Where To Go When You Don’t Want To Make A Big Deal About Your Birthday, But You Actually Kinda Do

Some places for the celebration you’re scared to ask for.
Where To Go When You Don’t Want To Make A Big Deal About Your Birthday, But You Actually Kinda Do image

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc

Maybe the memory of having a group of strangers at a chain restaurant sing some remixed version of “Happy Birthday” while you turned bright red haunts you to this day. But also, you want people to know you exist—and ever since you deleted your Facebook, everyone’s been forgetting your birthday. So maybe you should organize a dinner to celebrate. You need a place that’s not so small that your group sticks out as an obvious celebration. But it also can’t be somewhere people only go to celebrate because that’s a lot of pressure. It has to be just nice enough to make you look sophisticated, but not so fancy that everyone thinks you’ve got something to prove. These spots are right in that sweet spot.


photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc



$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSpecial OccasionsOutdoor/Patio Situation
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Tam Tam is intimate enough to make dinner feel like a private party, but fun enough to make friends with a stranger who’s also waiting in line for their moment in the karaoke bathroom. But the food at this little Vietnamese restaurant (not the fact you were born 33 years ago today) is what you and your friends will be talking about while you’re here. So rest assured the fish sauce caramel chicken wings will take the pressure off your big night. 

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc

Maty’s has tables good for groups, entrees you can split, and one of our favorite cocktail menus in town. It’s cute too, with the kind of crisp, minimalist interior where one of your friends can snap some quality candids of you entering 36 with grace and poise as you tear a chunk out of the whole roasted fish (order that, by the way). Since it’s so big, reservations are usually pretty easy. So if you’ve procrastinated planning something until 24 hours before the big day, this might be the move. 

Yes, the food, cocktails, and service are always outstanding at Downtown's Jaguar Sun—but its greatest quality also happens to be that rarest of things in a Miami social life: a guaranteed good time. Jaguar Sun is fun, and not conditionally so. You don’t have to be at the right table or order the right cocktail or entree to enjoy yourself here. Everything (both in liquid and solid form) is delicious, and the staff is a small team of extroverts hell-bent on making sure your glass is never empty.

Walrus Rodeo is one of those rare special occasion restaurants that’s also perfect for most regular occasions. And it works for a birthday dinner that feels important and exciting, but won't have your friends stressing over what to wear. The interior is a slightly bizarre but endearing mix of Western, diner, and auto shop aesthetics. The delicious food is equally all-over-the-place—featuring excellent pizzas and a carrot tartare that has surpassed all of the tuna or steak versions we've ever tried. The dining room is loud enough to have fun, but not so chaotic that you'll have to shout at someone to get them to pass the bottle of wine.



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If you're coming to Cafe La Trova, you're making at least a little bit of a big deal out of your birthday. But this is also the most energetic birthday dinner you can have without going to a clubstaurant. You can get as loud as you want at this Little Havana restaurant and cocktail bar, but rest assured no sparklers will appear and the food is actually very good. There’s also live music, perfect daiquiris, and a bar in the back where you can keep the party going.

Los Felix seems like the kind of casual restaurant that’ll make it look like you’re not trying too hard. But as dinner progresses, it becomes clear that this is one of the best restaurants in Miami. Will your friends realize you actually do want to make a big deal of this birthday? No—they’ll be too busy drinking wine and enjoying the smoked chicken tamal and pork cheek carnitas to notice. Plus, on weekends, they have a DJ in the dining room to make the place feel like one big house party.

The team from Gramps (one of our favorite bars in Miami) revamped this 79th Street classic. So expect the personality of a fun bar with the menu of a really great restaurant—plus an interior that gives ‘80s Miami without going overboard on nostalgia. Get the brat platter if you want to make your birthday wish over a selection of totally awesome tubular meats. A schnitzel or two is essential as well. You can also linger after dinner for drinks and glass-block-window-appreciating in the fun backyard bar.

This Downtown spot is a great call for a dinner that hits that sweet spot between fancy and casual. The food, which includes lots of delicious Catalan dishes, will make you feel sophisticated, but not in a way that’ll give you anxiety that you’re getting old and boring. If any of those feelings start to arise, just take a sip of orange wine and a bite of NIU Kitchen’s ous, a bowl of runny poached eggs, truffled potato foam, black truffle, and crispy bits of jamón ibérico. It’s a top-five dish in Miami.

There are a lot of waterfront restaurants where parties arrive via yacht and order magnums of rosé that look like small rocket ships. Amara is not one of those places, but it does have a better view than all of them. This still isn’t one of those seafood spots where everything is made out of wood and sandals make up the majority of the footwear—but it’s not pretentious, has some very large tables, and serves some great seafood and dessert fit for a birthday of any age.

Every time we go to Ironside Pizza, there’s almost always a party of 15-20 people sitting at a long table with a dozen bottles of wine and a lot of pizza. This spot in Little River is great for a group because everyone loves pizza, the BYOB policy means supplying booze will be cheap-ish (there is a corkage fee), and the mostly outdoor restaurant is a very pretty place to have a two-and-a-half-hour dinner. Just make a reservation and the rest will be a lot less stressful than deciding whether or not you should invite Jessica, who knows what she did.

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