MIAGuide

25 Classic Restaurants In Miami

Eating in Miami just wouldn't be the same without these spots.
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photo credit: Tasty Planet

A classic restaurant is like a classic car. They’re familiar to lots of people, often endearingly imperfect, and you’ll more than likely see Jerry Seinfeld sitting in one of them. We don’t think of a classic as something that solely equates to age though. Like, be real, that stain on your kitchen wall isn’t “a classic stain.” It’s the scene of a so-so ragu you cooked ten years ago. Something as special as a classic restaurant needs more than longevity and more than perfect food. It needs to make you feel something.

You see, a classic restaurant doesn’t have to be faultless. It can have great dumplings but bad lighting, average lechon and an amazing atmosphere. But as long as it gives everyone that feeling—that contentment that only a true institution can offer—well, then that’s what makes it a stone-cold classic. These are the classic restaurants in Miami.

THE SPOTS

Cuban

Little Havana

$$$$Perfect For:Classic Establishment

It seems fair to start this guide with the most famous restaurant belonging to Miami’s most prominent ethnic group. Tourists invariably ask about Versailles, and while it may not serve the city’s best Cuban food, it’s hard to argue with its claim as “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” Inside the palatial dining room, which feels both casual and muy fancy with chandeliers floating over the bare formica tables, you’ll find solid interpretations of traditional Cuban dishes—but the place to be is always at the ventanita outside. There, you can order a cafecito, a croquetica, and listen to an array of viejo hot takes on politics, sports, and god knows what else. It’s an undeniably quintessential Miami affair that every citizen of the county should be legally required to experience at least once. 

This city has a lot of places claiming to make the best versions of key lime pie, but no one messes with Florida’s favorite dessert in such a beautiful, Miami-specific way as Sweet Delights Key Lime Pies in Florida City. Sweet Delights takes the tart, creamy classic pie and infuses it with local tropical fruits, like guava, mamey, and the owner’s own backyard soursop (AKA guanábana). Most ingredients are local, and the owner Debra Allen (who, by the way, is an angel) might even point out that the lychees in the sample of pie you’re devouring came from the man who’s standing at the register. Miss Debbie, as she is affectionately known in the area, is generous with the samples (they are all but mandatory for customers), but she already knows you’re going to walk out with a toddler’s weight in frozen pies to take back home with you (or eat in the car, since this shop is a to-go operation).

Joe’s has been open in South Beach for more than 100 years, making it Miami Beach’s oldest restaurant. And everything about this place is still unapologetically old school—from their limited reservation system to the formally dressed waitstaff. The restaurant also has that vintage grandeur that makes us feel like we’re about to vie for Mae West’s affection, and that mink won’t be out of place here. But as fancy as this place feels, everyone’s coming here to do the same thing: rip apart a pile of stone crab claws, the best kind of crabs in the world. Everything is à la carte, and must-order sides include the hashed brown potatoes and creamed spinach. Joe’s has certainly outpaced inflation over the last century, but you can still have a good meal sticking to sides, the $9 fried chicken, and their legendary key lime pie.

photo credit: Tasty Planet

The reason you’re coming to this cash-only Miami Gardens restaurant is in the name. This place makes the best roti we’ve had in Miami, and they do it right in front of you, in the same kitchen they’ve been using for nearly half a century. L.C. is a Trinidadian spot, so you can find a buss up shut and doubles on the menu alongside a selection of roti options like goat, duck, conch, and more. It’s all delicious and available for takeout. But if you’ve got the time, eat there and strike up a conversation with the owner. If she likes you, there may be a shot of rum waiting for you at the end of the meal.  

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings

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What do Paul Rudd, the theory of relativity, and Caffe Abbracci have in common? They’re timeless. This Italian restaurant in Coral Gables is probably where your parents went on their first date. But if you like generous portions of linguine with clams or homemade agnolotti with spinach and ricotta, look no further. And once you try their veal parmesan (it’s off-menu, but ask for it), you’ll crave it like a late night pizza. Plus, there's a separate bar area with a stained glass ceiling that’ll make you want to whisper a few Hail Marys before lifting a martini to your lips. Abbracci is a delightful time warp—they still freepour drinks and price their menu like it’s 2019—but 34 years later, it’s still one of the best Italian restaurants in Miami

Tropical Chinese has been one of Miami’s best Chinese restaurants since 1984, and is responsible for introducing a large portion of Miami-Dade County to the wonders of dim sum. The Bird Road spot has a huge menu of Chinese classics, but the reason we make sure to come here more often than we see our dentist is for that dim sum, a traffic jam of over 50 dishes wheeled around the dining room on huge carts. The plates up for grabs range from chicken feet to egg custard tarts and all kinds of dumplings and buns, like translucent-skinned har gow and plump shumai. The baked roast pork buns are also a must—perfectly round and smooth with a center of delicious roast pork. Just remember that dim sum is only available for brunch and lunch.

This Allapattah market/restaurant has been around since 1980 and still serves some of the city's best seafood—in soups, ceviche, and fried to crispy perfection. They also have a seafood market that smells like a fishing pier and has fresh snapper, grouper, lobster, shrimp, and more sitting on ice, ready to come home with you. If you're not in the mood to cook, order the fried shrimp and fried fish butterfly from the counter. Get a side of tostones, rice, and whisper a small prayer of gratitude to Poseidon while you dip all of the above into the house pink sauce, which tastes like it was designed by NASA scientists to go with fried seafood.

Jackson Soul Food is an Overtown institution and one of the best (and only remaining) places in Miami serving classic soul food for breakfast, lunch, or brunch. They’ve got a big selection of dishes like smothered pork chops, fried catfish, black-eyed peas, as well as the requisite grits, buttery biscuits, and sweet cornbread. Order it all—just make sure to get their super crispy fried catfish. It’s cooked perfectly and has a really crunchy exterior, which adds some much-needed texture to a table full of soft breakfast dishes. While you’re waiting for the food, take a lap around the diner. The walls here are a mini Overtown history lesson, lined with old photos, memorabilia, and news clips that showcase the impressive history of this place.

2002 brought us the Nokia 3510—a cell phone so indestructible, you could drop it from your roof. That same year, Miami was introduced to Pepito's Plaza. Back then, it was just a Venezuelan hot dog stand in Doral next to a gas station where you could order hot dogs and pepitos—both drenched in their glorious six sauce combo: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pink sauce, garlic sauce, and tartar sauce. It’s the kind of stuff you crave if you’re sloshed or recovering from said sloshing—which is perfect because Pepito's is open late. They even expanded to Brickell and moved to a permanent location within the same gas station, where we hope they remain for even longer than the Nokia.

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc

Miracle Fry is a Liberty City classic in a small blue building in the center of a parking lot. The menu has wings, burgers, a chicken sandwich—all well under $10. But if you're coming here, you're getting conch fritters. Miracle Fry's are thin, crispy, and flat like a pancake. And they’re really good too, a perfect little golden brown snack. Ask for a double, and a brown paper bag full of them will emerge from the little hole in the front window. Just be sure to bring cash because that's all they accept.

Pinolandia is our favorite fritanga in Miami for several reasons: the Little Havana location is open 24 hours a day (useful information when you’re leaving Space), they have ample off-street parking, a 24-hour Nicaraguan bodega, and the food is dependably great. The best thing to get here is the carne asada, which you can watch being grilled while the aroma of flame-licked beef marinated in naranja agría fills the restaurant. You’ll also want to grab a slice or two of queso frito, which is thick, squeaky, and really creamy. And, like almost all fritangas in Miami, you can’t say you’ve been there without ordering a traditional drink. We like the cacao, our favorite version of chocolate milk made with ground cacao seeds.

This Haitian fried chicken spot was the best restaurant on this strip of NE 2nd Avenue before this area became gentrified, and it continues to be one of our favorites in the neighborhood. Pack does make very good Haitian staples, but you’re coming to this casual restaurant for some of Miami’s best fried chicken. The juicy drumsticks—the only part of the bird they serve—are fried just enough to produce a crispy skin, but aren’t so heavily breaded that you can’t taste the well-seasoned meat in each bite. It’s an exceptional deal, because you can get three drumsticks—plus a side of rice and beans and pikliz—for just over $5. And while they have a fried chicken takeout window, you can also go inside and order at the counter while enjoying the wonders of air conditioning.

This tiny sub shop has been the official hangout for Killian students and anyone searching for an obnoxiously overstuffed sandwich since the late ‘70s. The whole point of coming to Hungry Bear is customization and the gluttonous possibilities of your own imagination. You can start with one of their own unique creations, like the oriental chicken, which features shaved meat, a sweet/spicy sauce, and crunchy noodles. Then feel free to add absurd amounts of cheese, condiments, vegetables, and sauces to make your own beautiful little monster—nobody here will judge you for it. It’s strictly takeout, but there are a couple of picnic tables in an open courtyard in front of the shop if the munchies kick in right as they hand you your sandwich.

Victoriano “Benito” Gonzalez (AKA El Rey) sold fritas in Cuba years before making “Cuban hamburgers” popular when he opened this cafeteria in Miami. And this place still makes our favorite version in the city. The patty is a blend of beef and pork served with onions and papitas on Cuban bread. The fritas aren’t huge and only about $4 each, so you can easily order so many that you can no longer see the table you're sitting at. If you want something heartier, go with one of their souped-up fritas, which includes versions stuffed with maduros, queso frito, bacon, American cheese, and a fried egg. The Little Havana location is as unpretentious and efficient as a fast food joint, but it’s got way better food and the charm of a classic neighborhood diner.

Since 1980, B&M Market has been a go-to for some of the best West Indian food in Miami. But it’s easy to drive right by this place if you don’t know that, because it looks like just another market—until you walk to the back of the store and smell ackee and saltfish, oxtail stew, and jerk chicken wrapped in one of Miami’s best rotis. To place an order, just stick your head into the tiny kitchen and let the chef know what you want (or go online and place a takeout order in advance). While you wait for the food, check out the shop’s selection of Caribbean drinks, which includes an Irish Moss that tastes like a cinnamon milkshake and is a lifesaver if you accidentally go overboard with the very (very) spicy pepper sauce on the two dine-in tables they have. Oh, and don't forget to say hi to the cat, an essential worker in any proper market.

Shorty’s may not serve Miami’s best barbecue, but there is something essentially Miami about going to a 70-year-old barbecue spot in a log cabin under the Metrorail tracks in Kendall. Shorty’s transports us to a time when most of Dade was farmland, and the friendly service and communal wooden tables make us feel like we just crashed a cookout. The food is solid enough to give us a reason to keep coming back here, too. The spare ribs are the best thing to get from the smoker—the meat falls off the bone and has a deep hickory flavor. Make sure to ask for their vinegar sauce to slather over everything. And save room for a big slice of homemade key lime pie, which is custardy, intensely sweet, and mildly tart. Shorty’s does offer all this food to go and has two newer locations in Miami and Davie, but we always feel a little guilty cheating on the original Dadeland location.

Garcia’s is a (mostly) outdoor restaurant that’s been operating long enough to see the Miami River’s tire-infested waters go from drug smuggling powerboats to tourist-filled yachts. But don’t worry, the fish you're eating isn’t coming from this river. Garcia’s started in 1966 as a seafood market before it became a restaurant too. So all the fish is caught through local fishermen—that’s about as fresh as it gets. The best time to visit is during Florida lobster or stone crab season. But you can always get our favorite dish year-round: the whole fried yellowtail snapper that’s cooked until it's crunchy outside but still flaky inside. It’s served with your choice of two sides, and this being a Cuban restaurant, one of those should be the crispy tostones. So sit on the water, watch the boats go by, and ignore the jealous birds on the veranda.

Zak The Baker made Miami care more about bread than any bakery in town. And you can now encounter slices of his sourdough in nearly every cafe within Miami-Dade County. But we still love taking trips to this Wynwood bakery, even though the crowds can be intense, because it's only at the bakery that you'll find Zak's best stuff: a rotating cast of croissants, danishes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and traditional Jewish baked goods like boureka and a consistently perfect babka. That babka comes in big chunks, and it contains multitudes: dense and chewy and light and flaky in all the right places. And if you stop by on a Friday at noon when the challah comes out of the oven, take home a loaf. If you want to avoid waiting, place an order online.

Mi Colombia has been holding it down in North Beach for decades. Not only is it still one of our favorite Colombian spots in Miami, but it's been here for us through so many different occasions: early breakfasts, casual post-beach lunches, and, of course, the hangover meal. You have no choice but to interact with your fellow diners and the staff inside. It's pretty much only counter-seating. Prices and portions are always generous—particularly when it comes to our favorite dish: the bandeja paisa. The massive plate comes with steak, fried pork rind, beans, plantains, rice, avocado, and an egg (for about $12 too). It’s not just the quantity that’s impressive. That steak is thin with just a touch of pink in the center, and the plantains go so well with the saltiness of the pork.

Although Chef Creole is the first name that comes to mind when many Miamians think of Haitian food, the restaurant makes no claim to be exclusively Haitian. It's more of a general Caribbean-American restaurant, and it's one of the best places to take in a wide selection of the kinds of regional staples Miami does so well. The menu has Haitian classics like griot and ke bèf (oxtails), but it also features the best grilled conch in town. There are currently five Chef Creole locations in South Florida—including one inside the Miami airport—but our favorite is in Little Haiti, because there’s an outdoor tiki hut that’s great for sitting down and eating. Take your styrofoam container of food, grab a Prestige beer, find a table, and sway to the kompa music playing overhead while you munch on bannann peze.

Piman Bouk is right across the street from a Toussaint L’Ouverture memorial in Little Haiti, an ode to the man responsible for the first successful slave revolt in the Americas as well as the creation of the first free Black republic in the world, Haiti. The bakery has been the go-to spot to grab Haitian pate for decades, which are lard- and butter-enriched puff pastries with spicy, savory meat fillings. Piman Bouk keeps them warm and ready to eat all day along with dense, rich Creole bread, which is why they often have a line out the door. Other good things here include coconut bread and tablèt pistach, a crunchy Haitian peanut brittle spiked with fresh ginger. A couple things to know before you go: it’s a takeout spot and they’re also cash-only.

The yellow and red awnings of Palacio are like Miami’s version of the golden arches: a sign that we have arrived at something satisfyingly familiar, except here a happy meal comes with masitas de puerco and guarapo. What started out as a single juice and produce stand has evolved into the entire county's favorite spot for quick, casual Latin food. Now, there are 10 locations throughout Dade and a menu that features everything from fresh coconut water and local tropical produce to boxes of arroz con pollo and brown paper bags of crunchy chicharrones. Almost all the locations offer a similar experience, but you may find some unique features at your friendly neighborhood Palacio: like locally-made Cuban sweets on the counter, or goosenecked avocados sourced from a neighbor’s backyard.

If you are even in the slightest mood for Jamaican food, all roads in Miami lead to Clive’s. This Little Haiti spot makes our favorite versions of so many Jamaican dishes. Their jerk chicken is our favorite in town, but there are more phenomenal staples like curry goat, oxtail, ackee and saltfish, and conch served steamed, fried, or in a curry. Needless to say, ordering here can be a difficult thing. But whatever you get, portions are generous and the quality is consistent. Clive’s works for both takeout or dine-in, and we firmly consider a fork full of equal parts Clive's mac and cheese, plantain, and jerk chicken to be the best bite one can have in Miami.

Not unlike iguanas or professional athletes enjoying their offseason, Miami is absolutely saturated with sceney steakhouses. It’s become quite a prolific genre of restaurant these days. But none of them do it better than the city’s original sceney steakhouse: Prime 112. And this South Beach spot is still one of Miami’s best places to dress up and spend too much money on steak and dangerously spillable martinis. Prime 112 is a reminder of how Miami used to do see-and-be-seen restaurants, back when reservations had to be made over the phone and celebrities ate in the same dining rooms as civilians. Luckily, this place still holds up—and not just because of the scene, but also thanks to a fantastic ribeye, multiple forms of delicious potatoes, and complimentary bar bacon. 

Adelita’s is located right across from the McArthur Dairy Plant in Little Haiti, which is kind of perfect since our favorite dishes at the classic Honduran spot are smothered in sour cream and cheese. Adelita is a real person, she’s regularly in the kitchen, and she’ll occasionally step out to say hello while you’re enjoying one of her masterpieces. There are a bunch of great traditional options here, like enchiladas and cheese-filled baked sweet plantains, as well as Honduran-style spaghetti enriched with sour cream. However, the baleadas are where it’s at: fluffy flour tortillas, refried beans, mantequilla (AKA Honduran sour cream), and sharp crumbled cheese. Also make sure to get their very nuanced horchata made with rice, seeds, nuts, and spices.

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