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Yes, South Beach is filled with tourists wearing “I’m in Miami, Bitch” T-shirts. But that’s only one side of the Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue fence.
Here you’ll find restaurants that serve fresh local seafood, offer the finest cuts of meat, and employ chefs who’ve won international accolades. And those are just a handful of the culinary bona fides of the top ten restaurants in South Beach.
A spread at the Bazaar by José Andrés.
Photo courtesy of the Bazaar by José Andrés
What’s not to love about Spanish celebrity chef and dynamic personality José Andrés’ gastronomic wonderland? Dinner at the Bazaar is a trip down a culinary rabbit hole, led by chef de cuisine Karla Hoyos. The restaurant offers a bevy of fusion tapas that pay homage to the Caribbean, Asia, and the Americas while keeping a Miami taste and feel. The food is playful yet sophisticated, with interesting takes on classics like a caprese salad — here made with spheres of liquid mozzarella — and “Caviar Cones” filled with Ossetra caviar, capers, eggs, onion, and crème fraîche. The restaurant offers socially distanced seating and a large patio for dining alfresco.
Calamari ($24) and shrimp scampi ($24) at Carbone.
Photos courtesy of Carbone
Don’t dare try to walk into Carbone without a reservation. The New York transplant is trending, with reservations booked up a month in advance. The wait is worth it to experience the Old World charm that Mario Carbone and his partners, Jeff Zalaznick and Rich Torrisi, have created. The restaurant is a tribute to classic New York City red-sauce joints — with a modern (and pricey) update. Chef Carbone offers a menu chock-full of classic dishes like veal parmigiana, minestrone, and baked clams. You might have seen Carbone’s spicy rigatoni vodka on your Instagram feed. Served on a hand painted plate from Umbria, it’s worth ordering for the photo — but take the time to actually eat the dish, which is creamy, spicy, and ultimately worth the monthlong wait.
Eat at Joe’s.
Photo courtesy of Joe’s Stone Crab
For more than a century, crowds have flocked to Joe’s Stone Crab for fresh seafood. Founded in 1913, the restaurant is older than the city of Miami Beach, which was incorporated two years later. Over the years, Joe’s has become a multimillion-dollar business; it was named the second-highest-grossing independently owned restaurant in the United States by Restaurant Business. Though Joe’s boasts a wide selection of fresh seafood and steaks and employs full-time fish and meat butchers to cut perfect pieces of flesh, it’s the stone crabs that lure customers from around the globe. The claws, served with the restaurant’s signature mustard sauce, are the reason multiple generations have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, and just a Thursday evening at Joe’s. The restaurant now offers a limited number of reservations and has enlarged its outdoor seating area.
Sandwiches at La Sandwicherie begin with great bread.
Photo courtesy of La Sandwicherie
This French-owned counter restaurant, located in an alley off 14th Street, may not look like much, but it offers some of the best sandwiches in South Florida. Crispy, flaky French bread is the basis for the sandwich. From there, the sandwich makers add your choice of meat, cheese, or a combination thereof, such as ham, turkey, roast beef, salami, and Swiss cheese, as well as more distinctive, Euro-friendly choices such as Camembert, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, saucisson sec, and pork/duck liver pâté. Next come crisp toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, hot pickled red peppers, black olives, red onion, cucumber, and cornichons. Garnishes are followed by a finishing splash of tart Dijon-based French vinaigrette. Voilà! A damn good sandwich. La Sandwicherie has expanded to additional locations, but the South Beach shop is the original.
A pasta dish at Macchialina.
Photo courtesy of Macchialina
Business and life partners Jen Chaefsky and former Scarpetta chef de cuisine Michael Pirolo consistently offer some of Miami’s best and most satisfying food. Every dish is wonderful, especially Pirolo’s house-made pastas and creamy polenta loaded with sausage ragu. There’s always something new to try in the daily special list and Macchialina offers an affordable five-course tasting menu daily. DInner is served in the restaurant’s outdoor “Giardino”, and the indoor dining room is available for private dinners. Called “Bestia”, the private dinners are serves family-style and are available for four to 12 guests. Call the restaurant to reserve a “Bestia” dinner, as the restaurant only offers one per evening.
A Planta pizza is an exercise in simplicity.
Photo by Paula Wilson/Courtesy of Carma Connected
This plant-based paradise for celebrities, influencers, and Miami’s sexiest so-and-so’s is an alluring, tropical-inspired restaurant that serves vegan food that even carnivores will scarf down with glee. The menu is extensive and on the culinary cutting edge, offering impressively creative dishes such as ahi watermelon nigiri, melt-in-your-mouth cauliflower tots, an omnivore-inspired meat lover’s pizza, and a savory burger. Pair you dinner with a cocktail made with fresh juice and don’t forget to order soft-serve ice cream for dessert, available in rotating flavors.
Dig into a steak at Red the Steakhouse.
Red South Beach
801 South Pointe Dr., Miami Beach
The allure of Red South Beach lies in its perfectly charred steaks, pristine seafood, and well-executed small plates such as truffle whipped potatoes, four-cheese macaroni and cheese, and Parmesan tater tots. The menu, created by executive chef Peter Vauthy, transcends season and trend through items that will never go out of style. Try the toothsome 40-day dry-aged rib eye, Miyazaki Japanese A5 Kobe, or giant Alaskan crab as big as a house — Vauthy handpicks the proteins with the same care jewelers select fine diamonds. The restaurant recently relocated to a new spot that offers outdoor dining on a large patio.
A “Fisherman’s Tackle Box” at Stiltsville.
Photo courtesy of courtesy of Stiltsville Fish Bar
James Beard nominee Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth, both Top Chef alumni, serve fresh local seafood at their Sunset Harbour restaurant. About 115 pounds of seafood is delivered daily by fishermen from Key West, Key Largo, and Miami. Before opening for dinner, the restaurant prints “Daily Catch” cards, which list each fish, the preparation (baked, grilled, seared), and a few descriptors, such as “flaky,” “sweet,” “subtle,” or “medium firm.” McInnis’ famed fried chicken also makes an appearance as a Stiltsville entrée. Brined for 24 hours with bay leaves, citrus, and a pinch of fennel, the bird is crunchy on the outside, moist in the center, and faintly tangy. It’s worth a try despite the restaurant’s seafood focus.
The dining room at Stubborn Seed.
Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford has worked with venerable chefs such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Los Angeles’ Ludo Lefebvre. Now, in Miami Beach’s tony South of Fifth neighborhood, Ford shines solo at Stubborn Seed. The interior design of his 70-seater is industrial chic, allowing the food to be the focal point. The best way to experience Stubborn Seed is by experiencing chef Ford’s eight course tasting menu, available until 9 p.m. nightly.
Sweet Liberty’s eggs Benedict.
Photo courtesy of Sweet Liberty
In 2016, restaurateur David Martinez, Blackbird Ordinary’s Dan Binkiewicz, and world-class bartender John Lermayer opened a Miami Beach bar meant to be a hangout where locals could gather for proper cocktails and a killer menu by chef Michelle Bernstein. This neighborhood joint — adorned with a pink neon sign that urges patrons to “pursue happiness” — quickly became one of the most revered bars on the planet. Sweet Liberty has been named one of the World’s 50 Best Bars and has won several Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Even Lermayer’s untimely death couldn’t stop the plucky bar and restaurant from staying true to its mission to serve good drinks and good food in a lively and friendly atmosphere. After all, it’s a rare place that combines a James Beard-winning chef’s food and some of the best drinks in a convivial setting that’s unpretentious and downright fun.
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