Miami has a complex. Though the city boasts vasts stores of wealth, energy, and creativity, they are rarely reflected on the national stage. Just look at the recent lists that pass over the Magic City's incredible eateries for places like diners and spots serving Puerto Rican country food.
That said, such lack of insight by those who love to visit and post pictures from Miami's beaches and vibrant neighborhoods shouldn't distract from what's really important. The city over the past decade has grown in a way only a few other places can claim. A vibrant farming community is developing, and Miami's chefs are constantly eating together and learning from one another and their businesses' trials and challenges. Finally, almost every restaurateur, chef, and cook composing the most exciting restaurants of 2018
At the end of the year, let's look back at the restaurants that played a role in enhancing the rich flavors of Miami.
Captain Jim's Seafood Market & Restaurant. For years, David Garcia has carried his iconic fishing family's flag at Little Havana's La Camaronera, but his greatest challenge might have been getting this North Miami landmark back on its feet. After a $300,000 overhaul, regulars rushed back to the quaint place that was left mostly unchanged. At Captain Jim's, they found conch salad ($13.99), with meaty hunks of mollusk tossed in a spicy tomato marinade with precisely cubed bits of red and green pepper, alongside conch fritters and eye-
The Surf Club Restaurant. Thomas Keller, of Per Se and French Laundry fame, had been reportedly looking to open a place in Miami for years. It makes good sense for any big-name chef given the number of clients from other cities who often tend to travel south throughout the year. At the Surf Club Restaurant, in a ritzy remake of a 1930s classic hotel, waiters are referred to as "captains," beef Wellington sells for $125, and reservations must be made weeks in advance for prime weekend hours. The kitchen is run by Manuel Echeverri, who most recently helmed José Andrés' Bazaar Mar and trained with Keller for six months. His staff turns out classic mid-20th-century cuisine such as lamb chops for $75, filet mignon for $85, and a New York strip for a whopping $115. On its face, the Surf Club Restaurant seems like a strange regression for Keller, who's known for breaking one barrier after another, but we must assume he knows what he's doing. 9011 Collins Ave., Surfside; 305-381-3333; thesurfclub.com.
Hiden. Here, executive chef Tadashi Shiraishi serves the kind of Japanese cuisine he grew up with and one that is becoming more prevalent across the city. A $150 reservation will get you 15 courses of fish flown overnight from Japan. The disciplined 32-year-old steams rice, sears tuna, and grills beef twice per night six days a week in a quiet, unassuming, and impressively secret space. The two-hour experience sees Shiraishi, in a blue chef's jacket, standing at the center of the bar, ready to perform an intricate culinary dance in which he and his assistant chef prepare, cook, and serve an incredible and precise 128 plates per seating. 313 NW 25th St., Miami; hidenmiami.com.
Sixty10. At this open-air, graffiti-covered Little Haiti spot, the organic chicken is rubbed with a secret Portuguese spice mix, brined overnight, and
Three. Culinary icon Norman Van Aken cooks his signature Florida-fusion cuisine in a sleek and tropical space. The staff is disciplined and the food is topnotch. It's the sort of fine dining that fans of this Mango Gang legend expect. Three is the
Obra Kitchen Table. Before opening in Miami, Carlos Garcia was best known for his restaurant Alto, which holds a spot on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants and remains open in Caracas despite political, economic, and social upheaval. Obra has quickly become a Brickell favorite thanks to its inventive takes on Venezuelan cuisine that includes classic arepas ($13); sticky, crisp rice infused with Parmesan cheese and topped with tender shrimp, scallops, and octopus ($34); grouper confit with a Basque pil-pil sauce ($33); and lamb tartare with avocado-based
Jaguar Sun. At Jaguar Sun, head barman Will Thompson is
Sushi Erika. Miami eaters were shocked to learn in 2017 that Michio Kushi would close his beloved Sushi Deli. Thankfully, his daughter Erika, who was always by his side, has opened her own place right down the road. At Sushi Erika, you can find all of the classics, such as mackerel
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Babe's Meat & Counter. For years, Melanie and Jason Schoendorfer's booth was one of the highlights at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market. There, they offered beautiful handmade bacon and sausage that only got better once folded into their sandwiches. This year, they took their humble operation to a brick-and-mortar facility. In it, find a panoply of sandwiches alongside whole butchered pigs, bacon-infused burgers, and a constantly rotating lineup of meats, particularly Wagyu beef, that will have you swearing off the shrink-wrapped stuff from Publix in no time. 9216 SW 156th St., Palmetto Bay; 786-429-1315; babefroman.com.
Amara at Paraiso. For years, the James Beard Award-winning Miami chef Michael Schwartz eschewed putting Latin dishes on his menus. But with Amara, Schwartz has penned what he's called a "love letter to Miami." The menu includes Latin American-influenced dishes cooked using a wood grill and a Josper charcoal oven. Standouts are