Being able to stare at large bodies of water is one of the biggest perks of being a South Floridian (right behind free mangoes and shorts being considered acceptable formal wear). At these restaurants, you can take advantage of that perk while also eating good things and (if you want) drinking four glasses of sparkling wine. Here are some very solid waterfront spots that are open with outdoor seating right now.
Tigre is a beautiful Argentinian restaurant in the Upper East Side where you can bring a date or a few friends or, really, anyone who appreciates interior design and the color green. The outdoor seating is organized along a little canal that - despite being just a baseball toss away from the hectic intersection of Biscayne and 79th - feels peaceful and secluded. The aesthetics are the selling point here, but the food is also good. There are some solid veggie options, like a simple, crunchy hearts of palm salad or tender roasted beets, but you’ll find bigger steak and fish entrees too. Whether you want to eat buñuelos or just have a few apéritif cocktails while looking for manatees - Tigre should be the answer next time it’s so nice out that you feel guilty being inside.
Shuckers is one of the few waterfront restaurants in Miami where the prime views don’t come with incessant house music and $300 bottles of rosé whizzing by your head. It’s casual, and the food here is what you want in a breezy raw bar. They have good wings and decent seafood - but the best part of Shuckers is its wide-open view of Biscayne Bay. There are also a ton of TVs, and chances are they’re playing whatever game you want to see.
Cafe Kush is a MiMo restaurant from Kush Hospitality, who seem to be incapable of producing a bad restaurant. Cafe Kush is like the original Kush in Wynwood if it took a French vacation. They have some burger options, but also steak frites, a croque monsieur, and fried frog legs. Their outdoor seating offers a view of Little River, which isn’t a huge body of water but does give you an above-average chance of spotting a manatee.
Since 1966, this spot has been the best place to eat on the Miami River - where you can watch yachts and old-school fishing boats drift by over the course of lunch or dinner. It’s still a good choice because it’s delicious, simple, and wonderfully unpretentious. Start with some fried shellfish, listen closely to the daily specials, and if it’s stone crab season, you know what to do.
Lido is an outdoor restaurant located inside The Standard in Miami Beach. The view here is definitely the main attraction. There are small plates you can share, like hummus or shrimp cocktail, as well as burgers, sandwiches, and steak. This is a hotel restaurant on Miami Beach - a waterfront one, nonetheless - so be prepared for that burger to be $20. But they do have a Happy Hour Mon-Thu from 4-6pm, with $5 beer and select snacks from $4-8.
You can’t eat much closer to Biscayne Bay than at Amara - unless you own a boat or are a manatee. But if you are not a herbivorous marine mammal, then this is a really good choice because both the view and food are great. The menu is pretty much all seafood, with a small raw bar and a great grilled snapper. Come during the day if you really want to see the view in all its glory - and come early to beat the crowd because they can’t guarantee you an outdoor table, even with a reservation.
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 has solid pizzas, sandwiches, and salads.
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/tiki hut on steroids feels a little more like Key West than Miami. Happy Hour here (Mon-Fri from 4-7pm) is a good call if you want to have $6 frozen cocktails and $1 oysters. Reservations aren’t required.
The upscale Peruvian spot on Brickell Key is open for outdoor dining, which is where you’d want to sit at La Mar even under normal circumstances. The outdoor tables have a pretty great view of Biscayne Bay and the Brickell skyline. To eat, expect a lot of Peruvian classics: ceviche, lomo saltado, arroz con mariscos, and papa a la huancaina. Although the food here is good, it isn’t quite as impressive as the view. But you’ll still probably need a reservation, and you can make one online.
This casual Key Biscayne restaurant 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 (or, if you’re lucky, on a boat). This place also faces west, so you’ll want to be here for sunset. Reservations aren’t required.
If your goal is to eat as close to the beach as possible, then Mid-Beach’s Malibu Farm is an appropriate choice. Of course a restaurant this close to the sand - especially one that’s inside a hotel - is going to be pricey. But if you’re OK with that, and really want to be able to smell the ocean while you eat decent fish tacos or an avocado pizza, then you might like it here.
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. The food is fine, but the view is a lot better. They’ve also recently expanded with an adjacent outdoor bar they’re calling The Cleat. Admission to the park is $4-8 if you’re coming in a car. Just a head’s up: Bill Baggs is currently operating at reduced capacity, so call ahead if you plan on coming to make sure they’re still letting people into the park.
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 great view of 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. You won’t need a reservation.