Wonton soup at midtown Miami's Blackbrick.
Wonton soup at midtown Miami's Blackbrick.

Beyond the Food Courts, Where to Dine at Miami's Malls

They say don't shop on an empty stomach or you'll leave the grocery store with a cart full of food you won't eat. Does the same rule apply to holiday gift shopping? Malls are crowded, parking is stressful, and unless you have a stockpile of snacks, you need a few good food options to stay fueled and fight the holiday chaos.

From Lincoln Road to Dadeland, malls are amping up their food offerings to keep holiday shoppers' sated. Mall shopping doesn't have to mean grabbing a soft pretzel or some slop at the food court. Sophisticated dining options abound. From French bistros to upscale burger joints, here are the best mall dining options in Miami.

Sugarfina, considered among the world's most exclusive adult candy stores, is open at Aventura Mall.
Sugarfina, considered among the world's most exclusive adult candy stores, is open at Aventura Mall.
Courtesy of Sugarfina

Aventura Mall
A go-to for locals and tourists, Aventura Mall has all the top department stores, but how do the food options rank? Cheesecake Factory and Grand Lux Cafe are the always-crowded options, or try Bella Luna for Italian specialties; SushiSiam for Japanese and Thai dishes; the Grill on the Alley for steaks, chops, and seafood; or Beluga Bar for fresh oysters. For a healthy, quick option, check out the OnJuice Bar for pressed juice or the Juice & Java Cafe at Equinox. Aventura also has shopping destinations for the foodies on your list. Sur la Table is a kitchen and entertaining lover's dream, while the Scarlett Letter has luxury stationary and unique gifts while also serving coffee and sweets. Check out Sugarfina and Teavana for stocking stuffers.

Le Zoo
Le Zoo
Laine Doss

Bal Harbour Shops
Even if you're simply window-shopping at this garden oasis of luxury retail, the restaurants at Bal Harbour Shops are unique dining experiences. Stephen Starr's Le Zoo is a French brasserie serving classic bistro fare. If you're in the mood for classic Asian dishes with a twist, Makoto, with its elegant dining room, patio, and sushi bar, is a must. Or check out Hillstone Restaurant Group's the Grill at Bal Harbour for signature American dishes. The restaurant sits above the main promenade, so you'll get great palm-tree views and people-watching.

Chef Andres Torres chooses fresh produce for his tacos.
Chef Andres Torres chooses fresh produce for his tacos.
Courtesy of Elle Taco

Dadeland Mall
There is no shortage of shopping or dining options at Dadeland Mall. Canadian-based Earls Kitchen + Bar is a solid sit-down option with an expansive menu of steaks, burgers, artisan sandwiches, and pastas. Inspired by roadside taquerias, Elle Taco offers shoppers traditional Mexican recipes and, of course, tacos. Try the carne asada or al pastor tacos with a side of yuca fries. Or stop into Aoki — a Japanese sushi bar, steakhouse, bar, and grill — where you can be entertained by a chef at a teppanyaki table or sit at the bar for a drink and some sushi. Bobby's Burger Palace is a good pit stop for a quick burger. Try celebrity chef Bobby Flay's crunch burger with potato chips on top or the "Miami," pressed with ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles. Add a shake, and you're good to go.

The behemoth burger, which weighs about five pounds, costs $49.99.EXPAND
The behemoth burger, which weighs about five pounds, costs $49.99.
Courtesy of Bowlero

Dolphin Mall
This mall's deals and dining are on point. Shoppers can avoid hunger pangs at mostly chain restaurants to accommodate parties of any size, and there's also a classic food court. Sit down at Burger & Beer Joint, Buffalo Wild Wings, Kona Grill, Brother Jimmy's BBQ, or Brio Tuscan Grill for casual bites. Or keep the family entertained at fun stops such as Dave & Buster's, CinéBistro, and Cool de Sac. If you're up for a challenge, Bowlero's five-pound behemoth burger will feed your whole shopping squad for $49.99.

Bacon cheeseburger milkshake.
Bacon cheeseburger milkshake.
Photo by Laine Doss

Lincoln Road
Where to start? South Beach's iconic restaurant-lined promenade is packed with options. The Café at Books & Books offers a fresh (and healthy) take on contemporary comfort food with dishes such as organic quinoa, red beans and kale, curried chicken salad, and mango barbecue chicken quesadilla. For a more eclectic scene with panoramic rooftop views, try Juvia for Japanese-Peruvian-French fusion. Particularly busy during soccer matches, Hofbräu Beer Hall is a good stop to catch a game, have a beer, and grab some authentic German grub. Tacos and Mexican fare can be found on the west end of the road at Huahua’s Taqueria. Menu items include signature tacos, burritos, and a taco salad in a homemade taco shell, and the hot sauce varieties offer all heat levels. Sushi fans can venture to Doraku, and if you're craving an Italian meal, head to Quattro Gastronomia Italiana. Grab a macaron at Laduree for a treat, or take the kids to Dylan's Candy Bar for an endless sugar rush. Speaking of sugar, Sugar Factory's bacon cheeseburger milkshake is the Instagram-worthiest meal at this outdoor mall.

Beyond the Food Courts, Where to Dine at Miami's Malls (7)
Courtesy Midtown Oyster Bar

Shops at Midtown Miami
Midtown doesn't offer the most shopping options, but it's definitely a dining hot spot for holiday cocktails or dinner with friends. You can always pick up some gift wrap or last-minute presents at Target, Home Goods, and Nordstrom Rack. Dining-wise, there's something for everyone. Stop at Sugarcane for a cheeky holiday drink, Midtown Oyster Bar for oysters and a glass of bubbly, or Sakaya Kitchen for Asian-fusion meals that were featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Pop in to Cheese Course for wine, cheese, and other snacks for your holiday party. Other options include Novecento, Blackbrick, and Latteria Italiana.

Beyond the Food Courts, Where to Dine at Miami's Malls (3)EXPAND
Sawgrass Mills

Sawgrass Mills
This mother lode of shopping, with everything from outlets to luxury stores, offers solid food options, but not as many as you might think. Sit-down staples such as Cheesecake Factory, Rainforest Café, and P.F. Chang's are good family stops. Burger-and-wine joint Zinburger and the stylish Italian eatery Villagio are ideal for a relaxing meal and cocktails. All keep shoppers shopping.

320 Gastropub's burger
320 Gastropub's burger
Courtesy of 320 Gastropub

Shops at Merrick Park
The outdoor Coral Gables shopping retreat's food scene matches its casual-chic ambiance. Recharge and grab a pint at Yard House. The menu (with 100-plus items) has no shortage of options, with small plates to nosh on and larger plates to fill up. With more than 100 beer taps, there's a brew to quench everyone's thirst. Brasserie Central uses classic French recipes to make its items fresh daily. Take a seat and grab a glass of wine or get a croissant and coffee to go. 320 Gastrolounge offers takes on classics, such as the pulpo 320 ($16) — a Spanish octopus dish — and ramen fricassee ($15), fueling you up for a shopping spree. Or try Mariposa, located inside Neiman Marcus, for a sandwich, salad, or one of its seasonal entrées and add a cocktail, because nothing calms holiday-shopping stress better than a festive drink.

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