The talent making up our Miami culinary scene continues to unapologetically redefine itself, cement its roots, and come out swinging. When compared to other cities, it’s obvious our food and beverage programs are newer and growing. Still, as they dance to the beat of their own drum, it’s hard to ignore the current rhythm and vibe output.
Let’s get something out of the way; this is a list. Get over it or go read something else if that is not your thing. My website is tiny in the food blogosphere, but I still take my decision very seriously. A lot of careful thought goes into the naming and placement of each honoree. I have visited every single restaurant listed here multiple times this year. I’ve reserved, ordered, taken photos, and eaten there for a simple reason: I felt like it (porque me dio la gana). No one asked or paid me to do so. Supporting our local restaurants brings me joy.
Know that I tend to favor the local flavor, and I’m not always easy on outside investors/concepts/chefs coming to our home to set up shop. That said, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the current wave of “in the know” newcomers who get it. Finally. They know (or took someone’s savvy advice that) Miami’s fickle nature offers no room for name-only ventures, and half-ass hires. If I’ve listed one (or three) on here, it’s because I feel like they have done their homework, honor our Magic City, and bring something worthy to the table.
“It’s a dive, but it has the best ______”
“The best service, but too bad the food isn’t the greatest.”
“The best vibe, but touristy.”
“The nicest owners, but only ______ is edible.”
“The Grammy winner owns it. No one knows who the chef is.”
“Got the press release, have to add them, or I won’t get that next repeat dinner invite.”
Have no fear; those lists do exist elsewhere.
The restaurants I have listed offer the total package:
Most of the restaurants I have named are also on my Miami-Dade County Favorites list (and one I update throughout the year), but not all on that list are here. The criteria is different for both.
These are the ones you visit to sit for dinner. Read that again. SIT. FOR. DINNER. Not “grab a bite,” “order a few things,” “stop in,” or just “enjoy some cocktails.” You can enjoy food nirvana at any of the Top 15. Arrive early for a cocktail, choose a bottle of wine or appropriate pairing, start with some appetizers, order your entree, dessert, after-dinner drink, and maybe also a cafecito. Perhaps enjoy a tasting menu instead. Enjoy the ambiance, celebrate something, or interact with friends and staff. Receive the kind of service you don’t have to think about because it just is. Get the picture? Dinner as a leisurely experience and not an afterthought or just a selfie op.
A couple of restaurants have shifted within the list compared to other years. Typically, I don’t add any that opened during the last quarter of the year and why it might take longer for some to appear on my list (happened with Ghee, Surf Club, and Stubborn Seed upon their arrival, to name a few). Most of these establishments are currently unmatched in Miami Dade, and definitely in Broward. The few I chose that do have some similarities with other great concepts (think omakase and Italian menus, for example) delivered a near seamless experience.
Use this list as a reference when making your next reservation, and as a springboard to keep the conversation about Miami restaurants going.
Ready? Set? Dale!
*Some Twitter readers might not see the (65) photos accompanying this post. To view the full photo spreads, please visit the post directly on the website and not via the Twitter link.
The numbers written in parentheses are the additional years each restaurant has been on my list, if applicable.
15. Hiden (2018)
14. Ghee Indian Kitchen (2018)
13. La Fresa Francesa (2018)
12. Phuc Yea (2018)
11. Pied à Terre (2015, 2016)
10. The Bazaar by José Andrés (2015, 2016, 2017)
9. NAOE (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
8. La Mar (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
7. Ariete (2018)
6. Ama at Kaido
5. Le Sirenuse (2017, 2018)
4. Stubborn Seed (2017, 2018)
Two more spots left.
One brings classic dishes and stellar service by a highly respected chef who continually raises the bar with his culinary skills and traceable success: multi Michelin-starred restaurants nationwide, listed on The World’s 100 Best Restaurants list, designated the first American male chef named Chevalier to The French Legion of Honor (the highest decoration in France) and pinned by the late legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, to name just a few of his accolades. The restaurant is not a void that needed to be filled, but rather an addition to our growing collection of brilliant chef-driven concepts. The forecast looked promising from day one last year. Despite their summer debut, I remained apprehensive of its place in our landscape and waited until this year to include them. It seems this newcomer has the stamina to take on the rising tide after such a successful 2019.
The other has been on my list almost from the very beginning and, given I mention it often on this blog, needs no introduction. It’s impossible to talk about Miami’s current culinary sweet spot without mentioning this chef’s mile-long list of accolades continuously bringing much-deserved cachet and recognition to Miami.
1. Alter (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Congratulations to every restaurant on my list. We are so lucky to have you!
Thank you for visiting my website, reading, and sharing. Get out there and make your reservations, Miami! They ALL deserve your attention and support.