Every year, Miami plunks down the welcome mat for a host of new eateries. Each one is a new beginning for the chefs and restaurateurs who have high hopes of making it big in the Magic City. Some are small mom-and-pop cafés run by individuals with small budgets and big dreams. Some are grand affairs run by celebrity chefs.
Below is a list of the restaurants that opened this year and have caught the city's attention by offering solid fare, interesting settings, and staying power for the years ahead.
For years, Michael Beltran toiled in the kitchen of Michael Schwartz's Cypress Room (now the more approachable Cypress Tavern). It was one of Miami's highest-profile and -priced yet most unappreciated restaurants. The place's delicate French techniques were the kind of stuff you'd expect to find at the Biltmore's Palme d'Or. So when Schwartz changed concepts, everyone wanted to know where Beltran, the kitchen's number two, would end up. First the plan was for Calle Ocho; then he settled in Coconut Grove, where Beltran maintains much of the obsessive attention to detail he and Roel Alcudia exhibited at the Cypress Room while also folding in bits of a Cuban upbringing in Miami. Hence why the foie gras ($24) is lashed with sour-orange vinegar and the über-old-school Cuban sugar sauce called temptation caramel. Throughout the menu, you'll find hints of Miami's soul and flashes of the mature cooking sensibilities that today make eating in the city better than ever.
2. Bachour Bakery + Bistro
Once you're able to lift your gaping jaw after seeing the precious pastries Antonio Bachour and his team turn out at this Brickell bakery and café, you realize it's the savory menu, turned out by Miami-raised Henry Hané, that will sustain you between insulin spikes. Hané spent two years at Llançà, a Michelin two-star on Spain's Mediterranean coast, before returning to Miami and taking up in the kitchen of Giorgio Rapicavoli's Eating House. In Bachour's minuscule kitchen, Hané twists out an array of warm, satisfying dishes that eschew heavy western European techniques in favor of Peru's acidophilic tendencies. The sweet-potato slick called causa ($19) is decorated with crab, shrimp, hard-cooked eggs, avocado, and a punchy anticucho aioli. There's a take on Peru's favorite sandwich (and drunk food), the butifarra ($15). Instead of pork belly, the kitchen deploys thick slices of roast turkey marinated in cilantro, roasted, grilled, and then piled onto a spongy bun with anticucho aioli, whipped sweet potato, and the beloved pickled Peruvian salad known as salsa criolla. Get it now, before Brickell's ever more bourgeois crowd paves the way for a price hike.
3. All Day
Camila Ramos' All Day is a dream. There are more than a half-dozen ways to take your coffee, and each cup holds even more permutations. Lighten yours with homemade almond milk, or get your regular milk steamed but without any foam. Get it "wet" and find more creamy, hot milk in your drink, or get it dry and pamper yourself with dollops of rich milk foam. With your coffee choice firm, look over the food menu. The congee ($13) is nothing short of Miami's best breakfast in a bowl. This Asian rice porridge tastes somewhere between a bowl of what you'd find at a noisy dim sum spot and a helping of silky grits. On it go a tousle of meaty mushrooms and a single poached egg with a yolk that looks like a setting sun. This is breakfast.
4. Glass & Vine
Giorgio Rapicavoli's Glass & Vine sits at the top of the cadre of Coconut Grove restaurants that are freeing the neighborhood from the tyranny of Chili's and everything else lurking inside CocoWalk. The menu isn't as esoteric as the one at Eating House, where you'll find grilled broccoli stems in salsa verde alongside "arroz verde" with a soft egg and smoked yogurt. Here, the exploratory nature of Rapicavoli's dishes is pared back, and they start with familiar, comfortable ingredients such as tomatoes, a simple pasta, fish, or hush puppies. Tomatoes ($11) are dusted with a flurry of rocoto leche de tigre frozen into a snow that slowly melts as you eat. Sweet potatoes ($10) are doused in Peru's rich huancaína sauce, and a glossy lobe of grilled fish ($29) is slathered in sea urchin butter. Though Glass & Vine doesn't offer Rapicavoli's dirt cup dessert, it's the kind of place that could delight you a couple of times a week.
5. The Spillover
Coconut Grove's Spillover was new ground for Matt Kuscher, who's developed a legion of followers thanks to his penchant for burgers and beer. Here, across from what was the Miami Improv, Kuscher's servers sport ties, and the vintage decorations — wine boxes backstopping the bar, old newspapers — weren't culled from the garbage (at Lokal, the check holders are made of old wine corks). The place has beer, but it's really the musty, delicately sweet, sometimes salty apple ciders of Europe that's the obsession. Pair one with a scoop of smoked fish dip ($10); amberjack or whatever sturdy-fleshed species the kitchen has on hand is combined with a bit of mayonnaise, fortified with Worcestershire, and spiced with enough hot sauce and horseradish to make your tongue tingle. Or knock it back alongside the kitchen's versions of Miami's iconic pan con minuta ($12). The snapper is crusted with cornmeal, the ketchup has been replaced by cocktail sauce, and the onion is enhanced by red cabbage and a slice of tomato. It isn't your tío's sandwich, but it might become your new regular.
6. Bazaar Mar at the SLS Brickell
James Beard, Bon Appétit, Time magazine — name an accolade a chef can win, and José Andrés has been honored with it. When the chef opened the Bazaar by José Andrés a few years ago, South Beach was smitten with the restaurant's theatricality combined with technique and quality. Now comes Bazaar Mar at the SLS Brickell. This seafood-centric restaurant offers dishes transformed into art. Take, for example, the bagel and lox ($12), made with Russ & Daughters smoked salmon, air bread, cream cheese, and pickled onions — all fashioned to look like a school of fish — or ceviche formed into the shape of one perfect rose ($26). Bazaar Mar takes fashionable dining to a whole other level.
7. Fi'lia at the SLS Brickell
Sharing a home at the SLS Brickell comes another James Beard Award-winning chef. Michael Schwartz may be best known for his takes on farm-to-table, but he has deep roots in Italian cuisine. Now comes Fi'lia. The restaurant, whose name is taken from the Italian word for "daughter," is Schwartz's latest child. The dining room, awash in copper tones and potted herbs, is an inviting space in which to dine on the chef's takes on favorite red-sauce fare: an oversize chicken parm ($23) big enough for the table comes laden with cheese bubbling from the wood-fired oven, and hearty rigatoni Bolognese ($20) is a plate of comfort. Whatever you do, don't miss the caesar salad, prepared tableside on a custom-made cart ($20). Nothing like the innocuous salad found on every nondescript catering menu, this tangy and pungent version is the reason the dish has been a classic for decades.
Kudos to Ray and Shannon Allen for opening a place where families can eat their favorite dishes — such as salmon, chicken tenders, and blueberry pancakes — made with organic, healthful ingredients. The restaurant is also a haven for people with food allergies; it offers gluten-free, Paleo, and vegan options. Meals can be pricey, averaging $20 to $25 per person, but giving families an option of eating clean instead of the usual chemical-laden ingredients makes Grown a step in the right direction for busy Miamians who might not have time to make their own nutritious meals.
9. The Sarsaparilla Club
Partners Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth returned to Miami Beach with a restaurant that offers American dim sum. Restaurant staff offer small plates from pushcarts in rainbow hues. Vegetarians will crave the beet tartare served with root chips ($9), and carnivores will be satisfied with braised short-rib dumplings ($4 each). The fried chicken ($24) is a must-do. McInnis and Booth, known for their lemon-ice-brined fried chicken at their New York City restaurant, Root & Bone, make a Thai-inspired version for their South Beach eatery. A free-range chicken is brined for 24 hours in green curry paste, coated in seasoned flour, and fried. It's then coated in kaffir lime powder and garnished with fresh lime and cilantro. The chicken turns out crisp and tangy on the outside and moist on the inside. Whatever you do, make way for the dessert cart and try an ice-cream float of house-made sarsaparilla soda, vanilla ice cream, and a filthy cherry. It's a delightfully old-fashioned ending to a modern meal.
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10. Phuc Yea
Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata's Phuc Yea is a story of persistence. The restaurant, which began five years ago as a pop-up in downtown Miami, was an immediate success. People clamored for a table at the makeshift restaurant where the partners tore down the operation at the end of each service and reassembled it every afternoon. After Phuc Yea's run ended, Meinhold and Zapata launched the Federal, but the little pop-up that could weighed on their minds for years. Every now and again, the couple would resurrect the restaurant for a special dinner, and the events generated a mighty buzz. Then, like an erstwhile lover you always knew you'd return to, Phuc Yea returned. This time, however, it's for keeps. The Upper Eastside eatery offers Viet-Cajun cuisine. The restaurant's Cajun woks (market price) are the best way to experience this clash of cultures. Choose your seafood protein (crawfish, a daily crab, Gulf shrimp, or Florida clams); then select your "sauss" (Cajun, green curry, garlic butter, or chili garlic). The wok is actually a large pot — filled with your chosen main, corn, potatoes, and andouille sausage — that arrives at your table. Rubber gloves are handed out so you can just dig in. Your fussy Aunt Fanny might not approve of the '90s hip-hop and eating with your paws, but it's a soulful way to dine.