12 Restaurants To Go To When You’re Not Paying
For those times when you have absolutely no intention of reaching for your wallet.
To be perfectly clear, we're not saying these places aren't worth the price. They really are. Sometimes, quality is expensive. But also: there are (occasionally, hopefully) instances in one's life where one has the opportunity to be treated to a free meal. Maybe it comes courtesy of a corporate card, generous wealthy grandmother, or that Bitcoin you only just recently remembered you bought in 2011. Doesn't matter. All that matters is you have a go-to-nice-restaurant-for-free card and you need to use it wisely. But it can’t just be pricey—it has to be great too. The spots below are both.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Klaw makes you feel sophisticated. And that’s not just because they serve beautiful dry-aged steaks and deshell your king crab legs tableside with a fancy pair of scissors. No, even if this place served chicken nuggets and Easy Mac, we’d still put on nice clothes to come here. The restaurant is inside a gorgeous and historic Edgewater building with waterfront views, both in the indoor dining room and on the bar’s outdoor patio. The spacious dining room isn't so aesthetically busy that you can’t appreciate architecture like the huge arched windows that all point towards Biscayne Bay. Klaw isn’t cheap—you’re coming here for $100-plus steaks and fancy shellfish. But the food is very good, the service is excellent, and the entire experience is worthy of the very dignified building it’s in.
The Surf Club Restaurant
Yes, Surf Club is quite expensive. But, in a city where so many restaurants promise guests a dose of old school glamour, this Surfside spot is one of the very few that delivers on that promise. That’s why we dress up like it’s 1955 and we’re about to attend a Grace Kelly movie premiere to eat here. The menu reads like a greatest hits of dishes your grandparents probably loved. But the Surf Club makes them feel (and taste) exciting, not stuffy and boring. The $138 beef wellington is—yes—so freaking expensive but also a life-changing piece of beef. Plus, the service is so spectacular you’ll half expect them to tip you on the way out.
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L’atelier De Joël Robuchon
L’Atelier is French fine dining with a futuristic twist. Not only does the polished dining room feel like it might detach itself from the Design District and fly to space at any moment, but the food is the kind of precise, meticulously engineered dishes we imagine will be served in the first-class section of passenger flights to Mars in the year 3050. This is a great place to increase your monthly foie gras intake by 300 percent—especially if you order the foie gras au torchon, a little puck of the best foie we’ve ever had along with slices of buttery grilled brioche. The menu does change seasonally, but whatever you have here is going to make you feel like an interstellar VIP.
Osaka Cocina Nikkei
There are way too many places to blow an entire tax return on a single meal in Brickell. But Osaka is one of the few places that will give you some pretty great dishes in return. Sushi and tiradito is what you really want to focus on at this upscale Nikkei spot. It's the most expensive stuff on the menu, but, hey, you're not going anywhere near that check, are you? Get the Perú tiradito: paper-thin slices of white fish with an avocado mousse, rocoto sauce, and crunchy bits of sweet potato. And then go hard on the excellent nigiri. If there is truly no budget in sight, do one of the omakase options, which range from $190 to $315 per person.
photo credit: Chad Fabrikant
Hiden is a hard-to-book omakase restaurant that'll make you feel like a secret agent on a mission to eat excellent fish. The eight-seat restaurant is located in the back of Wynwood’s The Taco Stand, and you need a special code to even get in the door (which gets emailed to you on the day of your reservation). You’ve got to book your seat weeks in advance (if you can even find an open table) and dinner for two costs just about $500. What will you get in return? Hours of the best sushi you’ll ever have, in addition to some bites of wagyu that’ll make your vision start to blur.
If you are trying to live large in the presence of Miami’s best beef, Cote is where you want to be. Stunningly good steak aside, this Design District restaurant is a really fun way to eat, especially in a city so painfully low on Korean barbecue options. Cote is more of a steakhouse than traditional Korean barbecue, but you still get to watch your beef sizzle away on the grill located in the center of the table. There are a few tasting menu options here. The Butcher’s Feast is $64 and comes with portions of aged ribeye, American wagyu flatiron, hanger steak, and marinated short rib as well as banchan, some sides, and dessert. But if money is no option, we're going for the $185 per person steak omakase and multiple rounds of Cote's perfect martinis.
Not only does Hiyakawa have the greatest ceiling in Miami—a curvy design makes you feel like you’re inside a fancy cave—but it's also making some of the best Japanese food in Miami. Sushi is the main event here and they have a couple of sushi platter options ranging in price from $60 to $105. Those aren't enough to fill you up though (which is why a meal here can get expensive). so supplement your sushi with some of the great fried appetizers as well as the sugata-mori: a rotating fish that's presented whole, with delicate strips of sashimi you get to grab right off the fish's belly. After you finish, it's taken back to the kitchen and fried whole, so you can pick the remainder of the crispy skeleton apart like potato chips.
photo credit: Karli Evans
Stubborn Seed is always a reliable pick for one of South Beach's more impressive dinners. The problem? The best way to do this place is via the $150 per person eight-course tasting menu—which is the only option on Friday and Saturday. So this is a good spot to save for a night when you're not going anywhere near your wallet. The menu changes frequently, but usually features a stellar crudo, excellent vegetables, and some sort of wagyu that tastes like it's been getting deep tissue massages for the last five years.
Excellent sushi, in case you haven't noticed by now, tends to be expensive. And Uchi is yet another spot on this guide where you can drop some serious cash on rounds of raw fish so good you’ll want to sell all your stuff and buy a fishing boat. Uchi can get pricey because portions here are on the smaller side, so if you're trying to have a big meal, you'll need to order a lot. Fortunately the huge menu has tons of great options, like a crispy-skinned halibut sitting in an amazing coconut beurre blanc foam, sweet and sticky karaage chicken, and dozens of nigiri and sashimi options—all of which we've unanimously loved.
photo credit: Tasty Planet
Amara At Paraiso
Amara isn’t the most expensive waterfront spot in Miami. But it is our favorite. Because while most fancy waterfront spots in Miami skate by on views alone, Amara doesn’t just rely on aesthetics. Not only do they have what we think is the best view of any restaurant in town, but the seafood menu is quite good too. Now, don’t get us wrong: you can drop money here on $20 cocktails, a $110 caviar service, and the $150 surf and turf platter featuring steak, chorizo, snapper, shrimp, and octopus. But at least here your money won’t go towards food you’ll consider sharing with the nearest seagull.
Upscale omakase options always tend to give your accountant anxiety. And Brickell Key's Naoe is one of Miami's most expensive at $280 per person. It also happens to be the best. The marathon dinner does include a stunning nigiri section, but unlike most Miami omakase options, you'll also encounter a constantly rotating mix of local vegetables alongside rare (for Miami) seafood like braised sazae. It’s not a dinner for everyone. But if you’re genuinely interested in three hours of cured mullet roe, cuttlefish, and dozens of impossibly tiny little Japanese icefish woven together into a single nigiri, then you’ll probably remember your Naoe experience for the rest of your life.
Joe's Stone Crab
The price of Joe’s stone crabs have been giving dads something to complain about on the car ride home for over a hundred years. And this South Beach spot is still a classic, still expensive, and still a great place to get minor revenge on pops for finally making you pay for your own car insurance. Just know that stone crab season is October 15 through May 1, so plan your dinner in that window. Because while the sides here are great, you’re doing it wrong if you come here and don’t have a big pile of claws on the table.