written by
Joe Boone & Kathy Bunbury

It is no wonder more than six million visitors soak up Miami’s sun each year, placing The Magic City at number 22, right behind Las Vegas, as one of the world’s top destinations.

Founded in 1896, Miami grew from just a few hundred residents to more than six million today. Such rapid growth left returning winter visitors to exclaim early on that the city was “growing like magic.” And to satisfy locals and travelers alike, Miami has an incomparable dining scene that is second to none.

Many of Miami’s visitors choose to stay on Miami Beach, a collection of part natural/part man-made barrier islands just off the coast, separating Biscayne Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. Miami Beach is known for miles of exquisite beaches, luxurious waterside homes, plush hotels, premier shopping venues, and famed nightlife. It is also known for its South Beach area, one of the most exclusive destinations in Florida. World-famous for people watching, celebrity chef restaurants and jazz bars, its legendary Lincoln Road is home to beautiful Art Deco architecture, every imaginable designer boutique, and high-energy nightlife. The Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world and comprises hundreds of hotels and other structures erected between 1923 and 1943.

When it comes to experiencing a true taste of South Beach, no visit is complete without a trip to Joe’s Stone Crabs. This local favorite has been an area fixture since 1913 and as the name suggests, it is the place for stone crabs. Open for lunch and dinner during the stone crab season (October 15th to May 15th), Joe’s is also open for a short summer season from May 18th to July 31st, but only for dinner. Of course the crabs are the main event, but do not miss Joe’s sweet potato fries or heavenly key lime pie. Even with several spacious dining rooms and efficient service, expect a bit of a wait as this restaurant is notoriously popular. Have a cocktail at the bar and take the opportunity to see and be seen!

No other place on the planet exemplifies, nor intertwines ultra-rich and pure bohemian lifestyles as well as Miami. For a true taste of all it has to offer, you need to explore its diverse neighborhoods and walk with its people. Miami is blessed with a spectacular array of cultures and locales that truly make it one of the world’s most fascinating dining destinations. From glitzy South Beach and artsy Coconut Grove, to old world Coral Gables and the new Design District, culinary adventurers will find an endless lineup of colorful and innovative restaurants to match any mood.

Coconut Grove for example, is a charming community with historic old homes lining narrow winding streets under a tree canopy. Known for its many nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and bohemian shops, Coconut Grove is a popular hangout for the college scene. A number of great parks and gardens include the Kampong, a stunning, sevenacre botanical garden with an Indonesianinspired house set by a lagoon. In its storied past, Coconut Grove has been visited by the likes of Winston Churchill, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Dwight Eisenhower.

Coral Gables earned the name “The City Beautiful” for its tree-lined boulevards, ivy-covered mansions and historical landmarks, including the worldfamous Biltmore Hotel and the Venetian Pool, both built in the 1920s. Carved out of coral rock, the Venetian Pool is one of the most stunning swimming pools in the world, featuring lush tropical foliage, stone bridges, waterfalls and underground caves. This huge pool’s freshwater is replenished nightly in summer months from an underground aquifer.

With so many Caribbean cultures infusing the city with their vibrant flavors, dining out in and around Miami is an adventure of its own. Listed as one of the top 10 restaurants in Miami, Ortanique on the Mile is for lovers of flavorful, tasty tropical cuisine. Highly-acclaimed owners/chefs, Cindy Hutson and Darius Shirley, create what they call “Cuisine of the Sun,” dishes infused with the spices and aromas of the Caribbean. The focus is on seafood; however, there is a wide range of choices on the menu, including jerk pork chops and rum-braised short ribs. The tropical desserts are a cultural expedition in and of themselves. After a lunch or dinner in this lively restaurant, take time to stroll around picturesque Coral Gables.

For something that’s modern, yet unpretentious, Havana Harry’s in Coral Gables features delectable Cuban and Latin American fare. An ideal place for family gatherings, the servings are substantial, so bring an appetite! The guava chicken and lechoncita (shredded pork and grilled onions with mojo sauce) are regular favorites.

In between meals, be sure to check out Miami’s phenomenal Design District— 18-square blocks of pure creative genius packed full of glamour and luxury. Once made up primarily of old low-rise warehouses, the Design District is now home to more than 70 flagship luxury stores including Hermes, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, and Prada, and that number is expected to double by the end of the decade. Dozens of restaurants, cafes, and art galleries also line the streets, making for an enjoyable shopping experience.

Helping to place the Design District on the map as Miami’s hot new dining destination is Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, known for its fresh, seasonal New American cuisine. Michael Schwartz, owner and chef, was honored in 2010 with the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South. From snacks to extra-large entrees, Chef Schwartz creates innovative dishes for lunch and dinner, organizing them by the size of the plates. Prices are reasonable, so you can make this a stop for a quick bite or a three-course dinner.

Back in downtown Miami, a striking skyline is not just another pretty sight, but an architectural testament to an impressive collection of historic landmarks, futuristic structures and show-stopping attractions. It is a neighborhood of layers – decades of history overlapping and colliding; tourism destinations like Port of Miami alongside local favorites like American Airlines Arena, home to the NBA’s Miami Heat; century-old buildings among new pockets of young residents who call the neighborhood home.

Along with plenty of eye-candy, Downtown Miami has its own share of incredible restaurants. Located within walking distance from Bayfront Park, as well as a short drive from the Performing Arts Center and American Airline Arena, CVI.CHE 105 invites diners to experience exquisite dishes infused with Chef Juan Chipoco’s unique style and passion for his homeland, Peru. Lovers of ceviche (typically made from fresh, raw fish marinated in citrus juices) will enjoy the varied selection on the menu.

Another popular nearby spot is Garcia’s Seafood Grill & Fish Market, located on the Miami River. This family owned and operated restaurant offers both indoor and al fresco dining overlooking the river. Be sure to visit for lunch or an early dinner as the area becomes very quiet after dark. The Garcia’s have their own fleet of fishing boats, providing some of the freshest seafood in the city. Ask for the daily fresh catch specials or try one of the favorites, grilled grouper with lemon.

Nothing exemplifies the Latin influence on Miami more than the Little Havana neighborhood. One stroll down Calle Ocho and you are hooked! Salsa music from vintage record shops fill the air, along with the fresh aroma of Cuban coffee, tapas, fried empanadas, and red beans and rice. Hand-rolled cigar shops, open-air markets, and window cafes with their colorful facades gleam in the sunlight. Maximo Gomez Park is a popular local’s gathering place for a game of dominos or chess. For nighttime entertainment, the Ball & Chain is the place to be for live jazz, salsa music and dancing. Established in 1935, their mojitos are quite simply the best. For an authentic taste of Latin American flavor, grab a bite at Versailles, “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” Afterwards, head over to Azucar, Little Havana’s resident Cuban artisanal ice cream parlor for an Abuela Maria, one of their signature ice cream concoctions.

Next time you’re in Miami, be sure to visit one, or all, of these amazing neighborhoods. While not for the faint of heart, they are great areas to sample local dishes. Take note, if you see locals congregating, sipping café con leché or espressos next to a sidewalk pass-through window, which is a sign you have found the perfect place to try a pastelito or a Cuban sandwich.

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