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Road Trip: 10 Must-Try Miami Eateries

Published in Gourmet Live 04.11.12
In our monthly collaboration with BlogHer, we’re following the smart money to insider eats in Florida’s most cosmopolitan city

Where would you send someone who has never been to Miami before?

No visit would be complete without a trip to Miami Beach’s Joe’s Stone Crab. An anchor of the Florida food scene for the past 100 years, Joe’s prime location across the street from the southern end of South Beach allows you to smell the ocean air while chowing down on great food. Favorites include Stuffies (Rhode Island–style baked clams), killer Alaskan crab claws with secret mustard sauce, Joe’s famous slaw, and, of course, a slice of the iconic Key lime pie.

Who’s got the best bar menu?

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar is a hip Miami Beach hangout offering polished takes on Southern classics. A quick glance at the dinner menu makes it clear why the eatery was a 2012 James Beard Award semifinalist for not only Best New Restaurant but also Best New Chef (South). Chef Jeff McInnis serves up hearty favorites like smoky-spicy Brunswick stew with alligator sausage, plus fried chicken on a Cheddar/chow-chow waffle topped with Tupelo honey and watermelon. But the biggest draw is the bar menu, full of nibbly twists on the down-home theme, and inventive cocktails such as the Porkchop (bourbon, apple cider, citrus juice, Dijon mustard, and thyme).

What are the best restaurants for authentic Cuban food?

Cuban restaurants are plentiful in Miami, and many of them are very good, but the ones that are more popular with tourists are not necessarily the best. Take a tip from a local: The top spots include La Habana Vieja, the original NW 27 Avenue location of Islas Canarias, Exquisito, and El Palacio de los Jugos. All four restaurants offer a variety of the most authentic Cuban dishes, such as ropa vieja (shredded beef) and pernil (slow-roasted pork shoulder).

Where can you find spectacular seafood without the South Beach party scene?

Casablanca Seafood Grill and Fish Market is a hidden gem that’s loved by locals for its outdoor tables along the Miami River, amazing city views, and lively atmosphere. The-in house fish market guarantees your seafood and fish will be served up fresh. Don’t miss the paella and the Frutos del Mar, local seafood simmered in a tomato-saffron sauce and tossed with linguine.

What is the best restaurant for a romantic dinner?

Fontana Restaurant at the Biltmore Hotel is an idyllic, romantic dinner location with a lush courtyard and a cascading fountain that trickles in harmony with the sounds of live jazz. The restaurant specializes in upscale, authentic Tuscan cuisine with a focus on organic and locally grown produce and meats. My personal favorites include the center-cut filet mignon with seasonal vegetables and the ravioli stuffed with fresh ricotta and roasted beets and served in a rich butter sauce.

What are your favorite spots for vegan food?

Choices Café, located right outside Miami’s Little Havana, is a small diner with a big presence. The eatery combines authentic Latin flavors with all-vegan favorites. You don’t want to miss the chili con kale or the Insane Mexican Wrap loaded with black beans, plantains, veggies, and Daiya vegan cheese. El Vato is another vegan hot spot that turns out fresh Mexican cuisine and a wide array of tequilas. The restaurant prides itself on using organic, free-range ingredients in all of its hearty fare, which can be prepared for vegans and nonvegans alike. Why would you get your Margaritas and chips anywhere else?

What’s a great spot for a hearty meal that won’t blow the budget?

La Camaronera should be required eating if you are in the Miami area and love fresh seafood. Fight the crowds to snag a spot to stand and snack—this hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Little Havana is worth it. Yes, it’s literally standing room only (no seats), but once you get over the initial “this is it” feeling, your taste buds will be rewarded with seriously fresh seafood prepared every way imaginable. La Camaronera’s signature fried shrimp, minuta (snapper) sandwich, and seafood rice are among my favorites. Diners generally don’t waste too much time chatting, so space frees up quickly.

What’s your favorite place for fast and fresh takeout?

Tucked into a strip mall just north of I-595, Bamboo Noahs in nearby Plantation is a favorite among locals seeking an inventive alternative to fast-food chains. Service is speedy, friendly, and efficient, yet Bamboo Noahs is much more creative and health-oriented than your typical burger and sub hangouts. Standout dishes include the Taos roast turkey wrap with corn, black bean salsa, and smoked lime sauce; the house falafel on pita with lemon-tahini sauce; and a grilled veggie wrap with lemon-lime and thyme sauce. A few of my favorite main and side-dish pairings are the grilled shrimp with fruit salsa and Israeli couscous, and the tangerine beef stir-fry with sesame snow peas.

What’s the best Italian restaurant in Miami?

Without a doubt, Osteria del Teatro in Miami Beach. It’s been around for more than 20 years and is a culinary gem with excellent service, too! Locals know to skip the regular menu and instead opt for any of the day’s specials, which often include dishes such as light, scampi-style grilled shrimp, rich seafood risotto, and hearty osso buco.

Where do you go for fresh food and a fun atmosphere?

The Lost and Found Saloon is a festive Western-themed restaurant and bar specializing in healthy, vegan-friendly dishes. The signature salad—fresh greens, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, avocado, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, and pepita-encrusted tofu—is enough to prove that this isn’t your traditional bar menu. But the list goes on and on with freshly made favorites like chipotle black bean burgers, seasonal veggie plates, and a tofu melt covered with rich chipotle sauce. Saddle up to the bar or dine in a cozy booth while watching the game, rocking out to live music, or laughing along with a local comic.