In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to the new spots that are actually worth your time and money. And we do the same thing for the best new bars in Miami. All the places we visited are less than a year old, and they include outdoor music venues, natural wine bars, and incredibly fun cocktail spots. But what do they all have in common? We’ve visited them, really liked them, and felt they were well worth the varying degrees of hangover.
Low Key Miami
Fried seafood and frozen cocktails in an outdoor space that hosts live music is one of Florida’s greatest food traditions. And Low Key is keeping that tradition alive in Miami. This place operates from a barebones outdoor patio in Little River, sparsely populated with picnic benches and some shaded tables. They do have food here. You can walk up to a tent and order some very good raw bar dishes or bigger entrees like a really great fish and chips, a grouper sandwich, and clam frites. But it’s also perfectly acceptable to come here and just drink a frozen piña colada or share a bottle of wine while you listen to a band of DJ play underneath the big tree.
The Gibson Room
The Gibson Room (which used to be The Mighty) is a bar and restaurant on Coral Way. This spot comes from the Ariete team, which explains why the menu is a lot more creative (and tasty) than what’s at your average bar. They serve an impressively crispy chicken schnitzel, strozzapreti with diced ham, foie gras flan, and more. Coming here hungry is certainly a good idea, but it’s a great place to hang out regardless. Sit at the perfectly dim bar with a martini, think of names for each of the animal heads lining the wall, and enjoy the live music and vinyl DJs they host every night.
The NIU Kitchen team’s latest pivot, NIU Wine, has almost immediately become our favorite spot for a low-key night out, date, or particularly exhausting Thursday that calls for a glass of wine and an excellent panna cotta. The narrow space still has the intimate dinner party energy of NIU Kitchen (which is now located a few doors down the street)—with candlelight, tables perfect for couples, and lots of natural wine. There’s not really a wine menu. You just chat with the owner, and she’ll bring you some bottles to try. There is a rotating food menu, though, and it’s full of wine bar appropriate tapas like bacalhau with sofrito aioli, charcuterie, and a spiced chocolate truffle you definitely want alongside a glass of that red you picked because you liked the label.
El Salón is a cocktail bar on Española Way. And despite its home on one of South Beach’s more touristy streets, Salón feels secluded. It’s slightly hidden on an alley just off Española Way, and is a great place to hide from those tourists while sipping a very good martini. The drink menu features a selection of Salón’s own blended spirits, which you can order neat or put to use in their cocktails. The space—dim and intimate—is perfect for a date you’re trying to impress with your knowledge of cozy, secluded bars. They do have food but the drinks are much better, so prioritize spending your money on those.
Tropezón is an Andalusian gin and tapas bar on Española Way—a short walk and appropriate bar-hopping distance from El Salón. This place feels a bit more like a restaurant than a bar to us, but you can certainly still come here just to drink (and have a blast doing so). The space—a 50/50 split between a bar and dining room—has a snug interior featuring lots of wood and legs of jamón hanging from the ceiling. They have a selection of infused gin, with infusions ranging from mango to nori and shio kombu. You can put them to use in a cocktail, but they’re also just fantastic served neat and chilled. If you do get hungry, the food is great too. The menu is mostly tapas, like a yuzu kosho tortilla and pan con tomate—but there are also larger entrees like a coffee-rubbed ribeye and arroz al horno.
Epoca is a brewery perfect for nights when you want an excellent beer, some personal space, and would like to enjoy both those things somewhere other than your couch. Thanks to its slightly secluded location off a North Miami sidestreet, Epoca is pretty chill—good for a date or low key Friday night out. But the space is also really sleek and has an aesthetic that feels more like a cocktail bar than your average concrete-heavy brewery. There’s also a great outdoor patio, an occasional food truck parked outside, and the house beers we tasted during our visit were outstanding—especially the guava IPA.
Back in October, we had to say goodbye to Boxelder, one of the few remaining bars in Wynwood we actually liked. This was sad, but there was a silver lining: part of the Boxelder team and the chef from Taquiza were planning to open a nano-brewery and restaurant in Little River called Off Site. That bar is finally here. Like Boxelder, Off Site is a small, chill space perfect for a beer and a conversation. Unlike Boxelder, they have a kitchen and are serving some of the best bar food you’ll find in Miami. There’s a Cuban sandwich with bread pressed crispy enough to play shuffleboard on. Their huge (but not unmanageable) fried chicken sandwich just might be the best version in town. And there are more delicious looking things - like wings, a housemade hot dog, and a burger - that we’ll be back to try very soon. We still miss Boxelder - but we miss it a little less now that Off Site is here.
If you’re looking for a sophisticated cocktail bar that’ll make you feel slightly James Bond-ish, head to Monterrey Bar. The new cocktail spot is located in Miami Beach’s The Standard. The small room can seat just over 20 people, with couch seating, a really beautiful T-shaped bar, and dim lighting that’ll make you want to dramatically sip your cocktail like an evil villain slowly revealing their evil plot. Those cocktails are great (especially the High Tropic, a sort of highball/piña colada mashup) and also range from $18 to $24. They offer some small plates as well, like roasted bone marrow and truffled tater tots. It’s not a bad idea to come early, because this place can fill up fast.
Terras at Life House Little Havana
Terras isn’t new, but it gets a spot on the Hit List because it was closed for the last year and just reopened. This is good news because we really loved (and still love) the Little Havana rooftop spot. In fact, it’s our favorite rooftop in town - thanks to both the great cocktails and the wonderful view of the Downtown skyline. They serve food here as well, including small plates like queso fundido, hearts of palm salad, and short rib birria tacos - but you’re mostly coming here to drink. The space is pretty and not too claustrophobic - great for a date or catching up with a few friends. And even though it’s on the roof of a hotel, it’s not annoyingly touristy.
Dante’s HiFi is a Wynwood bar and “listening room.” This doesn’t mean that everyone is sitting in silence and listening to music (this is Miami after all, a city incapable of silence). But it does mean that this place has an absolutely spectacular sound system, and a really incredible record collection. DJs take turns spinning songs from that collection, occasionally hopping on the mic to give some context about what they’re playing. And while all this is going on, you can order good cocktails, snack on wasabi peas, and mentally calculate how much money you need to save in order to install these speakers in your own home. Reservations are recommended, and you can make one online.
Going to The Cleat is a bit of a mission, mostly because of its location inside Bill Baggs State Park on the southern tip of Key Biscayne. However, it is incredibly worth it and - in our opinion - the best waterfront bar in the entire city. And that is almost entirely because of the view. It’s hard to describe without using cliche adjectives like breathtaking, especially at sunset. The Cleat has a very Keys vibe, occasional live music, and every seat in the house provides a view of Biscayne Bay you’d normally have to purchase a $300 bottle of vodka to enjoy. There is an $8 per vehicle fee to get into the park, but tell them you’re going to The Cleat and they (should) let you in for free.
Margot Natural Wine Bar
Margot is part of the recent wave of natural wine bars that have opened in Miami. But even if you’re not particularly interested in natural wine, you should still come here because it’s a really gorgeous space perfect for dates or splitting a bottle and some cheese with a small group of friends. They also have wine-based apertivo cocktails, as well as a menu of small plates like salmon crudo, parmesan drizzled with aged balsamic, and a plate of ham and potato chips.