooled with whipped feta and lobster spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce. On warm days, droves of beachgoers will wind down with the daily 4pm-7pm happy hour, where cocktails are $9, beers are $7 and snacks such as crispy squash blossoms clock in at $10. Desserts are equally enticing: the California Dreamsicle is a twist of blood orange and soft-serve yogurt, finished with chocolate crunchies.
The Surf Club Restaurant is chef Thomas Keller’s first Florida outpost | Courtesy of Deborah Jones
Though Thomas Keller may have won numerous awards for The French Laundry – his ode to California cuisine – the chef’s first Florida outpost is equally worth a trip. The restaurant exudes 1950s glamour, and its culinary highlights include caviar and oysters rockefeller, dover sole and lamb chops, and buttermilk-whipped potatoes and green beans. The wine list is as thick as a rib-eye steak and is brimming with French and Italian wines.
Joe’s Stone Crab has been a destination in South Miami since opening its doors in 1913. Owners Joseph ‘Joe’ Weiss and his wife Jennie opened the restaurant as a humble lunch counter known for fish sandwiches and fries. These days, it’s morphed into a fancy, white-tablecloth restaurant for stone crabs, cracked and ready to be swiped with mustard between October and May. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so wait times can climb pretty high, but there are good things to look forward to: plenty of seafood and fish, plus meat, soups and salads. But you’d be remiss to leave without a slice of Joe’s key lime pie: tart yet sweet, it starts with a graham cracker crust and ends with a swirl of whipped cream. For those looking to not spend a ton of money, there’s a small takeaway shop next door for stone crabs and creamed spinach.
Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann provides a taste of Argentina | Courtesy of Faena Hotel Miami Beach
Live-fire cooking is the main attraction at Francis Mallmann’s only restaurant outside of South America. Flames crackle and spit in the open kitchen, letting guests in on a piece of the action. Hand-crimped empanadas emerge golden brown from the oven, undeniably tinged by fire; pizza and cauliflower are blackened and crisped-up; and even potato gnocchi arises plump and smokey after a quick dip in the oven. Sundays are all about asado, with the restaurant transforming into a buffet of Argentinian open-fire barbecue, replete with traditional South American dishes.
The Jim and Neesie, housed in the lobby of Mid-Beach’s Generator hostel, means business when it comes to food. It’s as hip and casual as the hostel itself, which is decked out with hanging lights and plenty of greenery. Here, the menu is slimmed down to the necessities: charred asparagus, cacio e pepe, skirt steak and oysters, all priced relatively low and easily shareable. Do as the regulars do and order a round of drinks to start: the tableside cocktails are super popular, shaken and stirred as you watch.
It should come as no surprise that it’s all about the tacos at Taquiza. The South Beach kitchen works with blue masa, grinding it daily for its taco shells and chips. These soft, blue pucks are showered with cinnamon-flecked pork shoulder, smoky chorizo, beef tongue, spice-rubbed shrimp and even toasted grasshoppers. All you have to do is order at the sidewalk window and you’ll quickly be delivered a smattering of overflowing tacos. Round out your tacos with some non-taco items, such as grilled corn and guacamole with fried-to-order chips.
Run by Sergio Navarro and Jose Mendin – a James Beard Award nominee – Pubbelly Noodle Bar caters to pork lovers. At this Bayshore hotspot, bao buns are jammed with suckling pig, dumplings swell with pork belly and slabs of barbecue pork float in bowls of ramen. The space is polished and modern, filled with conversation and music. Dishes often emerge plated on wooden boards or in bright pottery.
Restaurant, Bar, French, Japanese, Peruvian, American, $$$
The dishes at Juvia blend French, Japanese and Peruvian cuisine | Courtesy of Juvia
Juvia is perched atop a roof on South Beach’s Lincoln Road. Accessed only by a private elevator, Juvia greets guests with an unobstructed 360-degree view of South Beach’s famed Art Deco district. Here, the kitchen focuses on the blending of French, Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, flaunting a selection of crudos, tiraditos, seafood and meats cooked on a charcoal grill. There’s even a display of vertical gardens, designed by botanist Patrick Blanc, meant to resemble the Amazon rainforest.
Planta is renowned for its excellent vegan burgers | Courtesy of Planta South Beach
Chef David Lee launched Planta in South Beach with the mission of crafting food that’s sustainable – without using any animal products. He showcases how plant-based eating can be healthy and environmental while still actually tasting good. It’s certainly not just about vegetables here – after all, Lee transforms mushrooms and watermelon into nigiri – and he allows diners to forget that his queso dip is vegan. Plus, he’s somehow magicked a vegan burger into something carnivores would gladly order. Stick around for some cold-pressed juices, such as the Picante Punch spiced with cayenne.
Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford runs the kitchen at Stubborn Seed, an American restaurant in South Beach with a seasonally changing menu. There might be warm celery root paired with crackling maitake or house-made pasta dotted with asparagus and guanciale in its current rotation. Guests can order à la carte or let Ford decide what they’re going to eat, thanks to the option of a five- or eight-course tasting menu. Weekend brunch is just as popular, flaunting a three-course prix-fixe menu: expect chai waffles with whipped espresso cream, strawberry doughnuts and warm sticky buns swirled with brown butter.