Some are transplants from cities like New York and Austin, while others are from longtime Miamians who decided to strike out for new territory.
Still others were birthed out of sheer moxie — the product of chefs staying alive during an unprecedented pandemic — and finding out their concepts were thriving.
From high-end restaurants to barbecue shacks (and everything in between), here are the ten best restaurants to open in Miami in 2021 (so far).
Abbalé Telavivian Kitchen864 Commerce St., Miami Beach
Abbalé, a partnership between chef Samuel "Sam" Gorenstein and Omer Horev, founder of Pura Vida Miami, might just win points (and hearts) for being the most charming restaurant in Miami Beach. The eatery, inside a small house complete with a porch lined with flowing plants and cozy cushions, offers a plethora of bright fare. Start with a few salatim ($6 each) such as babaganoush, smashed avocado, roasted beets, and the "holy grail" of black and white tahini with grated tomato and green harissa (all served with fire baked pita), before moving on to grilled lamb chops ($45), a whole branzino ($36), or baby cauliflower ($21) — all oven baked. Gorenstein got his inspiration from the cafes of Tel Aviv, which the chef says is similar to Miami in style and climate. Perhaps that's why the fare seems so at home on South Beach.
Carbone49 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Yes, you've seen the rigaroni alla vodka on your Instagram feed. Yes, it can take weeks to get a reservation. And, yes — Carbone is a hype beast of a restaurant. But, for all that, it's worth a visit. Before you even order, jacketed waiters plunk down a plethora of complimentary bites: A cube of Parmesan, freshly pickled giardiniera, salumi, and a bread basket filled with crunchy garlic bread. And, if you play your cards right, you don't need to mortgage your condo to eat at Carbone. A couple can easily share the Caesar salad, made tableside ($25) and the spicy rigatoni vodka ($33) and be quite satisfied. Splurge on a few glasses of wine, fill up on that bread basket, and you've got yourself quite a feast. Or, opt for that big night out and go all in with the Prime porterhouse for two ($195) or the lobster fra diavolo. Either way, you'll have a wonderful meal — and your own Instagram memories.
Casa Isola1418 20th St., Miami Beach
When Pubbelly Noodle Bar closed in Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood back in 2019, it left an empty space in the hearts of fans of José Mendín. Luckily, the chef kept the lease, opening a quaint Italian bistro with longtime business partner Sergio Navarro and former Lucali chef Santo Agnello. The result is a charming spot that serves up red sauce classics like linguini with white water clams ($28) and a rigatoni alla vodka ($23) that has a pleasant bite to it. Don't miss chef Agnello’s eight-hour Sunday sauce, a hearty meal that includes a short-rib meatball, pork rib, and Italian sausage ($30).
Como Como915 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
Scott Linquist is best known for co-founding fast casual favorite, Coyo Taco, but the chef is capable of so much more than delicious tacos. At Como Como, Linquist can really let Miami know his talents at this marisquería — or traditional Mexican seafood restaurant — concept. The heart of the restaurant is its copper-and-wrought-iron fuego (fire station), where Linquist and his team cook whole fish, most locally sourced, over the wood-burning grill. Como Como also has a large variety of meat and vegetable dishes, roasted in the restaurant's Josper charcoal oven, served with tortillas that are pressed in-house. Don't forget to check out the "tequila tree" at the bar, where tequila flows from glass and copper "branches" straight to your bartender's mixing glass.
Forte45 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
Adrianne Calvo, best known for her South Florida restaurants Chef Adrianne's and Redfish, opened Forte as a tribute to her Sicilian roots. The restaurant, named after her mother (whose maiden name is "Forte"), offers fresh seafood, house-made pizzas and pastas, and a burrata bar. Highlights include bucatini cacio e pepe ($31) and wood-oven, whole-roasted branzino with cannellini bean ragù ($45). This is Calvo's first foray into Coral Gables, and with Forte, she's earned her place on the "Mile".
La Traila Barbecue8030 NW 154th St., Miami Lakes
La Traila was founded by Austin native Mel Rodriguez and Buffalo Bills wide receiver (and Miami native) Isaiah McKenzie. The friends started hosting barbecues for friends and family this past year and decided to turn their passion into a business. They quickly outgrew their food truck, opening a brick and mortar location in Miami Lakes just a few months ago. There, they offer smoked brisket, pulled pork beef "dino" ribs, and more. The most Insta-worthy dish has to be the brisket sundae ($14). A take on extreme fair food, the dish starts with a mac-and-cheese base that's layered with creamed corn and baked beans, then topped with cotija cheese, smoked brisket, house sauce, and crema. Vegetarians will be sated with La Tralia's "Impossibly Smoked" burger and the "All Natural" (smoked pulled jackfruit tossed in a house sauce and topped with onions and pickles).
Pilo's Tequila Garden158 NW 24th St., Miami
Pilo’s Tequila Garden's founder Derek Gonzalez offers an indoor-outdoor space to enjoy tequilas, margaritas, and tacos in a beautiful Wynwood location filled with colorful murals. But the best part about Pilo's is its mission to empower and employ people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The restaurant partners with organizations such as Gigi’s Playhouse, Best Buddies, and Our Pride Academy as part of its employment strategy. The restaurant, inspired by Gonzalez's Aunt Pilo, is the embodiment of how a restaurant can feed both body and soul.
Uchi252 NW 25th St., Miami
Austin-based, James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole opened Uchi. This Wynwood restaurant is decorated in spa-like neutral tones which serve as a subtle backdrop for the restaurant's colorful sushi dishes. The restaurant offers a selection of rolls, sashimi, agemono (tempura), and yakimono (grilled items), but the big draw are the three different omakase dinners: a ten-course, a six-course, and a six-course for vegetarians (all market price). The omakase dinners are also served tableside and in the expansive tree-lined patio, if diners choose to be seated al fresco.
ZZ's Club151 NE 41st St., Ste. 117, Miami
Major Food Group (MFG) partners Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick, and Rich Torrisi, have opened their second restaurant, ZZ's Club, fresh off the success of their first Miami restaurant, Carbone. ZZs 's offers a concise menu of "the finer things": Think Wagyu finger sandwiches, oysters, and buttery wafers slathered in trout roe. Look around the dining room and you're sure to spot some of Miami's movers and shakers having a bite before heading to the members-only upstairs lounge.
Zitz Sum396 Alhambra Cir., Coral Gables
Best known for his time at No Name Chinese, Zitz Sum chef and co-owner Pablo Zitzmann grew up exploring the many teppanyaki restaurants of Bogotá with his father. That led to a lifelong admiration for Asian cuisine. At Zitz Sum, Zitzmann offers Chinese and Japanese street food with a touch of Miami thrown into the mix. Find dumplings, small plates, and desserts from pastry chef and co-owner Natalia Restrepo at this intimate restaurant.