With each dawn, it seems as though something new is poking into the sky over Brickell — an SLS here, a Related Group condo there. Despite the vast sums of money that have poured into the neighborhood over the past two decades, its dining options have rarely kept pace with its architectural sophistication.
Today that's changing. Stalwarts such as Edge Steak & Bar, the River Seafood & Oyster Bar, Momi Ramen, and Naoe continue to hold up the neighborhood, while newcomers like Bachour Bakery + Bistro's Henry Hané, Cantina La Veinte's Santiago Gomez, and Michael Schwartz offer interesting options.
All of that being said, Brickell still has a shortage of less expensive options. Places like Stanzione 87 and Toasted Bagelry & Deli are good choices, which could be aided by Brickell City Centre's forthcoming Italian food hall if done right. Here are the ten best places to dine in Brickell:
One evening at Naoe, chef Kevin Cory proudly held up a jewel-like orange-red sack of salmon roe. "Only available for two weeks every year when the salmon are spawning," he said. Other than that, Cory didn't boast about the fish that's flown in daily from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market. He speaks softly and wears a paper cap that seems a nod to sushi's past as a Japanese street food. Naoe's subtlety and precision are what make it stand out not only in Brickell but also in all of Miami. It doesn't have to tell you it's the city's best restaurant. It knows it.
2. Edge Steak & Bar
Edge is just too reasonably priced for a Brickell restaurant inside a Four Seasons Hotel. The place could mark up each steak — from the butcher's-cut filet to the Delmonico — 20 percent and would still be packed nightly. Chef Aaron Brooks' creations aren't limited by Creekstone Farms steaks, seared in an 1,800-degree infrared oven. Edge also excels at fish and vegetable preparations, makes one of Brickell's best burgers, and has regularly offered one of the most worthwhile Miami Spice menus.
3. La Mar by Gastón Acurio
Peruvian culinary icon Gastón Acurio's Brickell Key outpost enjoys much of its success thanks to the precise, ever-evolving work of executive chef Diego Oka. While also running a three-meal-a-day spot, Oka seems to find the time to constantly fine-tune La Mar's menu, adding a chifa dish here, subtracting a ceviche there, and evolving Peru's humble yet beloved causas into something otherworldly. Recently, the Japanese-Peruvian cook took some time off to travel to Modena for a stage at Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana. The experience made it back to Miami in the form of what Oka calls a tiradito bachiche, made with 24-month-old Parmigiano-Reggiano, leche de tigre, colatura, basil oil, and garlic chips. La Mar is one place you don't want to overlook.
4. The River Seafood & Oyster Bar
Like erstwhile neighbor Tobacco Road, the River seems to have little time left since a Colombian investor purchased the property in 2012. Nevertheless, the smart Brickell office workers shield their faces and march through the dusty construction to reach David Bracha's daily oyster offerings and whole fish entrées. The secret here is the bar menu, with small bites such as clams casino, steamed Chinese duck buns, and oyster po'boy sliders for less than ten bucks each.
5. Momi Ramen
Miami's ramen obsession seemed to sputter almost as soon as it had snapped to life. Though Momi didn't lead to a rash of new ramen joints in the city, its high-priced bowls filled with rich, glossy, almost sticky tonkotsu (broth) remain the best. Just remember: Sometimes Momi is cash only, and sometimes it will take your credit card. Sometimes there's only char siu pork and pork belly, and sometimes there's oxtail and pork innards. You never know what you'll find.
6. Bachour Bakery + Bistro
Antonio Bachour's eye-popping pastries are what lure patrons into this airy, industrial space off Brickell Avenue, but it's chef and partner Henry Hané's food that keeps them coming back. There are breakfast classics like a smoked salmon scramble with an everything bagel ($15), and as lunchtime nears, the place becomes Hané's show. At first, a slow, steady progression of orders buzzes into the kitchen. There are a few requests for the avocado tartine — a gussied-up version of the ubiquitous toast that comes on a thin slice of house-made sourdough. It's punched up with jalapeño crema, cotija cheese, lima, and pickled Fresno chilies that give it a zingy spice. Then comes a hailstorm of orders for the house favorite: a heavily modified butifarra sandwich ($15), a nod to Hané's Peruvian heritage. Instead of using pork belly, the kitchen deploys thick slices of roast turkey marinated in cilantro, roasted, grilled, and then piled onto a spongy bun with an anticucho aioli, whipped sweet potato, and the beloved pickled Peruvian salad known as salsa criolla.
Before Michael Schwartz came to Miami and won a James Beard Award, the goateed toque was a Philly boy. His latest project, Fi'lia, housed inside Brickell's shiny new SLS, harks back to that humble Italian fare with style. A caesar salad ($20) is presented old-school at the table, where a server painstakingly grinds anchovies and garlic in a wooden bowl to form the base of the dressing. It's not all about breathing life into the seemingly mundane, though. Sweet-corn-filled agnolotti ($24) are draped in an elegant lobster sauce, while crisp-crusted pizzas come crowned with everything from a fragrant pistachio pesto ($16) to puttanesca with house-made sausage and stracciatella ($18).
8. Bazaar Mar
At this Brickell seafood temple, celebrated gastronaut José Andrés shows why he has become a wildly successful chef: He takes familiar ingredients and flavors and reinvents them in a combination that makes diners gasp in awe. Case in point: Bazaar Mar's bagel and lox ($12). The smoked fish comes from Manhattan's famous Russ & Daughters, which Andrés chose after trying more than a dozen varieties.
But rather than serve it atop a bagel, the lox comes on his signature air bread shaped like a fish. Here, it's seasoned with an everything-bagel blend of seeds and then piped full of cream cheese. The finishing touch is pickled onions and a light lemon dressing. Tucked inside a jarring Philippe Starck-designed space at the SLS, Bazaar Mar brings Andrés' unmistakable whimsy to the world of seafood, making each dish a feast for more than just the palate.
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9. Cantina La Veinte
This Mexico City-sourced spot in the Icon Brickell, led by chef Santiago Gomez, turns out a never-ending procession of house-made tortillas and punchy fragrant creations like moles and heavily chili-inflected sauces. Flour tortillas come wrapped around three creamy soft-shell crab halves ($21) that boast a distinct salty ocean flavor in a crisp crust. They're propped up in shot glasses half-filled with a spicy, creamy jalapeño sauce that you'll want to dip into again and again. The dish you'll return for, a smoky-spicy stuffed ancho chili ($12), is also one of the menu's lowest-priced offerings. What was once a poblano pepper has been dried until it is wrinkled and deep-red and black. At Cantina La Veinte, it is seeded, soaked in water, boiled to make it pliable, and packed with juicy bits of skirt steak and creamy Oaxaca cheese. The whole thing is draped in a velvety black-bean purée, a light yet rich avocado cream, and a squiggle of sour cream that you'll struggle to load onto every bite.
10. La Moon
It's yet to be decided whether this beloved Colombian restaurant's move from its home on SW Eighth Street to a larger, better-decorated space a stone's throw away on the same road is a good thing. The old location's blaring fluorescent lights were as important as its salchipapas in sobering people up after a long night of drinking. Nevertheless, if it's a late-night snack you crave, the supermoon perro, topped with bacon and a quail egg, ($7.75) is one good dog.