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.
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.
The sourdough pizza spot Old Greg’s has graduated from pop-up to brick and mortar. And even though ordering from Greg’s was sort of impossible during their pop-up days, we've had no trouble getting a table here so far. They’re operating out of the former Ghee space in the Design District, selling crispy square pies and (a new addition to the menu) truly excellent round pies with a sturdy crust and big sprigs of basil. The first-come-first-served counter-service spot also has some extraordinary hoagies, wine, beer, and a very cool alligator mural (plus an equally great bathroom). It's a great spot to split a bottle of wine and some pizza with a few friends.
MIA Market is a big, bright Design District food hall with a few really great vendors you should prioritize. Aita serves excellent Spanish tapas, Foirette specializes in rotisserie chicken and sandwiches, and Sushi Yasu Tanaka is serving the kind of sushi you’d normally have to book an omakase to experience. All of the above are good options for lunch or an early walk-in dinner (they close at 8pm during the week and 9pm on weekends). Seating is first come, first served, and there are enough tables that you should be able to find somewhere to sit pretty fast.
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 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.
Le Jardinier is the sister restaurant to L’ Atelier, located right below it, and connected by a gorgeous spiral staircase. The restaurant - which looks and feels a bit like a spaceship - is far from casual, but it’s a little less showy than L’ Atelier. Still, the menu (which changes seasonally) is every bit as sophisticated. Another difference at Le Jardinier is that many of the dishes here focus on vegetables and seafood. They do things with beets, cauliflower, and turnips that’ll make you very happy. It’s all very fine dining-y, though, with beautifully plated food and great service.
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—especially the massive whole roasted tuna collar.
MadLab is an ice cream shop, and like all things in the Design District, it’s a little fancy and over-the-top. For example, you can get your ice cream topped with gold leaf and fluffy cotton candy that will kind of make your cone look like Bob Ross. But the reason we like this place is that the ice cream underneath all that fancy stuff is really good. And if you don’t want to pick gold leaf out of your teeth in the bathroom, you can just come here for a couple plain scoops of matcha or passion fruit and still be very satisfied.
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.
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 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.