MIAGuide

The Best Restaurants In Downtown Miami

These are our favorite places to eat in Downtown.
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photo credit: Emily Schindler

There is no neighborhood that better embodies Miami’s ridiculous extremes than Downtown. Here, in just a 10-minute walk, you’ll encounter abandoned lots alongside highrise apartments your favorite celebrity couldn’t even afford—all while dodging squinting people wandering out of Miami clubs at 9am, looking for breakfast. Downtown’s restaurants are every bit as wide-ranging, with dining rooms full of people who might actually say something like, “Well, I just had caviar last night,” mere blocks away from cash-only cafeterias with no AC. This guide spans that entire spectrum.


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc

Vietnamese

Downtown

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSpecial OccasionsOutdoor/Patio Situation
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There is no restaurant in this city like Tam Tam—and not just because Miami lacks the Vietnamese options of many major cities. It just has a very rare combination of exciting food, contagious fun-having, and design details sure to imminently overtake your algorithm. The worn wood paneling left over from the previous occupant makes Tam Tam feel lived-in like a favorite pair of jeans, and one bathroom is a disco karaoke hallucination. The “betel wrapped lamb situation” is our favorite build-your-own dish in the whole city, and the sticky fish sauce caramel wings are so crispy it’s hard to tell if you’re holding a flat or a drum. The overall feeling of Tam Tam speaks to this place’s roots as a supper club, when it was just friends getting together for drinks and one-of-a-kind Vietnamese dishes.

We have never had a more perfect slice of pizza than the ones served at Miami Slice, a small counter-seating spot on the northern edge of Downtown. This is also why this place often has a line that could take hours (both for takeout and dine-in). The five or six New York-style slices you’ll find here have a crust that’s crispy edge-to-edge, yet still warm and fluffy when you bite into it. The highlight of the menu, a pepperoni slice with red sauce, hot honey, and an optional (but non-negotiable) glob of additional stracciatella, makes us briefly lose consciousness. There isn’t much to do here but grab a slice at the counter or take a whole pie to go. But that’s fine because this is a pizza that deserves one million percent of your undivided attention.

During the day, people walk in and out of here lugging dense takeout boxes from Jrk, Mangrove’s sister spot that operates in the same space. But at night, Mangrove turns into a restaurant and bar worthy of a fun weekend meal with friends who like to dance to reggae while holding utensils. After you eat great Jamaican dishes like jerk wings, curry oxtail, a whole fried snapper, stay for some cocktails and dancing. Just make sure to find a moment to appreciate the bar’s backsplash constructed out of thousands of dominoes.

NIU Kitchen is a Catalan spot that is one of our favorite restaurants in the entire city. It went through lots of changes during the pandemic, and has recently taken over the space that once housed its sister restaurant. But all you need to know is that it’s still a great restaurant for a highly memorable meal. The outstanding dishes include things like cold tomato soup with mustard ice cream and the ous, a bowl of poached eggs and truffled potato foam. Plus, it’s just a really lovely place to hang out and have a lazy dinner with a bottle of great wine.

Jaguar Sun is fun, and not conditionally so. You don’t have to be at the right table or order the right 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. You're coming here for outstanding pasta, oysters, a cold martini, and because you need a dinner that'll make you completely forget why you woke up in a bad mood today.

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc

$$$$Perfect For:Lunch

This wooden dining room with lighting that flashes like an ambulance is where you’ll find the near-flawless bowl of ramen you were pretty sure Miami didn’t have. Your favorite anime would have a tough time drawing a shoyu ramen that looks as perfect as the one here. And if, hypothetically, a clerical error forced Dumplings Mi Amor to go without noodles for a day, we’d still drive here to slurp the Sapporo ramen’s miso broth with its little bits of ground pork. There’s other good stuff on the menu, like creamy blue crab rangoons with a kimchi lime butter dipping sauce. But don’t let the name fool you: this is a ramen destination—and the very best one in Miami. 

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Like Goldilocks and her porridge, it can be hard to find an omakase that’s “just right”—one that hits that sweet spot between formal and informal, suspiciously cheap and give-your-accountant-a-heart-attack expensive. But Mr. Omakase in Downtown walks that line perfectly. It’s not cheap, but the 10-course option comes in under $100 (at least before service, taxes, and sake), and that’s a lot better than most upscale omakase options in Miami. But the big reason we love this place is because every piece of fish, uni, or beef that’s laid in front of us just gets better and better, like a well-paced action movie starring Keanu Reeves.


There are a lot of occasions that justify going to Over Under, a narrow cocktail bar and restaurant in the heart of Downtown. It’s a good place to bring a date or catch up with a few friends over some strong (and delicious) cocktails. Stop by literally any time you happen to be craving a cheeseburger or fried chicken sandwich (both are great here). The menu changes a lot, but you can generally expect excellent bar food and great weekly specials. This place somehow has the DNA of a dive bar, upscale cocktail bar, and a very good restaurant all rolled into one.

Tacos El Porky is basically a fast food taco spot—in the best possible way. The taqueria specializes in al pastor tacos shaved right off a trompo and served with pineapple, onions, a spicy red chili sauce, and their “porkie sauce” (cilantro and mayo). Those are good, but our favorite taco here is the cochi taco with chunks of chicharrones, pickled onions, and a green chili sauce. The third taco on their small menu is the cheesy and delicious gringa taco, which is actually more like an al pastor quesadilla than a taco. That’s it—just three tacos on the menu—all pork and all fast. It's a perfect quick and affordable lunch option.


This place looks like an Italian family with a slight hoarding issue broke into a Downtown building and no one’s decided to kick them out because their pasta is good. There’s no restaurant in the area with as much personality as Soya: a dim, cavernous space stuffed with books, mismatched furniture, and antiques. They usually do live jazz here on Thursday and Saturday, so stop by then if you want a little extra romance. But it’s worth parallel parking for the eggplant parm—music or no music—and the slightly sweet fazzoletti di formaggio e pera with pear and ricotta.

Bunbury is an Argentinian restaurant on the Northern edge of Downtown, and it has all the stuff you’d expect at a good Argentinian restaurant. There’s lots of wine (including some really good wine cocktails), solid empanadas, and a variety of tasty red meat—like a perfectly grilled vacio. But the space also has a fun secret lair vibe—the dining room is located behind a sliding bookshelf—and there’s occasional live music, too. It’s casual, but still a good choice for a date or fun group dinner. 


Motek is an Israeli restaurant buried inside a huge building full of diamond shops, and getting here will make you feel like a considerably less stressed-out version of Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. There are some very tasty things at the casual restaurant, especially sandwiches. We really like their crispy chicken schnitzel sandwich and the arayes burger, handheld beef-stuffed pitas that come with a side of crispy fries. The indoor restaurant is also BYOB with no corkage fee.


Eleventh Street Pizza is a great New York-style pizza spot, and where you want to go if the line at Miami Slice sucks. Their slices are foldable yet firm, and made with a delicious sourdough crust. Our favorite is the pepperoni and hot honey pizza, which comes topped with Calabrian chili paste, caramelized onions, and little pepperoni cups. The huge Sicilian square slices are great too. It's great for to-go, but they also have indoor and outdoor seating where you can enjoy your pizza with a bottle of wine.


Manila Kantina is a small Filipino restaurant and grocer along Flagler where you can sit down and eat a selection of tasty dishes buffet-style for about $12 per person. Your options include chicken adobo, dinuguan (pork blood stew), chop suey, lechon kawali, fried lumpia, pinakbet (stewed vegetables), and more. It’s all great, but before you leave, browse the shelves to take home some Filipino pantry staples like pancit noodles, bagoong jars, and bibingka mixes.


Since 1966, this spot has been the best place to eat on the Miami River—where you can watch yachts, boats that are almost certainly smuggling something illegal, and the occasional lost dolphin all drift by in the course of a lunch. It’s still a good choice because it’s good, simple, and one of the few waterfront spots in the area where you won’t be surrounded by $200 bottles of rosé and people who arrived via luxury yacht. Start with some fried shellfish, listen closely to the daily specials, and if it’s stone crab season, you know what to do.


If you want to eat seafood somewhere that sandals won’t be considered formalwear, then Mignonette is a good choice. The place isn’t super upscale, but it’s nice enough to work for a dinner with someone you want to impress. Or you can always sit at the bar during Happy Hour for a more casual vibe. Either way, come for the very good seafood. Oysters are $4 a pop ($2 during Happy Hour), but very worth it. If you want to keep the tab down, order some of the $8 veggies, which taste great and will help you leave full.


Bali Café is a little Indonesian spot where you can get some very generous portions of dishes you won’t find done this well anywhere else in the area. The big menu includes everything from poke bowls to sushi rolls—but you should focus on their Indonesian dishes, like the nasi goreng special. It comes in a little bento box with separated portions of fried rice, coconut chicken curry, and a tender pile of rendang. There’s no shortage of things to look at in the restaurant, which is decorated with colorful statues and masks you’ll want to touch and try on. Please don’t. Instead, just order the es campur for dessert—an icy and gelatinous sweet soup that puts snowcones to shame.


Not only does Verde have one of the best views in Miami, but it’s casual enough to show up in shorts and a tank top. The restaurant is located in the back of the Pérez Art Museum and has a beautiful, uninterrupted view of Biscayne Bay. That’s really why you should come here (and why you shouldn’t sit inside), but the food—mostly salads, pizza, and sandwiches—is solid.

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