Welcome to another Miami July. Local weather forecasters are chatting about some tropical activity brewing in the Caribbean, electronics stores are touting their layaway specials for Christmas, and we're just trying to take a walk without getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.
What to do? We suggest catching up on all the new restaurants introduced in the past few months. In the early part of the year, eateries were opening fast and furious, sometimes as many as a dozen spots in a month. Now that we're in the throes of summer, the rate of new restaurants has slowed somewhat, allowing us to catch up on the places that might have eluded us. Now is a great time to explore.
Tucked away in Coral Gables lies Uvaggio. This wine bar, opened in April by owner Craig DeWald, sommelier Heath Porter, and former Top Chef contestant Bret Pelaggi, features what the restaurant calls "backward wine tasting." Order from the small yet satisfying menu that consists of items like salt cod croquetas ($5) and octopus "naranja agria" ($16), and allow your server or Porter to select the proper pairings for your meal. The intimate restaurant caters to both serious oenophiles as well as the casual wine lover, and for that it was named New Times' 2014 Best Wine Bar.
See also: Best Wine Bar: Uvaggio
Let's face it. Everyone is a sucker for nostalgia, and Uncle Tom's Barbecue holds a special place in the hearts and stomachs of most Miami natives. Unfortunately, being around for 60 years doesn't guarantee a great meal, and Uncle Tom's changed hands and menus one too many times. Tom lost his luster and last year was forced to close due to fire damage. Instead of abandoning the restaurant, which fed nearly every celebrity who passed through Miami in the '50s and '60s, Ariel Rodriguez and Orlando Morales purchased the place and original recipes with a vow to reclaim the barbecue joint as the best in South Florida. Uncle Tom's reopened in June with a menu full of authentic pit barbecue items like brisket ($10.95), baby-back ribs ($19.95), and chicken ($9.95). Great barbecue at a good price. How retro.
8. Basil Park
You would think that a city that worships the body as much as Miami does would have more restaurants that serve delicious health-conscious cuisine. Until recently, your options were expensive juices or maybe some afterthought of a chicken breast or piece of fish over a salad. But after Basil Park's chef/partner Tim Andriola signed up with a life coach, he decided to offer well-made healthful foods at his new restaurant. Sure, there are kale chips ($7) on the menu. But there's also a juicy all-natural rotisserie chicken ($10/30); steamed local snapper with wild mushrooms, lemongrass, and coriander salad ($26); and a 12-ounce grass-fed rib eye ($36). The restaurant's motto is "live to eat." With a menu like that, we've got something to live for.
A multilevel stunner on Collins Avenue, 1826 could fill seats just by its reputation as one of the newest, most stunning spots in Miami Beach. But Danny Grant is also an insanely talented chef, earning two Michelin stars and winning Food & Wine best new chef honors in 2012 for Chicago's RIA. The Windy City's loss is Miami's gain, because Grant brings his A-game with food that's precise, gorgeous, and delicious. His 1826 is probably not the place you'd go on a Thursday when you're too tired to cook, but it makes a beautiful date night or celebratory spot.
Executive chef/owner Michael Shikany has been working on his self-titled magnum opus for quite some time. With its menu of mousses, injections, and compressed dishes, the chef took a risk -- would Miami be ready for bacon powders and multicourse degustation menus? Turns out the gamble paid off, with diners flocking to Shikany for his six-, eight-, or ten-course meals. Take advantage of the summer lull, because once the New Yorkers return to Miami, reservations will be difficult (if not impossible) to secure.
Eat Kris Wessel's food and you'll get the real South Florida. This native son combines his love of fresh, seasonal ingredients with his passion for a good story. The result is food and cocktails made with "backyard" mangoes, duck flavored with tamarind, and fried green tomato arepas. Add Wessel's famous barbecued shrimp and a creative cocktail program and you've got a love song to Miami in a meal.
In the past four years, the Pubbelly group has consistently and strategically opened a series of casual restaurants turning out solid food. Partners Jose Mendin, Sergio Navarro, and Andreas Schreiner opened Pubbelly first, and Miami fell in love with the trio's pork-centric menu of unfussy, inventive food. Other Pubbelly incarnations fared just as well. Now the Pubbelly boys are a major Miami force, and their newest establishment, L'echon Brasserie, their foray into French cuisine, is garnering rave reviews. From escargots de Bourgogne ($15) to cochon de lait ($24), every dish is unique, inventive, and affordable.
Walk past a sign that simply reads "Market" and you've entered the Drunken Dragon's lair of barbecued meats and tiki cocktails. Part modern, part MiMo, this intimate restaurant is both aesthetically interesting and delicious. Make reservations for a barbecue table and cook your own short ribs ($12), or savor the twice-fried fried chicken, an appetizer that's a meal in itself ($14). Authentic tiki cocktails like Mai Tais and Singapore Slings are what you're drinking at this den of pleasurable vices.
When Zak Stern, AKA Zak the Baker, decided to open a café and bakery in Wynwood, he was short a few thousand dollars. Instead of taking out more financing, he turned to the people who ate his bread. Through Kickstarter, 419 backers gave him the push (and $31,950) he needed. The Wynwood café serves "toasts," Zak's name for open-faced sandwiches topped with fish, cheese, or vegetables; homemade soups, salads, and freshly baked breads ($6). The café/bakery is simple and rustic. Its charm lies in the positive energy Stern and his crew give off -- and the bread. It all comes back to the bread.
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1. N by Naoe
Kevin Cory's Naoe is Miami's gold standard for serious dining. The 12-seat omakase restaurant serves just one seating for dinner per evening (private dining is also available), with Cory steering each bit of food. Now he has opened N next door, serving lunch at noon and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and one dinner nightly at 6:45 Monday through Saturday. For $80 per person (plus tax and tip), chef Cory prepares his "chef's choice" menu at a communal table. Bring your appetite, but not your food allergies. A notice on the website states that the restaurant "cannot accommodate allergies to mushrooms, eggs, fish, shellfish, rice, raw, vinegar, alcohol, salt, sugar, legumes, or gluten."