Yes, South Beach is filled with tourists wearing “I’m in Miami, Bitch” T-shirts. But that’s only one side of the Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue fence.
The greener, South of Fifth neighborhood boasts South Pointe Park, with sweeping views of the Magic City, as well as one of the area’s most iconic and longest-standing eateries, Joe’s Stone Crab.
Restaurants source fresh local seafood and the finest cuts of beef and are staffed by chefs who have won international accolades.That’s just some of the labor put in by the top ten restaurants in South Beach.
Courtesy of Joe’s Stone Crab
1. Joe’s Stone Crab. For more than a century, people have been flocking to Joe’s Stone Crab for fresh seafood. Founded in 1913, the restaurant is actually older than the City of Miami Beach itself, which was incorporated two years later. Since then, Joe’s has become a multimillion-dollar business; it was named the second-highest-grossing independently owned restaurant in the United States by Restaurant Business. Though Joe’s boasts a full selection of fresh seafood and steaks with full-time fish and meat butchers tasked with cutting the perfect piece of flesh, it’s the stone crabs that people fly across the globe for. The claws, served with the restaurant’s signature mustard sauce, are the reason why multiple generations of people have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, and just a Thursday evening at Joe’s. 11 Washington Ave.,
Miami Beach; 305-673-0365; joesstonecrab.com.
2. Stubborn Seed. Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford has worked with such venerable chefs as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Los Angeles’ Ludo Lefebvre. Now comes his time to shine on his own at his new restaurant in Miami Beach’s tony South of Fifth neighborhood. The 70-seat restaurant features industrial lines interspersed with graffiti, allowing focus to be drawn to the food. A menu features items under the categories of “Raw/Snacks” and entrées of “Meats/Fish.” If you have time, opt for a $95 tasting menu that provides nine courses with luxury embellishments that are rotated based on seasonality. 1101 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 786-322-5211; stubbornseed.com.
Courtesy of Macchialina
3. Macchialina. They say the way to the heart is through the stomach, and in the case of Macchialina, that maxim couldn’t be truer. Not only can you feel the love that business and life partners Jen Chaefsky and former Scarpetta chef de cuisine Michael Pirolo have put into the cozy and quaint space, but you can also taste it in every bite of Pirolo’s house-made pastas and creamy polenta loaded with sausage ragu ($14). (It will become your new point of comparison for polenta.) Perhaps you’ll want the beet-filled mezzaluna crowned with hazelnuts or the butter ricotta salata or the pappardelle Bolognese with rabbit and sausage fonduta. And on a good night, you might be offered à la minute risotto, making Macchialina the best Italian restaurant not only in South Beach but in the entire city. 820 Alton Rd., Miami Beach; 305-534-2124; macchialina.com.
The Planta Burger.
Courtesy of Planta
4. Planta. David Grutman of LIV fame is the man behind this plant-based paradise for celebrities, influencers, and Miami’s sexiest so-and-so’s. Cousin to Planta Toronto, the alluring, tropical-inspired restaurant features vegan food that even carnivores will scarf down with glee. The menu is extensive and on the culinary cutting edge, offering impressively creative dishes such as ahi watermelon nigiri ($5.75), melt-in-your-mouth cauliflower tots ($11.25), an omnivore-inspired meat lover’s pizza, and a Planta burger. 850 Commerce St., Miami Beach; 305-397-8513; plantarestaurants.com.
Bazaar things happen here.
4. The Bazaar by José Andrés. What’s not to love about Spanish celebrity chef and dynamic personality José Andrés’ gastronomic wonderland? Dinner at the Bazaar is like a trip down the culinary rabbit hole. Your palate will never experience a dull moment — from liquid nitrogen caipirinhas (that drink like adult sorbets and rouse oohs and ahhs throughout the under-the-sea-like white dining room) and the onion soup with foie gras cappuccino to the airbreadcubano ($12), chock-full of Swiss foam and topped with house-made pickles and Ibérico pork meat that literally explodes in your mouth. Try a bevy of fusion tapas that pay homage to the Caribbean, Asia, and the Americas while still keeping a Miami taste and feel. Take, for instance, the coffee with foie gras, yuca churros with peanut butter and local honey, and conch fritters with a liquid center. 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-455-2999; sbe.com/restaurants/brands/thebazaar/.
Carrot cake at Upland.
5. Upland. Upland, the collaborative café from restaurateur Stephen Starr and chef Justin Smillie, basks in its own warm glow, reminiscent of a café in Paris. The interior by Roman & Williams is filled with copper accents. A small but inviting bar gives way to a dining room that’s large yet intimate with warm earth tones. The focal point of the scene is the open kitchen, which turns out fare like coal-roasted short rib for two ($78), topped with celery and a sinus-clearing hit of shaved horseradish. Upland also offers crisp salads and four pizzas, including a classic margherita ($17), a sausage and kale ($20), and ‘nduja ($19). Before you slip into a food coma, order the Italian ice, served inside a pink grapefruit shell and garnished with Campari zest ($10). 49 Collins Ave.,
Miami Beach; 305-602-9998; uplandmiami.com.
Bay leaf- and citrus-crusted fried chicken
6. Stiltsville Fish Bar. James Beard nominee Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth, both Top Chef alumni, serve fresh, local seafood at this Sunset Harbour eatery. About 115 pounds of seafood is delivered daily by fishermen from Key West, Key Largo, and Miami. Before opening for dinner at 5 p.m., the restaurant prints “Daily Catch” cards, which list each fish, the type of preparation (baked, grilled, seared), and a few descriptors, such as “flaky,” “sweet,” “subtle,” or “medium firm.” McInnis’ famed fried chicken ($22 to $39) also makes an appearance as a Stiltsville entrée. Brined for 24 hours with bay leaves, citrus, and a pinch of fennel, the bird is crunchy on the outside, moist in the center, and faintly tangy. It’s well worth a try despite the restaurant’s seafood focus. 1787 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach, FL; 786-353-0477; stiltsvillefishbar.com.
John Kunkel’s “ridiculously popular” Yardbird is best known for his grandmother Lewellyn’s fried chicken.
7. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. Have you had the chicken liver toast at Yardbird? What about the fried Everglades frog’s legs with sweet-and-sour jelly, bacon bits, and escabeche mayo? Or the beef sirloin tartare, served with fried cornbread, barbecue sauce sorbet, and frisée lettuce, which happens to be one of the best renditions of steak tartare in town? These might not be the greatest hits or most popular items at John Kunkel’s ridiculously popular Yardbird, but they are the most underrated dishes at this eatery with Southern roots. So next time you’re tempted to order his grandmother Lewellyn’s fried chicken, chicken ‘n’ watermelon ‘n’ waffles, or Mama’s chicken biscuits, stop being a chicken and try something different. 1600 Lenox Ave., Miami Beach; 305-538-5220; runchickenrun.com.
8. Quality Meats. New York transplant Quality Meats has beefed up the offerings on Collins Avenue with a modern interpretation of a steakhouse. What, exactly, does that entail? House-cured slabs of bacon get a peanut butter and jalapeño jelly treatment, steak tartare is made tableside, braised veal shank comes atop a bed of black truffle pappardelle, and sides include a corn crème brûlée and cheese-slathered gnocchi. To bring it full circle, the owners (who started the Smith & Wollensky empire) have put just as much emphasis on desserts as on their touted cuts of meat. To see what we’re talking about, simply order the sticky toffee pudding with fig ice cream. 1501 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-340-3333; qualitymeatsmiami.com.
Fresh seafood is the name of the game at Estiatorio Milos.
Courtesy of Estiatorio Milos
9. Estiatorio Milos. As former New Times food critic Lee Klein best put it, Estiatorio Milos has exquisite Mediterranean food — if you can afford it. Not for the common folk, Milos fits right in its SoFi digs and easily serves the freshest and most pristinely cooked seafood in town. Your experience here includes a walk to the icy-cool display in the back of the restaurant, where the morning’s or midday’s catch (fish is flown in multiple times a day and transported in a Mercedes-Benz refrigerated van because, well, it’s Miami) is beautifully and vibrantly on view. But you never know what you’re gonna get — other than glistening fish eyes (a sign the sea creature hasn’t been dead long) and a high bill dropped at the end of the meal — because not even the kitchen staff knows what seafood is coming in till it arrives at the airport. 30 First St., Miami Beach; 305-604-6800; milos.ca/restaurants/miami.
Where pigs go to die.
Courtesy of Pubbelly
10. Pubbelly Noodle Bar. When chef Jose Mendin and partners Sergio Navarro and Andreas Schreiner opened Pubbelly in 2010, Sunset Harbour was a sleepy enclave. Fast-forward five years, and not only have the kings of swine taken over the neighborhood with Barceloneta and PB Sushi, but also the trio’s first-born, Pubbelly, has been credited with being the progenitor of Sunset Harbour’s movement toward becoming a hub for foodies. Yes, the food is heavy. Yes, there are lots and lots (and lots) of porcine dishes on the menu. But there’s also — during season — Florida stone crab pasta with jalapeño, ginger, bok choy, and miso citrus butter. And there’s a handful of dumplings packed with everything from duck and pumpkin to pastrami and sauerkraut. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s all coming from a James Beard Award semifinalist and Food & Wine People’s Best Chef nominee. 1418 20th St., Miami Beach; 305-532-7555; pubbelly.com.