When Juvia in South Beach took home a James Beard award for North American restaurant design this year, it showed how much ambience plays into and often makes the dining experience. Here are five more regional restaurants where style is as important as the daily specials.
Tap 42Fort Lauderdale-based Tap 42 feels like stepping into Seattle or Portland. Rather than create yet another cliched Floridian bar blasting Jimmy Buffett, brothers Sean and Blaise McMackin were inspired by the West Coast’s craft-beer movement. Their 200-seat gastropub’s DIY décor balances organic (mismatched, reclaimed wood) and industrial (rebar shelving and poured concrete floors) materials. The 15,000 pennies cast into the wall behind the bar (a play on penny drafts) creates a warm copper glow in the room. “Locals really enjoy the different setting, especially one you can converse in,” says Sean, who fields nonstop requests to expand to Miami. “Our menu departs from your typical Florida bar, too.” Discovering many craft-brew enthusiasts are vegetarian, the brothers added dishes like vegan ceviche and superfood lettuce wraps to complement seasonal pumpkin ales. (Tap 42, 1411 South Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale; 954-463-4900; tap42.com.)
CiprianiThe very name Cipriani is synonymous with continental chic, so be prepared for a barrage of air kisses at the new downtown Miami hot spot. Designed like a Greek shipping tycoon’s yacht, custom décor from glossy walnut millwork to Flemish linens speaks to stylish circles. Culinary presentations also have flair, though they just might be overshadowed by the stunning water views. “Our house carpaccio’s colors are inspired by Renaissance painter and the dish’s namesake Vittore Carpaccio,” says Maggio Cipriani, of its mid-century debut at Harry’s Bar in Venice, founded by Giuseppe Cipriani. “The Bellini is another beauty from my great-grandfather’s original location.” Both may be ordered in the bayfront restaurant and pending downstairs bar due to open before Art Basel. (Cipriani, 465 Brickell Avenue, Miami; 786-329-4090; cipriani.com.)
Bread + Butter Blink and you’ll miss chef Alberto Cabrera’s Bread + Butter. Modeled after one of those hard-to-find restaurants in Brooklyn, his progressive take on the Cuban cafeteria also borrows from New York’s design realm in subway tiles and a butcher’s block bar top. “Thankfully, I had a creative carpenter,” says Cabrera, who refashioned a salvaged lunch counter into seating, too. “It’s a bit industrial with aluminum chairs and homey with black-and-white family photos.”
Despite the under-the-radar location, food lovers find it for pan con lechón of shredded Palmetto Creek pork on a Chinese bao bun with PepperJelly & Co.’s Cuban-style sriracha. The fall menu introduces purple okra and hearty soups made from scratch down to the wild boar chorizo in a classic white bean recipe. (Bread + Butter, 2330 Salzedo Street, Coral Gables; 305-442-9622; breadandbuttercounter.com.)
Bar CrudoAn interior designer’s daughter, it’s no wonder Andy Travaglia decorates her restaurants with equal panache as her residences throughout their same South of Fifth neighborhood. Following Lee & Marie’s Cakery, the New Yorker opened Bar Crudo next door. Its all-raw meat and seafood menu means nary an oven or cooktop in sight, yet somehow every dish lovingly layers intense flavors like beef tenderloin tartare’s applewood-smoked bacon fat, and black and white truffle shavings and oil. High-rise dwellers sip watermelon vodka cocktails scented with Thai basil along a beveled bar reminiscent of Belle Époque Paris while taking in multicolored tiles and custom wallpaper of spliced iconic images. “Our sashimi melts in your mouth, but you also need something to look at,” says Travaglia. (Bar Crudo, 40 South Pointe Drive, Miami Beach; 305-763-8508; barcrudomiami.com.)
The Cypress RoomOld Florida chronicler Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings would feel right at home in Michael Schwartz’s Cypress Room, where retro, regional decor enhances fine eating. Its name comes forth in pecky paneling and an adorable, seven-seat bar that’s just the setting to order a Calle Ocho made of rum and hibiscus liqueur shaken to a froth and garnished with nasturtium. An Instagram-worthy cocktail deserves an equally gorgeous appetizer—roasted and smoked baby beets sprinkled with their green tops and pistachios. It’s all the better surrounded by taxidermied and wallpaper critters denoting the locale, further sealed through a seafoam green, tufted banquette. “We aim to strike a balance between the masculine and feminine,” says Schwartz, who attracts lunching ladies and businessmen alike—all foodies in the end. (The Cypress Room, 3620 NE Second Avenue, Miami; 305-520-5197; thecypressroom.com.)