The Least-Awful Clubstaurants In Miami
Alright, let's get weird.
Combining two wildly different things can either go very right (see: peanut butter and jelly) or very wrong (see: toothpaste and orange juice). In the case of the clubstaurant, a mutant mashup of a nightclub and a restaurant, things somehow go both very right and very wrong. It's about expectations. See, if you go to a clubstaurant expecting great food and impeccable service—well, just don’t. But if you accept these places for what they are (gratuitously expensive dance floors with dinner tables) you might actually have fun. Sure, they're all sort of awful. But these are Miami's least-awful clubstaurants.
photo credit: Fabel
Fabel is an outdoor Wynwood clubstaurant with a clichéd beach club design, mostly good food, and excruciatingly slow service. It is far from Wynwood’s best dining option, but if you’re in the mood to share a juicy roast chicken and some solid Mediterranean dips with a few friends to a thumping soundtrack that gets progressively louder every hour on the hour, it’ll do. Just don’t expect a smooth dining experience. Fabel’s shipwreck-chic staff have their hands full performing mildly impressive but slightly unnecessary tableside presentations in tattered tunics, so service moves slow. When the food does arrive—salads, roasted vegetables, and shareable proteins—it will be better than you expected. The overall Tulum Lite vibe, though, is exactly what you expect from a restaurant that routes you through a bouncer before you get to the host stand.
photo credit: Sebastian Bednarski
There is a moment of “wow” when you walk into Queen. Whether or not the massive South Beach spot is your kind of vibe, one can't deny the sheer spectacle of the space, which used to be a historic art deco theater. It is grand and shiny and feels like a movie set, if that movie was some cross between The Great Gatsby and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Glamour—not sloppy drunken bottle service—is what Queen aims for. And it mostly hits the mark. The food is a vaguely Japanese mix of seafood, steak, and sushi. It’s just good enough to not make you mad, which is about as good as it gets for clubstaurant cuisine. But the reason you’re coming here is to dress up and spend too much money at Miami’s most beautiful clubstaurant. The dressing up part is non-negotiable, by the way. You will be denied entry unless you adhere to their ridiculously strict dress code that requires a blazer and dress shoes for men.
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South Beach’s Hasalon is serving the best food in the Miami clubstaurant universe right now, which, we admit, is a feat akin to being the world’s tallest chihuahua. Ordering requires patience though. The melodramatic menu reads like a freshman creative writing major's first attempt at poetry. And your poor server will have to explain what, in the exact hell, the "7 stormy clouds. Not even one more" is (spoiler alert: decent ricotta gnocchi sitting in a pool of butter and sage). But even though the $62 local catch has an impressively crispy skin, people mostly come here to dance on furniture like it’s the apocalypse. The cavernous Israeli restaurant has a sort of Jekyll/Hyde personality going on. Before 9pm, it functions more or less as a regular restaurant. After 9pm, the music gets louder, and as the night goes on, things evolve into napkin-waving, table-dancing mayhem. The post-9pm seating requires a $90 per person minimum spend, which might explain why people are dancing so aggressively.
Mango's Tropical Cafe
Mango’s comes in last place on this guide when it comes to food and drinks, which are both of the quality we expect from a classic Ocean Drive tourist mecca. However, Mango’s beats the snot out of every single place on this guide when it comes to production value. This place puts on a damn show. Around 8pm, the bar turns into a stage, where a flurry of back-to-back performers (who also pull double duty as servers) do everything from salsa dancing and Celia Cruz impersonations to a magic show. It’s delightfully weird, undeniably Miami, and actually more fun than we expected. The dinner and a show package costs a little over $100 per person. Is that too much? Yes. But if you enjoy getting drunk off comically large mojitos that taste like gasoline and playing tourist every now and then, you too might have an unexpectedly good time at Mango’s.
Gekkō is a pricey Brickell restaurant serving sushi and steak—but that's not what makes it such a hard reservation to book. The reason for that is because Gekkō is co-owned by Bad Bunny, perhaps the most beloved musician within the confines of Miami-Dade County. Don't expect to see Benito clearing dishes in the dining room though. Other than a Bad Bunny song or two, his presence is barely noticeable in any of the restaurant's details, which is kind of frustrating. Still, this place delivers on most of the clubstaurant metrics: loud music, shiny shirts, and the food is alright if you're willing to spend between $150 and $200 per person. You can't really dance in the dining room, but when you're done eating, there's a lounge inside Gekkō that'll give you the clubby bottle service experience your heart desires.
Mila, to its credit, is actually making an effort. It is, like everything on this guide, way pricier than it ought to be. But the “MediterrAsian” food isn’t merely an afterthought. Some of it’s actually tasty. Plus, the restaurant has a sleek design that’s not aesthetically chaotic and pretty outdoor patio seating. This place is honestly on the edge of the clubstaurant spectrum, leaning more towards an actual restaurant. However, it's got a house soundtrack that’s turned up three notches too loud, fire dancers performing on the outdoor deck, and it's still sceney enough to satisfy those looking for a proper clubstaurant experience. Just don’t come too hungry, because portions can best be described as nibble-size.
Chica is one of the more mature clubstaurant options on this guide. This MiMo spot is on a relatively quiet street far from any loud bars, so it’s a good option for folks who are afraid of South Beach. The restaurant only transforms into a full-fledged clubstaurant on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9pm. During those times, sparkly dancers weave through the big dining room while a DJ and accompanying live saxophone player ensure it’s loud enough to distract you from the menu's ridiculous prices. But unlike most clubstaurants, the service is good and the restaurant’s design, a sort of mid-century modern Tulum, is actually quite pretty. The food is just barely above average. But we like the cocktails, and they have some shareable drinks that can serve up to eight.
photo credit: Ken Hayden
Even in a genre of dining as supremely weird as the clubstaurant, Sexy Fish stands out as the most bizarre. Where to even start with this place? There’s a life-size figure of Daniel Craig as James Bond in the men’s bathroom, positioned right by the entrance in a way meant to scare the living shit out of you. The massive pink and blue dining room is covered in shiny sculptures of sea creatures that cost so much money it’ll make you mad. This place is what would happen if The Little Mermaid spent too much time in Ibiza. Why do people come here? Mostly to take photos of the ridiculous things we just mentioned. The menu is a mix of sushi and a Mad Libs of rich people foods like wagyu, foie gras, and truffle. It’s pretty whatever and incredibly boring. It’s also what people are paying the least attention to here, especially during dinner service, when the dining room turns into a hallucinogenic fever dream of nautical go-go dancers and sparkly bottle service.
There are two clubstaurants on the Miami River right next to each other, Seaspice and Kiki on the River. Choose Seaspice. It’s got better food (the menu is mostly seafood) and a slightly less insufferable crowd. You 1,000 percent need to make a reservation for the outdoor seating, or else risk getting seated inside the hideous dining room, which feels like a Red Lobster that took ecstasy. And even if you do sit outside, know that there’s a chance your waterfront view will be partially blocked by one of the many passing yachts that park here for a round of lobster and champagne. Maybe if you’re nice, they’ll invite you onboard.