With year-round sunshine, an average daily temperature of 76 degrees, and 35 miles of white sand beaches, it’s no wonder Miami is one of our country’s premier vacation getaways (attracting more than 20 million visitors annually). Couple that with a booming food and drink scene and the fact that it’s home to more than 150 ethnicities and the largest concentration of boutique hotels in the world, and you’re looking at a city that is as much of a tropical paradise as it is a cosmopolitan chef’s playground.
In recent years, much of the action has moved off the Beach, aka South Beach, as neighborhoods on the mainland such as Wynwood (home to the perpetually hot restaurant Alter) and Brickell have developed into destinations, with bustling restaurant, bar and club scenes to rival Collins Ave. Still, the addition of hotels like the Faena and One have kept South Beach relevant—especially when you factor in their dining and entertainment options. In other words, there’s a lot to choose from when you’re headed down to Miami, but here are some tips — some new, some classic — for your next trip.
Where to Eat
Michelin-star winning chef José Andrés helms the menu at this always abuzz Brickell restaurant, which celebrates all things seafood with a seasonal emphasis on Miami and the Caribbean — with crazy clever twists. Roll up a bright and tangy “Asian taco” of Ibérico bellota ham, cured hamachi, and osetra caviar before biting into bold flavors of the Neptune’s Pillow, a doughy pocket layered with tuna sashimi and filled with spicy tuna and rocoto mayo. Don’t miss the extensive raw bar, caviar program, or cocktails (the LN2 Caipirinha calls for liquid nitrogen in lieu of ice for a most theatrical tipple). Come dessert, share the house key lime pie — and take your time. Nautically inflected décor from design powerhouse Philippe Starck makes it easy to linger a while in these parts.
This January saw the Miami Beach debut of this Michelin-starred New York restaurant, where executive chef Masatsugu Kubo has become known for upscale and updated takes on authentic Japanese fare. Snag a seat on the patio and order plenty of plates to share, from black miso cod and smoked salmon-kale salad, to caramelized chicken wings and a side-by-side uni tasting. When it comes to the sushi, all eyes are on the beef tataki maki, eight addicting bites of asparagus, truffle oil and fried onion wrapped in paper-thin sheaths of wagyu beef. Ready all Instagram handles for the Spring in Tokyo cocktail, a frothy, flower-topped sipper of lemongrass shochu, matcha and egg white.
Plan well in advance when trying to reserve a table at this popular Wynwood destination, where chef Michael Lewis delivers cuisine inspired by his travels and the yakinikus of Japan. As such, expect several from-the-grill specialties, along with locally sourced produce and new-style sashimi. Come with a group, or at the very least, a sizable appetite — favorites like duck breast burnt ends and wagyu beef brisket come in generous portions. Those seeking less meat-centric fare will find it in go-tos like the Thai coconut creamed spinach or roasted cauliflower — a hearty, charred serving that’s plated atop zippy shishito vinaigrette. A cocktail pairing is in place for curious imbibers, or go à la carte with the Tom KYU Gai, a spirited take on Tom Kha Gai soup with lemongrass-infused gin, coconut milk, scallion syrup, and cilantro foam.
Lobster Bar Sea Grille
One step inside of this luxe Miami Beach restaurant is bound to transport diners to another time and place — likely Grand Central Oyster Bar in the 1920s, thanks to the dramatic coming together of glittering white tiles, vaulted ceilings and jazz age-inspired lighting fixtures. It all serves as the setting to serious seafood, prime steaks and over-the-top entrees for two (think jumbo lobster tail and whole fish options). The chili lobster (whole steamed lobster with chili butter sauce) is a signature from chef Arturo Paz, as is the Mediterranean octopus, perfectly tender and carefully seasoned in a medley of Santorini capers and Greek olives. Post-dinner, burn it all off down the street at Mango’s, where seasoned dance instructors lead salsa classes nightly.
Chef Makoto Okuwa spent years training with Iron Chef Morimoto before eventually opening this Bal Harbour sushi fixture, where he puts his own updated spin on traditional Japanese cuisine. That means fun options like chicken noodle ramen, Japanese risotto and short rib yaki noodles, along with starters like sautéed air spinach with garlic and chili or a grilled tuna “pizza” with tomato, red onion and cilantro. The maki is just as exciting — a lobster roll brims with ginger pickled jicama, asparagus and avocado, while a vegan rendition (the “Vegan Stephen”) melds together tempura zucchini, kanpyo squash, and roasted red pepper. The kitchen’s prowess for winning flavor combinations extends to the dessert menu, where a fondant chocolate cake is filled with molten yuzu and met with saketini espuma and vanilla ice cream rolled in crackly rice crackers.
James Beard award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr and designer Shawn Hausmann (Chateau Marmont, The Standard) are behind this lively all-day eatery, which is conveniently situated within the luxe Bal Harbour shopping center. Chef Julian Baker focuses on French-Mediterranean flavors for an extensive menu, which features an array of traditional hors d’oeuvres (salmon tartare, escargot, onion soup gratine) and entrées (trout amandine, moules frites, bouillabaisse), along with plenty of crowd-pleasing fare like pizzas and pastas. A round of oysters to start is always a good idea, as is saving room for dessert. The banana split (with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream) is as classic — and as decadent — as they come.
Where to Drink
Those looking for a one-stop-shop of eats, drinks and super chill vibes will find it all here in a Wynwood mixed used space housing everything from a vinyl records shop to Korean karaoke. Eight Asian cuisine concepts feature the likes of ramen, dim sum and sushi, while a full bar features fun sips like sake juice boxes and frozen beer topped with Kirin foam. Try to check it out on Fridays, when one of the biggest house DJs in the biz — Oscar G — hosts Rice + Beats, a collective DJ set featuring several of his friends.
This month saw the passing of this South Beach bar’s head bartender and co-founder John Lermayer — but the venue has plans to continue to spin out the same high-quality cocktails that earned it several impressive accolades in the past year alone (including a title of “Best New American Cocktail Bar” and “Best American High-Volume Cocktail Bar” at Tales of the Cocktail, along with a #27 spot on the World’s Best Bar List). The menu here is at once approachable and adventurous: A piña colada is doctored up with coffee beans and sweet sherry while a Mai Tai gets respun as a “Rye Tai” with Jamaican rum, overproof rye whiskey and passionfruit bitters. Visit for daily happy hour, when oysters are $.95 a pop and select cocktails (think Moscow Mules and Aperol Spritzs) can be had for just $5.
Head to this 10,000-square-foot rooftop for globally inspired plates and epic views of the Miami skyline. Scottish salmon nashi with truffle oil and micro arugula is delicate but memorable — enjoy at least one order before moving on to more substantial fare like the Australian rack of lamb or sake soy–marinated Chilean sea bass. Try them with ingredient-driven twists on traditional cocktails, such as the Juvia Gin and Tonic (with umeshu and shiso) or the Elderflower Mule (with St. Germain and lemongrass). Arrive as the sun goes down to take advantage of pristine views — and prices. The restaurant’s sunset menu special features $11 cocktails until Daylight Savings rolls around.
Cantina La 20
This two-story restaurant offers views of Biscayne Bay and Brickell Key, along with one of the largest selections of high-end tequilas and mezcals in the country. Enjoy them in an array of handcrafted drams, such as the Mariachi Loco (with Avíon Silver Tequila, 1800 Coconut Tequila, cucumber and pineapple) or the Mezclarita (with Montelobos Mezcal, passionfruit and egg white). Try them alongside the kitchen team’s Latin flavors, found in plates like pork chop al pastor, crab meat tacos, and octopus carnitas.
Where to Stay
This five-star Brickell property boasts 20 stories of luxuriously outfitted rooms and suites, all of which provide epic views of either the Miami skyline or the Biscayne Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Guests can head straight away to the 20,000-square-foot waterfront beach for an afternoon of sunbathing before taking advantage of the spa, a tri-level sanctuary where the treatments are inspired by Chinese, Balinese and Thai traditions. Opt for the Oriental Essence, a 50-minute massage designed to relieve neck and shoulder tension with the property’s signature Quintessence oil. Post-R&R it’s time to refuel, and there’s no better place to do so than at La Mar, where executive chef Diego Oka serves up Asian-Peruvian fare by way of dishes like zesty cebiches, freshly grilled anticuchos and tangy tiraditos.
Delano South Beach
Every day seems like a celebration at this splashy South Beach property — just take one spin around the pool, where a fleet of “Amenity Angels” circulate on the hour with decadent fixings like chocolate-covered strawberries and bites of tequila-soaked pineapple. It’s all the more reason to hang a while longer here (as if the lush palm trees, plush daybeds and cozy cabanas weren’t enough). Once dinner time rolls around, head inside for a reservation at Leynia, where chef Jose Icardi offers traditional Argentine cuisine fused with Japanese influences, as evidenced in options like chicken empanadas, Patagonian lamb, and a medley of sushi and sashimi. When booking, be sure to inquire about the Suite Life by SBE, a new luxury program offering guests access to five-star experiences during their stay, such as private airport pick-ups and gifts from a variety of top-tier brands.
The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour
All 99 rooms found within this Bal Harbour property are designed as suites, complete with semi-private elevators, floor-to-ceiling windows, and Instagram-worthy bathrooms (where a free-standing tub and oversized shower overlook the Atlantic). Once guests have a moment to take it all in, they can head down to the hotel’s sprawling beach and European-edged pool, where a series of private cabanas (and personal hot tubs) await. Keep that self-care coming with a stop at Exhale, the property’s onsite spa that features award-winning therapies and a variety of yoga and HIIT classes. A trip to onsite eatery Artisan Beach House is a must — especially during brunch, when mains like duck hash, Mediterranean quinoa and poached egg shakshuka take center stage.
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