Each year, one reason compels Miamians to stay home for the summer: They can dine at the best local restaurants for less than 40 bucks a pop.
Miami Spice is popular despite the heat, humidity, and flash floods because it offers three-course lunches for $23 and dinners for $39, plus tax and tip.
So far, 236 restaurants are set to participate in this year's program, which runs August 1 through September 30. New this year is weekend brunch at dozens of establishments.
With more than 200 options, it's difficult to make a choice. This year, New Times has broken down the ten most interesting, best-valued Miami Spice menus by neighborhood. Eateries that offer a wide range of options — including vegetarian choices — made the cut. Restaurants that were generous with bonus items or plan to rotate dishes weekly were given special consideration. Also given preference were those that serve their Spice specials on evenings and weekends. Menus are subject to change, and reservations are strongly recommended.
1. The Bazaar by José Andrés (South Beach). José Andrés' chic South Beach restaurant offers every one of the chef's most famous dishes during Miami Spice, so it's best to get a group together for a massive tasting. Appetizers (dubbed "snacks") include foie gras PB&J, a Japanese eel taco, a "Cubano" in honor of Calle Ocho's Cafe Versailles, and a take on bagels and lox with salmon roe. Diners can then select three dishes for their main from a plethora of choices, such as Cuban coffee-rubbed churrasco, yuca churros, patatas bravas, sautéed shrimp, and pollo al ajillo. Get secreto Ibérico de Bellota for an additional $30 or black rossejat — paella-style pasta with squid ink and shrimp — for $18 extra. For dessert, it's key lime pie José's way. Is there any other? 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-455-2999; sbe.com. Miami Spice is offered for dinner Sunday through Thursday.
2. Ariete (Coconut Grove). Named New Times’ Best Restaurant in Coconut Grove 2017, Ariete is led by chef Michael Beltran, who mixes Cuban roots with new American cuisine to make soulful dishes. The Spice menu reads like a love letter to Miami. The chef serves up appetizers such as wood-grilled octopus with abuela’s black beans; burrata with mamey; yuca in vinaigrette; and avocado and cassava with Beltran’s bacon. Entrées include oxtail bourguignon with bone-marrow potatoes and grilled mushrooms or a local catch with guiso de garbanzo and sour orange beurre blanc. Beltran even offers arroz con pollo or fritas for a main course. Pastry chef Dallas Wynn takes the reins for dessert, offering tres leches, coconut cake, and dulce de coco with pickled cherries. If you have a hearty appetite, a midcourse of foie gras with temptation caramel, plantains, and cocoa nibs is available for $19 extra. Wash everything down with a selection of beers, wine, and cocktails, each $10 or under. 3540 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove; 305-640-5862; arietemiami.com. Miami Spice is offered for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
3. Palme d'Or at the Biltmore (Coral Gables). If Palme d'Or is the kind of place you reserve for a yearly birthday celebration, you're likely among the majority of Miamians who typically can't afford the restaurant's $115 six-course dinner or $155 chef's tasting menu on a weekly basis. However, with Miami Spice, you can indulge in the gorgeous atmosphere and food from James Beard-nominated chef Gregory Pugin for the next two months. The three-course Spice menu begins with a choice of hamachi tartare, caramelized quail salad, endive salad with scallops, or grilled Spanish octopus with fresh garbanzo salad. Entrées include Alaskan black cod, black tiger shrimp, and duck breast with duck leg pastilla. If you're hankering for beef, prime beef tenderloin with potato soufflé, bordelaise porcini, and lobster béarnaise is available for $25 more. End your evening with a pavlova, la foret noire, or a passionfruit and banana éclair. Selections from the international cheese cart cost an additional $7. 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-1926; biltmorehotel.com. Miami Spice is offered for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
4. La Mar by Gaston Acurio (Brickell). Peruvian master chef Gaston Acurio's Miami eatery at the Mandarin Oriental is helmed by executive chef Diego Oka, who mixes Japanese and Peruvian flavors in his Spice menu. For lunch, start with tiradito bachiche (flounder), scallops in a 22-month-aged Parmesan cheese with leche de tigre, or a traditional potato causa with shredded chicken before moving on to cachetes de ternera: veal cheeks with ají panca and chicha morada sauce. The Spice menu for dinner includes the tiradito bachiche or paiche charapa, Amazon anticuchera, and banana tacacho wrapped in banana leaves. You won't grow bored by multiple visits, because the special menu will change. 500 Brickell Key Dr., Miami; 305-913-8358; mandarinoriental.com. Miami Spice is offered for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner Monday through Thursday.
5. Hakkasan (Miami Beach). Hakkasan continues to offer top value. The Miami Spice menu doesn't give you a choice of dishes; it gives you all of them served family style. For lunch, you'll receive a dim-sum basket followed by barbecued chicken wings with lemongrass, old Beijing noodles, and sautéed baby pak choi with garlic. For dinner, the table will share a green salad followed by steamed flounder with black bean sauce, stir-fried beef, stir-fried baby pak choi, and chicken fried rice. For dessert, everyone can go their separate ways by ordering either mango custard or chocolate mousse. The restaurant scores extra points for offering a vegetarian menu too. 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-276-1388; fontainebleau.com. Miami Spice is offered for lunch Saturday and Sunday and dinner daily.
6. Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market (Doral). When this Gainesville favorite opened in Doral, the Japanese seafood spot and izakaya was an instant hit with Gators in Miami-Dade. The restaurant's Spice menu for dinner will satisfy seafood lovers with a whole branzino entrée. Other options include a chef's choice of sushi or roast beef donburi. The lunch options focus on one fish: robata grilled salmon, a salmon poke bowl, or ginger salad with salmon. Sunday brunch, a new Spice feature, offers okonomiyaki (veggie, seafood, or salmon) or Zak the Baker French toast. Dessert highlights include green tea or red bean ice cream or a black sesame-seed pavlova with chantilly pastry cream and grapes. 5241 NW 87th Ave., Doral; 305-222-7447; dragonflyrestaurants.com. Miami Spice is offered for lunch Sunday through Friday, dinner daily, and brunch Sunday.
7. Bourbon Steak (North Miami/Aventura/BalHarbour). Michael Mina's steakhouse at Turnberry Isle Resort doesn't offer multiple options — just staples the chef is known for — including a steak without any up-charges. The restaurant also serves its Spice dinner seven days a week, which means you can actually have a proper weekend date night. For starters, choose from charred octopus ceviche with ají panca, sweet potato, and crispy hominy; beef carpaccio with Parmesan, summer truffle, micro-arugula, and lemon; or summer corn chowder with rock shrimp, Ibérico ham, fingerling potatoes, and dill. Entrées include an organic chicken breast with chicken confit, creamy polenta, and tomato ragu; blackened local fish with cilantro chimichurri, coriander rice, and tomatillo salsa; and a five-ounce Angus New York strip with vadouvan carrot purée, potato confit, and cumin yogurt. For dessert, find the very Miami-esque pastelito y café and a spiced chocolate cremeux, but opt for the trio of mini sorbet pops that includes a Hemingway daiquiri flavor. 19999 W. Country Club Dr., Aventura; 786-279-6600; michaelmina.net. Miami Spice is offered for dinner daily.
8. Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (Midtown/Design District/Wynwood). Chef de cuisine Tim Piazza keeps things simple and fresh with a menu that's promised to rotate weekly. The initial menu highlights are short-rib croquetas and a roast pork sandwich for lunch. Wood oven-roasted lamb sausage and a simple grilled snapper are dinner standouts. For $17 extra, a raw bar platter brings an assortment of oysters, crudo, and ceviche for the table. Pastry chef MJ Garcia sweetens the pot with mango kulfi or chocolate budino for dessert. 130 NE 40th St., Miami; 305-573-5550; michaelsgenuine.com. Miami Spice is offered for lunch and dinner Sunday through Thursday.
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9. Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar (Kendall/South Miami). Chef Miguel Gomez, who worked under venerable Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio, helms the kitchen at this Kendall gem. Named Best Peruvian Restaurant in 2017 by New Times, Pisco offers its Spice menu daily for lunch and dinner. From the many lunch options, choose to start with ceviche cremoso, made with fish and shrimp in a creamy leche de tigre that smooths out the tang from the habanero. Move on to your choice of five main options, including causa de pollo and a lomo saltado sandwich — stir-fried tenderloin with tomatoes and shoestring potatoes on a ciabatta roll. For dinner, start with tostones topped with pulled pork, avocado, and salsa criolla while you ponder whether to order the grilled lamb chops over polenta or the arroz con mariscos — a medley of squid and shrimp over fisherman rice with huancaína sauce and salsa criolla. Finish with a light and tropical sorbet trio of passionfruit, chicha morada, and pisco lime or a suspiro of dulce de leche custard with meringue and passionfruit glaze. 8405 Mills Dr., Miami; 305-630-3844; piscoynazca.com. Miami Spice is offered for lunch and dinner daily.
10. Fooq's Miami (Downtown Miami). New executive chef Saul Ramos offers a menu that specializes in fragrant Persian cuisine. Dinner offerings include a Persian salad or Fooq's meatballs to start before a soulful khoresh as an entrée. This traditional Persian stew is offered with fresh herbs and sour cherries over the region's jeweled rice (ghormeh sabzi) or as a vegetarian stew served with crisp basmati rice. For dessert, there's date cake or gelato of the day. Fooq's also offers Sunday brunch with options that start with Persian salad or hummus and challah and then moves on to a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich or bucatini carbonara. For dessert, choose either baked French toast or date cake. 1035 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 786-536-2749; fooqsmiami.com. Miami Spice is offered for dinner Tuesday through Sunday and brunch Sunday. All members of each party must opt to order from the Spice menu.