Miami’s been given a wild culinary glow-up over the past few decades, the titterings of which began when Gianni Versace, in all his fashionable prescience, chose to hang his hat in South Beach, with celebrities like Madonna, Sly Stallone and Lenny Kravitz following suit — indulgent palates in tow. 

As a born and raised Miami native (shout out to my neighborhood, Kendall) with a boundless appetite, no one’s been more pumped about having a front-row seat to this evolution than me. What began with a rogue group of South Florida chefs who pushed the boundaries of local palates using indigenous ingredients (the cheekily self-branded “Mango Gang”), is now home to Michelin-starred restaurants, James Beard Award winners and more internationally-recognized chefs than you can shake a croqueta at. 

As the unofficial capital of Latin America, Miami does one thing better than just about anyone else: it brings together an envious roster of Latin cuisines from around the Caribbean and South America in one gloriously simmering pot melding flavors with passion, chispa (spark) and a gustatory history of a tropical homeland an ocean away.  

Listen, they don’t call it the “Magic City” for nothin’. 

Visiting Miami for the weekend? We have the perfect itinerary for you

pastries from Zak the Baker
For breakfast carbs, Zak the Baker has you covered © Zak the Baker

Breakfast 

Keeping breakfast on a budget in Miami is deliciously simple. Just swing by one of the Cuban cafeterias around town for a platter loaded with eggs, ham, and butter-slathered Cuban bread, served with a steamy mug of cafe con leche on the side (local tip: you should definitely dunk your bread in it). Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Wynwood is my go-to for a solid Cuban breakfast, but get there a few minutes before it opens – the diner is small and fills up quickly. If breakfast is the most important meal of your day – or you’re coping with the repercussions of a night out in Miami – a Columbian bandeja paisa is the way to go. You’ll find this generous combo of beans, rice, arepa, chorizo, plantain, chicharrón, avocado and beef at the aptly named Bandeja Paisa in West Miami. 

For breakfast carb fiends, Zak the Baker has your back. Located in Wynwood, it’s nabbed a Michelin Bib Gourmand with its rotating cast of croissants, danishes, cookies, cinnamon rolls and traditional Jewish baked goods like challah and babka. When Miami’s in season, the line snakes around the corner for one of the limited tables inside. Don’t let that deter you, though – it’s worth every minute of patience. 

L: coffee window at Versailles; R: Panther Coffee
L:

Coffee 

Coffee in Miami inevitably means sipping the liquid gold known as Cuban coffee or cafecito. It’s a strong caffeinated concoction made from Cuban espresso and sugar served in a thimble-sized cup. Why? Because a little goes a long way. Don’t make the mistake of downing an entire eight ounces of the stuff — your heart will quickly let you know that was a huge mistake. The best place to score some cafecito is from a ventanita (a walk-up window), where you can also add a flaky guava, cheese or meat-stuffed pastry called a pastelito to your order, or the unofficial snack of Miami: the croqueta. The most famous ventanita in Miami is at Versailles in Little Havana. It has a storied history of welcoming lively political debates amongst locals and even the occasional US president.  

For a more traditional coffee shop experience, Panther Coffee is a home-grown coffee roaster with several locations throughout the city. Its cold brew hits the spot on a steamy Miami day.

These are the best spots to sip Cuban coffee in Miami

Outdoor dining at Seaspice and Smith & Wollensky
L: Mediterranean dishes with a Miami River view at Seaspice © Seaspice; R: A seafood lunch with an ocean view at Smith & Wollensky © PPX Hospitality

Lunch 

When I’m meeting friends for a quick lunch, it usually means a trip to one of Miami's many food halls. There’s bound to be something to make everyone happy, and you can be in and out of there in less than 45 minutes. The stalls at 1-800-Lucky in Wynwood focus on Asian fare, while the 10 stations at Casa Tua Cucina in Brickell lean Italian. But for a variety of cuisines and tastes, the 26 vendors at Julia & Henry’s hawking everything from Venetian tapas to poke and ramen can’t be beat.

Sometimes, lunch calls for a more formal affair. In that case, I like to take it to Seaspice and watch a parade of yachts cruising down the Miami River as I dive into meticulously prepared Mediterranean plates that might include some crudos, sea salt-crusted fish or lobster risotto. Alternatively, some of the best ocean views in town can be found at Smith & Wollensky in South Pointe or Boater’s Grille in Bill Baggs State Park for fried whole fish and paella.

Bar and snacks at Margot Natural Wine
Order a glass at Margot Natural Wine's 70s-style bar and you might end up staying for dinner © Margot Natural Wine

Aperitivo 

When I want a good glass of wine, I head to a gas station. But one in particular. Yes, El Carajo is located in what would technically be the convenience mart of a BP gas station. But instead of cans of Red Bulls and bags of Takis, there’s a bounty of Spanish tapas like grilled octopus, fried chickpeas and meatballs waiting to be paired with one of over 2000 bottles of wine.

If you’re downtown, head to Margot Natural Wine and sip on some natural wine in a scene-y 70s Scandinavian-style living room, or hop over to Sugar in Brickell for Asian-themed cocktails in a Balinese-fevered dream 40 stories over the city (but expect a line on Fridays and Saturdays). 

Exterior and pasta from Boia De
Boia De is one of the hottest tables for dinner in Miami © Boia De

Dinner 

One of the hottest tables in Miami is Boia De. And yes, you should definitely book ahead (though, that’s generally a good rule of thumb for most dining experiences in Miami). It’s located next to a laundromat, but it earned its Michelin star for its surprising take on Italian dishes. Bring a friend and order a few plates to share – the beef tartare, crispy polenta, lamb ribs fra diavola and tiramisu are musts. 

Miami also does Peruvian food exceptionally well. So, if you prefer the flexibility of walking into a restaurant without a reservation, get your ceviche fix at Aromas de Peru in Coral Gables or Dr Limon in Pinecrest. Add the papa a la huancaina (layered potatoes in cream sauce) or a causa (mashed potato salad) with your order of ceviche – both are personal favorites and are executed exceptionally well at both restaurants. 

L: The Corner bar; R: Ocean Drive nightlife, South Beach
L: Nightcap at The Corner, anyone? © Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau; R: Miami Beach is always a good place to start your night on the town © Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Bar 

Nightlife is king in Miami. There’s even an area downtown that permits 24-hour liquor licenses. That means you can take your night from the lounges and bars in Miami Beach and continue the revelry well into the next day at downtown clubs like E11even and Space. Or, wind down from all the dancing at LIV with a 6am nightcap at The Corner.

Ready to go to Miami?

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