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Apr 17, 2010 06:04 AM

What are Miami's must-try restaurants and foods?

To celebrate our 30th birthdays, four girlfriends and I are are having a Girls' Weekend in Miami. We're Canadian and we all live in different cities but grew up together and cannot wait to visit Miami!

We're looking primarily for delicious, memorable meals. We're staying at the W hotel, so anything close by would be wonderful, but we are happy to take a cab somewhere if need be.

One dinner will probably be a "splurge" meal, and other than that we'll looking for delicious food for great value. For the splurge, In terms of ambiance, we'll lean toward the energetic or bustling kind of vibe over the silent white linen tablecloth-type scene. We'll be suckers for things like ocean views or fire pits, though, I have to admit. We'll likely be steering away from things like steakhouses and leaning more towards spots that serve seafood or non red-meat options. A "splurge" for us means somewhere between $45-60 each including wine, tax and tip.

For the rest of the trip, we'll need it all — lunches, breakfasts, dinners, snacks! Seafood would be a treat for us, as would local specialties or any "hidden gems". Best fish taco stands? Off-the-beaten track mom-and-pop Latin restaurants? We'd like to avoid chain restaurants and are searching for places with great character, amazing food and friendly service. We are open to any kind of food as long as it's good!

In short, what do we eat when we're in Miami? We want every bite to be special in some way!!

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  1. You may want to reconsider your budget and expectations a little. South Beach is the home of overpriced chains that provide terrible service and little value. Although there are a few exceptions, most places will have drinks priced at $15+, entrees at $30+ and apps and dessert at $10+. Given a 25% add on for Tax and Tip and you will be well over your budget at most "Splurge" worthy places. Keep a look out at your bill for drinks and food. Many restaurants include a service charge of 18% and a happy to accept an additional 15%-20% from tourists who do not know any better. Also, almost all of the major restaurants are chains (Nobu, Hakkasan, Mr. Chow, Scarpetta, STK, BLT etc....are all chains) so please keep that in mind when selecting restaurants.

    Given your budget, there are still a few options, but I would not make food your focus of a trip to SoBe, expecially if you plan on sticking to a budget. First off, skip all restaurants at major hotels. They will all be above your budget. You might want to try Talula, across the street from The W. It does not have a view or fireplace, but does have good food that is decently priced with good execution for SoBe and a nice patio for outdoor seating. Another option may be D. Rodriguez (a chain in a small hotel) from a popular top Cuban chef in Miami. He owns/runs a few top spots in and around South Florida and prices at D. Rod's should be under $30. Your best option for good food is the design district across the bay. Michaels and Sra. Martinez both offer small plates and you can put together a decent meal with a lot of variety. Both are about a $20 cab ride to and from the beach and are located on the West side of the Bay. Other options in South Beach include places like 8 OZ Burger and Burger and Beer Joint (high end burger places with drink specials that also offer veggie, turkey and tuna burgers), Casale (an Mozzarrla bar, pizza and casual italian spot in a semi-trendy setting), Indomania (an Indonesian restaurant where meals are presented family style for the table at a cost of under $30pp) and Creek28 (mixed cuisine in a quiet setting with food priced under $30). Ice Box cafe off Lincoln offers good desserts and is a popular spot for brunch or lunch.

    I'll let someone else tackle "Street Food" as I don't really like the offerings in South Beach and get my fix around 72nd and Collins. David's Cafe has decent street Cuban and Tap Tap is a Hatian restaurant that some people like. Also, there are no "Fish Taco" stands or places that even offer quality fish tacos. As a California transplant, we make our own, but it is not a local food. You will also find some decent happy hours (Smith and Wollensky outdoor bar is a great spot to get the proper feel for Miami with a great view and Monty's offers cheap raw bar seafood in a casual/lively setting on the water in the Miami Marina. Maybe some others can comment on the street food, but in general, I have not been impressed and avoid SoBe like the plague! That said, we have reservations at D. Rodriguez on Sat. night when my sister is in town for interesting cuban in trendy SoBe that will not break the bank.

    Enjoy your stay!

    210 23rd St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

    131 26th St, Miami Beach, FL 33140

    Sra. Martinez
    4000 NE 2nd Ave., Miami, FL 33137

    Miami Beach, FL, Miami Beach, FL

    South Beach Cafe
    121 5th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

    2 Replies
    1. re: scscr

      I love the view at Smith & Wollensky but they do not offer a happy hour at the South Beach location and it is very expensive. Average wine runs about $17 a glass and bottles start at about $60 before tax and tip.

      When we go and try to be a little frugal (you'll find that is actually joke), we eat our largest meal of the day for lunch and do drinks and appetizers for dinner.

      Smith & Wollensky
      1 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      South Beach Cafe
      121 5th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      1. re: BlueHerons

        You are correct. No price changes for "Happy Hour" at Smith's and the food is nothing special. I think you go for the location/view and people watching at the outdoor bar. It is a scene unique to Miami and to me, there is nothing more "Miami" for the 30+ crowd. I doubt that a group of 4, 30 year old women would have to pay for more than one drink if they wanted to!!!

    2. Here goes:

      Breakfast: News Cafe; Front Porch Cafe; Balans; Paul
      Lunch: La Sandwicherie, Larios Cuban, Epicure Market, Baires, Miss Yip, Jimmy'z, Chalan
      Dinner: OLA, Rosinella's, Alta Mar, Spris/TiramusU, Joe Allen, Joe's Stone Crabs
      Happy Hour: Monty's on the Bay, Smith and Wollensky
      Late Night: News Cafe, T-Rex (fish Tacos are ok), La Sandwicherie, Alibi @ Lost Weekend, The Spot, 8 Oz, Pizza Rustica

      You can swap some of the above for different meals, B/L/D is just to guide you to their stronger suits.

      Off the Beach: Buena Vista Bistro, Jaguar, Michael's Genuine

      La Sandwicherie
      229 14th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      Front Porch Cafe
      1418 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      Joe's Stone Crab
      11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      525 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      Joe Allen Restaurant
      1787 Purdy Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      Buena Vista Bistro
      4582 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33137

      2 Replies
      1. re: netmover

        Good seafood and character on the Miami River at Garcia's, 389 SW N River Dr., Miami, telephone 305.375.0765. Versailles on Calle Ocho is traditional Cuban, Delicious plantain omelets and batidas which are milk shakes made with tropical fruits. Both are cab rides away.

        1. re: rebus1805

          This is all SO helpful!!! Thanks so much!