Waterfront restaurants can be split into two camps: way-too-expensive places where it’s entirely possible to see a small cruise ship pull up and drop off a table of eight, or extremely laid-back spots where almost everything is made out of wood and covered in a thin layer of salt. We almost always prefer the more casual waterfront options, which is why we love these 10 places. They give us the same views without having to listen to bad house music or worry about getting hit in the eye with a flying cork from a bottle of Whispering Angel.
A restaurant in the Pérez Art Museum with an absolutely beautiful view of Biscayne Bay sounds like it should be a very upscale place. But even though it’s in one of the prettiest buildings in the city, Verde somehow feels casual enough to come in shorts and a t-shirt, which is how most people show up here. You don’t need a reservation, but if you want to sit outside without waiting, it’s not a bad idea. Verde is mostly a brunch/lunch spot and the menu includes a very good squash blossom pizza, roasted beet salad, and an iced Irish coffee that’s a great way to start a Saturday or Sunday.
If you’re trying to eat and drink outside next to the water in Coconut Grove, the answer is pretty much always Monty’s. This big, outdoor seafood restaurant is about as close as you can get to Key West without making the obnoxious drive. Happy Hour here is Monday-Friday and a good call if you want to drink very strong frozen cocktails for only $6. But you should still have some oysters, fried shrimp, and possibly a few stone crab claws on the table too.
Garcia’s is a classic seafood spot right on the Miami River, where there are a growing number of restaurants with yachts taking up 70% of their dock space. But here, you’re more likely to see a rusty fishing boat pull up to unload the day’s catch than a 50-foot VanDutch captained by Steve Aoki. Try your best to land an outdoor table. The great view of the Miami River will make the already excellent fish dip, cracked conch, grouper, and snapper taste even better.
If you peeled the roof off a sports bar and dropped it right next to Biscayne Bay, you’d get Shuckers. This casual restaurant attached to a Best Western in North Bay Village has a ton of TVs, a few pool tables, and is the best place around to watch football on a breezy Sunday. But it’s also just a solid spot to come anytime you’re in the mood for very good chicken wings, simple fried seafood, and a frozen pina colada. Plus, there isn’t a table here without a good view of the water.
This place is right next to Garcia’s on the Miami River. The two spots are pretty similar with one big difference: the food at Garcia’s is much better. So, you should really keep this place in your pocket as a backup plan in case Garcia’s is too crowded or there aren’t any outdoor tables available. Still, Casablanca does the job for Happy Hour or if your main priority is to just eat somewhere by the water. Just know that the oysters, clams, and fish are going to be about 60% better next door.
Key Biscayne might as well be shaped like one big dollar sign, but Whiskey Joe’s is one of the few waterfront spots on the island where you can roll up all sandy and no one will care. This place is right next to a marina, so you can watch boats get pulled out of the water while you wash down perfectly fine fried gator bites and coconut mahi nuggets with frozen drinks that taste very good after a long day in the sun. Under no circumstances should you be sitting inside. Here, it’s an outdoor table or nothing at all.
We could pick you up, blindfold you, and drop you at Boater’s Grill, and you’d probably think you were in the Keys, not Miami. And you’d be half right. This place is located inside Key Biscayne’s Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, sitting next to a quiet cove where you might possibly befriend a manatee. Stick to the standard fried seafood here and a few beers if you’re in the mood. Admission to the park is $4-8 if you’re coming in a car, but that is a small price to pay for potentially meeting a manatee.
American Social is a sports bar that cleans up quite well. Yes, there is generally some sort of sport playing on one of the many TVs, but this isn’t somewhere you go to play darts and chain smoke. This place functions as a pretty good restaurant too, and its outdoor seating along the Miami River is so pretty that you won’t care that the Dolphins lost again. It’s a Brickell spot, so it can feel a bit like a college tailgate during big games - but you should be fine if you stop by during the day for a few beers, a big burger, or some oysters.
Even though you can’t really see the water from the outdoor tables (at least if you’re sitting down), we still consider Mike’s a waterfront spot at heart. This rooftop Irish pub is right by the west end of the Venitian Causeway, and if you stand up and take a very short walk to the building’s edge, you get a pretty stunning look at Biscayne Bay and the Downtown skyline. The mostly-fried things you eat here aren’t quite as stunning, but they’re just fine if you’re craving chicken wings or calamari and coconut shrimp.
WetLab is one of our favorite places to have a beer next to the water, but they also have a kitchen that serves food from 5-8pm Wednesday to Friday. This place caters mostly to college students since it’s on UM’s campus, but the food is much better than the Oreos and Easy Mac you might’ve survived on your freshman year. Expect standards like burgers, fish and chips, and fish tacos. You may have trouble taking your eyes off the sunset long enough to finish whatever you get, though.