The Best Restaurants In The Design District
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc
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 excellent outdoor restaurants, some of Miami's best sushi, and great date night spots. 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.
B-Side is a Design District sushi spot from the team behind Maty’s, and it’s in the space where its former sister restaurant, Itamae, used to be. There are a couple menu items leftover from Itamae (like the incredible scallop and octopus bañaditos), but B-Side is less a special occasion spot, and more of a casual place to grab some very good sushi rolls. This is not subtle sushi. The rolls are packed with lots of sauces and ingredients—but it works beautifully and never tastes overwhelming. There are delicious cooked small plates like conch fritters and chicken karaage too. It’s one of the Design District’s only walk-in options, so keep it in mind next time you want very good sushi without a reservation.
Though it’s a permanently difficult dinner reservation to find, 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 under the Miami sky.
Some of Miami’s best sushi is being served inside a shiny, casual food hall in the Design District. That’s where you’ll find Sushi Yasu Tanaka, one of MIA Market’s vendors. And if you are looking for a splurgy Friday lunch that doesn't require a reservation, this is it. Everything here is outstanding, but they do a ten-piece omakase platter (plus one handroll) for about $60 that's as good as most of Miami's upscale sushi omakase meals. Plus, spending $60 here is so much more satisfying than buying a pair of socks at one of the nearby designer stores.
Cote should be on your shortlist for any sort of big, celebratory blowout dinner. Especially one you’d like to involve meat. The Korean steakhouse is excellent—both the experience and the food. The 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 $68 per person tasting menu that ends with a little cup of soy sauce caramel soft serve.
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 almost every night. 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.
Tacombi is a casual Mexican spot that 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 good margarita pitcher. Both options are enjoyable, and so is the food. The baja crispy fish tacos are, in fact, crispy—and the 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.
L’Atelier is expensive, but also a guaranteed impressive dinner (if you're into fussy futuristic French dishes). Expect great service and 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 some form of sashimi and le foie gras au torchon, which comes 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.
This little bakery is another Buena Vista spot worth knowing about if you're walking around the neighborhood. The coffee here—Italian drinks like cappuccino and shakerato—is great. And the baked goods are excellent too. Options rotate often, but if you see the sourdough cinnamon roll, point to it like you just found Waldo on a particularly difficult page. Come early for sweet pastries like apple galette, or closer to noon when the sourdough sandwiches and Roman-style pizza occupy the counter. Just don’t plan on working at the small cafe. There’s no wifi, and the food’s too good to concentrate on anything else anyway.
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.
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). But we also like Michael’s for a proper sit-down lunch or 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.