photo credit: Courtesy Swan
Where To Be Seen And Not Eat
The restaurants where no one is paying attention to what's on the plate.
In Miami, people don’t always go to a restaurant because they want to eat. Sometimes, it’s just an excuse to sit in a crowded, shiny dining room and puff out your chest like a rare Amazonian bird during mating season. This genre of restaurant is often astronomically expensive, somewhat loud, and serves food that’s the equivalent of an extra in a Dwayne Johnson movie. If you live here long enough, are being dragged to a birthday dinner, or you have a friend in town whose only knowledge of Miami is from influencer geotags, chances are you’re going to end up at one of these spots. Here’s what to expect.
photo credit: Courtesy Cecconi's
Cecconi's Miami Beach
Soho Beach House is a members-only club and hotel in South Beach that—and this is true—starts charging you more money for your membership the literal day you turn 30. But if you don’t have a membership, you can still come to twirl pretty average bucatini on your fork as you try very hard not to stare at the professional athlete three tables away. We do not recommend coming here just for the food, because, as previously mentioned, it's pretty average and also very expensive. But it’s a scene worthy of your most silky outfit and the courtyard dining space is pretty on a nice night.
You're not eating much at Mila, because most of the “MediterrAsian” dishes can best be described as nibble-size. But you will be seen, because this Lincoln Road borderline clubstaurant is always packed with a crowd who have spent a healthy chunk of their afternoon picking out an outfit. Honestly, if you're after a sceney untz-untz Miami restaurant experience, you could do worse than Mila. Service is good, the space has a sleek design that’s not aesthetically chaotic, and there’s rooftop patio seating with a decent view. Also, fire dancers occasionally come out of nowhere and start performing.
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photo credit: Courtesy Swan
Swan is an aggressively pink dollhouse of a restaurant in the Design District with a “seasonal and market-driven” menu that feels purposefully forgettable, as if designed to draw as little attention away from your outfit as possible. Whether you’re coming here for lunch, weekend brunch, or dinner, you can expect a restaurant packed with more influencers than silverware, and perhaps even an actual celebrity celebrating a birthday with a cake that’s only there to be photographed. Order something that can be prodded with a fork while you desperately search your phone for new notifications.
photo credit: Matthew Taylor-Gross
Strawberry Moon is a Mediterranean restaurant in a South Beach hotel from the same restaurant group as Swan, and the two certainly feel like cousins. They share similar DNA: a pastel color scheme and an expensive menu full of teeny dishes that will hit the table and cause your inner monologue to scream, “Is that it?!” But food’s not exactly the point here. It’s a place to be seen—both the indoor/outdoor restaurant itself and the adjacent pool, where they throw pool parties full of people yearning for the gaze of strangers.
No one is really paying attention to the food at Seaspice, an expensive mix of pasta and seafood that's actually not as bad as you expect from a clubstaurant. Still, people here are more focused on the yachts blaring awful pop music that pull up and dock next to the outdoor tables. It's more a place to drink, maybe take a very small bite of a dish with the word "truffle" in it, and pretend you're alongside a charming canal somewhere in Italy (even though you're mere feet away from one of the most polluted rivers in Miami).
photo credit: Brinson Renda
Joia Beach should just donate its menus to a recycling plant because the food here is that most unfortunate of combinations: very bad and very expensive. But we’ll admit that the space is interesting. This place occupies a small slice of beach on Watson Island with a nice waterfront view. That’s about the only good thing we have to say about Joia Beach, but if you want to engage in some sceney Tulum cosplay around other folks who’re mindlessly swaying to house music while sipping awful cocktails, make a reservation.
Even though Hasalon’s incredibly expensive food actually isn’t the worst, people mostly come here to dance on furniture like it’s the apocalypse. The cavernous Israeli restaurant has a sort of Jekyll/Hyde personality going on. Before 9pm, it functions more or less as a regular restaurant. After 9pm, the music gets louder, and as the night goes on, things evolve into napkin-waving, table-dancing mayhem. The post-9pm seating requires a $90 per person minimum spend, which might explain why people are dancing so aggressively.
The Lido Bayside Grill
We really do wish the food at Lido was better, because it’s one of the most beautiful outdoor restaurants in Miami. Instead, it’s fine. Just fine. And the food’s level of fine-ness combined with the fact that this place is located in The Standard, a property full of people who probably have access to a yacht, makes this a solid see-and-be-seen spot. Come during sunset, order oysters, drink frose, and try to have a look on your face that screams, “Yes, you should invite me on your yacht.”