Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Photo courtesy of Genuine Hospitality Group

Fifteen years ago, when Michael Schwartz opened a bistro in the Design District, the neighborhood was still a leap of faith for the chef. There were no Dior and Gucci stores, no public art on the streets, no pop-up installations. Schwartz earned a reputation for creating dishes with well-sourced ingredients. He termed his food "genuine" for the way he treated it: without any tricks — only respect. That philosophy earned the chef a James Beard Award for Best Chef: South in 2010. Now, more than a decade later, Michael's has a fresh, new look to match its uber-chic neighbors. And while the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant has turned decidedly exclusive, Michael's continues to welcome everyone. So, whether you're dripping in a diamond Rolex or sporting a Fitbit, stop in for a genuinely superb meal.

Yaron Yemini opened Naomi's Place in honor of his mother, but the Israeli restaurant has become a community place of belonging and love. Three decades ago when Yemini and his wife, Shula, opened Naomi's Garden on a shoestring, the restaurant was little more than a shack with a tiny kitchen, but the Yeminis set about making it their own. They started out serving Israeli food, but the menu turned to Haitian and Creole cuisine when the local ladies they hired commenced cooking the food they grew up with. Today Naomi's Garden serves some of the best Haitian food in Miami in an idyllic garden setting. The format is simple: You choose a meat or main vegetable dish (oxtail, fried chicken, fried snapper, goat stew, and spinach stew are some of the options), then add sides (rice and peas, fried plantains, steamed vegetables, and macaroni, to name but a few). Finally, you can up the heat level with house-made pickles or condiments. Then, choose a seat in the lush garden and enjoy. It's one of Miami's best bargains, set in one of the most charming settings.

Kosushi Miami
Photo by Fillippo Bamberghi

Sure, we know. Miami is home to a zillion sushi restaurants. What makes this Brazilian-based one any better than the rest? And better than all of the other restaurants in Miami Beach? It's not merely executive chef Edwin Delgado's Asian fusion dishes and the craft of his sushi chefs — although there is that. It's not merely the intriguing cocktail list constructed by Brazilian mixologist Márcio Silva. (Though there's that, too.) It's not merely the stunning interior design, a spiraling wood effect created by Brazilian architect Arthur Casas, although there is that, too. It's not even the impressive Michelin star awarded to its original location in São Paulo, Brazil. It's all of those things together that make this place, whose name translates to "number one," our choice.

Motek Cafe
Photo by Cristian Gonzalez

When most of us think of malls, we think of grabbing an Auntie Anne's to stave off hunger pangs before shoe shopping. But Aventura Mall is home to a plethora of delicious, locally based restaurants. One of the most delightful of those is Motek Café, where you can enjoy brunch all day. The menu is so tempting that it's hard to choose — creamy hummus, kebabs, an Israeli salad, avocado toast — but the "don't miss" is Motek's shakshuka, a tangy dish of baked eggs, tomatoes, and peppers served in its skillet with an oversize Jerusalem bagel. Fuel up on hibiscus tea or a mimosa and you'll leave all fueled up for your shopping. (Note: Motek operates a location in downtown Miami and a third is on the way in Miami Beach.)

Sasa Café Italiano
Photo by Laine Doss

Sasa Café Italiano is less a restaurant and more an invitation to a home-cooked dinner. Salvatore "Sasá" Savarese and his wife Loiris opened the café, which occupies a little house just off downtown Hollywood's main dining and shopping strip, in 2016. This little gem serves a modest menu of Italian dishes based on Sasa's own recipes from his birthplace of Meta di Sorrento on the Gulf of Naples. All the pasta dishes are molto bene: a rich fettuccine with a meaty ragú, gnocchi with butter and sage, and lobster ravioli with pomodoro. For dessert, order an espresso and a slice of "Sasa" cake (chocolate cake with orange and amaretto) while you soak in the rustic old-country surroundings, including tin toys, Sasa's own artwork, and oldies spinning on the restaurant's jukebox.

Dune by Laurent Tourondel
Photo courtesy of Dune by Laurent Tourondel

When eyeing spots for a new location, Laurent Tourondel — best known for BLT Steak and BLT Fish in NYC — was intent on dishing out a feast for the eyes. So when Dune became available, elevated atop actual dunes just steps from the Atlantic, boasting one of South Florida's best panoramic waterfront views, it felt as though fate had found him. Today, Tourondel's signature international influences at Dune are reminiscent of his LT Steak & Seafood and the Alley (both at the Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach), where Asian and Mediterranean-inspired seafood dishes pair well with Italian favorites. Take the grilled Spanish octopus, impeccably seared and curled atop a bed of chickpea and chorizo. Or the flatbread sauced with a key lime ponzu alongside slivers of ahi tuna, avocado, and purple shiso. And a seafood ravioli, mascarpone-filled pockets rife with tender shrimp and scallop. If the views fade with the nighttime horizon, soak up the sun over the newly launched brunch. Dishes take a tropical — if hedonistic — turn from the caviar and blue crab served over an open-face croissant with a spicy citrus mousse to the rich and decadent buttermilk-coconut pancakes topped with flambéed banana and a creamy pina colada sauce.

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!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®