Where To Take Someone Who’s Threatening To Leave Miami  guide image

MIAGuide

Where To Take Someone Who’s Threatening To Leave Miami

15 Miami restaurants that'll make you want to shred that lease you just signed.

The hardest part about making friends in Miami is that a good 80 percent of them will eventually move somewhere else. It happens all the time and the reasons for fleeing are multitude: rent spikes, more lucrative job markets, being wanted by the FBI, etc. It’s a frustrating part of life down here. So if you catch your friend Googling “cool cities?” and want to persuade them to stay put, try taking them to these restaurants. This guide has a mix of only-in-Miami classics, beautiful outdoor spots, and more places that always make us feel lucky to live here. 

THE SPOTS

El Rey De Las Fritas  imageoverride image
8.3

El Rey De Las Fritas

$$$$

1821 SW 8th St, Miami
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You know what’s really hard to find outside the 305 and 786 area codes? A proper frita. This alone is reason enough to cancel an Uber to Miami International. But if your friend still needs convincing, take them to Little Havana’s El Rey De Las Fritas so they can taste what they’ll be missing. The fluorescent Calle Ocho diner serves our favorite versions in Miami, piled with enough crispy little potato sticks to start a fire of regret in the heart of anyone who just signed a lease in Jacksonville. 

Did you know that other cities don’t have the ocean? It’s true. Google “Kansas” if you don’t believe us. That’s why taking someone for a sunset drink at The Cleat is a smart strategy if you want to convince them that Miami is the best. This outdoor bar is located inside Bill Baggs State Park on the southern tip of Key Biscayne and has the best waterfront view in the entire city. Time your visit during sunset and your companion will fall to their knees and beg forgiveness from Miami-Dade county.

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So you’re trying to stop someone from moving to New York City? It’s an all too common scenario. One thing that might work: comparing the wait times at our Lucali and their Lucali. Remind your friend that, at the Brooklyn Lucali, securing a table can be a 12-hour affair. But in South Beach? Shoot, you could walk in for lunch on the weekend and wait approximately zero seconds. We’ve done that before. Also, it snows in New York. A lot. Make sure to mention that. 

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings

Miami Slice review image
8.7

Miami Slice

Or, you can just take them to Miami Slice, our very own NY-style slice that blows every other NY-style slice we’ve ever had straight to Pluto. This little Downtown spot lays to rest once and for all any argument about Miami having inferior pizza, or the argument that a city needs a specific type of water to make great pies. Nope. We have pizza now. World-class, exceptional NY-style pizza. Stay here and eat it.   

Bread can be a very convincing negotiation tactic, as evidenced by hungry ducks everywhere. And while, yes, they do have bakeries in other cities, they don’t have Zak The Baker. The Wynwood spot is a Miami classic for a lot of reasons. Not only does it remind us of the days when Wynwood didn’t feel like a developer’s subconscious, but it’s still so incredibly good. Bagels, babka, cookies, sandwiches, toast—Zak makes versions of all of the above as good as anywhere we’ve ever been. 

How many times have you been in another state and witnessed an alleged “Cuban sandwich” that made you want to dial 911? It’s happened to us on multiple occasions. What they do to this glorious sandwich across the United States of America is terrifying. Ciabatta? American cheese? Do you really want to live in a society where this is acceptable? The answer is no, especially after you pay a visit to Sanguich in Little Havana, home to Miami’s undisputed best Cuban sandwich. If this doesn’t make you want to live at your parent’s house until you’re 47, well, we actually understand. But it’s still amazing.

Alright, this is a weird one, but bear with us. As a restaurant, The Ocean Drive tourist epicenter Mango’s is not good. It is, however, a surprisingly fun and nostalgic encapsulation of the endearing absurdity of Miami—specifically South Beach. We realized this while having an unexpectedly good time at Mango’s wild variety dinner show during research for our guide to the least-awful clubstaurants in Miami. We’ll say this though: don’t make your friend pay. Treat them, because this place is more expensive than it ought to be, and also because scamming your way into free things is another beloved Miami tradition that might influence them to stay. 

A trip to Palacio for any local will feel like a food version of It's a Wonderful Life. Watch the emotion wash over their face as they stroll past the cafeteria-style selection of Latin staples, witnessing a real-time highlight reel of all the foods they’ve loved in life, and then revel in the horror that takes over their expression as they contemplate life without them. No more vaca frita? Or liquid forms of mamey? Feel free to work in a Jimmy Stewart impression as you remind them that these things aren’t readily available in Asheville.

“Oh,” they’ll say, “but Miami’s all bottle service and velvet ropes. There’s no place to go out where you can just relax and be yourself while also eating something really delicious.” Perhaps this was once a compelling argument for leaving, but these days, not so much. Now we have places where you can go and drink and not be harassed by a promoter who won’t shut up about the “sick view” from his friend’s Brickell penthouse, which you are invited to later for an “epic afterparty.” For example: Paradis, a wine bar and bakery in North Miami that’s so refreshingly laid back and welcoming that we actually kind of want to stop talking about it. Forget we said anything. Don’t come here. Leave! Go to Tucson and never look back!

Sure, at this point, Cuban food has reached nearly every state in the country. But where else are you going to find the kind of delicious twists on Cuban classics that you’ll see at the Cuban diner Chug’s? Nowhere, U.S.A. Please do send us an email if you ever come across a PB&J pastelito or a coffee tonic made with Ironbeer. Until then, you will only find those things in Coconut Grove.  

Can a ceviche be so utterly perfect that it alters major life decisions, such as moving to the Pacific Northwest? If it’s possible, then the one at Itamae would be the version to do it. Ceviche aside, just about every dish at the Design District Nikkei restaurant—from the rotating tiraditos to the cremolada dessert—can make a person want to never be more than two zip codes away from Palm Court. So coming here is worth a shot, and, worst case scenario, you get an Itamae meal out of it. 

Mandolin never fails to make us feel lucky to live in Miami, especially if we visit the gorgeous outdoor restaurant on a beautiful day. It’s one of those restaurants that feels like you’re eating inside the house of Gwyneth Paltrow, or some equivalent owner of a wildly successful lifestyle brand. Aesthetics aside, the Greek and Mediterranean food here is simple, but excellent. It’s also hard to get into, so if your friend happens to be moving into a reservation-hunting culture, the struggles of finding a table here will give them a small taste of the frustrating dining life that awaits them.

Just like people moving to New York may cite pizza as a motivating factor, folks moving to, say, Austin, could do the same with barbecue. And, yes, we know our barbecue scene can’t compare to Austin and the rest of its  southern barbecue kin. We’re not that delusional. However, we do have Drinking Pig, who makes outrageously good smoked meats from two locations: Smorgasburg in Wynwood on Saturdays and a cul-de-sac in North Miami on Saturdays and Sundays. Order the ribs and casually mention how long the wait is at Franklin.

Ask your friend to close their eyes for a moment. Now ask them to picture a life without pikliz. Or griot. Or oxtail. This is what’s at risk when moving to a  city that, presumably, does not have the volume of Haitian restaurants that we’re so lucky to have in South Florida. You can conduct this thought experiment while eating all of the above in the garden patio of Naomi’s, a Little Haiti classic that’s one of our favorite Haitian restaurants in town. 

No one—and we mean no one—throws a party like Miami. It is something we do better than just about every other city, whose parties probably start at 8pm and involve flimsy tortilla chips that instantly break upon contact with a sad store-bought salsa. Cafe La Trova is a good place to remind someone of this, because no restaurant in town is as consistently fun each and every night. There’s a live band nightly alongside a team of spiffy bartenders who not only make the world’s best daiquiri, but also occasionally start dancing and playing instruments.

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