Stone crab, Cuban sandwiches and mojitos: The 18 best places to eat and drink in Miami
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Miami is without a doubt one of the nation’s most exciting cities. Located at the very southern tip of the continental United States, the city occupies a unique space as a crossroads between the U.S. and the Caribbean and Latin America.
The city has a distinct and enduring Cuban influence, thanks to the proximity of the two places (just about 90 miles of ocean separates the two) and a large population of Cuban immigrants who fled the regime of Fidel Castro decades ago.
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In addition to the large Cuban population, Miami attracts plenty of other people from all across Latin America, including the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, to name a few. And the city has a sizable Jewish population, along with many transplants from colder climes within the U.S.
The result of this incredible mixing of cultures has made Miami one of the de facto capitals of Latin America in the minds of many, and created a city that has a culture and way of life all its own. With this, and its oceanfront location and reliably good weather, comes a vibrant and thriving dining and drinking scene that’s practically unmatched in North America.
We’ve touched on some of the top restaurants and bars you should visit on your first — or second or third — trip to Miami, but we thought it appropriate to devote more time to exploring this city’s top restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments that you should keep in mind for any future trips to South Florida.
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The best restaurants in Miami
We’ve already talked about some of the can’t-miss restaurants in our beginner’s guide to Miami, but the city is home to so many top-notch dining establishments that we thought we needed to dive a little deeper.
What do you do when you want a taste of New York City by the beach? You go to Lucali, one of (if not the) best spots in town to grab a slice — or a whole pie. You may have to wait for over an hour for a table, but when you want good pizza, practically no wait is too long. If your group is craving more than just pizza, try the calzones, ravioli and the baked artichokes.
Versailles Restaurant is a Miami institution in the Little Havana neighborhood. You can’t skip Cuban food in this town, and Versailles is one of the best places to experience authentic, no-frills and affordable Cuban cuisine. Try the ropa vieja, croquettes and, of course, a Cuban sandwich and you won’t leave disappointed.
Being a seaside city, you could expect to encounter some very delicious seafood during your trip, and La Camaronera Fish Market is exactly the place to go to experience some of the best fish you’ve ever had. Most of the menu items are fried — making it the perfect place to soak up all those mojitos you just had on the beach. The pan con minuta — a fried snapper sandwich — is a must-have. In Little Havana, you’ll probably wait a long time to get seated, but once you take your first bite you won’t remember the agonizing hour you just spent looking at — and jealously smelling — other diners’ food.
If you feel most at home at a Jewish bakery, look no further than Zak the Baker. In the trendy Wynwood district, this spot serves classic Jewish baked goods like babka and challah and sandwiches like a salmon Reuben and tuna melt made with perfectly crusty bread.
Everyone loves a good brunch, and Yardbird Southern Table and Bar is the place to get one in Miami. The menu focuses on fried chicken, which is a very good thing. Sit down for a while, order too many southern-inspired dishes and enjoy a long brunch before venturing back out into the city — you won’t regret it.
If you’ve had your fill of heavy, meat-centric dishes (there are plenty to try in Miami), Planta is a perfect spot to gather with your friends and have an entirely vegan meal. The space itself is beautiful, too, so you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out on a big Miami dinner.
Joe’s Stone Crab has been a hit since it opened in 1913. This South Beach institution is famous for its stone crab (obviously) that are especially delicious during their peak season from October to May. Note that you can’t make a reservation, so you may be waiting a while for a table. And, don’t forget a slice of the Key lime pie.
On Calle Ocho in Little Havana, Sanguich de Miami treats diners to traditional Cuban sandwiches with a twist. You can’t go wrong with a classic Cubano, though, made with pork, spiced ham, Swiss cheese and mustard on perfectly toasted bread. If you’re extra hungry, try a batido, a rich milkshake that comes in a variety of flavors.
Wynwood, a trendy Miami neighborhood, is home to Kyu, a sustainability-minded restaurant with Asian-inspired dishes cooked on a wood-fired grill. Try the crispy pork belly buns, whole roasted cauliflower with goat cheese, shishito-herb vinaigrette, myoga and shiso and baby bok choy with toasted garlic, chili and lemon.
Greek is big in Miami, and the Design District’s Mandolin Aegean Bistro is one of the city’s best. I’ve visited many times, and can recommend sitting outside and ordering the grilled octopus to share with your group. Then, enjoy lamb, chicken and beef kebabs and wash it down with a glass of Mediterranean wine.
Miami is a city in which to see and be seen, and the best place to do that is at one of the city’s electric Japanese restaurants. Makoto, located in the Shops at Bal Harbour, stands out. Expect a full menu of raw fish dishes, but Makoto offers more to diners, too, with its charcoal robata churning out Japanese barbecue-style dishes to hungry diners.
The best bars in Miami
Just like on the restaurant side, Miami has a wide range of drinking establishments for every type of vibe you could want on a given night — or day. From rooftop hangouts to laidback beachside watering holes, you won’t lack for places to get a cold drink.
Esotico is a tiki bar located just north of Downtown. Covered in tropical flora, this watering hole is famous for rum-based Polynesian cocktails that will instantly transport you to the South Pacific.
For a laidback place to start off any evening out, head to the Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hotel in Miami Beach. There’s a little inside space, but you’ll want to sit outside in the lush courtyard with a pool around which guests can sit.
A true dive bar in Miami Beach, Mac’s Club Deuce is a guaranteed good time. Temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this cash-only establishment features staples of American dive bars like a jukebox, pool tables and a dimly lit space. It’s a perfect spot to take a night off from the nightclubs and bars that make up modern Miami’s going-out scene.
Cafe la Trova is a restaurant, but it’s arguably more known for being a great place to dance the night away with one of the bar’s famous daiquiris in hand. There’s a back bar for dancing, but the main dining area also acts as a dancing spot as the night goes on. Besides the Daiquiri Clásico, this place mixes a ton of great cocktails, ensuring that you’ll have a blast all night long. Cafe la Trova is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Located in Wynwood, Gramps is the not-quite-dive bar that attracts hipsters and anyone else looking for a good time. Enjoy a cold beer on the patio while listening to top DJs and live music acts. And once you’re feeling your drinks, feel free to order a pizza from the surprisingly great menu. Gramps is temporarily closed for service on the premises but is offering curbside pick-up.
If your idea of being outside is sitting on a lush with a glass of wine in hand, don’t miss Lagniappe. Gather a group of your friends and enjoy all this energetic wine bar has to offer. You’ll enjoy live music many nights a week in a setting that’s made for Instagram whether you get a coveted outdoor table or are hanging out inside.
Miami’s a beach town, so there aren’t a ton of rooftop bars like you’d find in a city like New York or Chicago. However, SUGAR, located in downtown’s Brickell district is the place to go if you want to catch views of both the Biscayne Bay and the expanse of Miami and its beaches from high above. This is definitely a place to see and be seen, but if you go early and don’t have to wait, it’s a great spot kick back, relax and enjoy the views — and a cocktail or two — before heading out for a memorable Miami night.
Featured photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy.
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