MIAGuide

17 Places To Take Tourists That Won’t Make You Hate Yourself

You don't have to end up at an Ocean Drive sidewalk cafe.

17 Places To Take Tourists That Won’t Make You Hate Yourself  guide image

It’s exciting when people from out of town visit you in Miami. You get to show off our endless sunshine, beaches, that guy from Hialeah who dresses up like Spiderman. There’s just one problem—sometimes your visiting friends and family aren’t interested in going to that little neighborhood spot around the corner you love so much. They’d prefer the very expensive restaurant that’s close to the hotel, something classic and kitschy, or that place they saw a Kardashian post about three weeks ago. If that’s the case, meet them halfway with a place that’ll satisfy all those touristy itches while still providing a great and/or fun meal. All of the spots on this guide will make tourists happy, and you’ll actually have a good time too.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Merritt Smail

Shore To Door Fish Market  review image
8.8

Shore To Door Fish Market

Tourists love to come to Miami and say “Should we drive to Key West today?” as if it’s three blocks away rather than a nearly four-hour 167-mile journey. So politely tell them no, and instead drive over to the much closer Coconut Grove and eat fried seafood at Shore To Door. 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 grouper 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, which will trick your out-of-town friends into thinking they’re on Duval Street.

Cafe La Trova is one of the best Miami restaurants for folks looking for a night of Cuban Miami culture, a.k.a. a good 70 percent of the people streaming out of Miami International from December through March. This Calle Ocho spot is, first and foremost, an absolute blast. And unlike most restaurants that feel like a big, loud party, the food is good. There’s a live band (a rare sight in Miami these days) every night alongside a team of spiffy bartenders who not only make the world’s best daiquiri but also occasionally start dancing and playing instruments.

The Cleat is a bar with a view that'll make a local cry, so one can only imagine what it'll do to a tourist who hasn't seen saltwater in nine years. This place is located inside Bill Baggs State Park on the southern tip of Key Biscayne. And it has the best waterfront view of any bar in the entire city. It’s hard to describe without using cliche adjectives like breathtaking, especially at sunset. The Cleat has a very Keys vibe, occasional live music, and every seat in the house provides a view of Biscayne Bay you’d normally have to purchase a $300 bottle of vodka to enjoy. There is an $8 per vehicle fee to get into the park, but tell them you’re going to The Cleat and they (should) let you in for free.

A lot of tourists coming to Miami probably already know about—and want to eat at—Joe’s. And this is one situation where you can happily agree to join them. Joe’s is a classic for a reason, the dining room has been around for over a hundred years, and it’s still a great place to dress up and spend way too much money on stone crabs. And now that Joe’s is finally accepting limited reservations, you can plan ahead and not have to wait at the bar for three hours. Just remind your tourist that stone crab season is October 15 through May 1.

This Little Havana fritanga is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. So, even if your tourist has a three-hour layover on Thanksgiving at 4am, they can still sit in Yambo’s ridiculously over-the-top dining room. But let’s face it: this place is for that tourist who’s here to party (in all caps with an air horn blast). And when it’s 5am and they are calling out for Taco Bell—take them here instead. There’s a specific go-to order to stick to: carne asada, gallo pinto, queso frito, and plantains—either tajadas or maduros. Get that and you’ll all leave happy. Also, make sure to get a cacao and/or chia from the juice bar. It’s cash only, but they have an ATM on site.

97 percent of tourists who come to town are searching for the best Cuban sandwich in Miami. It sounds like a tough task, but honestly, it’s not. Take them to Sanguich de Miami. After approximately one bite, they will understand that it does not get better than this casual Calle Ocho sandwich shop. It just doesn’t. 

No vacation to Miami is complete these days without a sweaty walk through Wynwood. And for a fun, delicious dinner in the heart of the neighborhood, KYU is still a favorite. Basically, every dish is a crowd-pleaser: the roasted cauliflower, soft-shell crab bao buns, Thai fried rice stone pot, and fried chicken. It also happens to be one of the hardest reservations to get in Wynwood. So plan way ahead and, if you can’t find a table, just go to Kush Wynwood for burgers and beer. 

photo credit: Gabriel Matarazz

Terras at Life House Little Havana review image

Terras at Life House Little Havana

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Tourists sure do love drinking on a roof. We have bad news for them: Miami's rooftop bar scene is pretty pathetic. But here's the good news: Terras in Little Havana is a rooftop bar we truly love and wholeheartedly endorse. This is thanks to both the great cocktails and the wonderful view of the Downtown skyline. They serve food here as well, including small plates like queso fundido, hearts of palm salad, and birria tacos. But you’re mostly coming here to drink—or dance since they usually have a great DJ spinning on the weekend.

Yes, Itamae is in the Design District, a neighborhood lots of tourists will probably want to walk through. But the big reason you should bring your friend from Minnesota here is because this place is phenomenal. It’s not only the city’s best Nikkei restaurant, but one of the very best restaurants in Miami. They do an absolutely perfect ceviche, an essential Miami dish. But our favorite thing about the constantly-changing menu are the surprises—like tiny firefly squid swimming in squid ink leche de tigre or meltingly soft slices of Hokkaido scallop folded over chunks of smoked banana.

Take your tourist to Versailles. But take them to the ventanita, get a cafecito and a couple croquetas. Then, when it’s time to eat, drive over to El Rey De Las Fritas for one of the most delicious Cuban dishes you can really only find in Miami: the frita. This classic Little Havana diner serves eight varieties of these Cuban hamburger-hybrids, and they all start with the same basic structure: a mixture of spiced meat and onions placed onto a Cuban bun, and then topped with a Dikembe Mutombo-sized handful of crispy potato sticks. The frita original is still our go-to order. 

Naomi’s Garden is our favorite place to give out-of-towners a look (and taste) of Little Haiti. They have a great selection of Haitian classics, like legim, tassot, and ke bèf (a.k.a. oxtail stew), along with a killer jerk chicken and a lot of plant-based options. It’s all served cafeteria style, so your buddy who’s never seen a plantain before can point at what looks good, or you can just order online in advance if your friend is about to miss their flight. The best part of Naomi’s, though, is eating in the back patio, which is one of the most charming outdoor situations in Miami. There are also chickens wandering around, which your friend from Seattle will get a kick out of.

Ocean Drive are two words that understandably strike fear into the heart of most locals. And yet, the terrifyingly drunken street is still perpetually packed with tourists soaking in the art deco and getting suckered into scammy sidewalk cafes. But there is one place on Ocean Drive we always love going to: The Palace. It’s a Miami LGBTQ staple, and they still put on one of the best drag shows in the universe during their bottomless brunch. 

La Mar is a place that won’t make you want to reconsider your friendship with the person who guilted you into meeting them in Brickell. For starters, it’s located on Brickell’s quieter cousin: Brickell Key. Both you and your tourist are going to be blown away by the view here, which feels like you’re looking at general admission Brickell from the VIP section. And everyone will be more than satisfied with what La Mar puts on the plate, which is Miami’s best Peruvian food. Definitely order the ceviche carretillero and the lomo saltado, both perfect examples of classic limeño dishes. And absolutely make a reservation to guarantee you get one of those outdoor tables. 

If your tourist insists on going to Lincoln Road for various shopping-related reasons, then take them to Mister 01 once they've had enough of Zara. It’s one of the best places to eat on Lincoln Road, if you absolutely have to eat on Lincoln Road. The tiny pizzeria is located inside a random office building and serves some of Miami's most oddly tasty pies. Focus on the “extraordinary pizza” section of the menu. The very popular Star Luca has a folded crust stuffed with ricotta, and the delicious Claudio pizza is served at room temperature with a very generous amount of white truffle oil on top. It's confusingly delicious.

Ariete is the place to show someone how Miami does fine dining. The Coconut Grove spot is fancy, but in a very Miami-specific way. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to throw an Uncle Luke song on the playlist every now and then. The restaurant’s rotating menu blends French, Cuban, and American cuisine into one of the most exciting meals in town. Dinner can include things like a truffled crema de malanga, tamal en cazuela with uni and pork fat foam, or a very French canard à la presse—but served with duck pastelitos and a duck tamal. 

People visiting Miami tend to be overwhelmed by the urge to eat next to a body of water. This can be dicey in Miami, since so many of those spots are pretty awful and overpriced. But Amara At Paraiso not only has one of Miami’s best waterfront views, it actually makes an effort when it comes to the food, too. 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.

Sure, The Fontainebleau is an iconic part of Miami’s history. But it’s also ground zero for pre-wedding ragers, corporate conferences, and booze-motivated vacations of all sorts. Needless to say, the Bleau is a safe space for tourists. And if you’re going to get dragged here, make it because of a reservation at Hakkasan. The dark labyrinth of latticed nooks is one of the Bleau’s less chaotic dining options. It also serves some of Miami’s best (if not priciest) Hong Kong-style Chinese food. The dim sum steamer basket and solid Peking duck with housemade chun bing pancakes are worth paying way too much for parking. 

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