MIAGuide

The Best Restaurants In Downtown Miami

These are our favorite places to eat in Downtown.

There is no neighborhood that better embodies Miami’s ridiculous extremes than Downtown. Here, in just a 10-minute walk, you’ll pass abandoned wig stores, highrise apartments your favorite celebrity couldn’t even afford, and people wandering out of nightclubs at 10am, hissing at the sun like vampires. 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 with everything from an Israeli restaurant in a diamond mall to one of the best places for Spanish food in the city.


The Spots

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, Arson. But all you need to know is that’s it’s still a great restaurant. 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 with a bottle of wine.

You can go to Jaguar Sun just to drink, but if you sit in their little dining room, it feels more like a restaurant than a bar. And once the outstanding food shows up alongside your excellent drinks, it’s clear this place takes both of those aspects very seriously. Any order here should start with the Parker House rolls with honey butter, which are soft and sweet and will make you consider ordering five more and just telling people you’re carbo-loading for some imaginary race. After that, the menu is mostly pasta-focused and it’s all very delicious. Jaguar Sun is one of our favorite places for a fun dinner in all of Miami, because it hits that energetic sweet spot: it's upbeat enough to make you feel like you went out, but won’t have you waking up the next morning with ringing in your ears.


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 of which are great here). The menu changes a lot here, but you can generally expect excellent bar food. This place somehow has the DNA of a dive bar, upscale cocktail bar, and a very good restaurant all rolled into one—and it’s kind of harder to think of a reason not to come here.


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 so 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 do live jazz here Thursday-Saturday, so stop by one of those days 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 is one of our favorite plates of pasta in town thanks to the surprisingly great combination of pear and ricotta.


We don’t find ourselves recommending restaurants inside Bayside Marketplace, like, ever. But the insufferably touristy area is making a push to bring in some new restaurants. La Cañita is one of them, and it’s actually very good. The Cuban/Caribbean spot comes from the Cafe La Trova team, and has a solid menu of Cuban and Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken wings, ceviche, and arroz con pollo. The cocktails are great too, and they also have occasional live music in the big dining room. But one of the best parts of La Cañita is their outdoor deck, which overlooks a marina, and offers a waterfront view much more charming and pretty than we thought Bayside was capable of.


Rakija Grill is a Balkan restaurant that can either work for a casual weeknight meal or a fun, loud group dinner—depending on when you come and how much rakija you’re trying to drink. It feels like a miniature Balkan village inside, and all meals should start with a tiny carafe of rakija, a type of flavored Balkan brandy. Rakija has a big menu, but stick with the Balkan specialties—it's what they do best. The deluxe meze plate is a must and features an enormous chopping block covered with Balkan charcuterie. Other things that should be on the table: the gurmanska pljeskavica (essentially a Balkan burger stuffed with cheese and pancetta) and what just might be the best stuffed cabbage rolls in Miami. If you want dinner to feel like a party, come on Sundays. That’s when Rakija turns into the Balkan version of a pachanga complete with a DJ and sometimes even well-known acts from the region.


Motek is an Israeli restaurant. We’ve tried their hummus tehina, Jerusalem grilled cheese, and the arayes burger, and we loved just about every bite. The hummus was perfect and the Jerusalem bagel grilled cheese—how could that be bad? Our favorite thing, though, is the arayes burger, which comes with four soft little pitas stuffed with beef and then grilled. Next time, we’ll be checking out the shakshuka and crispy chicken schnitzel plate. The indoor restaurant is also BYOB with no corkage fee.


Eleventh Street Pizza is a great New York-style pizza spot operating out of the old Fooq’s space in Downtown, and they’re serving some of the best pizza in Miami. They 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. They used to be a to-go-only spot, but now 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 $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.


One of Miami’s most peaceful little cafes happens to be around the corner from E11even, and the coffee is good enough to help you forget about that one time you spent $400 there on a bottle of $40 vodka. Come here for a fantastic breakfast sandwich, great cup of coffee, or get all of the above to-go from their ventanita. You can go with a simple but perfect pour over or opt for more adventurous things like a rosemary cold brew with lime juice. They do breakfast and lunch as well. The Runny & Everything sandwich is one of the best bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches we’ve found in Miami—thanks mostly to the everything brioche bun. This place also has free WiFi and is usually chill enough during the week to get some work done. Expect a crowd on the weekends though.


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 both the 10 and 14-course options come in under $100 (at least before service, taxes, and sake), and that’s a lot better than most upscale omakase options in Miami. The food is the main event here, and every piece of fish, uni, or beef that’s laid in front of you seemingly gets better and better, like a well-paced action movie starring Keanu Reeves. And by the time you reach the otoro or the A5 wagyu, you’ll want to stand up and applaud.


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 delicious, simple, and one of the few waterfront spots where you won’t be surrounded by $200 bottles of rosé and people who arrived via luxury jet ski. 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 here for the very good seafood. Oysters are $3 a pop, but worth it. If you want to keep the tab down, order some of the $6 veggies, which taste great and will help you leave full.


Bali Café is a little cash-only Indonesian spot where you can get big portions of dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the area. The menu is very large and includes everything from dumplings to sushi rolls—but you should focus on the Indonesian food, like the nasi goreng special. It comes on a little cafeteria-style tray with separated portions of fried rice, coconut chicken curry, and an awesomely 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.


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 and the mimosas are also bottomless during brunch for only $24. They go great with the squash blossom pizza.

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