Welcome to The Infatuation’s Miami Greatest Hits List.
Obviously you’re familiar with the concept of a “greatest hits” album, but to be clear, this isn’t just a list of our highest-rated spots. This guide is a carefully-selected collection of places we think every Miamian should try at least once - and the restaurants you should prioritize if you’re new to town.
Just like you wouldn’t introduce someone to Rick Ross without starting with “Port of Miami,” or to Shakira by playing them a song that’s not even on her greatest hits album, we wouldn’t send someone to a new Miami hotspot without sending them to one of these restaurants first. You shouldn’t either.
If you are looking for what’s new, check out our Hit List, a guide to the brand new, recently-opened restaurants worth your time.
In Miami, if you want a big, loud, fun dinner with music and dancing, it usually means you’re going to end up at a clubstaurant. Which means you’re going to pay too much for terrible food while having to put up with an...interesting crowd. Or, you could just go to Cafe La Trova, a Cuban restaurant on Calle Ocho where a big, loud, fun dinner can actually also be excellent. Not only is the food great - from the outstanding empanadas to the crispy whole snapper - but they have some of the best cocktails in Miami. There will also be live music here too - usually Cuban classics, and dancing is encouraged. At the end of the meal, if you want to keep the party going, just walk to the little bar in the back. It’s ’80s Miami-themed, plays lots of yacht rock, and is yet another reason we didn’t need to love this place.
The Downtown Catalan spot NIU Kitchen was one of our favorite restaurants in Miami. But when the pandemic happened, they had to abandon their small dining room and move into their sister restaurant, Arson, which is just a few doors down. But everything we loved about NIU Kitchen lives on, and it’s still one of the most exciting dinners in Miami. Many of our favorite NIU dishes now appear on Arson’s menu, like the simple and perfect pa amb tomáque or the much less simple but nonetheless perfect cold tomato soup. Those dishes join some Arson classics, like the great charbroiled oysters, which are singed with a hot coal tableside. In our first review, we said that NIU Kitchen felt “more like the dinner party you’ve always dreamed of being invited to than an actual restaurant.” And thankfully that’s still true.
Before Sanguich de Miami came along, our relationship with the Cuban sandwich was kind of like that of a distant cousin or an above-average dentist: we really weren’t going out of our way to see it more than twice a year. Then this place arrived and now we struggle not to visit this Little Havana shop on a weekly basis. We bring every out-of-towner here so we can watch their faces when they take their first crunchy bite of this perfect triangle straight out of the panini press, and you should too. Sanguich doesn’t just make the best Cuban sandwich in Miami, they make the best Cuban sandwich in the world.
If other restaurants are like drinking out of a generic Ikea mug, then Boia De is like drinking from a clay mug your friend made you, with a special little indent for your thumb. Everything at this Italian restaurant on the border of Buena Vista and Little Haiti feels like it was made by humans, not some generic trendy restaurant factory machine. But, as much as we love the little exclamation points on the wallpaper and the black and white speckled bar that runs the length of the tiny restaurant, we do not come here just for a dose of interior design porn. They also serve the best beef tartare in town, covered in tonnato sauce and crispy capers. We love the potato skins topped with stracciatella and caviar, and any of the rotating pastas - like white truffle tagliatelle, tortellini in brodo, and king crab tagliolini - are going to be as satisfying as an unexpected pottery gift from a dear friend.
Coconut Grove is one of Miami’s most historic neighborhoods - but its best restaurant, Ariete, is a completely new breed. Nowhere else around town shapeshifts better, working for a casual date one night and a special occasion meal the next. And there’s certainly no place else with a menu that takes more twists and turns than your abuela’s favorite telenovela. They serve everything from venison to French charcuterie and grilled oysters, but any fear you may have about a menu that puts a cheeseburger alongside rabbit en croute will go away as soon as the excellent food hits the table.
Brickell can be tricky. More specifically, eating in Brickell can be tricky. There is no shortage of restaurants, but too many of them are the kind of places designed for vacationing millionaires who want to see and be seen while tossing back $20 cocktails. River Oyster Bar is not one of those places. It’s upscale, but not sickeningly fancy. The food comes to the table with zero sparklers or dry ice - and everything from the scallop crudo to the pot of mussels is some of the best seafood you’ll find in Miami. And whether you want to sit at the bar with a glass of champagne and a dozen oysters, or need a place to bring clients without having to yell over a DJ, River Oyster is always the right call when in Brickell.
In just a year, El Bagel managed to turn ordering bagels into a competitive sport in Miami. Getting your hands on one of the MiMo shop’s excellent bagel sandwiches requires a bit of forethought. They’re currently takeout-only, so you’ve got to order online - and on the earlier side, because they usually sell out by early afternoon (and sooner on weekends). Will it be worth it? Absolutely, especially if you’re one of those people who’ve spent years lamenting Miami’s lack of great bagels. There are nothing but great bagels at here, and you really can’t go wrong with anything, but our favorite is the EB Original with scallion, bacon, and a roasted jalapeno. The King Guava is also a salty/savory work of bagel art that includes guava jam, crispy potato sticks, and a fried egg.
Mandolin is going to make an appearance in any conversation you have about where to eat in Miami. It’s like Stan Lee in Marvel superhero movies, and its cameo is inevitable, expected, and somehow always feels appropriate. Everyone eats here because it’s one of the prettiest outdoor restaurants in the city. But also because its Santorini impression is so convincing that lunch feels like a little vacation where you can - and should - take your sweet time eating watermelon salad, grilled halloumi, and drinking white wine in the courtyard of this 1940s house.
Royal Castle is a Miami story worth celebrating. The restaurant started as a South Florida burger chain in the ’50s, grew to 150 locations, and then nearly went out of business, leaving just one left in the Miami neighborhood of Gladeview. The world’s last Royal Castle is now run by the grandson of the first black employee to work at the company. And while that is, in fact, a great story, it wouldn’t be on this list if you couldn’t also get great food there too. Sliders are what this place is famous for, and they are easily some of the best burgers in Miami. That’s what you want to get here, but the 24/7 restaurant also has some diner breakfast classics, T-bone steaks, and smothered pork chops. Feel free to order them as long as you’ve tried a slider first.
We keep 27 in our back pocket for those times when you need a guaranteed hit, whether we need to convince a date that we have good taste after they saw a poster for The Fast and the Furious in our room or hope to persuade a friend to move here. At this Mid-Beach spot, you always know that the food is going to be great - from the must-order arepa platter to the local catch crudo. But there will also be outstanding cocktails, a dining room that feels like the coolest house in Miami Beach, and a tropical atmosphere that’s enough to make someone start looking up nearby apartments before dessert.
Since 1980, B&M Market has been a go-to spot for the best West Indian food in Miami. But it’s easy to drive right by this place if you don’t know that, because it looks like just another bodega - until you walk to the back of the store and see people eating ackee and saltfish, curry oxtail, and jerk chicken roti. To join them, just stick your head into the tiny kitchen and let the chef know what you want. While you wait, check out the shop’s selection of Carribean drinks, which includes an Irish Moss that tastes like a cinnamon milkshake and is a lifesaver if you accidentally go overboard with the very spicy hot sauce.
Hearing the word “Kush” has the same effect on us as those smelling salts you’re supposed to wave underneath an unconscious person’s nose. The burgers at this restaurant are so good that - no matter what day of the week - we’ll happily get up, put on shoes, brave the chaos of Wynwood, and wait 30 minutes to squeeze into this tiny restaurant and inhale a frita burger, which comes topped with guava jelly, potato stix, and bacon. There are six other burgers here - as well as very good alligator bites and key lime pie - and you should try them all as long as you’re prepared to fall asleep within the next hour.
Eating at Lung Yai is not easy. The wait is usually over an hour on the weekends and they don’t take reservations. When you do get a table at this Little Havana restaurant, you’re only allowed to order once. And if you get a seat at the counter inside, directly across from the stove, prepare to sweat. But we happily endure all of the above because Lung Yai serves the best Thai food in the city. Their rich khao soi, insanely crispy chicken wings, and great curries are very worth standing on the sidewalk for an hour, which is why so many people happily do just that every week.
If La Camaronera only served their famous pan con minuta - an amazing fried snapper sandwich that’s just about perfect - we’d still tell you to come to this casual spot in Little Havana. But since they do both that and about a dozen other things with shrimp, lobster, oysters, and conch better than anywhere else in town, we feel like we should warn you that La Camaronera raises your seafood bar forever. And while we’ve loved lots of seafood in our lives, we haven’t found another fried shrimp in town that’s gotten us this excited.
When we want pasta, we go to Macchialina - and not only on Thursdays for their $10 pasta night. This place makes great cavatelli, tagliolini, and lasagna, all of which are good enough to pay full price for and which plenty of people do since you pretty much always need a reservation to eat here. It’s hip, but still a relatively cozy spot, which makes it perfect for date night and a very refreshing option in the world of South Beach restaurants, where things are rarely cozy and you just won’t find pasta this good.
Jackson Soul Food is a restaurant with deep roots in the Overtown community, a historically black neighborhood just west of Downtown Miami. The area has a complicated past, full of highs and lows, and it’s a history that’s essential reading for any Miami resident. You can feel a bit of the neighborhood’s past inside Jackson Soul Food, but you can also enjoy some of the best Southern and soul food dishes you’ll find in town. You should hit this place for breakfast or brunch, both because they close at 2pm and also because some fried catfish, grits, and collard greens are just an excellent way to start any day.
Compared to its Wynwood neighbors, Zak the Baker is kind of boring. The floor is grey concrete. The tables and chairs are simple and wooden. The only interesting focal points in the kosher bakery are the piles of bread and pastries directly in front of the door, which also happen to be the best baked things you’ll find in Miami. The bread is put to use in very good sandwiches and toasts - like the buttery tuna melt - and if you don’t leave with a few hunks of babka under each arm, you need to turn around and go back.
Food can be like a song, and sometimes you get mac and cheese or ribs or latkes stuck in your head too. Blue Collar is where you go to cure yourself when that happens. This little indoor/outdoor spot is located in a MiMo motel and is almost always packed with people who look like they’ve been thinking about this cheeseburger - easily one of Miami’s best - for weeks. And they’ll probably be back in another few weeks when the shrimp and grits get stuck in their head.
We certainly wouldn’t be mad if Miami got itself a few more solid dim sum options - but until that day comes, you can find us at Tropical Chinese pointing to random plates being pushed through the dining room on carts the size of baby elephants. This Bird Road favorite is where you’ll find Miami’s best dim sum and a roast pork bun we occasionally dream about. Dim sum is served seven days a week until 3:30pm. It’s a whirlwind of a meal, and if you’re a fast eater, you could be done in under 30 minutes - left very full and a little confused with only the scraps of dumplings left to remind you of what you just demolished.
We have no scientific evidence, but we believe that tacos taste 300% better when consumed immediately after coming from the beach, which is why Taquiza’s two locations (both walking distance to the sand) couldn’t be more ideal. But whether you’re in sandals and slightly wet or wearing pants and want to start the night with a few margaritas, Taquiza is a great pick. The tacos come on fresh blue corn tortillas with classic toppings like shrimp and al pastor, and the totopos and quesadilla should absolutely be ordered every time you come here.
Sure, Versailles is Miami’s most famous restaurant, but the great thing about this place is that it’s never lost sight of the fact that it is, first and foremost, a place people actually come to eat. And that’s why we still happily wait for a table in this dining room, which feels like a neighborhood diner that married into a royal family. You’ll probably be too busy eating ropa vieja, croquettes, and flan to really think too much about Versailles’ historical significance.
A lot of Miamians have stone crab season marked on their calendars with a big red marker - us included. And when October 15 finally arrives, we head to Joe’s Stone Crab, where we wait a very long time for a table at this historic (and pricey) South Beach spot. Joe’s is over 100 years old, and it feels that way too. Waiters are dressed like they’re about to accept an Oscar and they were probably serving the same classic steaks and seafood in 1952. The fried chicken here is good (and shockingly cheap compared to everything else) and so are the hashed brown potatoes - but if you don’t have stone crab claws on the table, you waited over an hour for nothing.
The frita is a food that was perfected right here in Miami. And if you’re looking for the best version of this Cuban hamburger - which consists of spiced meat and potato sticks between Cuban bread - come to El Rey de las Fritas. The bright, fluorescent diner specializes in the frita, serving eight versions of the sandwich souped-up with everything from a fried egg to plantains. The frita original and a batido (a Cuban milkshake) is still our favorite order though, as well as definitive proof that potato sticks make everything better.
Michael’s is a classic spot where you can expect a very good, straightforward meal with recognizable dishes like deviled eggs, roasted cauliflower, and oysters. And this is a refreshing thing in the Design District, where most restaurants feel like they were created by a Fendi handbag that just took a bump. But at Michael’s, dinner, lunch, and the fantastic brunch don’t feel like an experience made for people who just bought a $2,000 t-shirt down the block. It’s just really good food you won’t be afraid to slurp loudly or eat with your hands.