Miami is filled with fascinating figures who've created vibrant spaces that have shaped the city into the cultural fusion it is today. That means every day in August provides locals and tourists alike an opportunity to appreciate what they're giving us.
There are scores of restaurants deserving of the spotlight this month. Below, listed in alphabetical order, is a diverse selection of ten of them.
Awash19934 NW Second Ave., Miami Gardens
Awash is the type of restaurant that honors both culinary culture and history, from the communal-style meals served as single heaping platters to the traditional ceremonial coffee service. An authentic experience is what husband-and-wife owners, Fouad and Eka Wassel, hope to impart with each meal at this Miami Gardens spot that takes its name from the Awash River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ethiopia. In that sense, their restaurant is able to bring a small taste of the rich cultural history of Africa to Miami — one they left behind in the early '90s to create a new life together in America. Their small slice of "home" conjures Ethiopia physically by way of the open airy dining room filled with low-slung tables called mesobes, each covered with colorful woven cones and matched with squat leather-topped chairs. You'll also find a thatched lean-to where a small charcoal stove is used to pan-roast green beans that are hand-ground and slowly brewed over hot coals right before your eyes. Awash will also transport you by way of the food — especially when you order one of the combination platters, a taste of Ethiopia set out in small heaps on a large metal tray covered in injera, the spongy bread that doubles as an eating utensil. The idea here: Slow down, relax, and be present in the moment, and with those you're sharing it with.
Chick'N Jones1601 Drexel Ave., Miami Beach (in Time Out Market)
While Chick'N Jones chef/founder Amaris Jones could wear the title of chef, influencer, fashionista, community organizer, and restaurateur, one might just as well describe her as an inspiration. Her own inspiration for her wildly popular fast-casual fried chicken restaurant comes from her childhood: specifically, Chicken George, a small Black-owned franchise outside Baltimore where her family often dined in the 1980s. Chick'N Jones pays homage to those memories by building a legacy based on the same premise: offering soul food that speaks to the soul. It all starts with the chicken, marinated in mustard, herbs, and spices for 24 hours, dredged in a flour-and-spice blend and allowed to rest another day before being fried to order in non-GMO, expeller-pressed oil. (That spice blend is proprietary — Jones will only say it's her equivalent to KFC's own secret breading.) The former personal chef and event manager for celebrities like Rick Ross and Chris and Adrienne Bosh offers guests a choice: her traditional fried chicken served with pickled vegetables or a Nashville-inspired hot-honey version that comes with bread and pickles. Get both in sandwich form, by the bucket, or served over a kale salad, and be sure to pair it with Jones' grilled green tomatoes for a soul-food splurge that's not such a splurge after all.
C-Food Shack23 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach (in the Lincoln Eatery)
A Bahamian native, Laron Culmer seemed destined to open his own Caribbean-themed restaurant. He moved to the United States when he was 15, continuing his education to graduate with degrees in both culinary art and business administration. After several years working with various hotels and restaurants — including time as a chef for the Miami Beach Meat Market — Culmer returned to the Bahamas and opened C-Food Shack in Nassau in 2013, serving classic Bahamian cuisine. His dream: to one day open a Miami outpost. When the chef learned of an available space at the Lincoln Eatery, it presented the perfect opportunity. Many of the recipes are based on his grandmother's cooking, prepared with an American twist. Favorites include jalapeño cheddar conch poppers served with a house-made spicy citrus aioli (dubbed Junkanoo sauce) and "Fish in Da Bag," grouper nuggets, fried conch, and three jumbo fried shrimp served in a paper bag with housemade hand-cut fries, guava ketchup, hot sauce, and a coconut-bread roll. You can also find specials like the "Captain Bahamas Surf and Turf Burger," a massive slab of fried conch topped with bacon, mozzarella, cheddar, and Junkanoo sauce on a kaiser bun; or the indulgent "C-Food Signature 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese" topped with your choice of lobster tail, blackened mahi, or jumbo shrimp.
Clive's Cafe5890 NW Second Ave., Miami
For over 40 years, Clive's Cafe has been dishing out some of the best Jamaican food in Miami. But it wasn't always Jamaican fare, and it wasn't always in Little Haiti. Pearline Murray and her late husband, Clifford, opened the restaurant (named for their son Clive) in the late 1980s. Its original Wynwood location would see decades of change, from blocks of worker-filled factories to empty urban streets and then the bustling, gentrified arts and entertainment district we know today. Along the way, Pearline and business partner/sister Gloria Chin began offering Jamaican fare, a menu swap that would make popular dishes of the restaurant's curry goat, Wednesday special stew peas with pig's tail and spinner dumplings, cows foot, oxtail, and jerk chicken. Today, the iconic, cash-only Jamaican lunch spot has become a Miami fixture. Transplanted to Little Haiti in 2013, Clive's continues to welcome guests with the same friendly atmosphere and delicious, affordably priced Jamaican fare.
Drinking Pig BBQ845 NE 151st St., Miami
Growing up in St. Croix, Kyu executive chef Raheem Sealey recalls watching his grandfather pour Heineken over their backyard Caja China pig roast. It's not a method the now-seasoned chef employs today, but the memory lives on in his pandemic-born eatery, Drinking Pig. What began with a smoker and a few tables is now a semipermanent outdoor barbecue restaurant Sealey operates in partnership with his wife, Yohanir Sandoval, and their friend and former Kyu sous chef Mark Wint. The trio tapped into their collective cultural roots for a menu that showcases Wint's Jamaican heritage and Sandoval's Venezuelan background with a unique South Florida flair. There are plans to expand to brick-and-mortar, but for now this weekend pop-up is exactly how Miami barbecue should be: homemade, outdoors, and part of the neighborhood. Down a one-way street in a North Miami-Dade neighborhood, the simple setup attracts diehard barbecue fans who swarm for sumptuous smoked meats. On weekends from noon till they sell out, the three-person pit crew offers brisket, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, and pork ribs, along with sides like mac and cheese, cornbread, and collard greens. Dessert comes compliments of Sandoval — AKA the “queen of cornbread" — whose two-day process creates a cakelike treat.
Jackson Soul Food950 NW Third Ave., Miami
Jackson Soul Food was founded more than 60 years ago by Johnny Mae Johnson, who operated inside St. John's Missionary Baptist Church off NW Second Avenue. His brother, Demas, would later take over the family business alongside his wife, Jesse E. Jackson. They, in turn, passed the restaurant on to their daughters, who now run Jackson Soul Food on a revitalized strip of NW Third Avenue in Overtown. Over the years — and across generations — the restaurant has seen the ebb and flow of Miami’s Black community, serving its made-from-scratch soul food to the likes of Nat King Cole, Trick Daddy, and Dwyane Wade, whose photos line the walls of the dining room. A Jackson Soul Food outpost in Opa-locka offers the same menu, from fried catfish to meatloaf to oxtail to ribs, served with sides like biscuits, corn muffins, fried okra, and candied yams.
Lil Greenhouse Grill1300 NW Third Ave., Miami
Lil Greenhouse stands as one of Overtown's few full-service, family-run establishments. Known for its modern Miami take on soul food, it has attracted the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who highlighted her meal here in 2020 as part of a promotion with Weight Watchers. Nicole Gates and chef/partner Karim Bryant operate their 30-seat restaurant for any guest the same way they did for Oprah: with welcoming arms that make you feel at home. Bryant oversees the menu, bringing to bear his experience gained from stints at Capital Grille, Prime 112, and BLT Prime in Doral. Gates, who has a background in radio, keeps the clientele happy, be they megacelebrities or neighborhood regulars. Start with seafood cakes, made fresh daily with local seafood and served with a house-made aioli. Try the signature "Dream Fire Shrimp," prepared grilled or fried, then smothered in the chef's sweet-and-spicy glaze. Slow-smoked ribs and applewood-smoked barbecue chicken are highlights, especially when served alongside sides like creamy mashed potatoes, baked beans, collard greens, and baked macaroni and cheese. Save room and you can close with a helping of homemade banana pudding and leave with the knowledge you've had a meal fit for the queen of daytime talk TV.
Rosie's439 NW Fourth Ave., Miami
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Rosie's — the restaurant located inside Overtown's historic Copper Door Bed & Breakfast — has been operating as a pop-up shop offering food to hungry locals while hotel rooms stood empty. Today it's a permanent fixture, compliments of owners Akino West and Jamila Ross, who continue to offer a growing assortment of feel-good dishes like buttermilk biscuits and gravy to chicken and waffles and fried fish and grits — all housed on their vintage 1940s property. You don't have to rent a room to get breakfast or lunch at Rosie's (which is named after Ross’ mother). The couple will gladly whip up any of their best dishes during operating hours — Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — from fresh-baked pastries to cheesy grits to stacks of fluffy pancakes and honey-slathered biscuits.
SimplyGood Pizza723 Lincoln Ln N., Miami Beach (in the Lincoln Eatery)
Take a look at Simply Good Pizza's Instagram account and you'll see alternating photos of pies and personalities — a catalog that will make you hungry and inspired in equal measure. Inspiring bios fill their feed, from female Haitian freedom fighter Suzanne Bélair and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai to actors like Martin Lawrence, John Savage, and Rosa Perez. It's all part of the vision from cofounders Max Pierre and Richard Fuentes, who were inspired by Spike Lee's 1989 movie Do the Right Thing to create a hybrid pizza concept that merges hospitality, advocacy, and community. (Fuentes has since left the company.) The new pizza pop-up at the Lincoln Eatery aims to foster a sense of community by sourcing fresh ingredients from local farmers and purveyors while raising advocacy issues and encouraging guests to donate to those in need. The menu includes a diverse array of flavorful pies, offering a traditional approach to pizza, in addition to unique flavors that pay homage to Miami. Highlights include a mushroom-and-truffle pie with Gruyère and a guava-and-cheese with a combination of guava shells and whipped cream cheese, sprinkled with lemon zest and grated pistachio. Proceeds collected from the sales of “The Right Thing” cheese pie benefit local charities and institutions. And if you love all the faces you see on Insta, Pierre and Fuentes have also incorporated a cultural element into their physical concept, erecting a “Wall of Fame” that displays rotating art exhibits of iconic figures.
World Famous House of Mac2055 NW Second Ave., Miami
When celebrities like Rick Ross, Fat Joe, and A$AP Mob love your food so much that people in the music industry encourage you to open your restaurant, you do it. At least, you do if you're World Famous House of Mac founder Derrick Turton, known to many as Chef Teach. After years of working in the music business — most notably as Pitbull’s manager — Turton found a new calling After his father passed in 2013, the Brooklyn native got the urge to build a legacy in his father's honor. The brand has grown from its humble beginnings as a food truck to two brick-and-mortar locations and more than 80,0000 Instagram followers, making it one of Miami's hottest spots to see and be seen. Chef Teach's World Famous House of Mac has received mad props from the likes of Venus and Serena Williams, Trick Daddy, Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell, Dwayne Wade, and Gabrielle Union, and Rihanna. The menu offers Turton's unique take on American- and Caribbean-style comfort classics with a focus on — you guessed it — mac and cheese. You'll find over 15 variations here, from five-cheese truffle to chicken parmigiana to jerk chicken and chicken Cordon Bleu, Philly cheesesteak, and a version topped with two whole lobster tails.