A Neighborhood Guide to Miami's Must-Try Restaurants During Art Basel
The international art fair runs from December 7 to 10
The annual event draws the art and fashion crowd to a weekend of fairs, but it's also when Miami's most anticipated new restaurants open their doors. Sure, you can always find trusty Cuban staples, but now Miami has morphed into a culinary hotbed with cuisine that goes way beyond croquettes (although José Andrés has even found a way to give these classics new meaning at The Bazaar). While bigwigs like Boulud and Jean-Georges have had culinary claim in the city for the past few years, a number of talented young chefs are rising up and launching restaurants of their own, adding a twist to techniques garnered from the masters. Whether you’re looking for a Florida-inspired tasting menu or a laid-back Asian hawker hall, here are some of the hottest new restaurants opening in Miami around Art Basel—and a few older favorites that should be on your radar.
Stiltsville Fish Bar
At recently opened Stiltsville Fish Bar in Sunset Harbour, Top Chef stars Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth (co-owners of New York City’s Southern-themed Root & Bone) bring McInnis’ childhood memories of fishing in the state’s panhandle to life with playful spins on Florida favorites. Think surf n’ turf butter-poached lobster burgers and buffalo fish wings with chili lime hot sauce paired alongside a cocktail menu paying homage to Miami’s southern neighbor, Key West.
After cutting his teeth at spots like Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room, season 13 Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford is joining the growing number of restaurateurs and quintessential Miami eateries in the SoFi (South of Fifth) neighborhood—which include Joe’s Stone Crab and Stephen Starr’s one-year-old Upland—with his first eatery, Stubborn Seed. Revolving around a menu of seasonally focused cuisine, dishes here taste just as jaw-dropping as they look. Don’t worry about having to make any hard decisions though; with the eight-course tasting menu you’ll be able to eat your way through all of the chef’s top picks. Start with dishes like olive oil- and citrus-braised warm celery root before working into more whimsical courses like local JoJo Tea-cured snapper with sorrel and celery.
José Mendín, executive chef of Food Comma Hospitality Group, has partnered up with Spanish chef Angel Palacios (of Madrid’s now-closed, two-Michelin-starred La Broche) at the recently unveiled Habitat, tucked inside eco-chic 1 Hotel South Beach. Molecular gastronomy finds its way into the eatery’s locally fueled, family-style menu that plays on elements like water and fire. Design your salad straight from the live green cart, which operates as a mobile salad station with unexpected ingredients like urchin sprucing up traditional Caesar salads. For a Spanish spin on something local, sample the lion fish “chicharrón,” which swaps out fried pork for fish that’s served alongside a nori béarnaise sauce.
Downtown & Brickell
Brickell City Centre
Dubbed the “Manhattan of the South,” Miami’s financial hub is rapidly transforming from a haven of high rises into a place where locals actually want to stay and eat (or drink) once work wraps up. Mary Brickell Village’s chains once dominated the area’s restaurant scene, but that all changed when the $1.05 billion Brickell City Centre opened last fall. Now you’ll find everything from health food fave Dr Smood (known for its super food-filled fridges) to Pubbelly Sushi, an offshoot of the original in Sunset Harbour known for classics like buffalo rockshrimp tempura.
After checking out nearby fairs like Art Miami and CONTEXT, pop into flagship hotel EAST, Miami, where Uruguay’s beachfront Parador La Huella opened up its first Miami outpost, dubbed Quinto La Huella. Here, cuisine centers around the parrilla, with local snapper, swordfish and Uruguayan steak served straight off the grill. After dinner, make your way up to the 40th floor for skyline views from rooftop bar Sugar, whose menu includes Asian-influenced cocktails tinged with tamarind and Thai chili, as well as local beer-based libations (think Thai twists on a Mexican michelada).
This December, Tuscan-born Vincenzo Scarmiglia (formerly of Vegas hotspots like GIADA at The Cromwell) will take the helm as executive chef at Miami’s first-ever Italian food hall, La Centrale. Designed by the man behind legendary food halls like Harrods, the three-story hall will feature 14 eateries ranging from a mercato with espresso and mozzarella bars to the Chianti-inspired steakhouse, Carne.
Obra Kitchen Table
Venezuelan chef and co-owner of Caracas’ Alto Restaurant, Carlos García—whose resume includes stints at spots like Spain’s El Bulli—is adding to Miami’s ever-growing Latin American restaurant scene with the much-anticipated debut of his first stateside eatery, Obra Kitchen Table. Get ready for a modernized menu of traditional Venezuelan staples served up with an international spin, such as aji dulce crème brûlée with foie gras confetti.
At the Pérez Art Museum Miami, STARR Catering Group is back at it with another new project: cocoon-shaped café Cucuyo, with Verde’s executive chef, Kaytlin Dangaran, crafting the menu of green goddess caprese sandwiches and ginger wasabi black rice grain bowls. The 3D-printed waterside mobile café is the first of its kind, crafted from 700 pounds of stainless steel to resemble a modern version of a roach coach that could easily be mistaken as a piece of the museum’s art.
Even some of the world’s top chefs continue to keep things fresh in the city. Take lauded French chef Daniel Boulud, for instance, who is switching out his seven-year-old Bistro Moderne to open up a sister locale to New York City’s Boulud Sud. Taking over the same space at JW Marriott Marquis Miami, the new eatery will bring a coastal Mediterranean flair to Boulud’s well-known French cuisine with dishes like Moroccan chicken tagine and octopus à la plancha.
Art Basel’s main fair may be on Miami Beach, but the buzz these days has extended across the bay and into Wynwood, where the one-time industrial hub has blossomed into a thriving arts and dining district. A new restaurant or shop seems to pop up almost daily in the street art-heavy neighborhood, but there is one that continues to top the list: Brad Kilgore’s Alter. The intimate, industrial-style space seems like the least likely of places you’d expect to find one of Miami’s most creative tasting menus. The décor centers around a neon red installation glowing against the exposed ceiling and concrete walls, but the focus here isn’t on the design; it’s on the food. Opt for the five-, seven- or eight-course menu, where locally sourced ingredients shine in dishes like sake lees-cured duck breast grilled over pine cones and snapper sashimi with feta, labneh and kaffir lime.
While The Wynwood Yard gave some of Miami’s food trucks a more permanent home, 1-800-LUCKY is taking this concept one step further with Wynwood’s first Asian food market, created by the same guys behind beloved Coyo Taco. Expect seven food vendors, from New York City’s Taiyaki (known for its Japanese fish-shaped ice cream cones) to Anaheim’s Poke OG, plus a karaoke bar that’s sure to heat up once Art Basel kicks off.