August in Miami means the crowds are gone and the traffic is light, but there’s not much to do that doesn’t involve a bathing suit. Thankfully, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau has once again given us the gift of Miami Spice, the discounted dining promotion created to encourage locals to get out and experience all of the amazing restaurants this town has to offer.
And just in time for every local foodie’s favorite season, the Miami Downtown Development Authority has released its new dining guide, full of restaurants across all categories to satisfy every craving and every budget. After perusing the new guide, it’s clear to see the City’s urban core is experiencing a shift in it’s offerings with a number of new restaurants popping up at a culinary level that is completely new to this area of town. Nearly 400 restaurants and bars are now located in downtown Miami and for the first time, many of the new restaurants are being backed by well-known industry names and chefs, signaling the area’s draw as an international destination.
To celebrate the release of the new dining guide and downtown Miami’s evolving dining scene, the Schwartz Media team offers up a list of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, both new and old:
Tucked in the middle of a block in the heart of Downtown Miami with little signage, NIU Kitchen is not easy to spot. But the Catalan-inspired culinary magic being made inside is not to be missed. From the wine to the dishes, it makes for a very memorable and exciting meal. Its dynamic team, led by Executive Chef Deme Lomas and Karina Iglesias at the front of the house, is adding exotic and fresh new flavors to downtown and helping take its culinary scene to the next level. My tip: make a reservation because the restaurant is small and popular.
The ceiling tiles at Bali Café do not match. The bathroom soap dispenser is empty. This place exudes an aura of authenticity, as if the entire restaurant had been transported to downtown Miami from a Balinese village trapped in the nineteenth century. The food is good and plentiful and cheap, the staff warm and welcoming. Save yourself the haul to Bali and head to Bali Café instead. Your stomach and wallet will thank you. Just don’t forget the hand sanitizer.
Through the construction zones and moving cranes there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At the intersection of South Miami Avenue and 7th Street sits one of my favorite restaurants: The River Oyster Bar. This place offers consistency and out-of-the-box flavor from their starters to their desserts. Whether you’re craving good wine or a great martini – they’ve got it. I love going there with friends, ordering oysters, the shiitake mushroom flatbread (with truffle oil!) and any of their main fish dishes. It is not too expensive or too flashy, perfect for any occasion. Yum!
Kick off the weekend a little early by heading over to Toro Toro at the InterContinental Miami on a Friday for a long, late lunch. The service is great, the food is fresh and the sangria flows freely. Although the menu is hard to turndown, I usually opt for the variety of the lunch buffet. It offers a little bit of everything and it’s easy to eat healthy with the beautiful salads they have on display. It’s a lively scene so take some coworkers and cheers to the weekend. Note to self: The sangria is refreshingly good so be careful, it’s hard to have just one. If you don’t make it back to work, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
If you’re looking for a great lunch spot downtown, look no further than Novecento. I always get the same thing – the steak salad. It’s a must if you’re pretending to eat healthy since it also comes with French fries…in the salad. Besides serving great food, the atmosphere is lively and it’s conveniently located in the heart of Brickell. Oh and on Friday’s, they serve half price glasses of wine. What’s not to love?
Zuma has always been one of my favorite spots because it consistently has incredible service, the food is outstanding and the menu has ample offerings. It also has great ambiance and is located by the water overlooking the Miami River. It’s an ideal spot for dinner parties.
My favorite restaurant downtown would have to be db Bistro Moderne, especially for their great happy hour specials. The bar/lounge area is beautiful and the service is top notch, while the food and drinks are always fresh, creative and delicious.