NYC-style steakhouse meets French brasserie
Ocean Drive sidewalk dining never cost so much, put the gruyere-topped popovers are worth every penny you pay for the steak. The SoBe outpost of NYC's lauded French brasserie/steakhouse in the blond-wood and palm-potted lobby of the fittingly non-neon, non-Deco Betsy Hotel, grills up mind-blowingly tasty Kobe and Black Angus cuts with traditional sauces (b?arnaise, blue cheese, green peppercorn). Surf, no turf, available for non-meat lovers. Although man could survive on those popovers alone. Price: High.
305-531-3934; In the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach
Sublime scene and high-class Italian
This is all about local bromance: a straight place but definitely a fave of the classy gays in town. And well, practically every South Beach celeb and fame monger who at one-point makes this magical, unmarked Mediterranean-style beach house their own. Pass or pan what you will about the high-class Italian menu (although I'd marry the char-grilled octopus and burrata if I could), the scene is sublime. Gun for a seat in the garden. You won't be disappointed. Price: High.
305-673-1010; One block from Lincoln Road, 1700 James Avenue, Miami Beach
The UK's Michelin-starred Chinese hits the beach
My London favorite stays true to its oats serving fancy fabulous Chinese food at the fabulously fancy Fontainebleau Hotel. She's pricy -- you don't score a Michelin star back home for pennies ? so plan on just paying and not looking at the bill or it will spoil what would otherwise be an amazing evening of high-concept Cantonese in a seductive, maze-like stage of ebony latticework and glossy lacquer. Price: High.
786-276-1388; In the Fontainebleau Hotel, 4441 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
A Gastro-Lounge that raises the bar on cool
Is it a South Beach club or futuristic tapas bar? Let's just call it a ?gastro-lounge? and toast it with a feVer cocktail (Grey Goose Poire, jalape?o, lychee, pear-prosecco), served up cold. Haven is modern, fun, and has amazing food by the equally delicious Chef Todd, one of the family (wink wink). I can never pass up the Crackle-Pop roll (spicy tuna, crisped rice, daikon, with a yuzu-shichimi aioli) or lamburger slider with ouzo-mustard and lavander-coriander honey. The bar for sexy hot spot is definitely raised. Price: High.
305-987-8885; 1237 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Michael?s Genuine Food & Drink
Local-focused eatery that racks in the accolades
Chef Michael Schwartz opened his locally focused eatery in 2006 and has spent the years since becoming the sort of place locals crowd and visitors keep on a must-visit list. Whether you?re lingering at the bar for happy hour picking at a small plate (crispy pig ear salad, anyone?) and the always changing cheese of the week or staying for a full dinner of one of the locally sourced grilled whole fish and a few of the inventive cocktails. The farm-to-table approach that?s so popular in New York and L.A. is the draw here, making the dining room and courtyard perennially packed but well worth the wait.
305-573-5550; Design District, 130 NE 40th Street
Big nights and bistro bites out on Miami's Upper East Side
Husband and wife team David Martinez and Michelle Bernstein run this much buzzed-about eatery in a Miami neighborhood called the Upper East Side. The ?hood shares more than a name with Manhattan?s famous neighborhood, though, it?s also got top-notch cuisine. Bernstein runs the busy kitchen here, sending out crowd pleasers like Serrano ham and blue cheese croquettes and locally famous short ribs to crowds celebrating anniversaries, birthdays and big nights out. The menu is reliably thrilling thanks to Bernstein, who?s something of a local food celebrity and also runs the kitchen at the design district?s Sra. Martinez.
305-759-2001; Upper East Side Miami, 6927 Biscayne Boulevard
Cha Cha Rooster
The Lords Hotel cock of the walk
A unique gathering spot perfect for casual socializing, South Beach style. With a prime view of the passing scene, The Porch is where Miami?s ?elite meet? to witness the comings and goings, and enjoy cocktails and light bites. Inside, Cha Cha Rooster camps it up for proper meals. Until 2am. Price: Moderate.
In the Lords Hotel, 1120 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
Old-school authentic Cuban
Classic Cuban. If someone didn't take me here I wouldn't be caught dead in this retro dump, but after my first try it has become a must when friends are in town. Everybody else apparently has the same idea -- it's always packed. The food is Cuban at its best, i.e. greasy, filling, and cheap without a wiff of Nuevo Latino pretense in sight. Favorite item: Ropa Vieja, shredded flank steak in a slightly spicy sauce cooked so long it just falls apart on the plate. Pair it with black beans and rice, naturally, and a savory-sweet side of plantains. Price: Cheap.
305-673-1115; 700 Collins Avenue
Delicious designer tapas in a former 1920s post office
Michelle Bernstein?s tapas-centric restaurant is situated in a former post office, which might be part of the reason why it delivers. From charcuterie and cheese plates to butter-braised local vegetables, foie gras croquettes with blueberry mustard or a chef?s tasting menu, the restaurant offers small bites and a large, daring cocktail menu ? toasted coconut-infused rum and Serrano chilies, anyone? -- for fueling up in style before a big night out at one of the neighborhood?s famous art galleries or clubs.
305-573-5474; Design District, 4000 NE 2nd Avenue
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Inventive, energetic Asian-meets-South-American tapas
Midtown madness of the raw bar and grill variety (Japanese-style robata to be exact), Sugarcane opened in 2010 and promptly won scores of Best New awards: for my part, dates wrapped in bacon with linguica and manchego is all you need to know about this plantation-style modern classic. But if you must, conceptual tapas is the score with an Asia-meets-South-America pallete, like Lamb Sweet Breads, grilled eggplant, and scallop crudo with black truffle and lime. These guys also wowed with SushiSamba way back when, so trust the energetic atmosphere fueled by fresh-muddled cocktail pitchers. Price: High.
786-369-0353; Midtown Miami, 3250 NE 1st Ave
New American by way of New York
Andrew Carmellini?s New York hot spot The Dutch opened its second branch in the W South Beach Hotel & Residences in November, and the location isn?t the only thing that?s different from the celebrity chef?s original Soho outpost. The menu features locally sourced ingredients and focus on dishes inspired by Miami, like Carmellini?s Florida avocado and beet salad and a spicy coconut lobster cocktail. Specialty and classic cocktails will be available, including a large selection of whiskies, and are sure to be popular considering the hip crowds that tend to throng the New York location and will surely migrate to Miami.
305-938-3111; In the W Hotel South Beach, 2201 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Southern fare from a Top Chef
Best for your last night in town when bathing suits are no longer required, Yardbird is a haute homage to Southern fare by Top Chef's Jeff McInnis, a Southerner whose whole mission seems to be to feed you well. My favorite item: Fried Green Tomato BLT, featuring tabasco-glazed pork belly. Although other diners rave about the 50-plus kinds of bourbon, shrimp 'n' grits, tea-brined ribs in housemade BBQ sauce, and of course fried chicken with cheddar and chive waffles, all twisted up in with modern farm-to-table flair. Price: High.
305-538-5220; Near Lincoln Road, 16th Street and Lennox Ave, Miami Beach