Even though Miami has been “open” for months now, the word “normal” is starting to sound less ridiculous as the weeks march on, and more shots go into arms now that all Floridians 18 and up are eligible to receive a vaccine. This is a very good thing. However, if you’ve spent the last 13 months working from home and only speaking to your cat and mail carrier, venturing back into normal society might feel a little odd.
So, this is a guide to help you ease back into socializing. Some of these restaurants are smaller and won’t have huge crowds, some are loud, boozy and fun, and some are just places that feel as familiar as your favorite pillow. So go forth, wear a mask, sanitize, tip generously, and have fun being social this spring.
Even if you’ve barely left the house over the last year, going to Flanigan’s will still feel like slipping into a warm bath or sleeping in your childhood bedroom. Chances are, you celebrated at least one little league victory at this South Florida chain, chugging soda out of a huge green cup to celebrate your inside-the-park home run. Now Flanigan’s is here to comfort the adult you. Just take a deep breath, and order ribs, wings, and a pitcher of domestic beer. Savor the incredibly random playlist and the soothing bubbles in the fish tank. And when you find yourself in the bathroom (because you drank half that pitcher of Coors Light really fast) look into the mirror and remember that everything is going to be OK and curly fries are amazing.
In terms of remembering to socialize, The Palace would be the equivalent of going from a hot tub to an ice bath. But if you’re one of those people who prefers extremes, then make your big re-debut into society with the absolute best sidewalk drag show in Miami - and, quite possibly, the world. The food is whatever, the mimosas are bottomless, and last time I was there a performer put her foot on the table and made my friend fix the strap on her high heel. There was also a security guard whose sole responsibility was to pick up wigs. It was magnificent.
If you’ve gotten very used to eating inside your living room, alone, and fear you might have forgotten how to function inside a formal dining room, with people, then go to Pinch. Despite being a restaurant that requires shoes, this place feels like someone’s living room. That can be comforting for those who have been eating on an Ikea couch for the last thirteen months. The food here is unanimously excellent, and there are both small plates and (if you’re not quite ready to share food yet) some solo entrees like an excellent burger and a skirt steak with spicy brussels sprouts.
I miss live music. I miss live music so much that I’d buy tickets to watch two feral cats bat around a jingle bell for 45 minutes. And if you and your friends feel the same way, then go grab a table at Heartland, a big new outdoor restaurant with a stage they put to great us with local musicians. This is one of those places where you order and pay on your phone, so interaction will be at a minimum. The food isn’t the reason to come here, but you can still snack on various roasted and wood-fired things like ribeye, chorizo, and carrots. And any awkward silences will be filled by the glorious sounds of actual humans playing actual instruments.
Tigre is equal parts exciting, new, and a little fancy - just the kind of place for a debut social outing with a few friends or a date you’ve been only messaging with for the last six months. The restaurant itself is gorgeous and beautifully designed, which will be nice after staring at your own furniture for what feels like the last three centuries. There’s also waterfront seating, good cocktails, and, despite being an Argentinian restaurant, they have a lot of very tasty vegetable dishes like a grilled heart of palm salad and roasted beets with cashew yogurt - in case your pandemic vegetable intake has been concerningly low.
If you miss bars but aren’t not ready to commit to the full bar experience (crowded, drunk, exclusively indoors) yet, then do Over Under. This place has all the things we love about a bar: fantastic cocktails, a casual atmosphere, and occasional karaoke. But you can also sit down and have a great meal. They make a killer cheeseburger, jackfruit chili fries, coconut shrimp, and more bar food dishes.
And if you are ready to commit to a bar, Gramps is a good call too. The Wynwood favorite is open, though they are having guests stay at their tables and order from their phones. But even a seated Gramps is still a very fun Gramps, and you can expect great cocktails, excellent music, and great slices courtesy of the onsite Pizza Tropical.
Because we’ve all been buying about 300% more wine than normal, you’ve probably got a lot of wine in the house. So grab a bottle, tell your friends to do the same, and reunite with pizza and pasta at Ironside, a BYOB spot in Little River. The restaurant is very pretty and mostly outdoors and did we mention you get to bring your own wine?
If you’ve been staying away from eating at restaurants for the last year, we understand. However, you might have missed some great restaurants. You can see all our favorites over on the Hit List, but one you should definitely prioritize is Itamae. It’s got a pretty spacious set up, some natural wine to ease your nerves, and the best Nikkei food in the entire city. Any ceviche, tiradito, or sushi roll here is going to be good enough to make you very happy you decided to leave the house.
Jaguar Sun’s pandemic weekend pop-ups (which, yes, is still a very strange sentence to type) have been a highlight of the last year. They’re still going strong, and it’s still a good dinner to reintroduce yourself to the concept of eating and drinking around carbon-based lifeforms. The menu is inspired by an old school steakhouse, the martinis are excellent, and its an experience designed for the pandemic era, so the staff here is very mindful of distancing and masking up.
So maybe you’re not quite ready for a 200-person restaurant with a DJ booth and bathroom attendant. That’s alright. You can just go to Cafe Kush, a charming and reasonably-sized restaurant from the Kush Hospitality team. Kush Wynwood or Lokal could also be an option, since both are also small and serve phenomenal burgers, but we’re recommendingCafe Kush because they have some pretty outdoor seating along a little canal. This place works for brunch, lunch, or dinner - and serves a very good pork chop, burgers, and a croque monsieur. Cocktails and beer are plentiful as well.
If you don’t want to commit to a full sit-down dinner with the person who dared to text you and ask to meet up while you were rewatching Community for the fourth time, then go to Lagniappe. The outdoor wine bar is a perfect place to drink wine, snack on cheese, and eavesdrop on all the first and second dates happening nearby. One thing to note: try to come early or during off hours. Lagniappe gets incredibly packed on weekend nights, and you don’t want to circle the yard for tables for 75 minutes making awkward small talk.
Tacos and cocktails will always be a good idea. Very few people on this planet can get mad at that, and Hoja Taqueria is one of the best new Mexican restaurants in town. The space is small and intimate, so don’t worry about being overwhelmed by a crowd. Just grab a seat and order the koji sweet potato taco, shrimp and potato flautas, and anything else that catches your eye, because it’s going to be delicious.
Hometown checks a lot of boxes for comforting anyone nervous about socializing. To start, the large space is nicely spaced-out, so you won’t feel claustrophobic. There’s also great cocktails, wine, and beer to help with the flow of conversation. Plus, no matter how good you’ve gotten at cooking during quarantine, this place will remind you that there are some things best left to the professionals, like huge beef ribs, tender brisket, and a smoked turkey BLT that’ll bring a tear to your eye. And even if you accidentally blurt out “love you” while saying bye to some friend you’ve met approximately four times, you’ll leave with the kind of satisfaction that only comes from perfectly barbecued meat.
If you’re still feeling like a reverse vampire, and would rather not venture out at night, arrange a little brunch hang at All Day. This is a good training wheels restaurant for socializing, because the meal shouldn’t take that long and the coffee will help you focus on not screaming when your friend sneezes. Also, the food and coffee are both excellent, and they make my favorite french toast as well as my favorite breakfast sandwiches in town.
Arson has joined forces with its sister restaurant and next door neighbor, NIU Kitchen, while their dining room is still being used as a natural wine shop. And this means you’ll get the best of both restaurants here, so if you’re looking for a meal that will remind you how delicious the outside world is capable of being, make a reservation and order the charbroiled oysters, cold tomato soup, and a bottle of natural wine.