Friday, June 14, 2013

Miami's Best Restaurants- "Tiers of Excellence"


A lot of eating and thinking went into this updated ranking.  As a result, this is the most accurate ranking to date.  Once again I am challenging myself and limiting the rankings to the Top Twenty and ties.

It should be noted that while food is the primary factor in my formula, value, service, ambiance and wine/beverage programs also play an important role. 

These are THE TWENTY restaurants in Miami that you want to pay a visit to this summer and spend your hard earned money.  

Eat well and eat often!!

TIER ONE- The best of the best.  Guaranteed to have a knockout meal every visit plus great service and an overall outstanding experience.  These are special places.


Naoe- (Miami) Simply the best in every way and probably deserves their own tier. Wendy will blow you away with her hospitality and service and Kevin will knock your socks off with mind blowing sushi. His bento box isn't too shabby either. Must do place for any and all occasions. A+++

The Cypress Room - (Miami Design District) This new addition from James Beard Award winning chef, Michael Schwartz oozes sophistication and class in every way just like me. Close attention has been paid to every detail from the table settings, to the decor, to the service, to the cocktails to the wine list and most importantly to the food. Miami is no longer lacking a true upscale, fine dining spot. Kudos to chef Schwartz and his team for delivering a gem to Miami.
Dinner with Jose.. Everything on the menu. Nuts!!
Jose's Taco-Caviar, Jamon Iberico

The Bazaar - (South Beach) Chef Jose Andres delivered a creative and fun dining experience to Miami.  They curated a unique, interesting and delicious menu that makes every visit special. This is a well run ship and a must do for locals and tourists alike. 


Chicken Liver Crostini

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink(Miami Design District) Chef Schwartz and team haven't skipped a beat at local favorite MGFD. The food remains up there with the best in town and is easily the best spot for lunch and brunch. Make sure you pay attention to their daily specials because there are usually a gem or two in the mix. Also make sure to take advantage of the great wine list curated by one of the best sommeliers in town, Eric Larkee. Cocktails here are underrated and a fantastic deal during happy hour.
Michelle Bernstein & her Common Threads Kids

Michy's(Miami Upper Eastside) Michelle Bernstein remains one of the most talented and influential chefs in town. Her food is always consistently outstanding. All hits and never a miss.

TIER TWO- This is an outstanding tier of restaurants putting out great food on a daily basis and providing an overall great dining experience.  On the cusp of tier one status.
Duck Fat Fries

Bourbon Steak- (Aventura)  Continues to be one of my favorite spots in town. Chef Gabe Fenton is as good as it gets and is well deserving of a James Beard Award nomination.  Hello! Anyone home at the Beard House or at Mina PR?  Gabe's specials always shine and everything is always executed perfectly.  The service, cocktails and wine list are on par.    


Makoto- (Bal Harbour) Makoto may be the most underrated spots by the masses in Miami. Chef Makoto's sushi rivals Naoe and his regular menu excels too. This is a special sushi spot and a must do for all sushi fans.
White Bolognese stuffed agnolotti, shaved truffle

The Dutch(South Beach) Executive Chef Conor Hanlon is a superstar on the rise. He has the great fortune to be learning from one of the best chefs in the country, Andrew Carmellini. The food that comes out of this kitchen is up there with the best in town. Make sure you save room for dessert because pastry chef Josh Gripper is one of the best in town.
Black Spaghetti- sea urchin, lobster & scallions

Macchialina (South Beach) This is the best Italian place in Miami bar none. Chef Mike Pirolo is crushing it on several levels. His housemade pastas are delicious and his sauce is addictive. His daily specials including his risotto should not be overlooked. A cool neighborhood vibe make this one of the best spots on South Beach and Miami too.make sure you pay a visit during lunch hours for his recently opened Pirolo's Panino.  Best sandwiches in town and it's not even close.

db Bistro Moderne- (Miami) Daniel Boulud. Enough said. In all seriousness, I have never had a bad meal at a Boulud run restaurant and db Bistro Moderne is no exception. The charcuterie is unbelievably good and the regular menu always delivers. Look out for their special wine and cocktail dinners as they offer good value and great meals. 

neMesis Urban Bistro- (Miami) Micah Micah I love me some Micah.  Chef Micah and neMesis is a diamond in the rough outskirts of downtown Miami. It's one of my favorite spots in town because I know Micah will always be behind the stove turning out passionate and inspired plates. A true gem in every way.


Restaurant Michael Schwartz- (South Beach) The unbeatable charm of the patio of The Raleigh Hotel, the legendary Martini Bar and star chef Michael Schwartz. The trifecta of Miami dining! This hybrid of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink and The Cypress Room is distinct enough to demand your attention and business. Special place, special chef. Go!

Edge Steak & Bar- (Miami) I am a huge fan of Chef Brooks and probably rated Edge too low here.  Part of the problem for me is the downtown hotel location. That being said, I have attended several outstanding dinners here and chef Brooks is one of the best in town.  No brainer if you live or are staying in downtown Miami.


J&G Grill - (Bal Harbour) Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten did his homework when he assembled his Miami crew. The talented team is lead by Jordi Valles, Richard Gras and Antonio "nitro coco" Bachour. This is modern fine dining at its best. Make the effort to go and make sure you save plenty of room for the mind blowing desserts of Antonio. Hey James Beard, hello!!!!

TIER TWO POINT FIVE- The Best of Breed Tier. Doing one thing and kicking ass at it.

Lucali -(South Beach) LOVE Lucali.  This Brooklyn import is serving the best pizza in town and it's not even close.  The pies are perfect and feature a ridiculously addictive sauce.  Go! and get a calzone while you're at it.  Thank me later.

Momi Ramen(Miami) I never understood the fascination with ramen. That was until I stepped foot into Momi. Great ramen noodles, great broth paired with delicious combinations of ingredients.  

** Joe's Stone Crab qualifies in season and Shake Shake would too but for fast food status. My Ceviche (South Beach) is just too small to rank but I highly recommend their octopus burrito.

*** Pirolo's Panino recently opened during lunch at Macchialina.  GO!

TIER THREEThis tier is loaded with spots I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Some of the best in town.
Hamachi Kama

Yakko-San (North Miami Beach) Easily my most frequented spot over the past few years. Yes, I miss the vibe of the original location but the food has not changed. The specials board is always the way to go plus sprinkle in some staples along with a new dish or two. I could rattle off a recommended dish list but that would take too long. That being said, if you see the hamachi kama on the specials board jump on it. Email me if you are going and need some tips. It should be noted that traditional sushi is not their strong suit but I do like many of their non sushi raw offerings.


Khong River House- (South Beach) I've had some terrific dishes from Chef Bee and the Khong kitchen. The menu contains several unique offerings that you will be hard pressed to find around town.
Wood grilled Deckle, truffle ricotta potato ravioli, gin fennel cream spinach & fried chili onion rings

Meat Market - (South Beach) Meat Market makes a return to the rankings. They were a mainstay for years but dropped off following a bad experience including a long wait, poor service and a bad steak. But I recently returned and easily recalled why I always thought fondly of them. The setting, models and energetic vibe alone makes them tier worthy.

Tongue and Cheek- (South Beach) Triple D's B's, burger, brunch & bourbon. And a great chef! I've been several times now but still need to go back and have a proper dinner to accurately rank them. Nevertheless, chef DeRosa has created an interesting and diverse menu with something for everyone. This one should climb the ranks in the upcoming months.

The JDonn Triple Egg- Ikura, Uni & Quail

Sushi Deli- (North Bay Village) This tiny hole in the wall serves some killer sushi at great prices.  It's located inside a Japanese market and closes early so plan accordingly.
Artichoke Heart Bruschetta-farm poached egg, shaved truffles, creamy parmigiano fonduta

MC Kitchen - (Miami Design District) I've had some very nice meals at MC Kitchen. Chef Marino's dishes are all well balanced and prepared with finesse.
Fire roasted oysters, softito butter,chorizo, queso manchego

The River Oyster Bar(Miami) Oysters, oysters and more great oysters. Half price during happy hour too!
Stone Crab Crostini with Avocado

Oak Tavern - (Miami Design District) Chef Bracha (River Oyster) has another hit on his hands with his new neighborhood joint in the Design District. The menu is large, interesting and always executed properly.
Scallop with brussels sprouts, corn, asparagus &cherry gastrique

Blue Collar(Miami Upper Eastside) Chef Danny Serfer is the comfort king with a little bling bling. Danny spent several years in the Chef Allen kitchen and knows his way around seafood and fine dining. But at Blue Collar he is killing it with straight forward "blue collar" fare that is straight up delicious. Don't miss the cheeseburger, Corben, Big Ragout or his fried chicken and jambalaya on the late night menu. His scallops rock too! 

To Do list- Catch, Zuma, The Setai, Haven, Tosca & Copperbox.  Plus long overdue returns to Mandolin, Scarpetta, Azul and Toscano Divino.

Neighborhood Scoreboard 

South Beach- 8
Miami-  6
Design District- 4
Upper Eastside- 2
Bal Harbour- 2
North Bay Village-1
North Miami Beach-1

Chef's Scoreboard

Schwartz - 3
Bracha -    2


Ugo Colombo said...

Thanks for sharing your rankings of Miami's best restaurants. All the pictures you posted make it look like people were having a good time.

Lucas Davidson said...

I would like to add The Grove Spot. It is located in 3324 Virginia St Coconut Grove, FL 33133, United States. The latest from Grove Spot (@GroveSpot). bar, locals, grand-cafe, cold beer, beautiful people, breakfast, comfort, bohemian 305, music, sports. The Grove Spot is a “Grand Cafe”, with a sunny porch, front bar room, and back dining room. Visit our website,

Thanks and see you there!