There’s no denying Downtown Miami is undergoing a major transformation, and after a decades-long decline, we’re absolutely here for it. From classic staples and a quirky bar in an old retail storefront, to a never-before-seen Tijuana restaurant, an Asian spot with a strong celebrity following, Latin-inspired mezze menus and more, here are the Downtown bars and restaurants we don’t want you to miss—and of course, what to order at each.
Helmed by executive chef Clark Bowen, this relaxed fine-dining concept from Daniel Boulud pulls from the coastal flavors of Côte d’Azur, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond. The Chicken Tagine demonstrates how perfectly they meld together — tender pieces of chicken are roasted right off the bone, cooked in a tagine with cauliflower, turnips and couscous, and flavored with a 20+ spice blend that Bowen makes himself. “It’s essentially a one-pot meal, and I think that reminds everyone of home,” Bowen says. “We might change up the ingredients when the seasons change, but it doesn’t skip a beat.” 255 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Downtown Miami; 305-421-8800; bouludsud.com/miami.
“In Mexico, there is a common saying, ‘Sin maíz, no hay país’; which means, ‘without corn, there is no country,’” says Sofia Muñoz, pastry chef of Miami’s first-ever “Baja Med” concept, Pez. Her Taco de Elote Dulce dessert brings this mantra to life. Muñoz makes her own sweet corn ice cream by charring fresh corn and soaking it overnight in an ice cream base, and burns the remaining corn into black ash. Both are served on a sweet tortilla with candied almonds, a beer reduction, caramel popcorn and fresh blueberries. 20 West Flagler Street, Downtown Miami; 305-570-3440; pezmiami.com.
At this cocina de mercado—which translates to “market kitchen”—sharing is caring. Here, executive chef Fabian Di Paolo fuses Latin ingredients and Mediterranean cooking techniques to make mezze-style plates like Fried Yuccas Croquettes. For this popular starter, Di Paolo purées cooked yucca, rolls it into balls and stuffs each with black beans and shredded mozzarella. After tossing them in yucca flour, egg and Japanese breadcrumbs, the croquettes are fried and served with a coconut salsa. “The key is to not overcook the yucca,” Di Paolo says. “If you do, it will become rubbery and starchy and hard to form into a ball.” 1100 Biscayne Boulevard, Downtown Miami; 305-808-3507; cvltvra.com.
When you’re craving a good steak, grab a date, head to Wolfgang Zwiener namesake New York transplant and order the Porterhouse for Two. “We dry-age our U.S.D.A Prime beef for 28 days in Wolfgang’s very own aging box, which has an air circulation system that removes moisture from the meat,” executive chef Saad Miguel says. “Then, our 1,600-degree broiler turns it into a tender, juicy steak with Wolfgang’s signature dark, caramelized crust.” 315 South Biscayne Boulevard, Downtown Miami; 305-487-7130; wolfgangssteakhouse.net/miami.
Hovering over Biscayne Bay from the 16th floor of the EPIC Hotel, this restaurant—named for Fishing Area 31, the ecologically-sound marine waters that engulf Florida’s Atlantic coast—has sunset views like none other. Pair that vista with executive chef Alex Olivier’s Whole-Roasted Branzino, and it’ll be a night your senses never forget. “The branzino is perfect for spring,” says Olivier. “We serve it with smoked ratatouille, tapenade and a lemon-caper brown butter.” 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Downtown Miami; 305-424-5234; area31restaurant.com.
For Those After-Dinner Drinks
Lost Boy: Once a denim shop, this bar honors its name through decor: picture a hat rack from Cuba, antique bookcases, gold mermaids and a piano used as a table, among other random things. Drinks are straightforward, with a twist—like the Chili-Passion Caipirinha with Avua Cachaça, Chinola, lime, cane sugar, and Sriracha. 157 East Flagler Street; 305-372-7303; lostboydrygoods.com.
Mama Tried: Mama’s trying hard at this upscale dive bar, where imbibers can sip Porn Star Martinis under twinkling fiber optic stars and hanging, gold disco lamps. 207 Northeast 1st Street; 786-803-8087; mamatriedmia.com.
Jaguar Sun: This X Miami lobby bar serves High Horse gin cocktails and cacio e pepe from ex-Per Se chef Carey Hynes. 230 Northeast 4th Street; 786-860-2422; jaguarsunmia.com.