Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
"Small and friendly cafeteria where the food is always fresh and consistently good. I like it because the staff knows you and treats you like family. One gets to rub elbows with high rollers who drive up in Porsches and Benzes. It's a great mix of Miami types, from actors and musicians to bankers, journalists, police officers, and mechanics."—Angel Valentin, Miami photographer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Crowded, zero-frills cafeteria where all walks of life from Miami sit on molded plastic seats to devour hearty, cheap Cuban breakfasts and lunches like pan con bistec (steak sandwich), sopa de pollo (chicken soup), breaded grouper fillet with chicharos (peas), rice, and plantains. 186 N.E. 29th St., Miami; tel. +1 305 573 4681.
El Palacio de los Jugos
Thatched-roof juice bar known for its Cuban sandwiches and freshly squeezed tropical fruit juices. 5721 W. Flagler St., Miami; tel. +1 305 264 4557.
Cuban fish fry counter where locals stand (there are no seats) and devour fried snapper, shrimp, and lobster. 1952 W. Flagler St., Miami; tel. +1 305 642 3322.
Outdoor South Beach sandwich counter known for its fresh baguettes and croissants, fruit smoothies, and espressos—perfect after a long night of partying; open until 5 a.m. 229 14th St., South Beach; tel. +1 305 532 8934. www.lasandwicherie.com
A holdover from South Beach's cheaper days, this grungy diner is the place for Cuban-style comfort food on South Beach. Get the roast chicken, which comes with black beans and white rice and fried sweet plantains. 700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; tel. +1 305 673 1115.
Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market
"You can sit on the Miami River, still see the downtown skyscrapers, check out the Miami crowd, and eat Cuban-inspired seafood at the best place we have to offer…"—Michelle Bernstein, Miami chef and native, and owner of Michy's restaurant in Miami's Upper East Side. Family-owned downtown staple with outdoor, weathered wood tables on a patio overlooking the industrial Miami River; known for fish sandwiches, grilled/fried/blackened shrimp, and conch steaks pounded chewable and thin. 398 NW North River Dr., Miami; tel. +1 305 375 0765.
"For kicked-back Cuban meals—especially their breakfast special of scrambled eggs with ham, toasted Cuban bread, and cafe con leche."—Kathy Martin, food editor, the Miami Herald. Family-style Cuban restaurant with branches throughout Miami; Cuban classics like grilled palomilla steak and Cuban pot roast, as well as fried grouper and other seafood. 3632 SW 8th St., Miami; tel. +1 305 444 7501. www.lacarreta.com
A South Beach institution on Ocean Drive open 24 hours a day; the place to grab a cup of coffee and a newspaper or magazine from its eclectic newsstand then people watch at an outdoor table; serves omelets, burgers, and Middle Eastern fare. 800 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; tel. +1 305 538 6397. www.newscafe.com
"The food's pretty basic—they have fish sandwiches and beer or, if you prefer, fish sandwiches and beer. But the location is fabulous: On the bay, right next to city hall. When the weather's good it's one of the best places in town to sit around and eat a fish sandwich, and maybe drink a beer."—Dave Barry, Miami Herald humor columnist and author. Breezy, super-casual waterfront hideaway with a crusty bar and outdoor restaurant; frequented by politicians, media types, and boaters; beers by the bucket, smoked fish dip, burgers, and steaks. 3381 Pan American Dr., Coconut Grove; tel. +1 305 854 2626. www.sailmiami.com/scottys.htm
"I go for the dumplings."—Christine De La Torre, private chef and owner of Miami's Savory Fare catering. Where South Floridians go for dim sum lunch-brunch on weekends. 7991 SW 40th St. (Bird Road), South Miami; tel. +1 305 262 7576.
"A true taste of Cuban Miami … The first place I take anyone coming in from out of town with cravings for vaca frita and fried plantains or to have a great café con leche."—Maria Morales, senior writer in Miami for People en Español. Little Havana icon that draws power brokers and locals with a hankering for ropa vieja (shredded beef stew), arroz con pollo (chicken and yellow rice), and media noche (pork-and-cheese) sandwiches; mirrored dining room, plus bakery with walk-up coffee counter known for late-night debates. 3555 SW 8th St., Miami; tel. +1 305 444 0240.
"Casual, Miami chic—excellent food and service."—Donna Shalala, University of Miami president and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Handsome Italian restaurant with fast, smart service and elegant, dark-wood atmosphere; pastas, risotto, veal dishes, grilled fish. 318 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; tel. +1 305 441 0700.
Joe's Stone Crab
"Not only was this uniquely Floridian shellfish and house mustard sauce first served here, but Joe's has been the social nexus of Miami for almost a century. Hint for tourists: come for lunch (especially on Friday)—no waiting line and that's when the locals come."—Steven Raichlen, Miami native and author of Miami Spice, The Barbecue Bible, How to Grill, and host of Barbecue University on PBS. A fixture on South Beach since 1913; no reservations; scoring a table is sometimes difficult, unless you're cozy with the maitre d' or you're famous enough to get recognized. 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; tel. +1 305 673 0365. www.joesstonecrab.com
Nicaraguan steakhouse created in the early 1980s by several partners, including Julio Somoza, nephew of the onetime dictator; now has five locations around Miami; try the churrasco, a charbroiled tenderloin steak with three different chilli-spiked sauces, house salad, sweet plantains, gallo pinto (beans and rice), and garlic bread. 125 SW 107th Ave., Sweetwater; tel. +1 305 552 6767. www.losranchossteakhouse.com
Nuevo Latino food (OLA is an acronym for "Of Latin America") in an indoor-outdoor patio restaurant at the Sanctuary Hotel in South Beach. Celebrity chef Douglas Rodriguez comes up with inventive ceviche, plantain-crusted mahi over a braised oxtail stew with tomato escabeche and crispy pork with honey truffle yucca mash, black bean broth, and oregano mojo. 1745 James Ave.; tel. +1 305 695 9125; www.olamiami.com
Ortanique on the Mile
Island chic with wake-up-your-mouth flavors from chef Cindy Hutson; Caribbean signature dishes such as pumpkin bisque with pepper sherry sauce, jerked chicken penne pasta and guava-barbecued Scottish salmon with calypso mashed potatoes, roasted Mt. Diablo corn, and black bean salsa; the funky restaurant is named after a rare, tropical citrus fruit. 278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; tel. +1 305 446 7710. www.cindyhutsoncuisine.com
Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!