Best for Celebrating a Big Deal
Prime One Twelve on Miami Beach (tel. 305/532-8112) is where everyone from Gorbachev and Clinton to Madonna and Beyoncé come to satisfy their carnivorous sides with fare such as $25 Kobe beef hot dogs, dried sticks of bacon at the bar in lieu of peanuts, and, if you must cheat, the best truffle-infused macaroni and cheese you'll ever eat.
Best Romantic Restaurant
Casa Tua, in South Beach (tel. 305/673-1010), offers exquisite Italian cuisine in a Mediterranean villa that's hidden from the street with lush landscaping and an iron gate, resplendent outdoor garden, cozy Hamptons-esque dining room, communal kitchen, and intimate upstairs lounge and patio.
Best Waterfront Dining
It's a tossup between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, but whichever you prefer, there are two restaurants that provide front-row seats to both. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel's global fusion restaurant, Azul (tel. 305/913-8538), faces the Miami skyline and beautiful, tranquil Biscayne Bay, while Garcia's (tel. 305/375-0765) faces the scenic Miami River. Tough decisions, but both are winners.
Best Restaurant Not Worth the Wait for a Table
The legendary South Florida institution known as Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant, in Miami Beach (tel. 305/673-0365), refuses to take reservations, but that doesn't stop people from clawing their way into the restaurant for a table -- despite a wait that's often in excess of 3 hours. Thing is, if only they knew about Joe's Take Away, directly next door, the only thing they'd be waiting for is seconds.
Best Cuban Restaurant
There's always a debate on who has the best, most authentic Cuban cuisine, but for those of you who have never been to Havana, Miami's Versailles, in Little Havana (tel. 305/444-0240), is the quintessential Cuban diner, featuring enormous portions at paltry prices. For an even more frenetic, freshly squeezed Cuban dining experience, check out El Palacio de los Jugos (tel. 305/221-1615).
Best Old School Steakhouse
Miami's Capital Grille (tel. 305/374-4500) may be part of a chain, but its dry-aged steaks are still a cut above the rest.
In addition to Prime One Twelve , which is quickly on its way to becoming an old-school South Beach steakhouse at last, BLT Steak on South Beach (tel. 305/673-0044) is another top carnivorous choice.
Hakkasan, at the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach (tel. 305/573-3355), brings an exotic, authentic Asian vibe to a place where even Italian restaurants serve sushi. The custom silk light fixtures from Paris separated by screens of dark walnut, elaborate latticework, and hand-carved decorative teak panels illuminated by washes of dimmed lighting give way to a very exotic, erotic Kama Sutra vibe.
Best Sunday Brunch
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (Design District; tel. 305/573-5550) could win every one of our "best of" categories thanks to its locally sourced, organic seasonal cuisine, out-of-control desserts, buzzy bar scene and colorful crowd of foodies, hipsters, celebrities and assorted culinary dignitaries, but this brunch is truly in a category of its own. In a few words: kimchi Benedict and strawberry and yuzu Pop-Tarts.
Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish, in Miami (tel. 305/375-0765), is all about gritty-chic, located on the Miami River, where tugboats and cargo ships slink by as you indulge in fresh fish under the glow of the brilliant downtown skyline hovering above. On South Beach, Smith & Wollensky (tel. 305/673-2800) has views of Fisher Island, Government Cut, and the occasionally passing cruise ship. Le Tub (tel. 954/931-9425) may not be considered fine dining, but when you sink your teeth into one of their incredible burgers while overlooking the Intracoastal, nothing could be finer.
The News Cafe, in South Beach (tel. 305/538-6397), practically invented the sport of people-watching, encouraging its customers to sit at an outdoor table all day if they want, lingering over the passing parades of people while sipping a cappuccino. Lincoln Road's Euro-fabulous Segafredo Espresso cafe (tel. 305/673-0047), provides a front-row seat to the hordes of people who parade along the pedestrian mall.
Best Comfort Food
Big Pink, in Miami Beach (tel. 305/532-4700), serves kitsch in large doses, featuring TV dinners served in compartmentalized trays. It's fun and funky, and the food's pretty good, too. For Cuban comfort fare for those whose grandmothers do not hail from Cuba: Versailles (tel. 305/444-0240) in Little Havana. For upscale comfort food including some of the best fried chicken and braised short ribs, well, ever, Michelle Bernstein's Biscayne Boulevard standout Michy's (tel. 305/759-2001) is the place to eat and be seen.
Star chef Michelle Bernstein of Michy's fame pays homage to her Latin roots at Sra. Martinez (tel. 305/573-5474), an upscale tapas restaurant housed in an historic post office. This isn't just meat and cheese either. Among the standouts: a sea urchin sandwich pressed and grilled with some soy-ginger butter. Ole!
Best Italian Food
Miami Beach's Macaluso's (tel. 305/604-1811) would make Tony Soprano very proud of his Italian heritage, thanks to Chef Michael's expertly prepared Staten Island-meets-SoHo cuisine. Also stellar on South Beach, Sardinia (tel. 305/531-2228), where the wood-burning oven churns out some fabulous and creative fare hailing from its Italian namesake. For Little Italy in Coral Gables, Randazzo's (tel. 305/448-7002) is a knockout.
In Miami, The River Seafood and Oyster Bar (Downtown Miami; tel. 305/530-1915), Area 31 (Miami; tel. 305/424-5234), and Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish (Downtown Miami; tel. 305/375-0765), are three of your best catches.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.