Last updated: 03:00 AM ET, Tue October 20 2015

Opinion Home | The Main Course

  • Charu Suri | October 20, 2015 3:00 AM ET

    Take a Bite Out Of Miami's Foodie Scene

    Take a Bite Out Of Miami's Foodie Scene

    PHOTO: Scarpetta at Fontainebleau Miami Beach (pictured) is just one of the many restaurants elevating Miami's culinary profile. (Courtesy of Fontainebleau Miami Beach)

    The image of Miami conjures up a suited, sprinting Michael Weston in "Burn Notice," youngsters giggling through Spring Break, and twinkling nightclub lights that never seem to wane; but it’s time to peer through a culinary lens, thanks to the city’s robust restaurant scene.

    The Continental, Stephen Starr’s latest eatery on Miami Beach, is one of the most recent and popular entrants, with a throwback glamor feel. It bears a name that is a tribute to Starr’s 20-year-old restaurant in Philadelphia. With shareable dishes and a focus on cocktails, the restaurateur’s fourth South Florida outpost has a distinctly 1950’s vibe, with plenty of botanical motifs, geometric designs and a dash of neon that screams out the name of the restaurant.

    The Nautilus, a SIXTY outpost with 250 oceanfront rooms, opened on Oct. 15 after a renovation. Originally designed by Art Deco master Morris Lapidus (most famous for Fontainebleau), the hotel has a mid-century jetsetter mindset with a restaurant headed by Alex Guarnaschelli who also helms New York City’s Butter.  The Driftwood Room will feature Mediterranean cuisine and Florida ingredients as fresh as they come.

    Chefs are quick to acknowledge the growth in eateries. Myles Chefetz, owner of the Myles Restaurant Group (Prime 112, Prime Italian, Prime Fish, Big Pink) says that since he opened his first South Florida restaurant in 1995, he’s seen Miami evolve in a remarkable way. “I fell in love with Miami Beach many years ago and the dynamic culinary scene has helped attract more and more residents and tourists each year,” he said, citing food as a big draw these days in addition to the cultural scene of Art Basel and Wynwood.

    Over the past year alone, areas like Midtown have seen a surge in gastropubs, artisanal cheese shops and fine restaurants. Popular places (often packed to the brim and tough to get a seat in unless you make a reservation well in advance) include Lure Fishbar, Hakkasan and Scarpetta at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, and CENA by Michelle Bernstein (fondly known as Michy) which reopened this summer after 10 months of renovation.

    In other words, these places have lines way longer than a Starbucks smack in the middle of Times Square. But that doesn’t mean the atmosphere is stuffy.

    On a recent visit to Fontainebleau Miami Beach, I saw crowds creep into the open bar area in the lobby well before sunset and make their way in leisurely fashion towards Michael Mina’s Stripsteak. The service was upbeat and informed (the restaurant also sells pre-Embargo Cuban cigars for $70 as a growing response to the country’s allure, with fillers wrapped in shade-grown dominican rosado) but decidedly relaxed, a pace in keeping with the soft ocean waves you could hear if you stepped on the patio.

    Naturally, in the spirit of throwdowns and friendly competition, there’s bound to be some fun associated with the culinary scene. The Arts + Entertainment District in Miami, a growing downtown neighborhood from 21st Street on Biscayne Bay/North Miami Avenue, has an ongoing community-driven contest: The Search for Miami’s Next Great Restaurant Concept. They’ve nailed down 11 semi-finalists and the winner will compete in a live cook-off on Nov. 19; the lucky finalist will receive a year’s worth of free-rent space in this district.

    And there are many more restaurants that have contributed to the city’s growing visitor population (over 14 million in 2014) and more on the way. Jaya, a modern Asian-inspired restaurant with executive chef Mathias Gervais, will open at the Setai in late November. The Brooklyn eatery, Momo Sushi Shack, is currently a casual resident at Mondrian South Beach and will extend its stay through Art Basel.

    In the end, as I’ve begun to increasingly observe in travel these days, food is the unifier, the dimension that draws people to a destination and inspires creativity and long-lasting memories.

    Miami’s nightlife still casts its spell on the crowds, but it is safe to say that the world-class and competitive culinary scene –with its mix of star power and rising hopefuls—will be the reason to visit in the immediate years to come.

More Miami


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Charu Suri The Main Course

Charu Suri Charu Suri is a freelance travel writer who frequently contributes to publications that include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN and Sherman's Travel. She loves language, history and music, and has been traveling since she was three years old. Charu often travels with her three-year-old daughter, Erika, and is working on a book on coffee.
Experience Alaska With Holland America Line

Cruise Lines & Cruise Ships