Miami Beach is ground zero for Miami Spice. Wherever you turn, there’s a swanky hotel restaurant offering you the deal of a lifetime (or at least the deal of an evening).
Knowing where to start is tough, though. The sheer number of Beach restaurants offering Spice is not insignificant (85, if you count Mid- and North-Beach).
And then there’s the eternal question: Should I stick with what I know or try something new. Eat at an old favorite like Byblos or try a new spot like Habitat.
Don’t worry. We can guide you on your dining journey. Here are some of our favorite Miami Beach Spice menus.
The Bazaar by José Andrés
What we had: The regular menu at Bazaar by José Andrés is an epic 60-dishes-and-counting pageant of small plates so don’t be surprised when you get the Miami Spice menu and see over a dozen choices to create what amounts to a five-course tasting odyssey. Each diner gets to choose one dish from the snacks, verduros tradicional, fruits and vegetables, carnes y mariscos and dessert of course. Plates start out small with bites of “bagels and lox” - a singular cone of creme fraiche and salmon roe - and get progressively bigger as you go down the list. Mix classics like patatas bravas with their take on a caprese salad that includes orbs of liquid mozzarella. Don’t miss the Cuban coffee-rubbed rib eye with passion fruit sauce and the classic chicken and bechamel croquetas. Desserts of deconstructed key lime pie and S’mores chocolate cake keep the innovative culinary shenanigans going for a sweet finish.
Who should go: Adventurous eaters looking to have a taste of award-winning chef Jose Andres’s whimsical take on Spanish tapas. The more people the better, with an long menu of choices.
— Sara Liss
The Bazaar by José Andrés, 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
What we had: This Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, located in the Royal Palm Hotel on South Beach, is a perpetual Spice favorite, with an outstanding menu and a lush but welcoming vibe. Kick the evening off with a habibi marguerite: chili-spiced strawberry tea, cilantro lime and Don Julio tequila ($30 for a two-person serving; $60 for a four person serving). Unlike most Spice menus, Byblos offers the choice of two appetizers, and one of them really should be the roasted red beets. All things lamb are popular here, but we really loved the Ora King Salmon with harissa, sumac, citrus and creme fraiche and the Middle Eastern Fried Chicken with tahini, za’atar and housemade hot sauce (note: no hyperbole here; this sauce is hot). Supplemental items include an addictive black truffle pide with buffalo mozzarella, halloumi and tartufata ($10 extra) and a delicious grilled whole branzino with chermoula and saffron toum ($15 extra). Both are worth the higher price..
Who should go: Diners who want to improve their brunch game. While the dinner options are fabulous, Byblos is also offering a brunch Spice menu for the first time, and you don’t want to miss it. Try the Byblos Big Breakfast with za’atar fried eggs, halloumi, tomato, harissa potatoes and pita or the buttermilk qatayef pancakes with rose cream, pistachio, pomegranate and date syrup. Afterward, all other pancakes are subpar forever. Let’s hope Byblos keeps this brunch menu when Spice is over.
— Connie Ogle
Byblos, 1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
What we had: Way too many carbs. Try (key word) to show some self-control and not indulge in the decadently delicious, buttery flatbread set out before your meal with baba ganoush that melts in your mouth. Waiters at this festive “Mediterranean inspired” spot serve you family style, meaning the portions are on the sizable side. Of the nush nush (“snack” in Hebrew), the Spanish grilled octopus with chimichurri and lebaneh (cheese spread) was unforgettably juicy and tender, with just the right amount of spice. Of the mains, the Chicken Tagine, with touches of saffron, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric, is a party for your mouth.
Who should go: Singletons and fun couples looking for a party atmosphere, but with good food and an evocative “Arabian Nights” atmosphere.
— Maddy Marr
Cleo South Beach at the Redbury Hotel, 1776 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Fi’lia South Beach
What we had: Fi’lia South Beach delivers a more intimate and laid-back experience than its buzzy big sister in Brickell. If you’re joining for dinner, start with the tempura-fried zucchini flower (promise it’s a lot lighter than it sounds) or the polpettine al sugo, a mini beef meatball served with Pomodoro and ricotta cheese. The risotto al funghi misti — served with wild mushroom and marscapone — and the charcoal jumbo Madagascar shrimp won our votes for best entrees. And for dessert, Fi’lia’s selection of fruit sorbet is the perfect treat to combat Miami’s summertime heat.
Who should go: Couples looking for a quiet and casual spot to do date night. Families will also feel at ease here, especially given all the kid-friendly menu options like truffle fries during lunch, crispy calamari during dinner, and pizza — lots and lots of delicious pizza.
Fi’lia, 1610 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Forte dei Marmi
What we had: Walking into this cream-colored building in posh SoFi feels like stepping into an elegant Tuscan villa. From the wait staff who banter in Italian to the fresh herbs cut tableside that get sprinkled into a dish of olive oil for the complimentary focaccia bread service, everything here feels like dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy. We dove into the Spice menu ordering the zucchini blossoms stuffed with red prawns and the grilled octopus with warm potato and celery salad, both lovely starters. For mains there’s a choice of Spaghetti Alla Vongole with Bottarga, a linguine with zucchini, branzino filet, lamb chop and veal loin. We loved the spaghetti with clams, hitting all the right notes with the perfect amount of garlic, olive oil and briny bottarga. The veal loin was a generous portion and came with delicious porcini mushrooms and roasted potatoes. For dessert we could not pass up the restaurant’s famous Honey Onyx pistachio gelato, a heaping mountain of creamy pistachio soft serve (normally a hefty $26 dessert on the menu, so a steal for Spice) and the coconut panna cotta served with berries sauteed tableside.
Who should go: Couples looking for a romantic date spot and Italian food purists craving an authentic-yet-upscale take on regional Italian cuisine.
— Sara Liss
Forte dei Marmi, 150 Ocean Dr. South Beach.
Jaya at the Setai
What we had: Chef Vijayudu Veena executes exquisite Asian dishes and the options are plentiful. We went with the Truffle Dumplings (because, truffles). These beautifully prepared scallop dumplings were shown off in a truffle emulsion sauce and shaved truffles. We kept it in the seafood family with the Taandoor Baked Chilean Sea Bass in a cilantro mint marinade, with crispy shallots and tamarind chutney, which gave it a wild, citrusy flavor. We finished off our meal with the Masala Chai Creme Brûlée with spiced chantilly and Pistachio Biscotti.
Who should go: If you love Asian cuisine and scene-y South Beach, book a rezzie at Jaya and thank me later.
— Kathy Buccio
Jaya at the Setai, 2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
What we had: Chef Thanawat Bates’ take on Spanish comfort food is more than comforting. It’s so good it can change your mind about things you’re wary of, like kale. Hard to believe but true. The truffle kale salad - with black kale, truffle pecorino, candied ginger pecans and pickled lemon vinaigrette - is the perfect appetizer for sharing. Urge your better half to order the outstanding Spanish octopus appetizer, served with marble potatoes, piquillo, activated charcoal and labneh, and share that, too. The best choice for dinner is the pan seared Ora King Salmon from New Zealand with herbs and chimichurri. Liven the evening up with one of the specialty cocktails named after famous Miami figures, like The D Wade (Brockman’s gin, Giffard PampleMousse, lemon juice, cucumber, basil, ginger beer and Peychaud’s.). The cocktail lives up to its namesake.
Who should go: Couples, friends and large family groups have room to spread throughout the dining room, which is calmer and more relaxed than the banging rooftop bar upstairs.
- Connie Ogle
Habitat at 1 Hotel South Beach, 2341 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Leynia at Delano
What we had: Chef Jose Icardi has brought the joys of the Argentine grill to the Delano Hotel, and what joys they are. Sit outside on the covered patio with a view of the famous Delano pool and order a glass of crisp, perfect Albariño or slightly chilled Malbec. Leynia generously offers seven appetizers on its Miami Spice menu, so you have some decisions to make. Trust me and choose the following: oysters ceviche (which is just what you think it is, oysters served ceviche-style) or the homemade empanadas (beef and chicken; both meaty and delicious). Meat lovers will love the perfectly cooked churrasco, but do yourself a favor and make someone at the table order the chef’s deconstructed eggplant parmesan. It’s so good your Italian grandmother would be proud.
Who should go: Fans of great Argentine cuisine and anybody who wants a reason to return to the Delano.
-- Connie Ogle
Leynia, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Lobster Bar Sea Grille
What we had: Ummm, lobster, but of course. This upscale hotspot is a seafood lover’s dream, with white tablecloths, impeccable service and ridiculously fresh fish. The sprawling, elegant dining room is the perfect setting to enjoy one of the most decadent dinners you’ll likely have during Miami Spice. You haven’t lived until you tried the lightly fried Nova Scotia lobster tail served alongside a six ounce petit filet mignon. The dish carries an $8 supplemental fee but your wallet won’t regret it. If lobster isn’t your thing (we’ve heard these people exist), you can’t go wrong with the Arctic Char “Unilateral,” flaky, light and delicious and served with baby Tuscan kale and quinoa with Santorini capers. Definitely a meal to remember.
Who should go: Anyone who is looking for a fine dining experience with fantastic seafood with waiters who are so attentive they know what you want even before the idea pops into your head. Bring your table manners.
-- Maddy Marr
Lobster Bar Sea Grille, 404 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
Los Fuegos at Faena
What we had: Argentine super chef Francis Mallmann is the mastermind behind this gaucho-inspired restaurant at the posh Faena Miami Beach. As such, expect rustic Argentine and Patagonian specialties like oxtail croquetas and “tortilla de papa” for appetizers. For mains we loved the rib eye churrasco with grilled polenta while the local snapper comes with an intriguing rice salad and yogurt and tahini sauce. Desserts keep things simple with a dulce de leche tart and a vanilla profiterole with grilled mango.
Who should go: Fans of Francis Mallmann’s “open flame” style of cooking and those looking to have a glam night at the Faena without breaking the bank.
Los Fuegos, 3201 Collins Ave.
What we had: We started with their signature Mandrake Maki made with salmon, crab, hamachi, tuna, and creamy jalapeño. The Butter Lettuce Salad is also a must if only for the yuzu, truffle and wasabi dressing. The Grilled Black Angus Tenderloin with Kabocha puree was exceptionally tender and juicy in every bite. Finish with the mochi dessert for ultimate refreshment.
Who Should Go: For the foodie that loves a trendy scene and exceptional sushi, this is the spot to go with a crew of girlfriends (or boyfriends).
— Kathy Buccio
Mandrake, 210 23rd St., Miami Beach
What we had: Food is almost beside the point at this South Beach party spot, which is about sun, beach vibes and booze, but hey, it’s Miami Spice time, so let’s eat while we day drink, shall we? All three of the appetizers on the Spice menu are good, but the standout is the Sexy Salad, with lobster, shrimp, crab meat, kanikama, avocado, mango, cucumber, tobiko and lime aioli. For an entree we recommend the Spaghetti aux Fruits de Mer, with sauteed shrimp, clams, mussels, garlic, tomatoes and red pepper flakes (it’s a little spicy, but not enough to make you sweat). Speaking of sweating: dress appropriately. Umbrellas will shade you, but you’re still eating outside in the Florida summer. Cool off with a mango smoothie or - even better - chilled rosé.
Who should go: People who enjoy day drinking.
— Connie Ogle
Nikki Beach, 1 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach
Traymore by Michael Schwartz
What we had: The tropical flavors of Florida are alive in Traymore’s Miami Spice Menu. Start off with the minty Red Shrimp Ceviche flavored with lemongrass aguachile, cucumber and red onion. It was tough to decide between the Wok Charred Bavette or the Traymore Ramen, but I went for the Ramen and it was pork belly heaven. A hearty mixture of udon noodles, spicy wakame and crispy leeks in a smoked pork broth makes it a winner. Dessert calls for Black Rice Pudding - a sweet trifecta of toasted coconut, sweetened milk and mango.
Who Should Go: Michael Schwartz loyalists will not be disappointed. The space is airy and bright like his other new concept in Edgewater, Amara at Paraiso, but Traymore maintains the architectural spirit of Art Deco. Design buffs and those who prefer locally sourced ingredients and sustainability in general, will have deep appreciation for Traymore.
— Kathy Buccio
Traymore by Michael Schwartz, 2445 Collins Ave., Miami Beach