The Best Restaurants In Coral Gables guide image

MIAGuide

The Best Restaurants In Coral Gables

Because The City Beautiful is also The City Delicious.

Coral Gables is filled with historic Mediterranean-style homes, excellent restaurants, and imperceptible street signs. A lot is changing in the Gables these days, and it’s easy to get lost in this city. But we’ve doggy paddled in Venetian pool’s arctic waters and remember when pickup trucks were once banned from driveways, so let us guide you to the best spots in The City Beautiful. It’ll be easier than trying to read those street signs and not rear-end a Mercedes.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings

Zitz Sum imageoverride image
9.3

Zitz Sum

$$$$

396 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables
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Zitz Sum is one of the absolute best restaurants in Miami, and also the reservation you should make when you’re going to scream if you see one more grilled octopus on a menu. Zitz Sum shocks us out of routine—and not just because their chili oil is perfectly calibrated. The food here is unlike anything else in the city. Rotating dishes are influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Laotian, and other Asian cultures. You’ll find dumplings, Thursday night ramen specials, and a brisket sheng jian bao that made us forget everything we learned in kindergarten about sharing. And because the menu changes constantly, dinner here is still exciting even if you come on a weekly basis. Zitz Sum has not only managed to breathe fresh air into Coral Gables, but all of Miami-Dade County.

QP Tapas exists in that grey area between a restaurant and a pop-up—the team takes over MKT Kitchen Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights for dinner. But the way these folks cook, we’d invite them to take over our entire house, every night of the week. Food is the main event here, both because QP is limited in what they can do with the space, and it’s just that good. The menu is a mashup of Spanish tapas and izakaya dishes. What, exactly, is that? Well, you can come here for a delicious pan con tomate with anchovies, Cool Ranch-dusted shishito peppers, thick okonomiyaki, and an uni risotto that is, in the best way possible, exactly what it sounds like.

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Frenchie’s Diner in Coral Gables is a bistro—a real French bistro, where the focus is entirely on the quality of the dishes listed on a chalkboard, and the owner gestures to your table like a proud dance partner at a curtain call. Between courses, the parchment paper on your table will read like the tea leaves of a good meal—with oily trails of butter from tender escargot, a smattering of tangy steak tartare, and drops of french onion soup. You’re coming here for a leisurely, decadent, and casual meal—which you’ll get whether you order the rich $14 French onion soup or a crackly-skinned duck confit for $39. Sit under the gentle glow of Frenchie’s red lighting and be sure to finish an indulgent lunch or dinner with the chocolate mousse that’s thick, bittersweet, and served in a coffee cup.

This casual Cuban restaurant isn’t over-hyping its stature in Miami’s saturated Cuban food scene. They don't claim to be kings or magicians. They're not trying to be a palace or line their tables in white linen. They keep it simple, straightforward, and just make the best vaca frita in Miami (fighting words, we know). You’re going to want to come here on a weekday between 5pm and 7pm for the early dinner special: a soup of the day, large entree of your choice, two sides, dessert, and a glass of house wine filled to the brim—all for only about $12.

photo credit: Cleveland Jennings

Caffe Abbracci review image
8.6

Caffe Abbracci

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It’s impossible to talk about Caffe Abbracci without mentioning the late Nino Pernetti, whose hospitality warmed the community when he opened it in 1989. But that spirit of hospitality is still there. At this classic Italian spot, you’re treated with familiarity, whether they know you or not—but if they do, service is so personable they probably remember your high school GPA. Our favorite dish is the veal parmesan. It’s not on the menu, but they can prepare veal any way you want. The restaurant has two sections: a gorgeous bar with a stained glass ceiling and an intimate dining room. It’s a delightful time warp—with soundproof ceilings and walls—but a welcome one that insulates your table from neighboring conversations.

Vinya is a restaurant and wine bar and also has a really great liquor store. The menu has everything from morcilla spring rolls and a simple gnocchi to a huge smoked short rib you can make tacos out of. We’re not totally sure how to categorize this place, so we’ll just call it what it is: a pleasure. Coming here never feels like a chore. The food is always great, reservations don't require weeks of hunting, service is affable, and lazily browsing their excellent wine and liquor selection is the perfect way to digest the meal.

An outstanding sushi spot that’s casual, affordable, and consistently excellent is rare in Miami. But Matsuri is exactly that kind of restaurant, which is probably why you will absolutely have to wait for a table at this classic Bird Road spot. It will, however, be very worth it. If you’re here with a friend, get the masa special for two. It’s a platter of over 30 pieces of the day’s best sashimi, nigiri, and maki for about $45. It always makes us glad we decided to wait 37 minutes for a table.

You’ll find Jholano’s in an apartment complex in Coral Gables, where the small Italian sandwich shop is operating behind a red door with a faded sign from the previous occupant. It doesn’t look like a restaurant, but override your hesitation against breaking and entering and you’ll find a small counter serving a dozen stellar Italian sandwiches. Our favorite is il tradizionale, a perfect cold Italian sub. It has capicola, salami, pepperoni, and ham—but what really makes this sandwich are the crisp veggies that contrast so well with the salty meat. The bread also has that ideal soft/crunchy balance.

You know that 70-year-old who still somehow trains daily at the boxing gym? That’s Pascal’s on Ponce in human form. This French spot in Coral Gables has the kind of strength that only comes with decades of repetition. It’ll surprise you with its cheese souffle the way that 70-year-old will with an uppercut. It’s fluffy, salty, airy, and the parmesan fondue adds a tanginess that makes you salivate like a rottweiler. Then there’s the lamb rack that’s so tender, you might accidentally bite the inside of your cheek. But Pascal’s isn’t some kind of ragged Rocky-type—it’s refined. Service is flawless, unobtrusive, and experienced. Every dish is plated with care. Despite its age, Pascal’s On Ponce can go toe-to-toe with some of the newer fine dining French restaurants in town—and still win.

If you are in Coral Gables and in the mood for bread in any form, get in the car and drive to Madruga Bakery. There isn’t necessarily a specialty here. It’s one of those places that just does everything deliciously, and you should leave with at least three things you didn’t plan on ordering. Those things could include a guava and cheese danish, ham and cheese croissant, or a couple of onion poppy seed rolls to make sandwiches out of later.

Tinta y Cafe is pretty much the most perfect casual breakfast/lunch place that a hungry person in Coral Gables could ask for. This relaxing spot feels more like a very cool library than your average claustrophobic ventanita. The Cuban coffee is great and so is the food, which includes light breakfast plates, salads, and really tasty sandwiches—which is what you want to get here. The self-titled Tinta y Cafe is a safe choice and comes with pork, prosciutto, manchego, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions. Just know that they have a pretty strict no-laptop policy, so don’t come here to work.

Gables Cafe is a tiny breakfast and lunch spot with a handful of tables at the foot of an office building. The menu skews Cuban, but they serve everything from smoothies to tuna wraps. We really like their queso frito burger—a big patty, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and squeaky fried cheese. Just don’t eat one before a big meeting—this $10 burger will rock you to sleep. If that happens, get their $1 coffee shot—half a colada. Their daily lunch specials are the real secret. The most popular is Thursday: juicy vaca frita with your choice of two sides for $12. Gables Cafe is incredibly small and busy all day. So if you’re in a hurry, phone in your order and pick it up.

Coral Bagels is a casual spot that—despite its misleading name—is on edge the of the Grove. But if they’re going to rhyme their way into the Gables, we’ll allow these bagels. They’re open for breakfast and lunch—but this is definitely a breakfast spot. It’s normally pretty crowded (especially on the weekends) with UM kids looking for pancakes or a bagel. It’s a solid option for an easy diner-style breakfast, whether you’re a hungover college kid or just someone looking for a decent bagel.

The Coral Gables Books & Books is very much its own character. It exhales when the weather cools, and the wooden floors creak when the humidity rises. It’s alive—with ideas and history. And also food. Their very solid cafe serves soups, salads, and sandwiches with both indoor and outdoor seating. It’s a lovely spot to chill out with a grilled cheese, wine, and a good read—or a great place to work while you attempt to absorb ideas through osmosis. They have an amazing selection of books, complete with rolling library ladders, so you can pretend you’re a provincial Disney princess sliding your way from Octavia Butler to Kurt Vonnegut after you eat. Also, check out their calendar for weekly in-person or virtual book readings and author events.

Su-Shin Izakaya is a solid Japanese restaurant, perfect for a quick lunch or easy dinner. Sushi takes up most of the menu, and the $32 sushi/sashimi combo is a great deal. It comes with 16 pieces of sashimi, six pieces of nigiri, and a soup or salad. But we also love their tsukemono (assorted Japanese pickles), yakimatsu (sautéed mushroom and onions in a ponzu sauce), and hiyashi wakame (marinated seaweed salad). It's all reasonably priced and comes out quickly, so keep this place in mind for a Friday business lunch or casual dinner.

If there’s one thing Ninja Turtles like, it’s pizza—and not just any pizza. They like floppy gooey pizza—the kind where the cheese never disconnects from the slice and dangles from your teeth. This is the kind of pizza Miami’s Best Pizza serves, and it’s one of the cheesiest pies in Miami. They have an aquarium-sized window where you can watch cooks spin dough, pull hot pies from the deck oven, and bring them straight to your table. They’ve also been around “since 1970”—in fact, that’s their free wifi password. This shop makes every pizza to order, so the move here is to call it in and eat it there among UM Students, little league soccer teams, Coral Gables business people, and (perhaps) crime-fighting turtles vacationing in Miami.

You will stare at every one of Luca Osteria’s dishes the table the way Ryan Gosling stares at his co-star in the emotional climax of a romantic comedy. Just about everything here is delicious. The cacio pepe is perfectly al dente, and the bucatini alle vongole is beautifully balanced with tender clams resting atop the noodles. There are some excellent non-pasta dishes too. Specifically, the patate fritte. It’s little fried potato balls covered by a creamy layer of parmigiano fonduta, black truffle, and a single egg yolk in the center. This place also has lots of spacious outdoor seating where you can watch a steady stream of dogs and people.

It’s a bakery, cafe, restaurant, market, butcher, and wine shop. If it was next to Home Depot, it’d be the perfect place to shelter during armageddon. But since it’s not the end of the world, you can pop in and find a solution for every meal instead. Go for an early breakfast or espresso before work. Order a couple flaky Argentinian empanadas to-go for a snack. Dine in and order a half panini (we like the Next Door with prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomatoes) and soup for lunch. Or you can pick out a bottle of wine from the shop to enjoy with a skirt steak dinner, and they’ll open it for you with no corkage fee. Graziano’s Market really has something for everyone, minus survivalists. We still recommend Home Depot for that.

Zucca is an Italian restaurant inside the Hotel St. Michel where dinner always includes privacy and comfort. It’s why your parents like it, but also why you should try it if you’re very tired of restaurant DJs. Zucca is split into two rooms, with stage lighting directed at every table, so you feel important anywhere you sit. It’s one of the quietest restaurants in Miami thanks to velvet curtains and hidden soundproofing that turns mighty Miami voices into smooth murmurs. Zucca’s slightly charred octopus is tender and comes with a zesty watercress and chickpea salad, but the highlight of this dish is a black squid chickpea sauce that needs to be on every bite. Then there’s the paccheri pasta you could wear on your wrist like a bracelet, which is served in a lobster-filled tomato sauce. For dessert, go with the airy saffron and passion fruit panna cotta.

Stephanie’s Crepes is a little shop near Miracle Mile that sells beautiful, filling, delicious, and gluten-free crepes. Each one looks like a bouquet and is thoughtfully packaged, so there’s no mess. Our favorite savory crepe is the chicken teriyaki. It comes with carrots, crispy fried shallots, corn, and sesame sauce. There are sweet options too—but we’re traditionalists and like Nutella with strawberry and banana. They’re open every day from 6pm to midnight (and they do lunch on weekends too), so it’s perfect late-night food (by Gables standards). They have a few small tables inside and some along the sidewalk too. Crepes don’t get a lot of love in this city, but you should give a crepe (sorry) about these.

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