First Time in Miami? Here’s Where to Eat.
Five spots we never get tired of dining at across five different neighborhoods
These days, Miami has a mind-boggling number of recommendation-worthy restaurants to choose from. In the past few years, the city has attracted culinary talent from all over the country, which has resulted in an even more enviable food scene. South Beach is usually the focal point for most first-time visitors, but Miami is a sprawling metropolis that includes vibrant neighborhoods like Coconut Grove, Wynwood, Brickell and Overtown — each with its own distinct culture and restaurant offerings. If it’s your first time in Miami, and you want to get a taste of what each neighborhood offers, here’s where to eat.
Nikki Beach Miami
Why you’re here: When I first moved to Miami over 20 years ago, Nikki Beach was one of the first places I went for brunch, and it continues to be one of my favorite weekend hangouts. The aesthetic at this landmark South Beach restaurant has a sexy St. Tropez vibe, and the motto here is “Tell only your best friends.” Consider this your personal invitation.
What you’re ordering: During the week, the restaurant offers a global menu with items like crab cakes, Cuban sandwiches and lobster ravioli, but if you can, set aside an afternoon for the weekend buffet brunch. On Sundays, a DJ spins a playlist of international house beats, and the drinks are as pretty as the garden setting — my frosé came in a wine glass topped with an orchid. You can look forward to made-to-order pasta (the cheese tortellini is buttery and tender), fresh sushi, a delicious carving station, and crepes and waffles grilled to a perfect golden brown. My advice is to get comfortable, order a few drinks and taste a bit of everything.
Why you’re here: Coconut Grove is in the midst of a revitalization, and Mayfair Grill, located at the Mayfair House Hotel and Garden, is in the heart of all the action. Stop by before or after exploring Miami’s oldest neighborhood — the newly rebuilt CocoWalk retail center, the Books & Books pop-up shop and Peacock Park are just minutes away.
What you’re ordering: Mayfair Grill’s menu is a fusion of Floridian and Southwest flavors with dishes served in a gorgeous indoor/outdoor garden setting. The breakfast menu includes items like huevos divorciados served on a blue corn tortilla, and the avocado toast is sweetened with roasted corn and sprinkled with sharp cotija cheese. You also can’t go wrong with the seafood and steak dishes. On a recent dinner visit, I ate a tostada with creamy avocado and lobster, and a wagyu picanha steak grilled to perfection. Another great option is Sipsip, the Caribbean-influenced rooftop bar at the Mayfair Hotel that has an extensive rum-infused cocktail menu. My favorite drink is the Goombay Smash made with Bacardi coconut rum, Santa Teresa rum and apricot brandy.
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Why you’re here: Overtown is about a 15-minute drive from South Beach, and the historically Black neighborhood (and the second oldest in Miami) is also the location of Red Rooster, a Bib Gourmand-recognized restaurant. People come here for the weekday happy hours and the Sunday gospel brunch, which comes with a live performance.
What you’re ordering: Helmed by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, the restaurant pays homage to Miami’s rich Black culture with a menu that includes Southern comfort food alongside Caribbean and West African dishes. If you’re not sure where to start, try the spicy shrimp and grits served with cornbread, the jollof rice or the charred octopus. The jerk chicken and waffles, a brunch favorite, is an explosion of sweet, savory and spicy — and one of the best chicken and waffle dishes I’ve tasted.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Why you’re here: Miami’s Design District is a funky neighborhood full of art galleries, interior design centers and a high-end shopping center. Just a few blocks away from the glammed-up Hermes and Louis Vuitton flagship stores is Mandolin Aegean Bistro, a charming Mediterranean restaurant.
What you’re ordering: The menu at this Bib Gourmand-designated restaurant includes Greek and Turkish dishes like lamb kebabs and eggplant moussaka. The dishes are served in shareable portions, and there’s also an impressive portfolio of international and domestic wines. If you can’t decide, you can’t go wrong with the manti dumplings made with minced beef, garlic yogurt and Aleppo pepper. The restaurant is housed inside a charming 1940s bungalow, and the backyard patio will make you feel like you’re in Mykonos.
Why you’re here: Brickell used to empty out after dark, but with the addition of several swanky bars and restaurants, this downtown neighborhood is now a late-night hotspot. One of my favorite Brickell restaurants is Kaori Miami, a modern Asian restaurant that I keep coming back to because of the intimate atmosphere and creative menu.
What you’re ordering: You want to order any of the seafood dishes here, especially the raw dishes which are well thought out and gorgeously presented. Take your pick from the oysters served with shiso mignonette, the chutoro tartare with wasabi aioli or the bluefin tuna sashimi. On my last visit, my husband and I shared the steamed bao buns stuffed with grilled pork belly, kimchi and salsa verde. The two-story restaurant has a cozy bar downstairs, and the dining room upstairs is the perfect place to enjoy a meal and watch the sun go down over the city.
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