The Best Restaurants In The Design District
Because eating in the Design District is more fun than shopping in the Design District.
Sure, the Design District might seem like a neighborhood built for folks whose butlers have butlers. And, well, it is. But among the designer brands and lines of people trying to get into the Gucci store, there are also some really great restaurants. They’re serving exceptional steak, fancy French food, and the best ceviche in town. And we’ve also included a few Buena Vista restaurants within walking distance. Now go make a reservation, and try not to step on a hypebeast’s sneakers along the way.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Itamae is an excellent Nikkei spot that initially debuted in MIA Market, a short walk from their new restaurant. Now they’ve got lots of spacious outdoor seating and a small dining room with a handful of stools along a terrazzo counter. The Nikkei menu changes a lot (like on a day-to-day basis) but one guarantee we can make is that you will encounter some form of seafood that’ll make you want to cry—in a good way. What should you order? Anything. Every ceviche, tiradito, or sushi roll we’ve encountered here has been breathtakingly delicious. Just don’t skip the passion fruit/yuzu cremolada for dessert. That’s the only rule.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Though it’s sometimes tough to get a table on a very nice day, a meal at Mandolin is still easier than buying a plane ticket and flying to Greece—which is what having lunch here feels like. Mandolin is technically in Buena Vista, but only a block from the Design District. The Mediterranean food is very good, but this place is always crowded because it’s one of the greatest outdoor dining options in Miami. The tables are shaded by trees and canopies, and the grilled octopus, whole Mediterranean sea bass, and grilled halloumi are exactly the kinds of things we want to eat on a sunny day. White wine is optional, but highly encouraged.
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photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Jass is a Mediterranean restaurant about five blocks north of the Design District, slightly hidden on a residential street. And this place is almost too perfect a date night spot. It has real candles, brick walls, and live jazz on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. But even if you're not trying to woo a potential suitor, you should still come here. The Mediterranean food is good (and reasonably priced). Definitely order the clay pot of lamb, which comes encased in a dome of delicious brioche your server will slice open at the table. And know that the live music usually starts around 8:30, because that’s a big reason why you’re coming here too.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Sushi Yasu Tanaka By Masumura
Sushi Yasu Tanaka will surprise you. Or, at least it surprised us. We weren’t expecting to find some of the best sushi in Miami inside a shiny, casual food hall in the Design District. And yet, before we were even halfway through the 8-piece nigiri platter, we wanted to mail a letter to every resident of Miami-Dade County begging them to try this spot. And after we finished the meal with a wagyu handroll, we Googled the cost of 2.7 million stamps. Turns out, it’s more than we can afford, so we decided to save our money so we can eat here again. Sushi Yasu is not a cheap meal (the 8-piece platter is $38 and they have a 10-piece omakase platter for around $60)—but it is a ridiculously delicious one.
Tacombi Design District
Tacombi is a casual Mexican spot in the Design District, and a meal here can go two different ways. It works for takeout or inhaling a couple al pastor tacos at the counter in under 15 minutes. But they also have plenty of tables where you can have a slower meal with a pitcher of very good margaritas. Both options are enjoyable, and so is the food. The baja crispy fish tacos are beautifully crispy, and the very good norteña quesadilla comes with strips of charred beef and lots of crumbled queso blanco. This place should be in your rotation whether you want drinks and food before a night out, or are just looking for some of Miami’s best tacos to take home and eat in bed.
Cote should be on your shortlist for any sort of big, celebratory blowout dinner. Especially one that you’d like to involve meat. This Korean steakhouse is a true special occasion spot. During dinner, the exceptional staff take turns tending to beef sizzling away on the grill located in the center of the table. You will probably end up ordering multiple rounds of the phenomenal cocktails. The restaurant has a sleek design that makes you feel like you’re eating 1,000 years in the future. And when added all together, these things make Cote one of the most exciting restaurants in the city. If it’s your first time here, definitely start with the Butcher’s Feast, a $64 per person tasting menu that will have some of the best steak you’ll ever try and ends with a little cup of soy sauce caramel soft serve.
L’atelier De Joël Robuchon
L’Atelier is a fine dining French spot that’s a guaranteed impressive dinner. This place is quite expensive, even by Design District standards. So brace for that. But it’s also a truly memorable eating experience, from the impeccable service to the incredible food, which consists of very decadent small plates involving lots of foie gras. They have some pricey tasting menu options that won’t disappoint, but if you’re going a la carte, make sure to get the kampachi sashimi and le foie gras au torchon, a little puck of incredible foie gras with slices of buttery grilled brioche. The menu does change seasonally, so if you don’t see those two dishes—don’t panic. Whatever you have here is going to be some of the most interesting food you’ve eaten all year.
If the USS Enterprise from Star Trek had an exclusive, upscale restaurant onboard, it’d look a lot like Le Jardinier. This French spot directly underneath L’Atelier has a shiny space that’s fitting for the sort of fussy dishes you’ll eat here. Those dishes, like shrimp in parmesan polenta and sunchoke velouté, are expensive and photogenic—but also delicious. There are a lot of phenomenal vegetable-focused things on the seasonal menu, but you'll also find impressive proteins, like a wagyu bavette that looks so perfect that it could be a movie prop. This place is also an ideal day-off lunch spot, with a daytime prix fixe lunch for about $40-$60 per person that's worth making up an excuse to blow off work this Friday.
Japow Kakigori Original
Japow is a tiny food truck that makes the Japanese shaved ice dessert known as kakigori. While it’s not really a restaurant, it’s a must-visit if walking through the Design District on any day that creeps above 80 degrees. They shave the ice fresh with a little machine, filling the bowl with a dozen or so flavor options ranging from mango lassi to cortadito. Our favorite is the tiger tempura, which is infused with what tastes like cereal milk, then topped with milk espuma and Frosted Flakes. It’ll not only make you happy, but help you stop sweating.
Old Greg's is a small shop selling sourdough pizzas (both round and thick, square versions) with tasty toppings and liberal amounts of cheese. It's a casual spot where you can take down a few slices with a bottle of wine. But Old Greg's is, in our opinion, actually a sandwich shop disguised as a pizza shop. The hoagies here are astounding. Our favorite is the chicken caesar hoagie. Old Greg’s excellent housemade bread hugs two crispy chicken cutlets and a caesar salad that’s essentially used as a condiment, spread liberally over the cutlets with a little shower of shaved parm.
Michael’s Genuine was the first restaurant that made people want to eat in the Design District when it opened in 2006, and it’s still one of the neighborhood’s best spots. It’s a great place to sit outside for brunch on a nice day. They do a solid weekday Happy Hour from 4:30-7pm (only available at the bar) with snacks for $5 or less and cocktails under $10. But we also like Michael’s for a proper sit-down dinner. It’s one of the few upscale options in the Design District that doesn’t feel designed for people with yacht brokers, and their mostly American menu includes some great proteins.
Lemoni is another Buena Vista option within walking distance from the Design District. This tiny restaurant is walk-in friendly, low-stress, and serves really consistent food in portions that’ll fill you up. The menu leans Mediterranean, but they have everything from paninis to salads and even a cheesesteak. There are also a lot of vegetarian options, and good smoothies if you want to keep things kind of healthy. The dining room is about the size of a studio apartment, which makes for a more intimate meal that’s good for a casual date or catching up with a friend.
Buena Vista Deli
Buena Vista Deli is another laidback option a short walk from the Design District. We really like this place for breakfast or lunch. It’s perfect for those mornings when you roll out of bed with no reservations or eggs in your fridge. You will most likely be able to walk into this little French restaurant. When you do, ask for a table on their side patio if it’s nice out. It’s a cozy, peaceful setup where you can eat simple sandwiches, quiche, omelettes, and pastries. They have mimosas too, in case coffee just won’t cut it.