Sunshine is Calling: The Best Hotels, Bars, and Restaurants in Miami

Sure, Miami is filled with beaches, babes, and frozen drinks galore, but it’s also one of the most culinary diverse cities in America.

From Cuban food to the classic fare of the American South, this Florida town is as rich in ethnic and art culture as it is a destination for crystal blue waters and white sand beaches. These are the best spots eat, drink, stay, and explore in the tropical tip of the Sunshine State.

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Wynwood Walls

The late Tony Goldman saw potential in the windowless warehouses of Wynwood, and his vision has transformed the neighborhood into one of the best places to see street art in America. Artists have come from all over the world to contribute to the space and have covered 80,000 square feet of walls since its inception. It’s the kind of public forum you wish would show up in your neighborhood, giving locals and tourists alike a place to gather day or night, socialize, and enjoy the creative energy of the best artists in the world. Come as you are and leave feeling inspired.

wynwood walls miami
Amanda Gabriele/The Manual
Amanda Gabriele/The Manual

The Everglades

Whoever said swampland is an eyesore could have fooled us. We were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the protected tropical wetlands could be as we climbed into our airboat for a sunset ride through the Everglades, especially in the golden hour of a perfect spring day in South Florida. Located about an hour west of Miami, there’s a good chance you’ll see some alligators, more than 350 species of birds, 27 different kinds of snakes, and many mammals, all living in this extraordinary protected environment. We suggest grabbing some beers and catching a late afternoon ride.

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Zak the Baker

Zak Stern, aka Zak the Baker, has been providing the bread for Miami’s best restaurants for years. Now he has his own outpost in Wynwood where he serves his famous bread and pastries, plus some delicious coffee and matcha drinks to give you a morning jolt or mid-afternoon pick-me-up. We arrived to the bakery around 4 p.m., and while they were out of some things, we were happy with the selection (and the fact that there was no line). We bought a wonderful loaf of bread that we ate for breakfast during the duration of our stay, along with a delicious chocolate babka and potato croquette. We suggest visiting the colorful bakery at the beginning of your trip to stock up, or on your last day so you can bring a taste of his delicious baked goods home with you.

Shinola

We’re big fans of Detroit-based Shinola’s watches and leather goods, so you should definitely check out the brand’s Miami store when you’re exploring the Wynwood neighborhood. The light-filled corner space has all the goods on display, including their beautiful bicycles. Stop in after grabbing a pastry from Zak the Baker and coffee from Panther.

Eat and Drink

Beaker & Gray

This light-filled eatery is the perfect place for a midday meal, whether you sit at the long bar or take a high table in the corner sunroom. The menu of globally-inspired small plates encourages sharing, especially if your dining companions appreciate interesting ingredient combinations. We went for lunch and sampled a variety of delicious dishes: chicken wings with brown sugar, tamarind, and sesame; heirloom tomatoes with coconut, cilantro, and pickled shallot; a black kale salad; and octopus with couscous, feta, olives, and tahini. Take a meal at Beaker & Gray to fuel up before exploring the nearby Wynwood Walls.

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Amanda Gabriele/The Manual
Amanda Gabriele/The Manual

Mignonette
Opened by the team behind Blue Collar (another one of our favorite Miami spots), this downtown eatery serves some of the freshest, most no-nonsense seafood in the city. Start with the oyster flight and order more than you think you want, because we definitely went back for seconds. The lobster deviled eggs and crispy skin snapper are not to be missed. Mignonette’s veggie sides shine. We suggest the roasted golden beets with pecan gremolata and smoked blue cheese, brussels sprouts with bacon vinaigrette, and roasted cauliflower with smoked trout roe mayo. Grab a table or sit at the gorgeous raw bar to watch the chefs in action.

Bazaar Mar

Not only do we love chef José Andrés for his amazing food, we’re all about supporting people with inspiring characters. He was just named 2018 humanitarian of the year by the James Beard Foundation for his hard work on food and hunger issues, most recently in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Do-gooding aside, Bazaar Mar is a fantastic restaurant with a gorgeous design and affordable tasting menu. We sprung for the $75 “Introduction to Bazaar Mar” and indulged in seven delicious courses that highlighted different specialties and preparations. José’s Asian Taco — made with Ibérico bellota ham, cured hamachi, osetra caviar, Korean seaweed, and ginger — is a must, as is the wood fire-grilled Cobia steak. We also loved the Seafood Butifarra, a house-made seafood and pork sausage served with pan de cristal with tomato. Stop into the gorgeous adjoining Bar Centro for a pre-dinner cocktail.

Bazaar Mar's Pan de Cristal
Bazaar Mar’s Pan de Cristal Bazaar Mar

27 Restaurant & Bar

Tucked inside the Freehand Miami, 27 Restaurant & Bar is by far one of the most eclectic meals we’ve ever had. The menu draws inspiration from South America, the Caribbean, and Middle East, and encourages sharing, especially if you arrive with a large group. Start with the cauliflower steak, which is prepared with pistachio pesto and Parmesan, before moving on to the mains. We loved the kimchi fried rice, Florida middleneck clams with a spicy sambal-miso sauce, and the house made arepa platter with ropa vieja (shredded beef) and queso de mano. But the star of the show was the chicken pot pie, a massive, deconstructed version of the dish that was dressed with shredded filo and the creamiest mashed potatoes we’ve ever had. Definitely explore the cocktail list, and save room for a nightcap at the award-winning courtyard bar Broken Shaker.

Taquiza

This traditional Mexican taqueria is one of our favorite places to grab a quick bite in South Beach. Taquiza makes their own tortillas and chips daily by grinding organic, non-GMO blue masa, which are filled with mouth-watering meats and veggies. Try the al pastor — made with pork, achiote, and pineapple — or the carnitas, pork cooked with orange and cinnamon. They even have grasshoppers and lengua for more adventurous eaters.

taquiza
Justin Harter/Taquiza
Justin Harter/Taquiza

Scarpetta
While we’ve eaten at the New York location of Scarpetta many times, we loved the Miami outpost even more — probably because the seafood is that much more amazing down south. Located inside the historic Fontainebleau hotel, Scarpetta serves up refined Italian cuisine in a gorgeous setting. The bartenders mix a mean cocktail, and there’s no shortage of great wines, even if the list isn’t as extensive as the NYC location. We suggest starting with classic burrata and the creamy polenta with fricassee of truffled mushrooms. The classic spaghetti with tomato and basil and the duck and foie gras ravioli are must-try pastas, and the prawns dish was one of our favorite things we ate in all of Miami. Served with saffron potatoes, compound butter, and toasted filone, they were just the right amount of a spicy and an all-around perfect dish.

Cecconi’s
Located in the courtyard of Soho Beach House, Cecconi’s feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Miami Beach. We stopped in for lunch, took a seat at the bar, ordered a bottle of rosé, and basked in the beautiful setting. You can’t go wrong with a pizza, and the little gem salad topped with freshly seared salmon made for the perfect midday meal. Though Soho Beach House is a members-only club, Cecconi’s is open to the public and takes reservations seven days a week.

The Regent Cocktail Club

Tucked inside the gorgeous Gale South Beach Hotel, The Regent Cocktail Club is a classy cocktail oasis away from the often tourist-filled Collins Avenue. The bar features live music Monday through Thursday, and we were lucky enough to catch a fantastic three-piece Latin jazz band the night we were there. Ask the bartender to whip up an expertly-made Daiquiri, or have them suggest a dram from their extensive rum list. Settle into a plush bar seat or take your cocktail out to the patio and enjoy a cigar.

Gramps

You definitely want to drink at Gramps. Not only do they have great cocktails, we recommend supplementing your libation of choice with a $16 bottle of Champagne. Good beats are bumping whether you’re dancing in the sprawling backyard or tucked into a booth indoors. The vibe is lively, fun, and unpretentious, the kind of laid-back spot we hope to find in every city. Look out for raucous karaoke nights and the weekly Thursday night drag show, which is truly a blast.

Sweet Liberty
It’s easy to see why Sweet Liberty won so many awards last year, including Best American High Volume Bar from Tales of the Cocktail. Mix together a friendly staff, cool surroundings, and damn good cocktails, and you have the formula for the kind of watering hole you wish was your neighborhood bar. Try the Que Piña made with The Botanist Gin, Green Chartreuse, and pineapple and sage shrub, or go for Katie’s Flower Shop, a delicious mix of El Tesoro Reposado, St. Germain, egg white, orange blossom, lemon, lavender, and a Pastis wash. They also have a wide selection of classic cocktails, solid food menu, and a great daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

El Patio Wynwood
The music from this outdoor hotspot can be heard around the block on most nights, so you know it’s going to be a good time from the moment you walk in. Early in the evening, El Patio serves up burgers and other tasty bar fare, along with cocktails, some of which are made with their homemade honey syrup that’s crafted from honeycombs raised in lychee fields for a tropical tinge. As the night wears on, DJs man the decks and the space turns into an all-out dance party. The night we were there, the clubby Latin music had every single person dancing, both on the floor and on the risers that line one side of the space. Note that there’s often a cover for guys, but that money can be used towards drinks.

Mondrian Bar
Often dubbed Sunset Bar, the poolside watering hole at South Beach’s Mondrian hotel is the place to catch the sun setting over Biscayne Bay and Downtown Miami. The bar’s perfectly timed 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour means you can sip $9 cocktails and two-for-one beers as you watch the sky turn deep hues of orange and pink. The scene is popping, so you can always expect good people watching and awesome tunes to set the mood.

the ultimate insiders guide to miami sunset at mondrian south beach

Stay

Mondrian South Beach
Situated on Biscayne Bay overlooking Downtown Miami’s ever-growing skyline, Mondrian South Beach is one of our favorite hotels in the city — even the country. Dutch designer Marcel Wanders created the hotel as an homage to “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle,” and his whimsical vision can be seen in every detail, from the artwork to the lobby’s “floating staircase.” Spring for a deluxe bay-view studio with balcony, which overlooks the stunning pool and features a ridiculously comfy king bed, large bathroom with rainfall shower, and small kitchen where you can sit down to breakfast or a light lunch. On-site restaurant Mondrian Caffè serves globally-inspired cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the indoor-outdoor Mondrian Bar offers stunning views of the sunset along with excellent wine and cocktails. The third floor gym has everything you need to stay fit on the go, and the GUYandGIRL spa will indulge you in an extensive list of treatments to help you relax and unwind. The Mondrian’s pool is perhaps our favorite part of the property. Sun starts to hit the lawn area of the deck around 11 a.m. and begins to spread to the crescent-shaped pool into the early afternoon hours. Jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards are available for rent so thrill-seekers can get their fix on Biscayne Bay. The Mondrian South Beach staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, which makes staying at the gorgeous, energetic property that much better.

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Mondrian South Beach
Mondrian South Beach

Nautilus, a SIXTY Hotel
Originally designed in the 1950s, Nautilus South Beach was restored and reopened in October 2015 as a SIXTY Hotel. Located smack dab in the middle of Miami’s Art Deco District, it’s central to everything and has a chiller atmosphere than many of the hotels in the area, a quality of which we couldn’t get enough. The gorgeous lobby is designed with plush seating areas, and the bar situated there is the perfect place to grab a nightcap, especially if you’ve been traveling all day. The rooms have a clean design, washed in blues and whites, and the whole property is filled with artwork inspired by global beach culture. The saltwater pool, backyard, and private beach club give you plenty of places to catch some rays. On-property restaurant Nautilus Cabana Club has an airy indoor-outdoor design and serves Mediterranean cuisine with a Miami flare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re looking for a quick breakfast to refuel after hitting the fitness center, the lobby’s Nauti Grind Coffee Shop serves La Colombe coffee along with Zak the Baker croissants and delicious David’s Cafe empanadas. We would recommend the Nautilus to anyone who wants a South Beach experience that’s lively and relaxing at the same time. They do it perfectly.