Best Restaurant for a First Date 2023 | The Drexel | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo by Katie June Burton

Set a bit away from the glare of neon clubland on historic Española Way, the Drexel is the ideal place for people to feel comfortable in their surroundings. The Mediterranean setting is romantic but not too secluded, especially for people who have never met in person. The coastal-inspired fare is simple and delicious without being too challenging, ranging from homemade pasta and pizza to whole grilled prawns and organic chicken, all easy to share if the evening's going well. And it's close to a valet, plus other restaurants filled with people, just in case you need to dip. It is a first date, after all.

Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying


Photo by Jeff Salter

Everything at Naoe is done with care, from the soy sauce that's made at the chef/owner Kevin Cory's family's shoyu brewery in Japan to the sake, which is imported from the town of Kanazawa. Cory and manager Wendy Maharlika host ten weekly seatings in the intimate Brickell dining room, where guests are encouraged to dress casually to enjoy the meal. Service starts with a bento box of treasures before the sushi, barbecue, and even a special ice cream is brought out over the next two hours. This is a place to appreciate the zen and the art of sushi, which has led to Naoe's Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Award and AAA Five-Diamond Designation. But it isn't cheap: Dinner costs $280 per person (before beverages, tax, and gratuity), making it the logical first suggestion when someone else is picking up the check.

Ariete Hospitality

There are many places to get an incredible meal in Miami if you're ready to plunk down a credit card and maybe skip a car payment. But what if someone told you that you could eat the food of one of Miami's best chefs without breaking the bank? Chef Michael Beltran is best known for his Michelin-starred Coconut Grove restaurant, Ariete. But just a few blocks away, you'll find his more casual restaurant, Chug's Diner, which received a Bib Gourmand in the 2023 Michelin Guide. Beltran, whose nickname growing up was Chug, pays homage to his Cuban-American roots. You won't find fancy items, but you will enjoy chef-driven versions of filling classics like a burger, turkey club, short ribs, and a wedge salad. If you can't decide, you can't go wrong with Abuela's plate, a heaping platter of lechón, pollo a la plancha, and masita that will instantly transport you to your own abuela's house where she insisted on making you a heaping plate of with "a little of everything." Sugar fiends flock to the sweet pastelito by Pastelito Papi and "Banana Carajillo," a dessert drink made with rum, bananas, cacao, and café cubano.

Photo courtesy of Kush Hospitality Group

The FDA recently amended its food code to "allow for pet dogs in outdoor dining areas, where approved." And while most Miami restaurants allow well-behaved dogs to enjoy al fresco dining, only a few go above and beyond to welcome four-legged customers. Coconut Grove's Lokal is an outstanding choice for hounds. The experience starts with a water bowl offering refreshments. Once seated, pups are greeted with an amuse-bouche of dog cookies, baked fresh daily, and then owners can order dishes for Fido from a dedicated doggy menu that includes the "Chichi Get the Meatloaf," a mini meatloaf made with egg and tomato puree, and "Yeyo's" chicken and rice. Pups can also get a refreshing "Bowser" beer, a non-alcoholic craft beer brewed in Tampa specifically for the canine connoisseur. If you bring your dog to Lokal, you never drink and dine alone.

Photo courtesy of Zuma

The modern Japanese restaurant Zuma has 22 locations across the globe, some as far away as Istanbul and Phuket. But it's here at the Kimpton Epic Hotel in Miami where the flagship Zuma opened in 2010. The appeal is easy to grasp on first bite, with signature dishes that include a spicy beef tenderloin with sesame, red chili, and sweet choy ($54) and black cod marinated in saikyo miso wrapped in a hoba leaf ($48). Over the past 13 years, a handful of Japanese eateries have opened up in Miami, but Zuma chef Rainer Becker continues to offer a modern take on izakaya dining to hotel guests and regulars near and far.

Giselle photo

Miami is one of the nation's sexiest cities, and E11even is among Miami's sexiest club. So it makes sense that the venue would launch a rooftop restaurant that embodies that same sultry vibe. Giselle is more than a swanky rooftop restaurant and lounge. It's everything a clubstaurant should be: an extravagant space with high energy and a menu to match. Like any good supper club, Giselle has all the elements for a night out on the town, from a fully retractable roof and a 14-seat marble-adorned bar and curated lounge spaces to a lineup of top DJs and a menu of elevated food and drink. To remind you that this is a bona fide restaurant, the menu provides a number of seductively titled sections, from "First Glance" (appetizers) to "Finer Things" (e.g., steak, seafood, Champagne, tequila pairings) to "Seaduction, Indulgence, and Desire" (say, a flaming Australian Wagyu tomahawk that serves two to four). The signature cocktail, "Head Over Heels," combines sparkling rosé, raspberry, and lemongrass and is served in a stiletto-shaped glass for Insta-worthiness.

Photo by Fujifilmgirl

"Fresh from Scotland," a Brasserie Laurel server confirms as he holds a platter of whole roasted guinea fowl with chanterelles and crème de champignons tableside before it's whisked away to be carved. This is, of course, after you've consumed the stupendous seared foie gras dressed with a whole berry gastrique or the oxtail-stuffed squid. Even the simplest dishes, such as a bibb salad with vinaigrette or pommes Béarnaise (French fries that you can dip into the tart, rich sauce), are magnificently done and full of delightful surprises. One of the restaurants in the Ariete Hospitality Group constellation, Brasserie Laurel will no doubt be bringing chef Michael Beltran — and Miami — another Michelin star one of these days. Get a reservation before that happens and you still can.

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Ever since Jeremy Ford enchanted us with his culinary prowess as executive chef at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Matador Room, the young chef became "the one to watch" in the Miami dining scene. The city was energized when he won Top Chef season 13 and brought the title home to Miami. When Ford opened Stubborn Seed in 2017, it offered an unapologetically ambitious tasting menu when Miami's fine dining reputation was still nascent. But diners didn't blink at the foams, truffle, or Wagyu, and appreciated Ford's passion and precision with dishes that used local ingredients to tell a story. The risk paid off when Stubborn Seed earned a Michelin star last year for its food and drink. If you want to dip your toes in the culinary waters, the bar at Stubborn Seed offers an a la carte menu that ranges from a platter of snacks with warm olives, smoked duck, a heavenly chicken liver pate with Zak the Baker sourdough bread to truffle chicken and Waygu steak.

Photo by Sofia Barroso/FIID Agency

Within the chaos of Brickell's traffic and drawbridge, Kaori offers a serene escape embellished with clean wood accents reminiscent of a modern art museum except with thought-provoking dishes in lieu of abstract paintings. The Asian-inspired menu is visually complex and ingredient-driven, including the wagyu and foie gras gyoza with doubanjiang sauce, goma sauce, and leeks, the beef tenderloin paired with Japanese sweet potato, and the bluefin tuna sashimi, which is served with crisp sunchoke, coconut-lime sauce, spiced coconut gel, and Thai basil oil. Come for the restaurant's happy hour, which runs Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m., for elevated cocktails and $1 oysters served with a shiso mignonette.

Photo by Joshua Perez

Pastis, with its Parisian food and ambiance, has been one of New York City's most beloved restaurants for years — and restaurateurs Keith McNally and Stephen Starr have brought the French bistro to Wynwood by way of the Big Apple. Step inside and be welcomed by its warm, golden lighting, patina mirrors, and white-tiled walls. The menu offers classic French dishes, including French onion soup, croque madames, and steak frites. Whether you order a burger and a beer at the bar or celebrate a birthday with friends, Pastis, both comfortable and stylish, is the little black dress of restaurants that goes with everything.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®