IMPORTANT: I know you want to scroll down quickly and see the results. And you can. But please read the following intro now or later to understand the “why” behind this list. What is it? What is it not? What went into the naming and placement of each honoree?
You can also choose to LISTEN to this episode instead. But, know that means you will miss the foodporn photos. Just sayin’
These are the restaurants 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 22 locations. 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 a cafecito. Perhaps enjoy a tasting menu instead. Enjoy the ambiance, celebrate something, and 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.
The restaurants receiving Palette Awards offer the total package. Many of the places 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.
A few restaurants have shifted significantly within the list compared to other years. Some were removed. Know that I don’t add any restaurants that opened during the last quarter of the year and why it might take longer for some to appear on my list (it happened with Ghee, Surf Club, Boia De, and Stubborn Seed upon their arrival, to name a few).
This is the 10th year posting this list (and the third with a corresponding award). I reserved, ordered, photographed, ate, and paid at these restaurants. No one asked nor paid me to do so. Supporting our local restaurants brings me joy, and I am passionate about Miami’s food scene.
What do I mean by “The Total Package?”
EXCEPTIONAL FOOD First and foremost, obviously, the food. Are these dishes that moved or stayed with me long after leaving the restaurant? Is the menu different than anything else found in South Florida? Is the menu enticing and cohesive? How much care went into composing a dish? Is it thrown together or skillfully plated? Are the ingredients used of excellent quality? Ultimately, is it fuck*n’ good?
CONSISTENCY This year, more than ever, consistency played a significant role in my decision for placement. Although the awards, technically speaking, are for a restaurant’s performance in 2022, I did take more into consideration. Have they consistently delivered the same caliber of experience time after time? Can I count on the chosen location to perform always at its best? Who is committed to Miami and has already toughed it out long-term or has the potential to do so?
SIPS A notable beverage program can be found at most of these.
VISITS I only add a new restaurant to the list if I have visited it at least three times. Restaurant visits for those already listed vary. I still try to dine in multiple times and follow their annual progress closely.
AND MORE From the tiniest mom ‘n’ pop restaurant listed to the poshest one, these spots all exude character and evoke a “feeling” once in the space. Did the staff go out of their way to offer stellar service? Did the team pay attention to the details from arrival and throughout dinner? Were reservations honored? How were any arising issues resolved? How many menu options are offered to the diner? Is it the same menu at all times? If it’s an import concept, are they incorporating any local sources?
What you will NOT find
“It’s a dive, but it has the best ______”
“The best service, although the food isn’t the greatest.”
“Such a beautiful view, but the food is just OK!”
“I don’t love it, but the owners are sooooo nice.”
“Never been, but I saw it on so and so’s list, so I will add it to mine too.”
“I know someone who knows someone who knows someone, and I ‘got in.’ And there’s food.”
“Order at the counter, and wait for your pager to vibrate.”
“I love it there; it’s so much fun. The food is…kind of good”
Have no fear; those lists do exist elsewhere. Also worth noting, there’s a time and a place for the dives, and the ones with the fun vibes. This list, however, awards those restaurants I feel offer the most well-rounded and top experiences in Miami.
Ready? Set? Dale!
Use this list as a reference when making your next reservation, and as a springboard to keep the conversation about Miami restaurants going.
I am excited to add this newcomer to the list. Earlier this year, chef Michael Bolen opened his tasting menu restaurant in Coral Gables. He navigates Miami’s complex culinary jungle, with great skill and grace. Bolen delivers courses highlighting fresh and local ingredients to his ever-changing menu, now available a la carte. The one constant during each visit? B R E A D. I can’t get enough. This might be Miami’s best bread program. On a recent menu: Rouge de Bordeaux Sourdough, Yecora Rojo Focaccia, and Sonora Wheat Brioche. All are made in-house every day with freshly milled heirloom grains. “It’s a labor of love,” he says. Agreed, chef! Yes!
2018 2019 2021 2022
Bite after bite, year after year, infused with love, spice, and everything nice, I am still crushing on Ghee. This family-owned Indian kitchen continues to deliver an unforgettable experience. If visiting for the first time, I highly recommend the tasting menu. Dinner at Ghee stays with you long after it concludes.
20. Kojin (now Chef’s Table at Hachidori Ramen)
This tiny speakeasy showcases a seasonal tasting menu at the refined hands of executive chef Pedro Mederos and executive pastry chef Katherine Mederos. Eight seats and one big heart. They’ve only just begun, but the future is bright.
19. Tur Kitchen
Let’s just say, Tur unexpectedly took The Whet Palette by storm this year. This hidden gem in Coral Gables offers flavor-packed detailed dishes showcasing chef Chirino’s extensive Michelin kitchen background. The welcoming and professional staff seamlessly leads the tasting menu journey for an unforgettable experience. Dinner ends with a symphony of beautiful sweets and, my favorite, the Turkish coffee service.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on Leku since its opening. Hidden within the grounds of the Rubell Museum, this Basque-style restaurant offers a killer tasting menu worthy of its own Michelin star, and most certainly a Palette Award. Leku has been firing on all cylinders for a while now. The experience delivers the whole package: food, service, vibe, decor, and sips. It’s also home to one of my Top Bites, the Tartar de Ibérico.
2018 2019 2021 2022
A Hialeah meets Paris fairytale. Charming owners Benoit and Sandy are the heart of this dreamy operation, and it shows. Filled with antiques and curiosities throughout the restaurant space, you can’t help but transport to yesteryear. Tropical Miami touches on the menu remind you this isn’t your typical French cafe. You can find a Truffled Egg En Cocotte, a Croque Madame, or a Roasted Quail, on any given day. Pero aquí tambien hay guayaba and papaya sprinkled on some dishes. Fun tip, there’s even a clever use of a pastelito on a dish. IYKYK. The new PASTALEAH addition to their weeknight repertoire is exciting. Yes, Fresa is French. But chef Ben has a special touch for pasta! More importantly, Fresa serves the best damn crepes in Miami Dade. I said what I said.
One of the very few restaurants on this list with several other locations of their concept worldwide. I don’t know about Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, São Paulo, Quito, Bogotá, or London. But in Miami, this Nikkei gem impresses with plenty of stunning dishes off their menu, unlike any others. The Tuna Foie (seared foie gras, Nikkei teriyaki, Maldon salt), Hotate Truffle (Hokkaido scallop, truffle butter, lime), Niku Tartar (Prime beef, miso cured foie, panca-yakiniku sauce, nori crackers), and the Pato Mochero (Crispy Moulard duck leg, wok rice, shiitake, smoked pork, curuba honey) caught my attention years ago. Consistent quality and attentive service with every visit keep me coming back and raving about Osaka.
Gone are the days of the Nisei pop-up and when Nikkei-inspired Itamae occupied a small spot at St. Roch Market. Itamae offers several seats at the chef’s counter inside and the most Miami-Esque spread outside at the Palm Court in the Miami Design District. The menu continues growing and evolving. Every dish demands attention, and an occasional spoon. Their sauces are no joke! You will never find me not ordering the Pulpo al Olivo (just typing those words made my heart pang for it again). Itamae also takes great pride in providing the best fish available. With the creativity, knife skills, and passion to match, you can’t go wrong with a single thing on the menu. Even the Red + Green Leaf Lettuce salad is a standout! Yes, I said lettuce.
14. La Mar
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2021 2022
Led by the skilled Diego Oka, La Mar by Gastón Acurio serves outstanding upscale Asian-Peruvian food. The unparalleled Miami views win you over before you even take a bite, but it’s not about the location. Service is always on point, and the delicious seafood-heavy menu keeps diners returning. But don’t despair if fish isn’t your favorite. The menu also carries a fabuloso Lomo Saltado (oh, how I adore that accompanying choclo rice) and a hotter-than-hot take on the Chaufa Aeropuerto. A new must-order Duck Chawanmushi tops the menu now. Fire! And as for the much-missed brunch, it’s finally back!
The Uchi experience can be as an omakase or a la carte. The non-traditional Japanese concept is fast-paced, hip, loud, and casual. Good luck choosing what to eat. The sprawling menu overwhelms at first. It is divided into seemingly neverending sections. Oh, the possibilities: hot and cold tastings, vegetables, tempura, sushi and sashimi, Toyosu selections, bluefin selection, house specials, and dessert. This year, Uchi collaborated with other Miami restaurants for one-of-a-kind experiences. I love seeing a non-Florida concept going above and beyond to integrate itself with the existing local restaurants.
12. Boia De
Hidden within an unassuming strip mall in Little Haiti, the restaurant is small, but grand in character and style. The high-quality eats never skip a beat and now have a shiny new Michelin star to show off. One bite was all it took to get hooked during my first visit. Reservations are hard to come by. If you dine with a party of four food enthusiasts up for the challenge, trying every menu item is a definite possibility. Despite its casual nature, service and wine are equally important as the food at Boia—also, bathroom vodka monkeys. Check them out. You’re welcome.
11. Phuc Yea
2018 2019 2021 2022
Pronounced: fuhk-ya. But also, Cajun-Latin-Viet, f*ck yeah! Everything about this place screams COOL: graffiti, neon, and vintage touches. There’s a cohesive message that shines through…Phuc Yea‘s got soul. Miami royalty! A 2011 pop-up started it all. Phuc worked hard through the years to fine-tune their restaurant, and it shows. I crave this menu often. The Crispy Imperial Rolls, P.Y. Noodles, and Smoked Short Rib NEVER leave my order; name it The Whet Palette special.
2013 2014 2022
When this list kicked off in 2013, Macchialina appeared as an early honoree for a couple of years. As the South Florida dining scene expanded and changed, I lost my connection to it somewhere along the way. I am happy to have revisited several times this year and rekindled that love. Macchialina has persevered, and reinvented itself as needed without losing the charm and quality with which it began. Dinner at Macchialina feels like entering a warm and inviting home, not a business establishment. The pasta-centric menu keeps me addicted, and I can always count on finding a new gem off the wine list.
A Korean steakhouse offering steak omakase? With a Michelin star? Que? Si. The vibe, sexy, electric, and contagious, still feels intimate throughout the 5,892-square-foot restaurant. Telepathic service too. The left hand here does know what the right is doing. Impressive to witness. Not skipping a beat, the staff at COTE enthusiastically parades through the space with intent and purpose; it’s clear this is a team effort. COTE takes great pride in the domestic Prime grade (dry-aging select cuts in-house), all-natural American wagyu hybrid, and imported Japanese wagyu (only sourcing A5, the highest grade, with marbling scores of 8 – 12) served. Great care and detail also went into the development of the beverage program. Fun fact: the wines by the glass are poured out of magnums bottled just for COTE, directly from the wineries.
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2021 2022
Have they really been around for 15 years? They sure have! Executive chef Gabriel Fenton victoriously leads the Bourbon Steak kitchen. When he’s not executing Michael Mina’s staple dishes, he’s meticulously and proudly adding new dishes, using as many fresh and seasonal ingredients as possible. The extensive wine list and equally spectacular handmade cocktails & spirits list have something for everyone. Besides the obvious commitment to the food served, the overall experience for the guest must be as close to perfect as humanly possible, and it’s something the team takes very seriously. In a city so preoccupied with the latest trends, looks, and not enough attention to customer service, it’s nice to know a magical place such as Bourbon Steak exists: an exceptional modern steakhouse with classic roots, skills, and incredible panache. And also, the trio of duck-fat french fries.
7. Zitz Sum
Words cannot adequately express how much I love Zitz. I knew this newcomer was remarkable when every dish made me pause for appreciation. “How is this much flavor in one bite possible?” I thought. “Damn, that was good,” I commented course after course. Zitz Sum now offers a tasting menu, and, trust me, it’s the smart move. All diners have to do is sit back and enjoy the show. Simply phenomenal.
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2021 2022
One of South Florida’s most respected restaurants. With an intense focus, chef Kevin Cory diligently executes each course flawlessly. Despite the mounting awards and mentions NAOE receives, his grace, humbleness, and contagious serenity come across loud and clear. The impressive attention to detail continues throughout dinner. Minimalistic modern interior design and classical music provide an immaculate and harmonious backdrop to the royal menu. Expect an endless selection of organic vegetables, rice, freshly-grated wasabi root, and even shoyu and sake from chef Kevin Cory’s family brewery, which dates back to the 1800s. Two seatings per night. Four diners per seating. An adventure. A challenge. An education.
The Top Five
2019 2021 2022
What an honor to continue the Robuchon legacy on the Miami stage! The city’s inaugural Michelin Guide recently awarded L’Atelier the only two-Michelin stars in Florida. The restaurant offers a couple of specialty and seasonal tasting menus, plus a la carte options. The signature dishes are more than just food; they are a taste of history. Every dish is executed to mind-blowing perfection: top-notch from beginning to end. The restaurant has been through many kitchen changes, but their delivery has never been rocked: unusual and admirable. This modern French cuisine concept is about the pursuit of perfection, attention to detail, and care about the diner having the ultimate adventure. Miamians might be surprised to learn that the overall service is neither stuffy nor intimidating.
2017 2018 2019 2021 2022
Passion, grit, and a playful flair make chef Jeremy Ford’s Stubborn Seed a strong keeper every year. The exposed concrete, quaint retro furnishings, and graffiti artwork establish a casual fine dining vibe. Service is welcoming and friendly. The upscale dishes and newly minted Michelin star solidify its powerhouse status. Chances are, you will spot Ford center stage kitchen, happily cooking away with his contagious smile and culinary oomph. Only he can make juggling several restaurants across a couple of counties, and family life look easy. Top Chef fans take note; there’s always a crudo on the menu. Foie gras lovers, you must know Ford still makes South Florida’s sexiest! Ordering a la carte is available during the week, but the seasonal tasting menu is always the way to go. And what a ride it is to go through it! Rock on!
2018 2019 2021 2022
One of my top “tried and true” spots. When was the last time you visited Ariete? Chef-owner Michael Beltran navigated and overcame adversity through the years to get to where he is today. Coconut Grove’s one Michelin-starred Ariete sits pretty, solid, and stable, offering diners an array of spectacular experiences: two chef’s tasting menus, an a la carte menu, and Miami’s sole duck press experience. Every dish is obsessively conceptualized and executed, often showcasing Cuban-inspired courses unlike anywhere else: Nouveaux Miami Cuisine. I am blessed to have experienced Ariete’s evolution from the beginning, and I greatly admire this restaurant’s journey.
Forget the star-studded dining room. The food and service at FIOLA Miami are worthy of our praise and the real stars that matter. Local chef Danny Ganem brings that Miami heat and passion to the kitchen. I admire the team’s ability to execute service beautifully, day after day, at such a large scale. Said to be inspired by regional Italian classic dishes and family traditions, Fiola’s menu offers something for everyone, and the dizzying options can overwhelm. How does one even choose when everything is excellent? Dinner is always coursed perfectly, and tableside presentations and explanations flow easily. Each highly-curated plate, tray, bowl, and platter showcase the food at its best: stunning to look at and even better to taste. The wine program is one of my personal favorites too. You can trust the dedicated and knowledgeable somms will guide you towards the most suitable option for your palate.
2019 2021 2022
Consistent since day one, I can assure you that the unmistakable chef Keller finesse and signature style comes off loud and clear at The Surf Club. The goal is “Continental cuisine interpreted for today’s contemporary guests.” This is fine dining: white tablecloths and the best ingredients available, with the absolute best hospitality in all of South Florida. The marvel and beauty of The Surf Club is just how effortless it all feels; a well-choreographed and executed performance worthy of a standing ovation. The best. Without a doubt. New ’22 Chef de Cuisine Michael Decicco brings exciting weekly specials to jazz up the classic menu. Now sporting an inaugural Michelin Guide Florida star, The Surf Club is always the solid choice whenever a guest wants to be spoiled and experience the perfect night. And not just because of their kickass chocolate cake.
Congratulations to the 2022 Palette Awards recipients! We are so lucky to have you.
Missed the introduction to this post because you were too impatient to read it? It’s all good. Go back and read it now.
Thank you for visiting my website, reading, and sharing. Get out there and make your reservations, Miami! They ALL deserve your attention and support.