Whether it’s the delectable food, quirky décor, impeccable service, rich history or A-list clientele, every city has that cherished list of restaurants that locals and travelers “simply must try.” In a town like Miami that sizzles in every sense of the word (temperature, culture, beautiful people), you’ll find plenty of iconic eats. Here are some of our favorites layered with tradition that continue to beckon diners worldwide.
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Palme d’Or is Miami’s longest-running fine French restaurant. Located inside Four-Star The Biltmore, Palme d’Or consistently delivers what you’d imagine a legendary luxe hotel might — exquisite food, stunning presentation and meticulous attention paid to guests. Crisp white linens set with St. James china, blonde woods and statement chandeliers intermingle with palm trees to create a classy yet unpretentious atmosphere. With James Beard “Rising Star” nominee Gregory Pugin at the helm, expect elaborate dishes that devotees call perfection on a plate.
Order this: Start with tuna tartare of cucumber, avocado and mango or seared foie gras topped with apricot, rosemary and elderberry gastrique; select from entrees of Colorado lamb loin, Japanese Kobe beef and duck confit; and for dessert, relish in a chocolate and Grand Mariner éclair.
Joe’s Stone Crab
What started as a small mom-and-pop lunch counter at a 1913 bathing casino that served fish sandwiches and fries has evolved into a culinary institution. Tuxedoed waiters are always on watch as they carefully balance oval trays above their heads carrying the sweetest, most succulent crab you’ve ever tasted. The stately dining room with seating for 450 is always crowded yet, somehow, every diner is treated like a VIP. Insiders know to arrive early, as a table is hard to come by at this no-reservations eatery, especially in peak season (mid-October through mid-May).
Order this: What else but stone crabs dipped in their signature mustard sauce, with hashed brown potatoes, creamed spinach and grilled tomatoes on the side? For dessert, choose Key lime pie, of course.
The Forge Restaurant Winebar
The Forge has been a social epicenter since its beginnings as a blacksmith shop in the 1920s — Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Al Pacino and Madonna have all dined here. Once renowned as the city’s best steakhouse with rather lavish, over-the-top furnishings, for its latest reinvention, The Forge has turned to farm-to-table fare, a modern and low-key look and feel, and high-tech touches (a glass-encased wine system lets guests serve themselves). On the menu from James Beard Award-winning chef Christopher Lee you’ll still find steakhouse classics but they come along with a unique selection of “accessories” (bleu cheese creamed caramelized onions or shrimp scampi, for example), rubs and sauces to dress up your dish just the way you like it.
Order this: Try the Jamaican jerk bacon for a starter. For your main, go with a 16-ounce boneless ribeye with foie gras and black truffles that’s topped with duck egg and smoked bacon. Finish things off with the Forge S’mores Soufflé.
Set in the historic Browns Hotel, Miami Beach’s first hotel built in 1915, Prime 112 is recognized for being the first U.S. modern steak house. Started by twice-named James Beard “Outstanding Restaurateur” semifinalist Myles Chefetz, the two-story, indoor-outdoor boutique eatery is renowned for its sexy look, high-energy atmosphere and eclectic mix of upscale clientele as much as it is for high-quality prime cuts that have been dry aged on site. In between bites, look up because you may find yourself dining next to hometown celebrities like Dwyane Wade, Dick Vitale or Kim Kardashian. Reservations are highly recommended.
Order this: Pick from the Kobe beef sliders, the 48-ounce porterhouse or the fried chicken and waffles. When it comes to the sweet finisher, there’s only on way to go — Prime 112’s famous fried Oreos and vanilla ice cream.
Versailles Cuban Restaurant
Since opening its doors in 1971, Versailles Restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana has served as a home away from home for the city’s Cuban community. With its upholstered green chairs, mirrored walls, twinkling chandeliers and outdoor “ventanita” (window) coffee bar, the now-world famous spot remains a must-stop for locals, visitors, politicians and media alike to learn the talk of the day. Come here for an authentic taste of both Cuban food and a helping of Miami’s history.
Order this: Definitely try the classic Media Noche (Midnight) sandwich combo of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles toasted on a sweet Cuban roll. The Picadillo a la Cubana (ground beef), which sits atop a pillow of fluffy white rice, black beans and sweet plantains, is also delicious. The coconut, cheese and Cuban-style flan are winners, too. If you still aren’t full, stop by the bakery afterward for a cafecito (espresso) or guava pastelito (fruit pastry).