Where To Eat Near The (We Don't Know What To Call It Now) Arena
This is all your fault, Sam Bankman-Fried.
Looking for somewhere to eat near the arena formerly known as FTX (formerly known as American Airlines), which is now known simply as "the Arena" until further notice? We’ve got you. Don’t know what to call the arena? Sorry—can’t help you there. But we did put together a guide of nearby restaurants we like, and even organized it into pre- and post-game (or concert) picks. If only naming the arena was this easy.
WHERE TO EAT BEFORE
Jaguar Sun is quite small—split almost perfectly in half between a bar and dining room—so it’s ideal for groups ranging from two to four. There are generally about five excellent rotating pasta variations on the menu—plus other great things like the glistening Parker House rolls, oysters, and a crudo we never regret ordering. The cocktails are all excellent as well. Actually, everything (both in liquid and solid form) is delicious, and the staff is a small team of extroverts hell-bent on making sure your glass is never empty. Reservations here are highly recommended whether you want to snag a table before you make your way to the arena or after forcing your way out of it (they are open till 1am).
photo credit: Courtesy Bunbury
Bunbury is an Argentinian restaurant on the Northern edge of Downtown, and it has all the stuff you’d expect at a good Argentinian restaurant. There’s lots of wine (including some really good wine cocktails), solid empanadas, and a variety of tasty red meat—especially the perfectly grilled vacio. But the space also has a fun secret lair vibe—the dining room is located behind a sliding bookshelf—and there’s occasional live music, too. It’s a good way to set the mood before an Andrea Bocelli concert or a night of romantic Marc Anthony ballads.
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photo credit: Rami Sabban
NIU Kitchen is one of our favorite restaurants in Downtown (and all of Miami). Some of our favorite NIU dishes are the simple and perfect pa amb tomáque or the much less simple but nonetheless perfect cold tomato soup. But the menu is constantly changing, so even if you come on a biweekly basis (which is not a bad idea) you’ll still find new things that have an above-average chance of making you pound the table with delight. Also, wine (specifically natural and biodynamic wines) is still an essential part of the meal here, so get a bottle on the table. Make a reservation, or you might have to make do with an arena hot dog.
Soya E Pomodoro
This place looks like an Italian family with a slight hoarding issue broke into a Downtown building and no one’s kicked them out because their pasta is so good. There’s no restaurant in the area with as much personality as Soya: a dim, cavernous space stuffed with books, mismatched furniture, and antiques. Finding parking and shimming into a parallel spot is worth it for the eggplant parm and the slightly sweet fazzoletti di formaggio e pera, one of our favorite plates of pasta in town thanks to the great combination of pear and ricotta.
photo credit: Merritt Smail
Motek is an Israeli restaurant buried inside a huge building full of diamond shops, and getting here will make you feel like a considerably less stressed-out version of Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. There are some very tasty things at the casual restaurant, especially sandwiches. We really like their crispy chicken schnitzel sandwich and the arayes burger, handheld beef-stuffed pitas that come with a side of crispy fries. The indoor restaurant is also BYOB with no corkage fee—good to know if you’re looking to pre-game before the New Kids On The Block reunion tour.
Bali Café is a little cash-only Indonesian spot where you can get some very generous portions of dishes you won’t find done this well anywhere else in the area. The menu is big and includes everything from dumplings to sushi rolls—but you should focus on their Indonesian dishes, like the nasi goreng special. It comes on a little cafeteria-style tray with separated portions of fried rice, coconut chicken curry, and a tender pile of rendang. There’s no shortage of things to look at in the restaurant, which is decorated with colorful statues and masks you’ll want to touch and try on. (Please don’t.)
WHERE TO EAT AFTER
Mike's At Venetia
If an Irish pub closed its eyes and made a wish to be on a roof, you’d get Mike’s. This place is casual bordering on dive bar, and it’s on the roof of an old apartment building right at the west end of the Venetian Causeway. But it’s got a charming old Miami vibe we really love. They also have decent fried bar food, affordable drinks, and (if you stand up and walk to the edge) a very nice view of Biscayne Bay.
photo credit: Rami Sabban
Eleventh Street Pizza
Eleventh Street Pizza is one of the best pizza places in Miami, but it’s also a perfectly fine place to sit down with a bottle of wine and a huge pie. The small Downtown restaurant serves New York-style pizza with a very tasty sourdough crust. They offer slices and whole pies, as well as thick Sicilian square pies. Those pizzas are certainly the main event here, but Eleventh Street also makes a very good spicy caesar salad, and an excellent chicken parm (it's not always on the menu, so ask the staff). It’s a counter service spot with a few indoor tables and (weather permitting) some pretty patio seating.
photo credit: Rami Sabban
Ben’s is a takeout pizza counter that makes a really solid New York-style slice. It’s greasy (in a good way), has a crisp crust, and they keep it simple with the toppings. It is, unfortunately, located deep within the bowels of Bayside Marketplace, but there are some outdoor waterfront tables you can eat at. They claim their slices are big, but in reality they just serve you two slices and call it one slice, which is why a “slice” will cost you around $8. It’s slightly confusing, but if you’re wandering around Downtown, perhaps after a few drinks, it probably won’t bother you that much—especially since the pizza itself is very good.
Just a warning, The Corner is very much a bar, so don’t roll up with your kids. But this neighborhood standby works for a solid cocktail at 4am or a Happy Hour beer and hot dog as the sun sets over Downtown. The food menu here is tiny, but usually includes a few solid sandwiches and a satisfying hot dog. The Corner—open till 8am on Friday and Saturday—is undoubtedly a late-night spot and generally the best choice for anyone out late who doesn’t want to go home after a Heat win and would like to be around other people who feel the same way.
Lost Boy is a pub that even feels a little Western. There’s a lot of wood, a long shelf full of vintage cowboy boots above the bar, and an old piano that doubles as a table in the center of the room. You come here to drink—the music isn’t too loud to have a conversation and the cocktails are simple but solid. But they have bar food too, including sandwiches, hot dogs, and a pretzel. They’re open from noon to 3am every day except Sundays, when they close at 1am. So come before or after a concert. Or, if you didn’t get those Heat tickets, it’s a good place to watch on one of the many screens.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Over Under is a great cocktail bar and restaurant with outstanding drinks and one of the best burgers in town. About everything you can eat here has some sort of tie to the Sunshine State. The mahi-mahi in the thick scoop of smoked fish dip, the beef in that outstanding cheeseburger, the crispy fried alligator, the juicy thigh in the fried chicken sandwich—all of the above carry Florida IDs. Even the phenomenal shell-tini, a perfectly briny martini with oyster shell-infused gin, utilizes the shells of Florida oysters. Just know that on weekend nights, this place might be densely packed with people partying like we just won the playoffs (hopefully, we did). But even then it’s still a solid choice if you’re with a group of loud friends.
Margot Natural Wine Bar
Margot is a narrow natural wine bar in Downtown that’s hard to describe without using the word “cozy.” And while there isn’t a ton of room in here for big groups, this place is really lovely once you do snag a seat at the bar, or one of the little tables. As the name implies, natural wine is what you’ll probably be drinking here. They also have some wine-based aperitivo cocktails as well as a menu of small plates like anchovy toast, a lobster sandwich, and a plate of ham and potato chips.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Tacos “El Porky”
Tacos “El Porky'' is basically a fast food taco spot—in the best possible way. This downtown taqueria specializes in al pastor tacos that are shaved right off a trompo and served with pineapple, onions, a spicy red chili sauce, and their “porkie sauce” (cilantro and mayo). Those are good, but our favorite taco here is the cochi taco. It comes with chunks of chicharrones that are salty, fatty, crunchy, and served with pickled onions and a green chili sauce. They have three tacos on the menu—all pork and all fast. It’s next to the Miami Avenue Metromover Station, so it’s a good option if you’re choosing the Metro in favor of traffic or parking and want a super speedy bite. They close at 10pm on weekdays, but stay open till midnight on weekends.