When you’re at the beach, it’s hard to focus on anything but the beach. It has a way of cleansing your head of all unpleasant thoughts, like the fact that you forgot to pay for parking and there’s probably a ticket sitting on your windshield right now. But as soon as you step off the sand, those thoughts come back into focus, including the fact that you’re starving.
But there’s a problem: you’re sandy, sweaty, and covered in sunscreen. You could go home and shower first, but you know you can’t last that long - you need to find a place that won’t care that you’re crusted in salt like a branzino and serves something that’ll be satisfying after a day spent baking like a potato on the hot sand. These restaurants should do the trick, no matter what part of Miami Beach you find yourself on.
Both Taquiza’s South Beach and North Beach locations are casual enough to walk through in the noisiest of flip-flops. And at both restaurants, you’ll find some of Miami’s best tacos, which you can wash down with a margarita if that’s the sort of recovery meal you’re after. Start with the chewy totopos and guac, then move onto the taco of your choice. The camaron (shrimp) seems like an appropriate choice after a day spent flailing in the surf like a crustacean.
Botta is a casual walk-up window in North Bay Village, which is on the way back to the mainland if you’re coming from North Beach. They serve pizza, lasagna, and - what you really want to focus on here - great Italian sandwiches. Our favorite is the n’duja panini, which includes a thick slice of mozzarella and has a slight muffuletta vibe thanks to an olive spread they use. There are a few tables outside where you can sit and eat, but the sandwiches travel well and are quite easy to consume in the backseat of your friend’s sedan.
Right next door to Botta, you’ll find Half Moon Empanadas. This place is also a to-go operation with a couple seats outside. They only serve empanadas here, which is fine by us because there is perhaps no snack more perfect for post-beach refueling. They have over a dozen sweet and savory options - ranging from simple beef and chicken to not-so-simple banana split, pulled pork, and bacon, egg, and cheese versions.
Some foods seem designed specifically for certain situations: hot dogs and baseball games, popcorn and movie theaters, $15 salads and working through your lunch break. You can add the beach and a fruit salad from Athens Juice Bar to that list. After a hot, salty day getting tossed around by waves, this is the most refreshing thing you can ask for. It comes with bananas, mangoes, oranges, and is topped with a syrupy fruit pulp they call “nectar.” Make sure to ask for it and skip the side of cottage cheese for a cup of their house fruit punch. It’s like a defibrillator of sugar, and that is what you need right now.
Las Olas is a solid Cuban ventanita and cafeteria in South Beach. And they have the holy trinity of great post beach things to consume: cafecito (for energy), fresh juice (for hydration), and one of Miami’s best Cuban sandwiches (for deliciousness). Consume all of the above and you will feel as happy as the seagull who stole the bag of potato chips right out of your hand.
Sometimes you actually don’t look like a total wreck after the beach. Maybe the saltwater is doing something oddly helpful to your hair, or that new tan is already starting to show. If you don’t really mind being seen, Bodega is a good place to go. It’s quite popular during the day and at night the little club/bar in the back of the space has a line out the door. But people still mostly come here for the really good tacos. Grab an al pastor and one of the weekly rotating specials, maybe a frozen margarita, and come back at midnight in fancier clothes if you liked the scene.
If you spent an hour chasing your umbrella down the beach after an unexpected gust of wind and are now cartoon hungry - like, everything you look at is turning into a giant ham - then rush to La Sandwicherie. The South Beach sidewalk cafe is known as a late-night spot, so they’ve seen much worse than your sandy ankles, but this place is just as good sober and when the sun’s out. The sandwiches are huge, made to order, and stuffed generously with just about anything you can think of. Grab one to go or eat at the counter where you’ll have a big squeeze bottle of their amazing house vinaigrette at your disposal.
After you’ve spent the last three hours sweating out the sodium in your body, a simple, well-executed fried chicken sandwich is a beautiful sight. And you’ll find just that at The Chicken Spot, a small restaurant on Washington Ave. They serve five versions, including one with coconut breading and an excellent hot honey sandwich with pickles and sriracha mayo. Other potentially fun things to eat here (especially if you consumed several beers at the beach) include fried mac and cheese balls, popcorn chicken, and loaded waffle fries.
Just because you left the beach doesn’t mean you want to stop staring at the water. Shuckers can help keep the views coming with its dockside seating, which is really the best reason to come here. It’s also one of the only casual waterfront restaurants where the prime views don’t come with incessant house music and $300 bottles of rosé whizzing by your head. The food here is what you want in a breezy raw bar - they have good wings and seafood - but the best part of Shuckers is its wide-open view of Biscayne Bay.
Collins Pizza is a casual slice shop in North Beach where no one will get upset if you smell a little like seaweed. They also happen to make the closest thing to a classic New York slice in...maybe the whole city? They use a slowly fermented dough (72 hours, in case you were curious), which gives the crust a great flavor. If you’re too hungry to make a decision, get the vodka pie. It’s foldable and delicious, with perfect ratios of sauce to cheese.
You’re dehydrated and sun drunk so let’s keep this simple. Ignore the army of pastries in this little bakery on Collins and ask for the Venezuelan empanadas. Then make the very easy commute across the narrow restaurant to one of the high-top tables, locate the wonderful house sauce, and be careful not to burn your tongue off. These empanadas are outstanding - soft and chewy rather than the flaky variety. Get the one stuffed with queso or pabellón and, if you want to save your tongue from some serious trauma, try biting little holes in the corners and blowing the steam out like you’re playing an empanada saxophone before you bite in.
Spending an afternoon half-naked in public can make a person slightly more mindful about what they eat, and Under the Mango Tree is a very tasty option if you happen to be leaving South Beach with a newfound health obsession. They do good versions of all the current juice cafe hits: acai bowls, juices, smoothies, and meatless sandwiches like their spicy kale melt. The store is small, with a lot of plants, indoor seating, and the personality of a yoga studio, which will help ease the transition of relaxing on the beach to screaming in traffic.
You already spent 45 minutes trying to find the perfect spot to put down your blanket, so it feels nice to put your decision-making skills on autopilot and just point at things that look delicious. That’s the experience at Buon Pane, a super casual and very small Italian bakery in South Beach that has a counter full of freshly baked Italian food. The pizza is fine, but branch out and try one of the calzones. Buon Pane’s versions are like little Italian hot pockets that can fit in one hand, and while the fillings change, they’re all excellent.
At Monty’s, you will not find the best seafood in South Beach. But there are good frozen drinks, decent oysters, and more things that are hard to mess up, like fish dip and coconut shrimp. Also, there’s a pool right in the center of the outdoor restaurant that you’re welcome to use, and sometimes they have live music. So, come here to drink, hang out, and enjoy the waterfront view - just don’t expect a meal you’re going to remember for the rest of your life.
The more casual conjoined twin to Joe’s Stone Crab serves the same stuff you’ll find in the fancy dining room next door. Except there’s no dress code here and you won’t have to wait nearly as long for your food. Get some stone crabs if they’re in season and you want them bad enough to spend $12 per claw. Otherwise, the fried chicken is less than $10 and really good with a side of Joe’s hash browns. Just remember that this place closes for a few months in the summer, so make sure to check the website to see if they’re open before you go.
This South Florida chain has been a favorite since 1959 - but why, exactly, is hard to explain. This place is dark and wooden, like the hull of an old ship, and both the wings (free every Wednesday if you buy a pitcher of beer) and ribs will give you the sustenance you need after helping your little cousin build sandcastles for six hours. The service is quick, and this place is both a solid spot for your post-beach comedown and a fascinating glimpse into the South Florida psyche.
We love a name that gets right to the point: oranges, Toys “R” Us, Big & Tall. You know what you’re in for - and that’s exactly the case with Burgers and Shakes. This isn’t the best burger in Miami, but it’s a convenient place to toast a successful day at the beach - which is only a football field away from the restaurant’s sidewalk seating. Stick with their classic cheeseburger. It’s enough to fill you up without making you uncomfortably full and messy like some of their more elaborate options. The shakes are also refreshingly straightforward with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate flavors.
You may not immediately think of gyros after a beach day, but you probably should. It’s as filling and hearty as anything else you’ll find on South Beach, and Miami Mediterranean does the best ones in the neighborhood. It’s a low-key spot where you’ll probably see a bathroom door being propped open with a rusty kettlebell or drunk tourists on the hunt for something to eat. But what this little spot lacks in looks, it makes up for in slow-turning, juicy beef. You’ll have a prime view as they shave off slices just for you. Try not to look too creepy when you stare at it.