Miami has no shortage of restaurants and cuisines to try. Here is a list of the best ethnic restaurants that serve their dishes traditionally and tastefully.
1. Versailles, Cuban, Little Havana.
Versailles is a Cuban food kingdom on Calle Ocho, or 8th Street, right in the heart of Little Havana. Everyone from late night locals dressed in glittering ball gowns, to domino players, U.S. presidents and busloads of tourists flock to Versailles for its seemingly endless menu of traditional Cuban food.
Why It’s Cool: Versailles is so authentic they’ll bring you the menu in Spanish first. If you’re out of practice or took French in high school, no worries, an English one is readily available.
What to Order: Don’t skip the complimentary crusty, buttery Cuban bread. The side dishes really shine; try plantains, sweet platanos maduros or double fried tostones. Picadillo (seasoned ground meat with olives, raisins and spices) and ropa vieja (Cuban-style pot roast) are two of the signature meat dishes. Wash everything down with a sugary Cuban coffee.
2. Matsuri, Japanese/Sushi, 57th Avenue and Bird Road, Coral Gables Area.
Situated in a strip mall and next to a liquor store, Matsuri’s location only makes the fresh fish and quality Japanese food all the more surprising. Matsuri, which has been a Miami institution since the late eighties, recently received a makeover matching the décor to the elegant and delicious plates they serve.
Why It’s Cool: Miami’s small Japanese community packs this place for the raw fish specialties, traditional cooked plates, Sapporos and sake––and because its prices are so reasonable considering how high quality the ingredients are.
What to Order: The menu’s house specialties will make you giggle, with names like “Mr. Bush’s 3 p.m.” (the surprise is a pretzel) and “Mickey’s Great Adventure in Florida”, but the real attention-getters are the plates that show off the fish on its own; the nigiri, chirashi and sashimi won’t let you down.
3. Tap Tap, Haitian, South Beach.
Tap Tap cabs are the colorful mode of transportation in Haiti and Tap Tap restaurant transports you to Haiti as soon as you step inside its colorful mural walls. It’s easy to drive past Tap Tap, whose tiny presence barely registers en route to bustling central South Beach, but it’s a cozy stop for a delicious dinner before heading onward for some dancing.
Why It’s Cool: Miami has a huge Haitian community, and with Tap Tap they’ve made a veritable stamp on the culinary scene.
What to Order: The names are a mouthful, as are the portions. Start with the lanbi pike nan ji sitwon (conch salad), and then try the kabrit nan sos (goat stew), or the pwason gwosel (poached whole yellowtail snapper).
4. Casa Tua, Italian, South Beach.
Casa Tua, or ‘your house’ in Italian, is so enchanting and romantic anyone would want to make it his or her home. The restaurant is perched on the terrace of a luxurious Mediterranean Revival villa on a quiet street in South Beach. Romantic tree-hung lanterns, a family style table set with fresh flowers, and the menu that resembles a family album are just a few of the loving touches at Casa Tua––but the food is what takes center stage.
Why It’s Cool: Casa Tua used to be a private club, but has since been opened to the public.
What to Order: Start with the burrata, a creamy cousin of mozzarella, then try the tagliolini with stone crab and zucchini, or the seared lamb chop.
5. Mykonos, Greek, Coral Way.
There’s nothing fancy about Mykonos––a neon blue sign welcomes diners into the simple, white-washed diner decorated with photographs of Greece on the walls. You can hear the rumbling of cars driving along busy Coral Way as you ponder the menu’s many traditional options. Mykonos has been family owned for over 30 years, and has a devoted clientele.
Why It’s Cool: You can eavesdrop on gossip in Greek as you pay your check at the cashier – if it’s not all Greek to you.
What to Order: Their delicious and tender lamb, which is offered in several different preparations.
6. Francesco, Peruvian, Coral Gables.
Francesco first opened in the Port of Callao in Peru, followed by a second location in Lima. Its third location brought Francesco to American shores, specifically the Zagat-heavy Miami neighborhood of Coral Gables.
Why It’s Cool: In addition to the aforementioned spots, they have one in Buenos Aires, Argentina, making this the only stateside location.
What to Order: Peruvian cuisine’s quintessential claim to fame: ceviche.
7. Daily Bread, Middle Eastern, US–1 and SW 27th St.
Pop into the Daily Bread, grab a shwarma platter, then wander the aisles of this casual restaurant and Middle Eastern supermarket. At Daily Bread they take tradition seriously, making their own baklava and pita bread the authentic way, without fancy-shmancy touches, but with the simple ingredients that have kept them popular for so long.
Why It’s Cool: You can eat falafel, then buy some Arabic CDs, a hookah or an evil-eye keychain.
What to Order: The hummus platters, served with tabouli, pita bread and salad, are a great accompaniment to a an entrée of lamb, kibbeh, or beef.
8. Le Bouchon du Grove, French, Coconut Grove.
Le Bouchon du Grove is colorful, chaotic, full of characters––just like its namesake neighborhood. Nestled between the boozy bars of Coconut Grove, Le Bouchon is a thriving culinary staple in the area. The menu is typically French, with hints of South Floridian fare a la lobster salad with roasted mango and fennel.
Why It’s Cool: Not trendy, Le Bouchon feels like a tiny place you might stumble into in France: the walls advertise the owner’s favorite soccer team, and the ambience buzzes with the excited chatter of good conversation.
What to Order: Their classic French onion soup is a perfect appetizer; be sure to try the fish (choose from snapper, sea bass, tuna and salmon).
9. Xixon, Spanish, Coral Way.
Xixon, run by an Austrian husband and wife team, offers the best tapas available outside of Spain. Xixon’s rapidly growing group of devotees is partly responsible for their move to a new mega-space only blocks from the original. Now, more people can enjoy their delicious small plates.
Why It’s Cool: During the World Cup, this was the unofficial-official spot for Spanish fans to drink imported beers, with flags tied around their necks.
What to Order: The charcuterie, cheese plates and tapas are so good it’s hard to save room for the entrees.
10. Mr. Yum, Little Havana, Asian Fusion.
Mr. Yum bills itself as an Asian restaurant, but “fusion” should be tagged on. Mr. Yum’s clean white walls and pillows splashed with graphic red prints will make you feel like you’re inside a giant Marrimekko swatch. The crowd is chic and well-heeled, even if the neighborhood isn’t, and there’s plenty of parking in the adjacent private lots.
Why It’s Cool: After dinner at trendy Mr. Yum, you can go dancing at Hoy Como Ayer, the most authentic salsa spot in town, where big wigs like Celia Cruz have performed in past.
What to Order: Tropics inspired sushi and Thai specialties like the Masaman curry.
*Article by The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.