If you're planning a trip to Miami and you're looking for tips on where to eat, drink and stay while you're there, then look no further. The Hot Dinners team spent some time there recently, and we've compiled a shortlist for your first trip there.
The instagrammable hot spot
Le Sirenuse - 9011 Collins Ave, Surfside, FL 33154, USA
Months ago, we'd seen London interiors Instagrammer Richard Massey's pictures of Le Sirenuse and thought that we HAD to go there when we're in Miami. And having been, we now think it's just the most beautiful place we've been to pretty much ever, let alone here in America.
Set up in the Surfside district, this is one of two restaurants at the Four Seasons - the full title is Le Sirenuse Restaurant & Champagne Bar At The Surf Club Miami. That last bit's important because the history of this place is quite something. The original Surf Club was a members-only club and was opened on New Year's Eve 1930 by tycoon Harvey Firestone. He created quite the post-Prohibition party spot where you were as likely to bump into Frank Sinatra as Winston Churchill.
The Le Sirenuse restaurant and Champagne bar you see today were created from what remained of the original Surf Club building, so they feature original details such as fireplaces and vast wooden ceilings. That all opened two years ago - while The Surf Club's other restaurant by Thomas Keller opened just last summer.
The Champagne bar is the real Instagram spot - vaulted ceilings, huge palm trees - it's quite the scene. On the night we were there, top NYC bar Dante had bartenders in situ, knocking out their signature cocktails. But we fancied trying Le Sirenuse's own drinks list. Mare was their take on the martini which featured Beluga Noble Vodka, Black Taggiasca olives, seaweed infused Mancino Secco vermouth and 'sea essence'. Oh, and it came with a rather nice anchovy amuse bouche too.
In the restaurant, head chef Antonio Mermolia - who comes here via restaurants in Sicily and New York, turns out Southern Italian fare with his own distinct take. Beef tartare with an egg yolk confit and Grana Padano reduction was among our favourite starters - while a dish of ravioli Caprese was quite the stunner, striped with the colours of a Caprese salad.
Thankfully we kept a little room back for dessert which meant we got to try the wonderful Giardino Del Bronte - a bowl full of the best pistachio gelato topped with pistachio crumbs and edible flowers. Almost as pretty as the room that we were eating it in...
Opting for the Il Contro option here gets you four courses for $130.
The cool small plates spot
Pubbelly Sushi South Beach - 1424 20th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA
This popular Miami spot opened in 2011 a year after Pub Belly Noodle Bar (which is next door). The chef responsible is five-time James Beard Award Nominee – Chef Jose Mendin. Expect a winning combo of Asian snacks with a Latin influence which is still packing them in. We arrived on a Sunday night and found the place humming. Inside you can sit up at the counter or grab a table, but we were here fresh from wintry London so we wanted a table out on the terrace, basking in the evening heat.
The menu's a mixture of snacks, sushi (sashimi and rolls) as well as small plates from the robata grill. We'd had the tuna pizza before (on our Caribbean cruise) but we were still more than happy to order it again - knowing that it was a crispy tortilla topped with garlic aioli, truffle oil and raw tuna.
Here's what else we had:
- Salmon tartare taquito ($12) - filled with avo mousse, red pico de gallo and topped with masago roe.
- Butter krab roll ($14) stuffed with crabstick and served with a pot of warm clarified butter to dip into. We'd been wanting this ever since we saw a pic of it on Instagram. It didn't disappoint.
- Miso black cod ($29) - a huge piece of fish, beautifully cooked served up with charred spring onions.
You can also order from the noodle bar menu next door, so we also plumped for some of their amazing short rib gyozas with white corn soy, parmesan and black truffle ($15) - we'd like to tell you how good these were but our teenager wolfed the lot down before we could have a go at them. All in all an easy recommendation for this popular Sunset Harbour spot.
The breakfast spot
Cecconi's Miami Beach House - 4385 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33140, USA
Set in quieter mid-Beach, Soho House's Miami outpost is as cool and beautiful as you might expect. As non-members we only got to see the lobby and restaurant at this art deco hotel and club, but Instagram reveals that if you can fork out the money for a night or two here, you've also got a cracking pool scene to enjoy.
We swung by for breakfast where there's a choice of breakfast table (piled high with beautiful pastries, pancakes stacks and the usual buffet choices), or you can opt for a-la-carte dishes like french toast, egg white omelette, superfood bowls - that sort of thing. Obviously, we were after something a little less 'healthy' than that, so between us, we tried the eggs royal ($16), a cracking avo on sourdough with poached eggs and chilli flakes ($14) and an Eggs Benedict ($12).
Overlooking the pool and covered by vines, it's a very pretty spot to kickstart your day in Miami.
Joe's Stone Crab - 11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA
We were in two minds about heading down to what is perhaps the best-known restaurant in Miami. Opened in 1913, it's the kind of classic dining spot that gets referenced in James Bond novels and is so crazily popular and successful that it's one of the Top 5 most profitable restaurants in the whole of the US. In peak season it serves around 1500 people a night. It's a huge operation - and the touristy nature of the whole thing is what probably gave us pause, but we're so glad we went.
Unless you go at a very quiet time of the day, understand that you're going to have to wait. We had an hour's wait at around 7pm - so our tip would be to factor this into your meal here. Put your name down and then find a seat in the bar (they call out names on the PA system as tables become free) and order your starters from the bar snacks list here. We went for the conch fritters.
Once you're in possession of a table then what you're after, of course, are the famous stone crabs. They're only in season from mid-October to mid-May. Portions are generous, so a medium size of cracked crab legs are plenty for two, particularly when you add in some of the great sides.
We didn't have room for dessert - but they're well known for their key lime pie. In all - well worth a visit.
The fried chicken place
Yardbird - 1600 Lenox Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA
We'd heard a lot about Yardbird before our visit and it's regularly in lists of the top places to go in Miami, but while we enjoyed plenty of what we ate here we just weren't wild about it.
In part that's down to the menu - if you want the chicken they're famous for, you have to either order a half for $26 or have it with waffles and watermelon for $36. When paired with any starters and sides ends up making for a huge (and expensive) supper. Portions are very much on the generous side here - so we think you can share a starter and a main between two and that's more than enough for most people. The smoked brisket biscuits were great (£15) but could frankly have done as a main course. Sometimes we forget that US restaurants can be a little over-generous on the portion size.
Alas, the devilled eggs (and god knows we LOVE a devilled egg) were a bit disappointing - but the chicken itself was decent. But there's a great buzz to the place and looking back, maybe brunch here would have been a better bet.
The burger joint
Cheeseburger Baby - 1505 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA
This dive bar turned burger restaurant is the brainchild of delivery driver Stephanie Vitori who opened it back at the turn of the millennium. It's open till the wee small hours, so very handy if you're out partying in South Beach. Alternatively, it's also a good spot to rest from shopping, away from the more touristy spots. The burgers here were very tasty - if a little overdone for our taste - but we'd cross the Atlantic tomorrow for another go at their amazing Philly Cheese Steak Fries, which were awesome.
The place for great seafood
Mignonette - 210 NE 18th St, Miami, FL 33132, USA
This modern oyster bar opened in 2014 - the end result of a growing foodie bromance between Miami restaurateur Danny Serfer and food blogger/lawyer Ryan Roman. Together they've created a relaxed seafood spot with a raw bar and separate dining room.
There's a wide choice of oysters, as you'd expect, but we were gunning for the lobster devilled eggs ($18). After the disappointing ones at Yardbird, these restored our faith. And a bowl of super popcorn shrimp ($15) helped matters along still further. A warm lobster roll was as good as you'd expect it to be somewhere like this and the lobster tails with some excellent grits on the side were also winners. Don't miss out on desserts either - the pavlova was super (and a nice and light way to finish off).
The ice-cream and doughnut stops
We'd happily have spent more time in Wynwood if we could - loads of people recommended Kyu which we'd like to try next time around. Meanwhile, we did find time to pop into Dasher & Crank - an amazing ice-cream parlour with flavours like Salty Beach - coconut, sea salt, and Graham Crackers.
We also swung by Salty Donut which was voted one of the best in America. Our tip - avoid the cake doughnuts. We didn't realise varieties came in brioche or cake and our brown butter and salt cake doughnut wasn't as good as we hoped it would be. A trad variety in maple and bacon was much better. The development where Salty Donut is in, called Wynwood Arcade, also has a cookery school run by the well-respected chef Norman Van Aken.
And while you're in the area - why not pop into Zak the Baker for some great babka.
The food hall
1-800-Lucky - 143 NW 23rd St, Miami, FL 33127, USA
Tucked down a side road in Wynwood in between displays of astonishing street art and yard taco stands is this Asian-focused food hall from the folks behind nearby Coyo Taco. Here you'll find everything from poke to sushi and more. We had soup dumplings from Yip and a Crunchy Shrimp hand roll from Myumi. If you're here in the evening there's a huge outside yard space and they also have (dangerous, this) karaoke rooms with bottle service
- The Lincoln Eatery - this is handy for the South Beach shopping district, but we didn't find any of the spaces here enticing enough to bother trying.
- Time Out Market Miami - hasn't opened yet, but is due any day now. It'll feature stalls from people like James Beard Award-winning Chef Norman Van Aken and the Coyo Taco folks.
- La Centrale - seven stalls, five restaurants, three bars, one gelato store, a wine cellar and a cooking studio - all devoted to Italian food.
- Aventura - this is the mahoosive shopping mall in Miami. They've recently opened the Treats Food Hall where you should get your shopping sustenance from. We loved our Luke's Lobster rolls.
More places to eat...
We couldn't visit everything - but that said, our initial list was a little ambitious. Here are a few more places that we liked the look of, but didn't make it to...
- Upland - Italian/ Californian restaurant and Miami outpost of the New York original.
- The Sandwicherie - so we wanted to come here almost just due to the name. But also because it has some of the best sandwiches in Miami.
- Lucali - another NYC import, but if you can't make it to Brooklyn, check out the pizzas here
- Versailles Cuban Bakery - the main thing missing from our trip was a visit to Little Havana. And the Cuban sandwiches here are supposed to be among the best. Alternatively, try the nearby Sanguich De Miami.
- Alter - New American cuisine in Wynwood
- Coyo Taco - popular taco stop in Wynwood.
- Kaido - really a cocktail bar serving Japanese small plates, but we love the look of this.
And finally, one more place that we did actually visit. If you're flying Norwegian from Fort Lauderdale, make sure to check out Steak and Shake at the airport. The burgers here are all cooked to order and damned cheap too. They didn't have the Garlic Double Steak Burger that we CRAVE - but these were better burgers than we've had in any airport (Shake Shack aside).
We tapped up top London barmen Alex Kratena (soon to open Tayer + Elementary) and Brodie (Top Cuvee) for their tips on where to go in Miami. Here's where we tried - plus where else we would have gone if our livers had held up...
Sweet Liberty - 237 20th St Suite B, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA
This was the first cocktail bar we've come across that has its own version of a chef's table that you can book actually behind the bar. Currently 21 on the World's 50 Best Bars list, it's a joint effort between the late award-winning bartender John Lermayer (credited with elevating Miami's bar scene to what it is today) and Dan Binkiewicz along with restaurateur David Martinez. The Pina Colada we had here was made with their Sweet Liberty 3 Rum Blend and served with a Pedro Ximenez float.
The Scapegoat - 100 Collins Ave CU4, Miami Beach, FL 33139, USA
Billed as "is the only bar in South Florida that specializes in All-American beers, spirits, wines, and cocktails" - we popped into Scapegoat for a post-meal sharpener after Joe's Stone Crab. And they really mean all-American, so there are vodkas from Tampa, gins from here in Miami as well as an extensive American beer and wine list. It's also a very friendly spot too.
- Jaguar Sun - new opening Downtown that's been packing them in with its tropical cocktail bar menu.
- Broken Shaker - "the single-greatest youth hostel bar in history" says Thrillist. And that's a good thing apparently.
- Mac's Club Deuce - the oldest bar in Miami - this dive bar was a favourite of the late great Bourdain.
The celebrity boat cruise - an easy and fun way to spend 90 minutes out on the bay, gawking at where David Beckham stays when he's in Miami and Jackie Chan's house, among other millionaire pads.
Where we stayed
We were in Miami for five nights and wanted to break our trip into two, spending three nights down in South Beach in one of the art-deco hotels and two higher up Miami Beach in a more resort-style hotel.
San Juan Hotel - This budget-ish option is right in the heart of South Beach, so it's easy to walk to the shops and bars. We liked the free poolside breakfast which came as a surprise and totally set us up for the day.
Grand Beach Hotel - This stylish hotel is right on the beach and has two pool areas - one for families and the other on the seventh floor which is adults-only. There's nowhere to eat here worth mentioning, so bear that in mind. But the beach views are just wonderful and it's a nice place to chill out.
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