May I just say, this was a very hard task... I have friends that are chefs, there are a lot of good places out there, I tend to differ on views between friends about what is considered good food (I went to culinary school, I have cooked for a living, I have been very cultured in the culinary world, traveled abroad, so sorry, I’m not sorry, I’m right J) I also struggle thinking, how can you put a 5 star restaurant next to a burger joint down the street? Service, quality and price can only skew results, but I tried to be as reasonable as possible. So I wove my way in and out of most of the restaurants in Miami and compiled a list of places that I would recommend to friends, family or anyone that need a quick dinner recommendation.
So here we go, I will give you a few rules that I gave for myself:
#1 cannot be a chain (More than 1 of the same restaurant)
#2 I would have had to eat at least 3 items from their regular menu
#3 I would be true to my rules for a great restaurant (Killer Food, Great Service, Cool Concept, the "Need to go back for" item)
#4 I cannot be working there currently (Sorry Tudor House! and yes it would have definitely been included otherwise)
BTW these are in no particular order...
1. Edge Steak + Bar: Since arriving on the scene only a couple months ago Edge has taken the Miami culinary community by storm. Chef Aaron Brooks is wickedly good with Steak and in my personal opinion better with seafood, that guy can make a killer tartare ( Tuna, Corvina, Scallop, Steak you name it) and I still think back to some of the dishes he has made me, like the razor clam tasting, the most wicked Bahn Mi I've ever come across and a lobstah roll that has been approved by even the Boston boys... Edge has become my go to suggestion for almost anyone going out for a night in the Brickell area and every single one have come back overjoyed. Did I mention best Happy Hour I've come across??
2. River Oyster Bar: Ahh River Oyster, you are so awesome yet you are never put on any of the greats list, why is that? I personally don't understand because your Oyster selection is worth a trip alone, although some of your servers are douchey (my only qualm, sorry I’m not sorry). When I know I am going, I prepare myself to always try one of each or at least the ones I’ve never had. The beer list is ever changing and you won’t find a bar stool past 4pm, it must mean they are doing something right. I literally crave the Seafood Cioppino (extra spicy!) and the Blue Crab & Gnocchi, if you want to dedicate yourself to full use of my suggestions spill a little Cioppino into the Crab dish, its possibly orgasmic. Their daily menu changes keep the sparks flying and the consistency of food is worth its weight in gold.
3. Federal Drinks and Provisions: Another spot that has almost a cult classic feel to it was an immediately well received restaurant with a quirky name. The master minds behind Miami’s 1st Pop up Phuc Yea, Aniece and Cesar are the King and Queen of real food, no frills, no bullshit. The couple are some of the coolest people you can get to know and their space reflects it. The Bizkits n gravy as well as the short rib pot pie wellington are both some serious eats. It’s a true neighborhood joint.
4. Mandolin Aegean Bistro: A hidden gem located on the outskirts of the Design District has to be one of the coolest spaces to hang out in. The outside dining room has been transformed to look like a little bistro in the countryside of Greece. The blue umbrellas with comfy chairs and the servers, mostly women with old world aprons, and a genuine smile makes you leave here saying Opa! The menu is simple with clean flavors and always consistently good; I could drink their Sangria all day and eat their pulled lamb sandwich all night
5. Eating House: Is there really anything I need to say? Mostly everyone agrees with me that this pop up by Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli is a ridiculous success, people wait hours to eat here and the ever changing menu makes them come back wanting more. The chill vibe and the excellent food brought by two friends shows that Miami is ready for real chef driven food. Some of his mainstays like the Homestead Tomatoes with frozen coconut and the chicken and waffles are huge hits with me and many others. Catch it while you can.
6. Pub Belly Empire: I could not possibly choose between just one, pub belly as a whole is greater than all of its parts. Pub belly was a hit on its own, but when sushi and Barceloneta opened the pub belly block was unstoppable. They might as well buy the liquor shop in between them and call it pub belly mixology (I want credit) Bloggers have notoriously done the Pub belly crawl; having a small meal at each location and I recommend you do the same.
7. NAOE: This is my guilty pleasure, a special occasion restaurant, but that is exactly how you should approach Chef Kevin Cory’s cuisine. Considered one of the Top Japanese restaurants in the country, NAOE is at the top of its game and no one can tell me different. Each of the nigiri that he serves for the Omakase portion is heavenly and the secret ingredient ice cream is a truly delicious end to an over the top meal that is never forgotten
8. Nemesis Urban Bistro: Chef Micah Edelstein is in a league of her own, she does things her way, and her unconventional ways personify what her restaurant is all about. I can say there is no other restaurant like hers, the food is different, the feel is different, hey even the bathroom is a world of its own, if you have been you would know. Her South African background and her gypsy like ways have culminated to a totally different cuisine than anyone else has in Miami at this time. The Veal Bobotie and Tuscan sushi are just plain awesome!
9. The Dining Room: Although I have only been here once it does not stop me from craving the sweet potato gnocchi I had when I was there. The service was excellent, the food came out within an acceptable time and I have nothing but good memories that make me want to go back every time I drive by. It also helps that everyone I talk to loves what they do.
10. Haven Gastro Lounge: Haven has to be one of the coolest places on the beach; not only do they have some award winning mixologists that get to play with Liquid Nitrogen every day, they have one of the most influential people in Miami as their Executive Chef. Todd Erickson has probably the most eclectic and visually appealing menu on this list. His use of color, textures and flavors are far beyond a lot of other Miami Chefs. Mixed with the $$$$$ (that’s a dollar figure) A/V system as their back drop there is nothing artistically they can’t do. My favorites are the Day Boat slider (when its Mahi Mahi) the Waldorf Salad, the Duck Duck Quail Slider, the Maki Peru roll and the tater tots. Although I’ve never come across an item I haven’t liked on the menu.
PS I would have totally included Bourbon Steak had they only had one location, John the GM is the master of the FOH and my meal is exceptional every time. It is the one true place I struggled with not including so I had to make a side note.
PSS I also would have loved to include Sushi Deli, but frankly people cant appreciate what they are doing there... if you are a serious sushi fan, check it out.
Hope you agree with my decisions, and even try out some that you haven't tried before.
To Great Food & Great Company
~Lady of the Knife~