Yes, South Beach is filled with tourists wearing "I'm in Miami, Bitch" T-shirts. And drug-and-beer-beseeching bums lurk in alleyways. But that's only one side of the Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue fence.
The greener, South of Fifth neighborhood boasts South Pointe Park, with sweeping views of the Magic City, as well as one of the area's most iconic and longest-standing eateries, Joe's Stone Crab, which turned 102 this year.
Our choices make pasta from scratch and infuse it with rabbit, source masa from small Mexican farms to produce handcrafted tortillas, and fly in fish from Greece daily. That's just some of the labor put in by the top ten restaurants in South Beach.
Have you had the chicken liver toast at Yardbird? What about the fried Everglades frog's legs with sweet-and-sour jelly, bacon bits, and escabeche mayo? Or the beef sirloin tartare, served with fried cornbread, barbecue sauce sorbet, and frisée lettuce, which happens to be one of the best renditions of steak tartare in town? These might not be the greatest hits or most popular items at John Kunkel's ridiculously popular Yardbird, but they are the most underrated dishes at this eatery with Southern roots. So next time you're tempted to order his grandmother Lewellyn's fried chicken, chicken 'n' watermelon 'n' waffles, or Mama's chicken biscuits, stop being a chicken and try something different.
9. Quality Meats
In a short time, newcomer and New York transplant Quality Meats has beefed up the offerings on Collins Avenue with a modern interpretation of a steak house. What, exactly, does that entail? House-cured slabs of bacon get a peanut butter and jalapeño jelly treatment, steak tartare is made tableside, braised veal shank comes atop a bed of black truffle pappardelle, and sides include a corn crème brûlée and cheese-slathered gnocchi. To bring it full circle, the owners (who started the Smith & Wollensky empire) have put just as much emphasis on desserts as they have on their touted cuts of meat. To see what we're talking about, simply order the sticky toffee pudding with fig ice cream.
8. Estiatorio Milos
As former New Times critic Lee Klein best put it, Estiatorio Milos has exquisite Mediterranean food — if you can afford it. Not for the common folk, Milos fits right in its SoFi digs and easily serves the freshest and most pristinely cooked seafood in town. Your experience here includes a walk to the icy-cool display in the back of the restaurant, where the morning's or midday's catch (fish is flown in multiple times a day and transported in a Mercedes-Benz refrigerated van because, well, it's Miami) is beautifully and vibrantly on view. But you never know what you're gonna get — other than glistening fish eyes (a sign the sea creature hasn't been dead long) and a high bill dropped at the end of the meal — because not even the kitchen staff knows what seafood is coming in till it arrives at the airport. Luckily, the restaurant offers a $49 tasting menu during the summer. In other words, the time is now to visit this place.
When chef Jose Mendin and partners Sergio Navarro and Andreas Schreiner opened Pubbelly in 2010, Sunset Harbour was a sleepy enclave. Fast-forward five years, and not only have the kings of swine taken over the neighborhood with Barceloneta and PB Sushi, but also the trio's first-born, Pubbelly, has been credited as being the progenitor of Sunset Harbour's movement toward becoming a hub for foodies. Yes, the food is heavy. Yes, there are lots and lots (and lots) of porcine dishes on the menu. But there's also — during season — Florida stone crab pasta with jalapeño, ginger, bok choy, and miso citrus butter. And there's a handful of dumplings packed with everything from duck and pumpkin to pastrami and sauerkraut. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it's all coming from a James Beard Award semifinalist and Food & Wine People's Best Chef nominee.
Taquiza is the little taco stand that could, and does. Eating House and Gastropod alum Steve Santana is grinding day and night — literally grinding house-nixtamalized corn and blue masa from small farms in Mexico to produce enough tortillas to meet not just the demand for beachgoers and Miami Beach residents but also for Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Michael Schwartz, who use the amazingly crisp yet fluffy taco shells at their restaurants. Go ahead, order a taco or seven (that's how many types are offered). From al pastor and carnitas to barbacoa and lengua (beef tongue), there's plenty to satisfy your authentic Mexican craving. Whatever you do, don't ask for a quesadilla, or whoever is at the cash register might crucify you. Do, however, ask for carne seca (made with meat from Creekstone Farms) and a choco taco (a dessert waffle cone taco with horchata ice cream dipped in chocolate and crowned with pistachios). You're welcome.
Sure, topping your pie at Lucali with artichokes will add $8 to the already-high $24 price tag, but not doing so would be pizza blasphemy. Or you can order the fresh artichoke hearts appetizer and then feast on a pie that's a blank canvas brought to life with red sauce like no other. Want more red sauce? Order the calzone. At only $10, stuffed with massive amounts of ricotta and served alongside a pool of red sauce, it'll make your cheesiest and sauciest dreams a reality.
4. Lure Fishbar
It starts with the cheddar-scallion biscuits and a shrimp-and-deviled-egg bloody mary mixed by one of the city's most capable barkeeps, Rob Ferrara. It continues with a bacchanal of raw delights that range from a bounty of impeccably shucked oysters dressed in pineapple salsa or jalapeño ponzu to Japanese imports like uni, toro, fluke, and kanpachi. Then there's the bucatini with butter-poached lobster and lobster uni crema. There's also the Burger Bash-winning burger (yes, a burger at a seafood restaurant). But don't skip Lure Fishbar's quintessential South Florida dessert: key lime pie. It's a result of 120 days of testing, traveling to Key West, and tasting as many pies as possible.
3. The Bazaar
What's not to love about Spanish celebrity chef and dynamic personality José Andrés' gastronomic wonderland? Dinner at the Bazaar is like a trip down the culinary rabbit hole. Your palate will never experience a dull moment — from liquid nitrogen caipirinhas (that drink like adult sorbets and rouse oohs and ahhs throughout the under-the-sea-like white dining room) and the onion soup with foie gras cappuccino to the airbread cubano ($12), chock full of Swiss foam and topped with house-made pickles and Ibérico pork meat that literally explodes in your mouth. Try a bevy of fusion tapas that pay homage to the Caribbean, Asia, and the Americas while still keeping a Miami taste and feel. Take, for instance, the coffee with foie gras, yuca churros with peanut butter and local honey, and conch fritters with a liquid center.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
They say the way to the heart is through the stomach, and in the case of Macchialina, that maxim couldn't be truer. Not only can you feel the love that business and life partners Jen Chaefsky and former Scarpetta chef de cuisine Michael Pirolo have put into the cozy and quaint space, but you can also taste it in every bite of Pirolo's house-made pastas and creamy polenta loaded with sausage ragu ($14). (It will become your new point of comparison for polenta.) Perhaps you'll want the beet-filled mezzaluna crowned with hazelnuts or the butter ricotta salata or the parpadelle Bolognese with rabbit and sausage fonduta. And on a good night, you might be offered à la minute risotto, making Macchialina the best Italian restaurant not only in South Beach but in the entire city.
1. Joe's Stone Crab
For over a century, people have been flocking to Joe's Stone Crab for fresh seafood. Founded in 1913, the restaurant is actually older than the City of Miami Beach itself, which was incorporated two years later in 1915. Since then, Joe's has turned into a multi-million dollar business, with the restaurant named the second-highest grossing independently-owned restaurant in the United States by Restaurant Business. Though the restaurant boasts a full selection of fresh seafood and steaks with full-time fish and meat butchers tasked with cutting the perfect piece of flesh, it's the stone crabs that people fly across the globe for. The claws, served with the restaurant's signature mustard sauce, are the reason why multiple generations of people have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, and just a Thursday evening at Joe's.