South Beach restaurants can be a Mad Libs of negative connotations: overpriced, dressy, touristy. But, there are still delicious spots you can venture into in sandals and shorts, without reservations or the need to spend $800 on bottle service. Think hip, relaxed restaurants with great food and 100% sparkler-free. Here are 16 places that do just that.
Don’t be fooled by the hostel signage on this charmless stretch of Alton Road. This spot serves some of the best Italian food in all of Miami. Ask to be seated in the covered outdoor patio, laden with string lights and swinging greenery. The food is excellent, especially their rotating list of upscale pasta made in-house, such as the spaghetti pomodoro or the cavatelli with meatballs and porchetta. Macchialina is South Beach’s glass ceiling for top-notch food in a down-to-earth setting.
If you are looking for something a little dressier, but don’t want to feel like you’re competing for a role in a Pitbull music video, this Argentinian restaurant should be your go-to spot. With lush, uplighted palms lining the indoor/outdoor space, this Fifth Street spot delivers whether you’re looking for a date night, fun dinner with friends, or if your parents are in town. The simple, meat entrees (red meat is what you want here) work much in the same way — in that you can create whatever type of meal you want by adding sides, and even though you have to pay a little extra, you won’t be mad about sharing the truffle french fries or roasted brussels sprouts.
There is an 87% chance you will whisper “This is lovely” to yourself while eating at Abbalé. The Israeli spot does actually feel more like you’re in a Tel Avivian cafe than a South of Fifth restaurant, thanks to the bright magenta bougainvillea lining the front patio, and a casual lounge area directly to the left. The stylish, yet laid-back crowd also doesn’t hurt. For breakfast, choose from Israeli dishes such as the pricey, but massive avo egg feta open-faced sandwich on top of a sesame Jerusalem bagel or the buttery egg and Bulgarian feta bureka (ask them to warm it up). They also recently opened for dinner service, offering dishes like grilled lamb chops, tomato and watermelon salad, and sumac chicken shashlik.
Toni's Sushi Bar
Toni’s Sushi is a fun, casual, refreshingly un-sceney spot where you can drink sake, sit criss-cross on the floor, and enjoy some really good, affordable sushi. The Toni’s Choice platter is one of the better moves here. It costs $67 and comes with more than enough of the chef’s choice of nigiri, sashimi, and maki for two.
So it might not be your most formal night out, but the colorful, ornate Thai decor is downright charming in this comfortable South Beach restaurant. The pad thai is flavorful and heaping with a sweet tang and soft noodles, along with the pad kee mao. This is a good bet for a reasonably priced dinner with friends before you blow your cash on way too many vodka sodas at Do Not Sit On The Furniture.
Come to Taquiza for the best tacos in South Beach and because it’s both casual enough to eat after a beach day and nice enough to visit before a night out in clothes that don’t smell like sunscreen. The blue masa tortillas are made fresh daily and, besides being integral to the wonderful tacos, are also the star of Taquiza’s best dish: the chewy totopos that come with a side of guacamole and will probably be gone about 30 seconds after they hit the table. This place has margaritas on tap too, which you can use to distract your friends while you eat all the totopos.
Even though South Beach straddles both the beach and bay, there are surprisingly few restaurants with water views to enjoy (or post on social media). Or, at least, very few where you can get a huge pile of $14 nachos. At Monty’s, you can catch bayside sunsets (it’s right there in the name) and not pay a fortune in this kitschy, tiki-themed spot in SoFi with sporadic live music, decent seafood, and a pool we’ve never actually seen anyone use.
There is debate as to whether or not Lucali South Beach is as good as the New York location, but there is no debate as to whether or not it’s a much easier table to get. But it’s still some of the best pizza in Miami, and the restaurant mimics its Northern brethren’s feel with a well-worn space. Lucali doesn’t take reservations, so you may have to wait for a table, but don’t expect crazy five-hour waits like its New York sibling. The pizza here is thin and crispy, with a pleasant balance of salty cheese and tangy sauce. The simple menu also includes salads, sandwiches, and a very good baked artichoke served inside or among potted plants on the sidewalk.
Everyone loves Joe’s, the SoFi institution that has been around since 1913, before Miami was even a city. However, not everyone loves waiting for a table at Joe’s, which can take hours during peak season. But here’s the trick: You can pretty much get the same menu to-go next door at Joe’s Takeaway, including fresh stone crabs during season or an $8.99 fried half-chicken. There is absolutely no dress code and you can either eat there or walk your meal a few blocks to South Pointe Park and enjoy a picnic way better than your average last-minute grocery story baguette and cheese spread.
A Cuban standby in a sea of loud music and oversized cocktails, Puerto Sagua still retains its old-school diner charm (it’s been around since 1962). On any given day, it’s packed with people on lunch breaks, tourists eating Cuban sandwiches, and locals hiding from said loud music and oversized cocktails. The seafood-heavy menu is huge, but also has plenty of Cuban classics like croquetas, masitas de puerco, and whole fried snapper.
If you blink, you would miss this casual sidewalk sandwich spot in an alley between Collins and Washington on 14th Street. But you would also seriously be missing out on the massive, make-your-own-sandwiches slapped together between baguettes or croissants. Sandwich toppings here include sliced deli meat, smoked salmon, a whole lot of vegetables, and their excellent mustardy house vinaigrette.
Although it’s located alongside one of the busiest roads in South Beach, this tiny cafe is a really peaceful space, brimming with indoor greenery (including a large tree right in the center of the restaurant). They have a menu that can only be described with buzzwords - organic, sustainable, vegan - but it’s all surprisingly good. Go for the loaded acai bowls topped with homemade granola and wash it down with the cinnamon-kissed superfood frappe.
Why do places hiding in random office buildings tend to be so good? Maybe the search effort makes things taste better - but at Mister 01, it’s definitely just because this is one of the best pizza places in Miami. Mister 01 does a very popular star-shaped pizza with a stuffed ricotta crust, but it’s worth it to branch out to some of the stranger ones, like the room-temperature Claudio pie, which is great and will make your entire fridge smell like white truffle if you bring one home. This place is certainly casual, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait for a table if you come at peak lunch or dinner hours.
I am usually wary of healthy restaurants located directly underneath an Equinox, but even though Prana looks like your classic $10 green juice cliche cafe, it actually has a welcoming selection of health food disguised as comfort food. The counter service spot includes filling breakfast and lunch options, such as oatmeal banana pancakes and quinoa, with easy-to-find indoor seating good for hiding from a scorching afternoon. Also, I have yet to find another iced latte under $4 in all of South Beach.
Pubbelly is a classic South Beach spot and a great place to sit outside with some cocktails and small plates while you judge the neon paint jobs on passing Ferraris. Sushi takes up the bulk of the menu - just don’t forget to put in an order for the butter krab roll, which is really just an efficient delivery system for warm clarified butter.
La Leggenda is a pizzeria in a part of South Beach where your food options are severely limited. Luckily this place is not like the touristy spots you’ll find across the street on Española Way. It’s actually good, especially their Neapolitan pizzas. They don’t overcomplicate things here: the dough is tender, the cheese-to-sauce ratio is on point, and you’d never expect to have such a pleasant meal so close to a Señor Frog’s.