Elcielo Miami by Juan Manuel Barrientos
Photo courtesy of Elcielo

There is certainly a time and place for an on-the-fly Colombian empanada with spicy ají. Then there is experiencing the South American nation's cuisine elevated to the max with an experiential menu that changes every season. No one is elevating Colombian food in Miami (or anywhere, for that matter) to greater heights than chef Juan Manuel Barrientos, AKA Juanma, a veritable molecular gastronaut. After opening Elcielo hotspots in Medellín and Bogotá, Barrientos brought the restaurant to Brickell in 2015. An Elcielo has since opened in Washington, D.C., earning Juanma a Michelin star — the first-ever for a Colombian restaurant — in 2021. Take one step inside Elcielo's space in Miami and you'll begin to understant the praise. To make the most of an Elcielo experience, book "The Experience" and arrive hungry: It's a 21-course affair, with sensory moments throughout. If you're aiming for a little more moderation, opt for "The Journey," a more modest, 13-course affair. In this context, of course, modest is a relative term; on a given night, you might wash your hands in chocolate or inhale an osmotized watermelon.

Caja Caliente
Photo courtesy of Caja Caliente

From its humble beginnings as a food truck boasting "the original Cuban taco" to its more elaborate brick-and-mortar present day, chef/owner Monica Leon's Caja Caliente has been a celebration of Cuban heritage with a contemporary twist. The restaurant's pink-and-aqua décor radiates an island feel that complements the zesty, fresh flavors of the menu. It's casual, unpretentious dining, but this fare demands a three-course meal (at the very least). To start, try the croquetas — the classic ham, or perhaps a spicy goat cheese version. Empanadas come bite-size, so make sure everyone at the table orders a different filling and share. You can move on to Leon's Cuban takes on burritos and tacos, though we find it hard to resist her pan con lechón (add avocado and a fried egg!) and her ropa vieja. End your meal with something sweet, like a traditional flan de leche or empanadas de guayaba y queso — a playful take on pastelitos. Leon has created a special space informed by past generations and reimagined for modern palates. It's fusion. It's Miami. It's delicious.

Manjay
Photo by FujifilmGirl

When the spice is right, expand. Proprietor Christian Dominique's Manjay began as a stall in fhe Citadel food hall in Miami's up-and-coming Little River neighborhood. As of January 2022, it's also a brick-and-mortar fast-casual eatery in Wynwood, where you can enjoy the same delicious pan-Caribbean fare in open-air seating. Whether you go for the jerk chicken, the Caribbean conch fritters, the "Mofongo My Way," the vegan roti, or a rice bowl with banan payzay and pikliz, you're sure to be treated to bite after bite of zesty flavor. With its roots in Haiti and its influences ranging from Jamaica to Cuba, Manjay is an all-around mouth-pleaser.

Best Mexican Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Grass Fed Hospitality Group

The food community makes a lot of noise about heritage and honoring lost Indigenous pathways. But Los Félix actually does something about it. Dedicated to the Mexican-born Milpa agriculture — a system in which heirloom corn is interplanted with other crops, such as squash and beans, in order to share resources — Los Félix uses those ingredients to construct recipes. That's why the housemade totopos (tortilla chips), made with nixtamalized corn masa, are so damn good (especially when served with guacamole spiked with serranos). Everything on the menu reads as an authentic homage to Mesoamerica; that includes the biodynamic natural wines, cocktail ingredients, and craft beers sourced from small family farms, artisanal producers, and breweries. Salud!

Wayku
Photo by Brinson Renda

Not strictly Peruvian, you say? Stipulated. We appreciate a good classic Peruvian place as much as the next paper does. But there's plenty of room in our ink-stained heart for a renegade of culinary culture like native Italian chef Matteo Gritti, who calls his kitchen "experimental" and "borderless" with "traditional Andean elements." That translates into dishes like ceviche with green gazpacho "de tigre" and pickles; rainbow trout with Andean succotash, creamy cauliflower and cilantro gremolata; and charred prime rib-eye steak with crushed Parmesan potato and dry chimichurri Peruvian asparagus. It's way cool. (Say it fast, you'll get it.)

Okami
Photo courtesy of Okami

We howl with happiness at this stunning, stylish Design District restaurant, whose restaurant name means "great wolf" and whose lounge name means "moon." The artfully designed Japanese-Peruvian dishes are best consumed in the open-air dining room with double-story ceilings or on the hidden outdoor terrace, located next to Prada and across from Chanel. It's like eating fashion while being surrounded by it. Just don't wear your tightest designer jeans, because — fair warning — while the fare seems light, you won't be able to resist finishing everything on your plate and then ordering more.

Boteco
Photo courtesy of Boteco

Where will you watch the World Cup this year? If you're a Brazil fan, or if you're of a mind to sip some really good caipirinhas and graze on feijoada buffet-style while you watch the weekend matches, you'll be at Boteco Miami with us. Of course, fútbol is only part of what makes Boteco such a dandy place to chill. We've been coming here for more than a decade for the beef milanesa topped with fried eggs, the moqueca made with mahi-mahi and shrimp, the linquiça slider, the endless orders of pão de queijo — and samba, among other pleasures.

Forte dei Marmi
Ilona Oppenheim

In a city filled with sumptuous Italian restaurants run by talented Italian chefs and singular Italian restaurateurs, it seems almost unfair to single out just one. That is, it would seem unfair if you haven't dined on Forte dei Marmi's pata negra with green tomatoes bruschettone, followed by its sepia tagliatelle with caviar and agrume gel, then its magnificent Fiorentina-style 48-ounce T-bone to share. The fare ranges from wildly creative to traditional, all of it prepared with out-of-this-world execution. In accordance with the slow-food movement, chef Fabrizio Piga and owner Andrea Reitano rely on craft, simplicity, and high-quality organic ingredients to bind it all together, and in a jewel-box of a garden designed by Oppenheim and Milan-based Henry Timi, they 100 percent succeed.

Mareva 1939
Photo courtesy of Mareva 1939

It's only right that this historic location offers award-winning Spanish fare. After all, the National Hotel is an exemplar of Miami Beach; its food should be as well. And it is, from tapas like the endive and boquerones with toasted breadcrumbs, manchego, and orange sherry vinaigrette to the appetizer of Spanish octopus with potato cream, smoked paprika, and arbequina olive oil to the rice dishes to share. Among those last, we suggest the black paella with seared scallops, shrimp, and aioli. Of course, there's much more on Mareva 1939's extensive dinner menu, and a superior Sunday brunch — with high-quality entertainment and bottomless cocktails to boost it even higher — to explore. But we'll leave that for you to discover for yourself the next time you feel like experiencing an adventure in South Beach.

Le Bouchon du Grove
Photo courtesy of Le Bouchon du Grove

Le Bouchon Du Grove has been a hidden gem in the Cocowalk area since 1994. In an ever-changing city, this establishment has remained dedicated to challenging the misconceptions of French cuisine. Unfussy and devoid of attitude, this quaint bistro, inspired by the city of Lyon, serves food that's hearty, authentic, and deeply flavorful. At once rustic and refined, the menu captures the flavors of France, whether at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Mornings bring takes on French omelets and raspberry pancakes, evenings feature traditional starters like escargot and French onion soup and entrées like the exquisite moules mainières pommes frites. For dessert any time of the day, try crème brûlée or chocolate mousse.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®