Miami will be the most exciting city in the nation when Art Basel and Miami Art Week return this week. With an action-packed lineup of contemporary art fetes, fashionable soirées, and restaurant dinners, the challenge comes in deciding what to do.
Thanks to restaurants that have incorporated different forms of art into their eateries, visitors to Art Basel get a taste of Miami's skyrocketing food scene while embracing everything from lavish sculptures and hanging fixtures to graffitied walls and abstract paintings all in one venue.
Although the options for places that unite gastronomy and art are eclectic to say the least, the bottom line remains the same: Offer a truly memorable multisensory dining experience for locals and visitors alike.
Here's to stimulating your taste buds and visual cortex during the world-famous art fair this December 1 through 4.
1. Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
Smaller is better at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. Mix and match small plates from the tapas-style menu created by chef Miguel Aguilar and quench your thirst with a glass or more of handcrafted beer, fine wine, liquor, and signature cocktails as you take in the visual feast that adorns every inch of the restaurant. With vibrant graphics by graffiti artist Shepard Fairey; larger-than-life paintings by Christian Awe, Santiago Rubino, Kenny Scharf, and Os Gêmeos; and a courtyard that is the beating heart of Wynwood Walls, this neighborhood hot spot wins in the food-and-art category.
2. R House
Chef/owner Rocco Carulli’s creative menu inspired by global flavors is a perfect complement to R House’s art-covered surroundings, highlighting works by international and local artists throughout the dining room and courtyard. Part restaurant, part art gallery, and part music lounge, Wynwood’s always-buzzing establishment offers a mélange of musical acts as you enjoy refreshing spoonfuls of yellowtail snapper ceviche ($14), hearty bites of braised lamb shank with a mushroom-coriander-cinnamon rub and port wine reduction ($32), and a glass of one of R House’s superb craft cocktails.
3. Crazy About You
For those who want to eat well on a budget, try entrées such as the I’m Crazy About You margherita pizza and Argentine churrasco that range in price from $19.99 to $32.99 and include an appetizer of your choice. Those who want to see art will enjoy the huge black-and-white murals of luxurious Italian rooms, vibrant paintings of cultural icons, hundreds of framed photographs, and wooden accents that create a warm yet stylish and romantic ambiance. Breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay are a bonus.
4. MC Kitchen
Chef and co-owner Dena Marino’s restaurant brings modern Italian cuisine to Miami’s Design District through seasonal dishes using local, quality ingredients. There are inventive takes on salads and pastas for vegetarians, but the seafood and meat dishes — such as stone-oven-roasted octopus ($18) and Garganelli Bolognese ($24), made with pork, ground veal, and venison — are the stars at MC Kitchen. The setting is warm thanks to Brazilian wood walls, friendly service, and a beautiful installation of butterflies trailing an airplane.
5. Joey’s Italian Café
Joey’s is the place to be. Just ask Beyoncé and Jay Z, who dined here in 2013. But this neighborhood mainstay’s claim to fame will always be its classic Italian cuisine, namely its pasta dishes and thin-crust pizzas. Try the linguine indiavolate ($20), made with black tiger shrimp and house-made spicy tomato sauce, and the dolce e piccante ($15.50), a pie topped with figs, Gorgonzola cheese, honey, and hot peppers. If the complex Venice-inspired flavors don’t give you a taste of southern Europe, the Italian Bisazza mosaic mural certainly will.
6. Vagabond Kitchen & Bar
If you’re from Miami, chances are you’ve passed the iconic Vagabond Hotel in the MiMo District. The property's restaurant, Vagabond Kitchen & Bar, features splashes of color, lots of artwork, and a revamped, more accessible menu that are sure to impress your eyes, wallet, and palate. Simplicity shines in dishes such as deviled eggs ($6), ravioli ($22), and whole organic rotisserie chicken ($39). Complication comes in deciding which glass of vino or specialty beverage goes best with each dish.
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7. Café des Arts Miami
When you want a good time, delectable Mediterranean fare, and funky pop art, Café des Arts ( 22 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) is what you’re looking for. Although sitting outside on the lush patio might be tempting, sate your appetite inside, where the service is impeccable and the art-centric decor matches the fun setting. Truffle pizza ($15), lobster spaghetti ($32), and crispy duck teriyaki ($32) fill the menu, while the upbeat music playing overhead fills the soul.
8. Pao by Paul Qui
Located inside the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, Pao by Paul Qui is a sanctuary for gourmands and art mavens who enjoy the finer things in life. Dine inside the ostentatious oval room and enjoy the company of a gold-leafed Damien Hirst unicorn sculpture priced at $6 million. The lavish centerpiece matches the costly dishes that range in influence and flavor, including those from the Philippines, Japan, Spain, and France. Impress your date by ordering dishes to share, such as the flavorful whole fish ($65) and Filipino-style pork adobo ($90).
If you want to be enchanted by views, simply look around you at Verde inside Pérez Art Museum Miami. From resident art exhibitions and all-new installations that you encounter before you enter the eatery to cylindrical hanging gardens and sweeping views of Biscayne Bay on the outside deck, this restaurant is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. The lunch menu is short, consisting of pizzas, salads, sandwiches, raw plates, and entrées, and the brunch menu adds sweet and savory breakfast items such as smoked salmon ($15) and steak and eggs ($24) to the vibrant mix.
A five-course tasting menu, grouper cheeks, noodles, Wagyu beef, and lots of wine — chef Brad Kilgore knows exactly how to switch up the concept of fine dining with the food and atmosphere you crave. Unwind at his laid-back hipster joint with roughly painted white walls and hanging neon-lit fixtures for a comfortable dining experience featuring an exquisite chef-driven menu that highlights Chef Brad’s creative culinary skills. They're seen in the flawless execution of many dishes, including the soft egg ($15), in which a layer of pillowy scallop mousse covers a runny soft-cooked egg over truffle pearls and crisp shards of Gruyère cheese. If that’s just the first course, imagine what dessert looks like.