Miami has always been a feast for the senses, from whimsical Art Deco architecture and sultry ocean breezes to Latin music rhythms – but it’s the cuisine that steals the show.
With epic culinary events and Miami Spice Restaurant Months, to celebrity-packed eateries throughout the destination, Miami has made a splash on the global gastronomy stage. Known as the birthplace of New World Cuisine, which founding father Norman Van Aken of Tuyo calls “a fusion of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors,” Miami’s dining scene reflects its international flavor, from Cuban, Haitian, Peruvian and Colombian to Indian, Thai, Japanese, Argentinean and many more. To search Miami restaurants by cuisine type and location, click here.
Star chefs like Van Aken, drawn by the tropical resort lifestyle, fresh seafood and Miami’s signature creative energy, contribute to one of the most distinctive cuisine scenes in the U.S. With more than 6,000 eateries – from casual alfresco cafés perfect for people watching to palaces of haute cuisine -- Miami’s is a serious see-and-be-seen culinary hotspot.
Fabulous Festivals and Events
Miami plays host to a year-round slate of prestigious wine and food events. The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival (February) is a must-attend forum for serious foodies. The celebrity meter is always dialed on high, as the most prominent figures in the culinary and wine and spirits industries travel to Miami for a jam-packed weekend of tastings, star-studded dinners and culinary seminars.
Other not-to-be-missed events with a strong culinary component include: Redland Natural Art Festival (January) at the Fruit and Spice Park; Carnaval Miami (March) showcasing Miami’s Latin flavor; Deering Seafood Festival on the Bay (March) featuring Florida’s freshest fish and seafood; United Way Miami Wine & Food Festival (April) taking place throughout the county; Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival (June) where Goombay transforms Coconut Grove into Nassau’s Bay Street; Taste of the Nation Miami (July) where guests can sample a world of flavors from more than 30 top restaurants; and International Mango Festival (July) featuring a series of delightful mango events at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
Every August and September, the city's top restaurants take part in Miami Spice Restaurant Month, where more than 100 of the city's finest dining destinations entice culinary visitors and residents with incredible savings. Luxury restaurants will offer three course prix-fixe lunches at $23 per person, dinners at $39. Fine dining restaurants will feature menus at $19 for lunch, $33 for dinner. All Miami Spice menus include an appetizer, entrée and dessert as part of the fixed price, which excludes tax and gratuities. For more information, visit www.ILoveMiamiSpice.com.
Evolution of a Culinary Philosophy
The aforementioned "New World" cuisine, formerly known as Floribbean, Tropical Fusion and Nuevo Latino), was created by Van Aken and other chefs dubbed the "Mango Gang," such as Allen Susser (Chef Allen's), Doug Rodriguez (Ola Miami) and Mark Militello. High in flavor and low in fat, this cuisine showcases clean flavors derived from ingenious combinations of fresh seafood and tropical fruits and vegetables. Culinary star Michelle Bernstein (Sra. Martinez and former Michy's and Crumb on Parchment) was later added to this list of luminaries with her new twist on this cuisine.
Now firmly established as a foodie town, the scene boasts an innovative mix of fusion restaurants, mixing a wide variety of international influences that reflects Miami’s diverse culture. The food, frequently on national TV shows and culinary magazines, is getting as much attention as the celebrity chefs, sports icons, movie and rock stars enjoying it. Zuma, the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Japanese restaurant, is known for its unprecedented combination of unique yet authentic cuisine, dynamic design and vibrant energy. Frequented by notables including Shania Twain, Janet Jackson, Lebron James, Will Smith, Lenny Kravitz and Rafael Nadal, among many others, Zuma Miami continues to be a favorite among locals, visitors and celebrities alike. James Beard-nominated restaurant SUGARCANE raw bar grill, known for its laid back atmosphere, freshly muddled drinks and global tapas, boasts stars such as Shakira, Eva Longoria and Enrique Iglesias.
Midtown’s Salumeria 104 features a new twist on the Italian concept of a trattoria and small neighborhood shop where one can find Italian specialty cured meats and other delicacies, also known as a salumi shop. Nearby is the The Cheese Course, a European-style cheese shop and bistro offering over 150 artisanal cheeses imported from dairy farms all over the world. The glitterati continue to flock to Quattro on Lincoln Road, known for its redefinition of classic Northern Italian food and sumptuous Milanese décor.
Chef Douglas Rodriguez, the globally acclaimed Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine, got his start in Miami, rising to fame with his Yuca restaurant in Coral Gables and South Beach, and has over the years been taking the nation by storm, opening award winning restaurants across the United States. Inspired by the strong Latin influence of Miami, Rodriguez’ restaurants are featured in some of the most cosmopolitan cities and attract celebrities from all sectors. His latest Miami Beach hotspots include De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean and Ola Miami at the Sanctuary Hotel.
Attracting arts and music luminaries to the SoHo-style Wynwood Arts District, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar features a perfect blend of cutting-edge art, renowned music and authentic Miami-style cuisine. The cooler-than-cool international eatery features a floor-to-ceiling mural by famed graffiti artist Shepard Fairey in the bar and lounge area, intensely colorful panoramic canvases by Berlin artist Christian Awe, an 11-foot sculpture by David Benjamin Sherry in the dining room and musical programming curated by Grammy Award-winning flautist Nestor Torres. An outdoor terrace is surrounded by the murals of Wynwood Walls, the largest street art park in the U.S. Joey’s Italian Café, the first restaurant to open in the neighborhood since it transformed into a hip arts district, is a favorite it locals and food editors. Food & Wine magazine cited Joey’s innovative thin-crusted pizza as one of the top pizzas in the U.S., while similar raves have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe.
Miami Culinary Tours and Mobile Cuisine
You know you’ve arrived as a food city when you’ve got culinary tours and pop up restaurants. Miami Food Tours, which offers renowned SoBe Tour des Forks walking tours of South Beach, just introduced their Swooped with Forks Food Tour—the best alternative to a walking food tour. Guests hop aboard Swoop, Miami’s hippest golf cart for a day of dining. Discovering the city’s James Beard Award-winning chefs, influential restaurateurs and coffee roasting pioneers, guests nibble their way through the cafes of the Design District, Buena Vista and Wynwood, and delve into the area’s rich history, architecture and culture. Miami Culinary Tours offers a variety of tours through various neighborhoods, such as South Beach and Little Havana. The latter lets guests
immerse themselves in the native life of the Cuban-Americans, savoring generational dishes from the kitchens of Cuban grandmothers while sipping on a local staple. After their Cuban comfort food they can walk it off with a stroll through the rustic village, later watching the art of cigar-rolling and the fierce competitions at Domino Park.
Gourmet food trucks and pop up restaurants are all the rage these days. Tobacco Road is one of the most popular sites for Miami Food Trucks, held every first Saturday of the month and serving up great groovy street and ethnic dishes (also held at Wynwood Art Walk every second Saturday). Nearby in Midtown is a popular pop up restaurant The Federal Miami on Biscayne Boulevard – formerly Phuc Yeah which launched the pop up restaurant craze in Miami in recent years.
Reinventing Hotel Dining
While in most cities foodies look upon hotel dining as hopelessly generic, in Miami hotel restaurants are red-hot – each with their own special spice. Asia de Cuba at Mondrian South Beach features original, made-to-order ceviches, tiraditos, inventive maki rolls and seasonal raw bar selections, along with a handful of salads and aperitivos. Atrio Restaurant & Wine Room at the Conrad Miami, featuring jaw-dropping views of Biscayne Bay from their 25th floor location, invites guests to embark in a sensorial epicurean journey that captures the best of Miami and the globe with modern, minimalist décor. One of Miami’s most revered dining spots is Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, featuring an eclectic blend of modern European flavors with American and Asian influences. Edge, Steak and Bar at Four Seasons Miami, features contemporary steakhouse fare in a variety of seating options including a communal dining table, relaxed lounge areas, and intimate table settings.
The top rated Palme d’Or at the Biltmore Hotel brings a taste of France to Coral Gables with seasonal dishes ranging from simple, yet sublime to expertly exotic. Piazzetta at the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles transports guests to an Italian town square, featuring an extensive collection of wines from around the world with an emphasis on private vintages. The Setai, Miami Beach blends French, Italian and Japanese flavors with a focus on traditional Japanese offerings. Also featuring Asian fare is celebrity studded Nobu at the Shore Club, where Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's Japanese cuisine draws upon his classical training at sushi bars in Tokyo and his life abroad in Peru, Argentina, and around the world to create an exciting new trend in Japanese cuisine. Lucky diners might catch a glimpse of partner Robert Deniro while enjoying the atmosphere and cuisine of this iconic South Beach restaurant.
James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Carmellini brings his wildly popular American restaurant and its roots-inspired cuisine to the W South Beach Hotel & Residences with The Dutch, paying homage to his roadtrips through America’s local cafes, corner taverns, neighborhood bistros, seaside shacks and roadside joints.
Mesazul Steakhouse at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa Miami offers a contemporary Latin-inspired spin on a classic American steakhouse, offering unobstructed panoramic views of the iconic TPC Blue Monster at Doral golf course, home to PGA Tour events for the past 45 decades, and a floor-to-ceiling, climate controlled glass wine vault, boasting 200 select offerings from South America, Spain and New World wines. Db Bistro Moderne at the J.W. Marriott Marquis serves up an exciting mix of traditional Parisian bistro cooking and contemporary American flavors. Located in the Turnberry Isle Hotel & Resort, BOURBON STEAK is celebrity chef Michael Mina’s modern twist on the classic American steakhouse, featuring a localized menu with prime cuts of all-natural, organic and hormone-free beef and the freshest seafood available from around the world.
Cecconi’s at the Soho Beach House hotel is popular for its classic Italian cuisine as well as its elaborate Sunday brunch, where you can often find local luminaries dining.
Miami is all about slowing down and savoring life, which has spawned the Slow Food movement in the region. More and more restaurants and locals source as many ingredients as possible from local farmers and fishermen, supporting the community and the environment. With dozens of farmers markets dotted around many communities, local chefs and residents have many options to access the freshest produce.
Slow Food Miami, the local chapter of the Slow Food USA and the International Slow Food Association, embraces local growers and artisan food makers who use sustainable methods, pay fair wages and respect the environment. Michael Schwartz, of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District, was the first celebrated Miami chef to get their Snail of Approval and now serves as an ambassador to the program in an effort to grow participation. The impressive roster of restaurants includes Celebrity Chef Michelle Bernstein’s Michy’s, Sra. Martinez and Crumb on Parchment in Midtown as well as Kris Wessel’s Red Light Little River north of Midtown. Other notables include the Green Table Artisan Kitchen & Bistro in Coral Gables and the Lido Restaurant at the Standard and Essenia Restaurant at the Palms Resort & Spa in Miami Beach.
In a similar effort, nearly 20 Miami restaurants and hotels participate in the "Adopt a Farmer" program, supporting local agriculture and sustainability initiatives. The program takes the highly successful "Dinner in Paradise" series sponsored by Homestead’s Paradise Farm, which offers B&B farm stays, to a new level. The five-acre certified organic farm has been teaming with upscale Miami restaurants for the past several years to offer six-course culinary masterpieces created with its organic produce. The sell-out events offer a farm tour, along with cocktails and dinner. Host restaurants throughout the year include the Loews Miami Beach, Area 31 at the Epic Hotel, the Raleigh Hotel, 1500° and many more.
Notable for its farm-to-fork philosophy, and Norman Van Aken’s Tuyo, Miami Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute (MCI), features three main components – an Associate in Science in Culinary Arts degree, continuing education for culinary professionals, and a food and beverage enthusiast education program. Offering culinary classes open to the public, the eight-story Institute is an architectural and engineering marvel that focuses on space utilization and generating a limited carbon footprint.
Located in Fruit and Spice Park, The Mango Café features fresher-than-fresh dishes sourcing ingredients from their 40-acre park, which boasts more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices, and nuts from all over the world. Bianca at Delano, perhaps South Beach’s most famous boutique hotel, offers an innovative Italian menu featuring local, organic ingredients, enjoyed by celebrity diners such as Mark Wahlberg, Jill Biden, Lennox Lewis, Kevin Hart, Joe Jonas and Aly Fedotowky. The St. Regis Bal Harbour is home to Jean-George Vongerichten’s J&G Grill, which exemplifies Jean-Georges’ philosophy of blending Asian and French cuisine and features the highest quality meats and freshest fish, vegetables and fruit available from the local market, all while enjoying the breathtaking views of the powder white sand beach. Area 31, the breathtaking restaurant on the 16th floor of Kimpton’s EPIC Hotel delivers a dramatic menu filled with modern American cuisine, sourced fresh fish from the sustainable waters of Area 31, and local produce from Florida’s rich farmlands. Other green eateries include Peacock Garden Café in Coconut Grove and The Dining Room south of Fifth on South Beach.
One of Miami’s most famous gourmet landmarks is Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach, featuring their signature crab claws and scrumptious sides served up by waiters in tuxedos. Across town is SUSHISamba dromo, a Japanese/Peruvian/ Brazilian hybrid on Lincoln Road. The ever-popular China Grill is relocating and expanding to Miami’s Brickell Financial District in winter 2012/2013, while the cheerfully hip 24-hour mega eatery, Jerry's Famous Deli, still serves up massive bowls of matzo ball soup to hungry South Beach patrons at 2 a.m.
Feel like enjoying a cappuccino and watching rollerbladers whiz by? Alfresco cafes are a quintessential part of any Miami dining experience, from Ocean Drive's famed News Café and Van Dyke Cafe to Coconut Grove's legendary Greenstreet CaféLulu, which owners call a “neighborfood” restaurant, sits in the heart of “the Grove” on Commodore Plaza near Main Street, serving up globally influenced seasonal cuisine using as many local and organic ingredients as possible.
For close to a decade, Altamare has been a Miami Beach dining mainstay, a locals’ favorite and must-try destination for serious foodies and the “culinary adventurous.” Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables features the award-winning food of renowned chef and owner Cindy Hutson, who calls her dishes "cuisine of the sun," creatively fusing Caribbean, Latin and Asian flavors into unforgettably unique food. Nearby is Caffe Abbracci, open since 1989 and serving light Italian cuisine incorporating organic ingredients. Attracted by the rave reviews and Old World charm, both locals and celebrities have dined here, including the likes of Don King, Rudy Giuliani and Oprah Winfrey. Larger portions are served nearby at Randazzo’s owned by former boxer Marc Randazzo. Other notable dining institutions include authentic Irish pub John Martin’s in Coral Gables as well as Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar and Latam Grill in Coconut Grove, offering traditional Central and South American cuisine.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
With its legendary nightlife driven by the fashion and entertainment industries, Miami is at the forefront of the culinary trend towards blending dining and entertainment experiences. As music pulses and celebrities flit from banquette to banquette, it is extraordinary cuisine that takes center stage at white-hot spots like Tantra, known for its aphrodisiac cuisine, and Meat Market, featuring seasonal menus with a sexier, more glamorous take on the traditional American steakhouse.
Miami's party planner extraordinaire, Barton G., displays delicious dishes with over-the-top presentations that are photographed more than the celebrities at his three hotspots – Barton G. The Restaurant, Prelude By Barton G. inside the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and Dining Room at The Villa By Barton G (inside the former Gianni Versaci mansion). Segafredo Brickell, an Italian café with spacious indoor and outdoor dining areas and a boutique nightclub, and Blue Martini, with its tapas menu, signature drinks and stunning décor, also enliven the downtown dining scene into the wee hours.
Although Miami is known more for fabulous cocktails at nightclubs, there is one winery in the region. Schnebly Redland's Winery & Brewery in the Redland agricultural region is drawing attention with their innovative wines and beers crafted from tropical fruits unique to South Florida – a hidden gem for wine lovers looking to taste on a new frontier.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is an independent not-for-profit sales and marketing organization whose mission is to attract visitors to Greater Miami and the Beaches for leisure, business and conventions. For a vacation guide, visit our website at www.MiamiAndBeaches.com or call 1-888-76-Miami (US/Canada only) or 305-447-7777. To reach the GMCVB offices dial 305-539-3000. Meeting planners may call 1-800-933-8448 (US/Canada only) or 305-539-3071 or visit www.MiamiMeetings.com.