I know you’re probably tired of reading articles that start with numbingly obvious statements (trust me, I’m tired of writing them), but here it goes: It is a strange time to be eating at restaurants. Personally, I’ve only been dining outside over the last however many months this has been going on and I’ve heard from a lot of people who are doing the same.
So, I made this guide. It’s by no means an exhaustive list of every spacious outdoor restaurant in Miami. These are just some places I’ve encountered recently during my research that made me feel comfortable with both their COVID precautions and social-distancing. To be clear, this is not a highly scientific guide either. I have not been bringing my tape measure out with me to restaurants, mostly because I don’t actually own one, but also because they’ve always scared me with the violent way in which they retract and sound like a thunderstorm.
So, now that we got that out of the way, here are some suggestions if you’re looking for some especially spacious outdoor options.
One of the benefits of being a restaurant in a warehouse district is that you get a lot of space to work with. And Hometown’s outdoor seating is one of the more spread-out setups I’ve encountered in the last few months. They used to do table service here, but they’ve switched things up over the past year. Now you just order at the register, walk to your table, and wait for your food. Human interaction is minimal and the food is as good as ever, especially the smoked turkey BLT, which is the sleeper hit of the menu.
Heartland is an outdoor restaurant and music venue in Little Haiti. This place kind of feels like a cousin of Lagniappe (even though they’re not related, managerially speaking), though it’s more of a restaurant than a bar. I came here on a Wednesday around 6:30pm. I was seated immediately at one of the dozen or so tables set up underneath the property’s huge tree. My table was nice and distanced, and the crowd remained seated while listening to the band. I could see this place getting a little crowded on the weekends, and they also don’t accept reservations, so try to come early. But once you’re seated, you can relax, drink some wine, and listen to a saxophone.
A lot of folks, myself included, still feel iffy about going to bars right now. But I’d seen that Gramps had switched things up and was now operating more like a restaurant, showing guests to their seats and having them order off a QR code. Things here were indeed running smoothly and safely when I visited on a Saturday afternoon. Masks were strictly enforced and everyone was sticking to their tables, which were outdoors and appropriately distanced. Wynwood can still get nuts on weekend nights, so I can’t guarantee your trip from the car to Gramps won’t be stressful, but they’re doing their due diligence here, and the new frozen cocktails are delicious - as is the wonderful Pizza Tropical. Reservations aren’t required.
Jaguar Sun’s outdoor pop-up dinners have been one of the most popular pandemic dining experiences, which is still such a weird f*cking sentence to type. Nevertheless, they do things right here. Tables are far apart, the staff is friendly and masked up, and it’s a great excuse to splurge on steak, oysters, and martinis. Reservations are available online.
E&P Dmplngs is a dumpling pop-up operating out of Threefold Cafe in Coral Gables. Not only is it serving some of the best dumplings I’ve ever had, but the seating is entirely outdoors and located in a pretty quiet part of the Gables. During my visit, things were pretty chill and the rest of the tables weren’t even close enough for me to ask if I could eat any dumplings they weren’t going to finish, which is something I might have very seriously considered doing. You can make a reservation online.
I stopped by the new Coral Gables spot from the Ghee team on a quiet weekday. I did have to walk through the lobby of the Thesis Hotel to get to the host stand, but the outdoor tables were nice and spaced out. And the food - mostly Caribbean-influenced things like conch fritters, jerk-roasted plantains, and peri peri chicken - was all very good. There’s a rooftop space here too that does Happy Hour from 3-6pm, and it’s a good place to have a couple of drinks, some small plates, and watch the sunset.
Brunch at Rosie’s was a really pleasant experience - both because of the incredible food and also because the space is entirely outdoors and appropriately distanced. They’re BYOB, but this is by no means the kind of sloppy mimosa-pounding brunch your friend from Fort Lauderdale is always trying to invite you to. You can expect a relaxed atmosphere, excellent service, and the best chicken and waffles in town.
Itamae is one of my favorite new restaurants in Miami, and I’d be willing to bet $7 that you’re going to feel the same way. The excellent Nikkei restaurant is in the Design District, which can get a little crowded sometimes. But Itamae’s setup is entirely outdoors, slightly outside the pedestrian congestion, and the tables are far enough apart that no one will hear you moaning passionately at your ceviche.
Nothing about Brickell screams “personal space,” but I was still pretty comfortable with River Oyster Bar’s new outdoor setup. The great seafood restaurant recently moved into a new space just across from the Brickell City Centre. There are a handful of tables outside the restaurant on a walkway that’s raised above the sidewalk, so you won’t have to worry about pedestrians bumping your elbow as you try to drip just the right amount of mignonette on your oyster. You’ll definitely want a reservation though.
You won’t have to step a single foot indoors at Leku if you don’t want to. The fancy Basque restaurant inside Allapattah’s Rubell Museum has outdoor seating that, during my visit, was comfortably spaced and free of maskless wanderers. They have indoor seating too, so it’s worth making a request for outdoor seating when you make your reservation to avoid any last-minute confusion. It’s not the most casual place, so pick it for a slightly special occasion (even if that occasion is you’re not picking up the check) and definitely start with the pulpo a la gallega.