Miami Spice 2015: Best Downtown Restaurants

Despite Miami’s appalling dearth of public transportation, those living or spending time downtown have it made. The Metromover is a free, reliable way to get around (with or without the one-shoed, babbling bum). Uber is dirt cheap, and on a cool night, you can walk.

It gets better. Some of Miami Spice’s best deals are to be had in the urban core. There are plenty with Spice options, but some serve their $39 menu only on busy nights. Many change things up. But we offer you our take on the best and most consistent. These places are helmed by chefs who know what they’re doing, and you’ll be in good hands.

5. Fooq’s
Homestyle comfort awaits at this downtown spot that shares a block with Space and the Corner and occupies the space once held by Micah Edelstein’s Nemesis Urban Bistro. Owner David Foulquier and chef Nicole Votano tap the best of their French-Persian (Foulquier) and Italian (Votano) backgrounds to create refined versions of familiar meals that pop with flavor. The game plan here for dinner (served Friday and Saturday) is to start with Votano’s light-as-air meatballs, followed by fresh pappardelle with fava beans and peas. Wrap it up with their signature Persian sundae, which folds together rosewater and saffron gelato with crushed pistachios, dates, and pomegranate molasses.

4. Edge Steak & Bar
According to Aussie chef Aaron Brooks’ Instagram feed, August is charcuterie month. (It’s also National Brownies at Lunch Month, National Catfish Month, and National Panini Month, but we digress). On his Spice menu (offered Friday and Saturday for lunch and Friday through Sunday night), don't miss house-made country terrine and favored cuts of beef such as rib eye doused with a thyme peppercorn jus. It’s closest sibling on the regular menu — an untrimmed boneless rib eye — goes for $36, so there’s no shortage of value here. As Miami’s token Australian, he has to serve lamb, but don’t ignore the pappardelle with fire-roasted tomatoes, caramelized onion, arugula-kale pesto, and stracciatella.

3. Mignonette 
It can be an embarrassing thing to admit, so we’ll say it for you: The best part of a fat slab of prime rib is the triangle of slick, jiggly fat wedged between the eye and the cap. It’s a tauter kind of bone marrow that offers all of the offal’s richness. It’s best enjoyed in thin slices on forkfuls with the leaner bites to add some much-needed richness. Mignonette’s $39 Spice menu (offered for dinner Friday through Sunday) is best with chili-and-garlic-flecked oysters for an appetizer and bread pudding for dessert. It’s just $2 more expensive than the lone prime rib on the everyday menu. Dig in.

2. The River Seafood & Oyster Bar
David Bracha’s River Seafood & Oyster Bar isn’t messing around. The Spice menu (offered Friday through Sunday) plies everything from sea urchin polenta topped with a 60-degree egg to a spiny lobster flatbread. Sea scallops with celery root purée, lemon butter, and paddlefish roe is the obvious entrée choice, but it’s the desserts that are the most enticing of this year’s Spice menus. There’s peanut butter mousse with a sea salt and peanut butter brittle or a "slice of summer sundae" with buttermilk ice cream, bourbon peaches, sugar cookie, pecans, and butterscotch. Just be wary: You’re in a construction zone.

1. DB Bistro Moderne
French culinary luminary Daniel Boulud’s downtown haunt’s dinner menu (offered Friday and Saturday) starts with your choice of short-rib ravioli with English peas and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, or liverwurst. Don’t turn your nose up at the latter. This isn’t the mass-produced stuff your grandfather might have slapped onto whole-wheat bread with spicy brown mustard. This is far more refined and dressed up with peaches, almonds, and celery. Keep it moving with mussels with red curry, sausage, and coconut milk, or the timeless coq au vin amped up with bacon and the German noodle/dumplings spätzle. The good thing is Bayfront Park is nearby, so you can walk it all off.

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson