There is no shortage of great food in Miami, Florida, and with cuisines from all over the world, the choices are limitless. So, how do you pick the best of the best for fine dining in Miami? Just like in any city, it’s great to know what are some local favorites. Armed with this list of where locals eat in Miami, the decision just got easier. Most importantly, just in case you want to make restaurant style homemade pizza, included are some chef’s tips.
I was recently in Miami for about the first time in 30 years for a triathlon race with my husband. Luckily, we have friends who have a second home in the city and another who actually lives there and owns a restaurant. Therefore, we were able to get some great tips for restaurants where locals eat in Miami. Most are fine dining establishments where shorts and t-shirts really aren’t appropriate. Those are included, as well as a few casual options thrown in for just simple, great food that are much more suitable to bring the kids along.
Where Locals Eat in Miami
Il Gabbiano is an Italian restaurant located on Biscayne Blvd. right down from the Intercontinental Hotel. It has beautiful views of the bay, especially if you sit on the lovely patio. It also offers great food and great service, so it has it all. While a bit pricey, we enjoyed the entire dining experience and would definitely go back.
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One perk is that they bring you a lot of appetizers the minute you sit down, like chunks of parmesan cheese, fried zucchini chips, and bruschetta. So, if you want to save some money, skip the appetizers and just order an entree. I would not say it’s a great place for kids, but is more for a romantic night out or with friends.
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is also located on Biscayne Blvd. in downtown Miami. It’s a very typical old school style steakhouse, in terms of both decor and food. But that’s certainly not a bad thing. A big plus is that you get a waterfront view from every seat in the house. My husband had the NY Strip that arrived sizzling to the table. The restaurant is known for juicy Porterhouse steaks, but the serving was for two and I’m vegetarian. They were very happy to accommodate.
More Miami Favorites
Komodo serves contemporary Southeast Asian Cuisine with a South Florida flare, all in one of the coolest spaces I’ve seen. The restaurant boasts a 3 story, 300- seat, multi-level indoor/outdoor eatery with 3 bars. It even has signature outdoor floating “birds nests” seating that makes you feel like you’re in a treehouse. Some of the favorites on the menu were the Lobster Dynamite, Peking Duck, and Tuna & Toro Roll. If you want to go to a place that’s “happening” this could be for you. It is located in the Brickell neighborhood.
db Bistro Moderne soon to be Boulud Sud Miami has a sister location in midtown Manhattan. I have dined there on multiple occasions so can definitely recommend. Chef Daniel Boulud owns the restaurant. It offers a mix of traditional French bistro cooking and contemporary American flavors, tailored to the rhythm of Miami life. The restaurant is currently under construction and will reopen in January. It is located at the JW Marriott Marquis hotel, overlooking the Miami river.
Tuyo offers contemporary American cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients with classic flavors and Spanish roots. It has spectacular views of the Miami skyline and Biscayne Bay and sits atop the acclaimed Miami Culinary Institute. Tuyo is regularly rated as one of the city’s best restaurants for ambiance, scenic views, romantic appeal, service, cuisine, and overall experience.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro is a culinary gem in the Design District of Miami. It serves Greek/Turkish food in an adorable bungalow with a gorgeous outdoor garden for dining. The food is seasonal, simple, and healthy, using uber fresh ingredients from their own edible garden. They also have a bakery and market. You seriously feel like you’ve been transported to the Greek islands when you dine at Mandolin. I love that their priority is to remind guests to appreciate the simple joys of sharing food, stories and experiences.
And when locals just want simple, great food…
Paulie Gee’s – This is a shout out to our friend, Jason, who left New York and the world of finance several years ago and fulfilled his dream of opening a pizza restaurant in Miami. He’s already winning awards like Best of Miami 2017, so I’m guessing he’s doing something right. Take one look at the pizza and you’ll know why. The menu is 1/3 vegan with the best in-house sausage I have ever tasted.
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Fratelli Milano is a very homey, authentic Italian restaurant in downtown Miami. It offers simple, fresh food with reasonable prices in an inviting atmosphere. Our local friends ate here multiple times and we loved our dinner. It’s perfect for kids. Outdoor seating is available, but it is sidewalk seating.
Fufi is the place to go for delicious, freshly-made daily empanadas and pizza in a quaint setting in Buenavista.
Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach is well known for its seafood and especially its stone crab. They don’t take reservations and are legendary for the wait to get a table and be seen at the bar! You can try coming before 7 p.m. or try Joe’s Take Away, that’s even more laid back.
Azucar Ice Cream is in Little Havana and has absolutely amazing all natural ice cream.
Zak the Baker is the place to go for deli food, but it is closed Friday night and Saturday for Sabbath.
Chef’s Tips for Making Homemade Pizza
And now for the best part…when we were visiting our friend and enjoying his pizza at Paulie Gee’s, he started sharing some tips for how I could make restaurant pizza at home. So, I asked him if he could put a few in writing to share with you. He graciously obliged.
Making restaurant quality homemade pizza is a lot easier than you think, so give it a try. It took my friend a year and half to learn the art of making Neapolitan pizza, all without prior cooking experience. Besides, it can be a really great family activity and make fixing dinner fun.
Pre-heat the oven with a pizza stone inside at maximum temperature for a minimum of 2 hours. DO NOT open the oven during this time. The goal is to get the stone as hot as possible.
You can use store bought or freshly made dough, which takes a bit of trial and error to get down pat. If making dough, 00 flour is recommended and can be bought online or at more upscale baking or supermarket stores. Dough balls for pizza should weigh between .25-.28 kg or about a half pound.
Canned pizza sauce, canned, peeled tomatoes or fresh tomatoes for milling to make your own are your options. If milling, remember when making the sauce that it’s important to note that the ingredients you are using on the pie and their salt content will affect the taste of your sauce. For example, you don’t need a lot of salt in your sauce if you’re using Romano cheese and prosciutto on your pizza.
Do not cook the sauce, just use the food mill. Here’s how. Cook fresh tomatoes in boiling water, covered for 10 minutes. I use halved roma tomatoes, 4-6 pounds should be a good place to start, but depends on how much sauce you want to make. Remove from the stove and process through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin and puree. That’s it.
Don’t use moisture-rich toppings like fresh bell peppers. But if you do, dice them. Prep the topping items while you’re pre-heating the oven.
- Stretch the dough and place it on a wooden home pizza peel that is dusted with corn meal, flour, or fine semolina. You know, the trays with a long handle, like at pizza parlors . Caputo brand semolina is the best, because it toasts versus burns and is ultra fine and clean as opposed to corn meal.
- Put sauce on the pizza and then top with whatever you want.
- Open the oven as quickly as possible and place the pizza on the stone with one quick motion. Close oven. Don’t worry about how it looks when you remove the peel. You will get better with the peel removing motion with practice.
- Once the pizza is in the oven, DO NOT open to see how it’s doing, especially if there is a window. Resist the temptation. Heat is the key and here’s no need to rotate the pizza like at a pizzeria. Most home ovens are small enough and the heat and pizza stone will have equal temps throughout.
- Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Check around 8 minutes to make sure the pizza is not burning. Good indicators are melting cheese or browning crust.
There is no right or wrong for how to dress your pizza, since it’s all personal. Whatever you add, just have fun and be creative. Baby arugula, shaved parmigiano reggiano, and fresh ricotta dollops are just a few suggestions. Most noteworthy, remember that the dough/crust will only hold so much. When done, be sure to remember your own personal dos and don’ts for the next homemade pizza making night.
Kitchen Gadgets to Have on Hand for Homemade Pizza
- pizza stone
- food mill
- wooden pizza peel
- 00 flour, fine semolina, or corn meal
- sharp pizza cutting tool
- ability to have fun and laugh at oneself from the start
One final tip…If using fresh mozzarella, DO NOT slice, rip chunks, or place diced cubes on the pizza. Shred it prior to using, because it will melt as it should and won’t all come off when you take your first bite.