The Best Outdoor Restaurants In Miami guide image


The Best Outdoor Restaurants In Miami

Spots for those days when you feel guilty eating inside.

Contrary to popular belief, we have bad weather in Miami, so we really do appreciate those absolutely perfect 72-degree days when we nearly shed a tear every time we open the door. When that happens, eating outside is basically mandatory, and the places on this guide are where you should go to do it. These are the restaurants where sitting outside is the whole point—places that are going to make you look around and mumble a prayer of gratitude that you’ll never have to learn what black ice is.


Mandolin Aegean Bistro

Though it’s sometimes a little impossible to get a reservation here on a very nice day, it’s still easier than buying a plane ticket and flying to Greece—which is what eating at Mandolin kind of feels like. This classic spot is in Buena Vista, and it’s about 90 percent outdoor seating. The tables are shaded by trees and canopies, and the grilled octopus, whole Mediterranean sea bass, and grilled halloumi are the exact kinds of things we want to eat on a sunny day. White wine is optional, but highly encouraged. And if you really can't find an open dinner table, try booking one for lunch.

If you can't get a table at Mandolin (or just want something more casual) try El Turco, a Turkish restaurant in Upper Buena Vista. Though the food is pretty solid, this place is more about ambiance. Sitting outside is basically your only option, but it’s where you should be regardless. The best seats are in the little tiki hut next to a pretty spectacular banyan tree. There aren’t really any big misses on the menu, but definitely get one (or several) of the borek options. They don’t serve beer or wine, but you can buy a bottle from one of the cafes next door and they’ll give you a few glasses with no corkage fee.

Shore to Door is a fish market that also operates as a restaurant on the weekend for lunch. There’s no menu here. Instead, the chef—who might be in the middle of cleaning a fish—will tell you what came in off the boat that morning. It could be fried corvina bites, whole yellowtail snapper, wahoo fish dip, or a dozen other sea creatures. But it will be delicious, and you can eat it in their fantastic backyard, with mismatched furniture and an atmosphere that feels very Key West. If you want a beer, just pop open the cooler and help yourself. But a head’s up: call first to make sure they’re open. We’ve tried to come here before, only to learn that they sold out of seafood the day prior.

La Mar is a restaurant on the mysterious millionaire island known as Brickell Key. They serve some of the best Peruvian food in town, and their waterfront view is also stellar—so good that it's almost not even worth coming here unless you can sit outside. It faces west, giving you a wide-open view of Biscayne Bay and the Brickell skyline. When you're not staring at that, you'll be staring at the food in front of you, which includes very good Peruvian ceviche. They also make a great lomo saltado and have rotating anticucho options, including an excellent version with veal heart.

You can’t eat much closer to Biscayne Bay than at Amara—unless you own a boat or are a manatee. But if you are not a herbivorous marine mammal, then this is a really good choice because both the view and food are great. The menu is pretty much all seafood, with a small raw bar and a great grilled snapper. Come during the day if you really want to see the view in all its glory—and make a reservation if you want a guaranteed outdoor table.

Zoi isn’t a particularly remarkable restaurant—but it does have one big superpower: its backyard. The Mediterranean restaurant is located in a historic building made from bricks of coral—but it’s the backyard that warrants a moment of quiet appreciation usually only reserved for mountain peaks or a perfectly ripe avocado. Tables are scattered between trees and plants and a couple of bright blue man-made lagoons. It’s undeniably romantic. The standard Mediterranean dishes are good—not as good as they need to be for the price point—but good nonetheless. There’s also a hookah lounge and bar area in the back if you just want to come for a drink. Needless to say, sit outside.

Makoto is an upscale Japanese restaurant inside the land of very thick credit cards known as Bal Harbour Shops. While we really enjoy Makoto's dining room—which feels like eating inside a ripe peach—the patio situation is every bit as cute. It has Tic Tac green tables and floral chairs that make you feel like you're on vacation even if you live here. There's also a circular bamboo bar you'll want to forklift into your own living room. It's all a perfect setting to enjoy some tasty raw fish, crispy rice, or a koji-aged New York strip. This is a mostly covered patio, so don't expect a view of anything spectacular except a potential Real Housewives sighting.

Paradis Books & Bread is an excellent little North Miami spot that straddles the line between wine bar and restaurant. You can certainly come here just to drink, read, and chat. But it’d be a shame if you didn’t order at least something to snack on, like the tinned sardines served with seaweed butter and slices of fresh bread. Inside, Paradis is only one room, with a few tables and bar seating. But there’s a much larger outdoor area with some round cement tables, which is where you want to be on a nice night.

As much as we like scooting into one of Chug's bouncy booths, the Coconut Grove Cuban diner has a great patio that deserves your attention on a nice day for an outdoor brunch or lunch. The big courtyard is filled with shaded tables and plants, and is also located far enough from the sidewalk that you won't have to worry about pedestrians bumping into your table. It's exactly the kind of setting where you want to be cutting into one of Miami's greatest pancakes on a Sunday morning.

If we were judging Verde only by the food, we wouldn't tell you to sprint here. But this casual spot, which is located on the back patio of the Pérez Art Museum, has one of the best waterfront views in all of Miami: a beautiful, uninterrupted view of Biscayne Bay and the MacArthur Causeway. That is really why you should come here (and why you should never sit inside). The menu is mostly salads, pizza, and sandwiches—and you'll finish whatever you order. This is mostly a brunch or lunch spot, but on Thursdays they stay open for dinner (and occasionally have live music too).

From the street, Naomi’s just looks like a little takeout spot. But after you order from their menu of Haitian and Caribbean dishes, walk around to the side of the building and find the garden seating. It’s a casual space with plenty of tables, a couple of loud roosters, a small stage for occasional live music, and a few hammocks you’re welcome to use in case you overdid it with their great jerk chicken. Naomi’s is one of the best restaurants in Little Haiti, but it’s such a relaxing space that we’d come on a pretty day just to read a book and have a passion fruit juice.

Yes, Lagniappe is more a place to drink than eat, but the mostly outdoor wine bar in Edgewater does have a small food menu that’s good enough to justify coming here for dinner even though the silverware is plastic. After you grab a bottle of wine inside, head to the backyard to order something from the grill: churrasco, mahi, salmon, chicken, and sautéed veggies are all solid options in addition to the very good meat and cheese plates. Come on the earlier side and you won’t have to compete for a table with a thousand first dates.

An outdoor table at Ironside is going to be lovely no matter when you come. At lunch, the courtyard is sunny and bright, with lots of trees, plants, and occasional live music during the weekend. At night, string lights hang over the tables and create an ideal mood for a pizza date, which is usually what we end up ordering here even though the pasta is pretty tasty too. This place is BYOB, so pick up some beer or wine before you come.

Every table at Shuckers is technically an outdoor table because this place doesn’t have walls. And that is a good thing because it’d be a shame to block this good of a waterfront view. A lot of people come here to watch sports, but we go to Shuckers to just stare out into the blue horizon while occasionally breaking eye contact with the ocean to eat a good chicken wing or some perfectly fine fried calamari.

Doce Provisions serves Cuban fusion food a block north of Calle Ocho, and their Cuban sandwich and arroz imperial are both reason enough to come here if you’re looking for some good food in Little Havana. But if you’re also trying to eat outside, then Doce is absolutely the place to go. They have a very pretty back patio, with string lights, picnic benches underneath a pergola, and some murals you can stare at while you try to decide between that Cuban sandwich or the fried chicken with plantain waffles.

The food at Lido (mostly seafood and sandwiches) is not as good or as cheap as it should be, but these are the sacrifices we make for one of the best waterfront views you can have while eating an OK $20 cheeseburger. This place is located in The Standard Spa, which means you also have an above-average chance of seeing a celebrity or overhearing a conversation about someone’s recent luxury ayahuasca retreat. But that view from the dockside tables is what really deserves your attention.

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photo credit: Cleveland Jennings

The Best Outdoor Restaurants In Miami guide image