Where To Dress Up And Not Feel Stupid
photo credit: Sebastian Bednarski
Sure, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt pretty much anywhere in Miami, but sometimes you want an excuse to pull something a little more involved out of your closet and go somewhere that feels worthy of your best looks. Whether you’re heading out for a dinner with clients who need to believe that you’re fancy enough to sell them something that will cost their company a lot of money or just want to find an excuse to wear that sample sale piece that’s been languishing in the back of your wardrobe, here's where to go. You won’t feel stupid showing up to any of these spots in an outfit that looks like it came directly off the runway.
There aren’t a lot of restaurants in Miami where you can dress like you’re going to a very fancy wedding without feeling like a high school freshman severely overdressed for Homecoming. But Surf Club is one of those restaurants. This place feels like the set from a classic movie where the main characters break into dance every 20 minutes and is also housed in a historic (and gorgeous) hotel in Surfside. The food is expensive classics like beef wellington and lobster thermidor—and it’s all outstanding. Sure, there might be a few streetwear A-holes here, but at least they’ll be the ones who should feel stupid, not you.
photo credit: Sebastian Bednarski
Two important things to know about Queen: this is a clubstaurant. So if that's not your thing, keep scrolling. Also, dressing up is non-negotiable. You will be denied entry unless you adhere to their strict dress code that requires a blazer and dress shoes for men, and encourages women to wear literal gowns. But at least the space is appropriately glamorous. Whether or not the massive South Beach clubstaurant is your kind of vibe, one can't deny the sheer spectacle of the space, which used to be a historic art deco theater. It is grand and shiny and feels like a movie set, if that movie was some cross between The Great Gatsby and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The food is a vaguely Japanese mix of seafood, steak, and sushi. It’s just good enough to not make you mad, which is about as good as it gets for clubstaurant cuisine.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
It’s not that Cafe La Trova is super fancy, but this outrageously fun Little Havana Cuban restaurant throws a dinner party that’s worth dressing up for every night of the week. And it does so with an old school glamour. There’s a live band (a rare sight in Miami these days) and a team of spiffy bartenders who not only make the world’s best daiquiri but also occasionally start dancing and playing instruments. Just don’t wear something too stiff, because dancing is a possibility here and you don’t want to split your pants in half going too hard to “Guantanamera.”
L’Atelier is fancy French fine-dining, but not the old way. This Design District restaurant is sleek and modern, with a reddish lighting that makes it feel like you're dining inside a fancy volcano. Everything about this place screams special occasion, especially the meticulously-plated, delicious food. Here, you will encounter unbelievably good foie gras, slices of raw fish that'll bring a tear to your eye, and excellent cocktails in glassware so thin you're afraid to pick it up. Just try not to get any of the above on your very nice clothes.
Everyone inside Bal Harbour Shops looks like they’re desperately trying to get photographed, which is to say: It’s hard to feel overdressed anywhere inside the ultra-luxury outdoor mall. Makoto is not only the best restaurant in the Bal Harbour Shops, but it’s the prettiest too. The Japanese spot—which serves good sushi, sashimi, and steak—renovated its dining room in 2022. It’s now a lovely shade of peach, with no hard edges and plenty of mirrors so you can discreetly see if your hair is cooperating. It’s not quite a black tie kind of vibe, more of an “I just stepped off my yacht somewhere in the Mediterranean” vibe. So feel free to bust out your white linens, flowy dresses, and whatever else will make you feel like you’re staying at the resort from The White Lotus.
Walking into Cote feels like entering a fancy spaceship, but one that takes you to a planet made out of beautifully marbled beef and perfect martinis. The Design District spot has a certain upscale sexiness that gives you an excuse to wear the kind of clothes normally reserved for movie premieres or parties at one of Drake’s mansions. Plus, Cote has a very good ventilation system that ensures the grills in the center of the table won’t make your very nice clothes smell like short rib. When it comes time to order, go for the $64 per person Butcher’s Feast—a 90-minute performance dedicated to all things protein and one of the best celebratory meals you can have in Miami.
Steakhouses have long been a safe bet for people looking to dress up without feeling stupid. The problem is: Miami is riddled with bad, horrifically overpriced, insufferably sceney ones. Prime 112 is not one of those. This South Beach classic is still a scene—but the good kind, with a fun electricity that warrants a new pair of shoes or suit jacket. The martinis are strong, the steaks are great, the bar serves complimentary bacon, and there’s probably an NBA player or two somewhere in the dining room. It’s a Miami Big-Night-Out restaurant that really still delivers.
Many poor souls have been turned away at the Joe’s host stand in the hundred-plus years this South Beach institution has been open. This place has a dress code, although it leaves lots of room for interpretation. Want to get formal and bust out the stuff you just got dry cleaned? Go for it. Want to dress like a tourist in blindingly floral prints and a Hawaiian shirt so loud the people sitting next to you will need earplugs? Also cool—as long as what you’re wearing has sleeves (at least for the men) and you leave the flip-flops and beach attire at home. Whatever look you go for, Joe’s will happily tie a plastic bib around your neck so you don’t splatter yourself in the juices of delicious stone crabs.
photo credit: Chad Fabrikant
There will be about 20 to 30 seconds where you’ll feel terribly overdressed at Hiden, one of Miami’s best sushi omakase restaurants. It will happen in the dining room of The Taco Stand, a casual taco spot you must walk through in order to access Hiden. Diners wiping al pastor from their mouths might gawk and wonder what your deal is. Then—as you enter a code on a keypad and disappear behind a secret door—they’ll think you’re in the CIA. And once you enter the soundproof bunker where Hiden lives, no one will give a second thought to your tailored outfit.
photo credit: Kris Tamburello
We’ll say this off the bat: there are issues at Dirty French. Service is slow, you might have to wait 45 minutes for a table even with a reservation, and the food is very hit-or-miss. But we’ll also say this: there is no restaurant interior in Miami as ridiculously ‘80s as Dirty French. So if you are trying to wear leopard print, feather your bangs, and throw back martinis—you can do that here. Dirty French is a pure see-and-be-seen spot, and absolute ‘80s cosplay. Just know that dinner is all about aesthetics, and less about, well, dinner.
photo credit: Courtesy LPM
LPM is a French restaurant in Brickell that’s fancy, but not in a stuffy way. There are white tablecloths and servers in ties, but it’s not the kind of quiet dining room where everyone will turn and look at you if you drop a fork. It is still fancy enough for high heels and freshly dry-cleaned clothes though. It’s not our favorite French spot in Miami, but the food is solid, the cocktails are great, and it’s one of the better fancy-pants options in Brickell.