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Miami: A Food Lover's Guide to South Beach

by Moderator January 2011 - last edited April 2013

Contemporary yet harking back to a bygone era, elegant but gloriously informal, South Beach is the classic Miami stereotype in dazzling, sunlit technicolour, complete with swaying palms and turquoise sea, not to mention the curious folk who populate it and the streamlined, pastel-hued Art Deco architecture standing sentry just beyond.

So what's the best way to take it all in? We reckon a great start is by getting to grips with the excellent restaurants, pavement cafés, stylish bistros and great value diners of South Beach. Here's our pick of the very best: from breakfast through till waaaay into the night...

 

Blingin' Breakfast - News Café

As the queen of Ocean Drive's sidewalk eateries, the glamorous News Café is the ultimate people-watching venue and a South Beach landmark. Wait for an outside table to truly appreciate the experience, and sit back and enjoy the show.

 

 

News Café, South Beach, Miami by Elin B on Flickr

News Café, South Beach, Miami by Elin B on Flickr

 

Breakfast here is a big deal; many seem to have honed the art of making it last all morning. Start with a fresh papaya juice - you are in the tropics after all - and follow with a super-strong Cuban coffee. Food-wise, there's a wide choice of classic American morning staples - pancakes or French toast with maple syrup, bagels with cream cheese, and a bewildering array of hot dishes (the 'Egg News Benedict' might possibly last you all day). The health-conscious will find plenty of 'light' choices on the menu too, including yoghurt, nuts, fresh fruit and low-fat bran muffins. Just inside there's a news stand with a collection of local and international newspapers, if you can't face watching any more of the beautiful people drift by.

News Cafe, 800 Ocean Drive (at 8th Street), Miami

A Lazy Lunch - BLT Steak at The Betsy Hotel

BLT Steak at The Betsy Hotel © BLT Steak

BLT Steak at The Betsy Hotel © BLT Steak

 

BLT Steak, which stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel and not the famous British sandwich, is a top-class but easygoing beachfront eaterie located in the beautifully restored Betsy Hotel, at the northern end of Ocean Drive.

The Miami outpost of the famous restaurateur's BLT empire is a modern American steakhouse, with an 80-seat outside patio overlooking the Atlantic and an interior restaurant that occupies the hotel's stunning lobby. You'd be amiss to forgo the signature meat dishes here of course, especially with the certifed American Wagyu and Kobe beef being prepared to such exacting French standards, but if it's a slightly lighter experience you're seeking try one of the innovative salads - the Tuna Tartare and the 5-Spice Asian are both excellent.

BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami

Afternoon Coffee & Cakes - The Café at Books & Books

Located in the heart of the Lincoln Road pedestrianized shopping district, Books & Books is Miami's best-loved bookstore and home to one of South Florida's finest collections of art, design, architecture and photography tomes. But that's not all - the coffee and cakes at the Books & Books café are among the best in town.

 

 

The Café at Books & Books, South Beach, Miami

Books & Books, South Beach, Miami

 

In addition to the relaxed pavement setting, there's more seating in the wide covered entrance shared with neighbour Design Within Reach, a modern furniture and accessories emporium.

After a good browse through both, you'll be just about ready to grab something from the extensive magazine selection and settle down for the afternoon. The entire coffee menu is available hot or iced, and if your sweet tooth is calling, go for a portion of the Cuatro Leches - a traditional Cuban dessert topped with meringue, or a decadent slice of Mango Blossom cake.

The Café at Books & Books, 927 Lincoln Road, Miami

Fine Dining - Blue Door Fish, Delano

As you sweep through the white draped, cathedral-height lobby of the drop-dead gorgeous Delano hotel, your walk to the Blue Door Fish restaurant at its rear will give you a 10-second insight into the daily lives of South Beach's elite. This is arguably the place to be seen in Miami, and you may well feel like you've just wandered onto the set of the next Calvin Klein commercial.

 

 

Blue Door Fish, Delano, Miami © Morgans Hotel Group

Blue Door Fish, Delano, Miami © Morgans Hotel Group

 

With the restaurant's decor every bit as chic as its average diner, can its modern seafood-centric fare compete? Fear not. This is the home of lauded chef Claude Troisgros who describes his style as 'French technique with a Brazilian touch', and while his newly updated menu may have been designed with the image-conscious in mind, the emphasis is firmly on high-end, exquisitely prepared fish dishes.

If you're here on a balmy night, dine al fresco on the leafy low-lit terrace overlooking the pool. The delectable scallops or ceviche appetizers will set the standard for what's to come, so follow with the delicately flavourful Loup Cajou (pan-seared Chilean seabass with hearts of palm and soy-glazed cashews) or the sesame-crusted tuna tataki roll. The sublime Boeuf Gorgonzola will wow any committed carnivores, but for the ultimate blowout go for the restaurant's signature dish, Hommard Banana; roasted Maine lobster with caramelized banana in a coriander-lime sauce - perfect for a special occasion. And if you've got something to celebrate, this is definitely the place to come.

Blue Door Fish at the Delano, 1685 Collins Ave, Miami

All Night Grub - The 11th Street Diner

You won't find anything more all-American in Miami than this gleaming, original Art Deco diner on the intersection of 11th Street and Washington Avenue. It lived in Pennsylvania for 44 years before being dismantled and moved to South Beach's Art Deco district, where it was painstakingly restored to its original state before re-opening its doors in September 1992.

 

 

11th Street Diner, South Beach, Miami by Phillip Pessar on Flickr

11th Street Diner, South Beach, Miami by Phillip Pessar on Flickr

 

Besides being utterly authentic down to the tiniest detail (hence its popular use as a filming location, including music videos by the Bee Gees and Will Smith), the menu is deservingly celebrated too. Voted one of the best five diners in the USA by Food Network and winner of multiple Zagat awards, its traditional diner favourites - milkshakes, malts, 15 different types of burger, baked apple pie and cheesecake - are especially praised. But the best thing about this place, other than it being open 24 hours, is that unlike many of its fast-food competitors, the 11th Street Diner also offers a really wide variety of high-quality, healthy-eating options too: plenty of interesting salads, vegetables, fresh fruit bowls, granola and cereals. There's genuinely something for everyone.

11th St. Diner, 1065 Washington Ave, Miami 

Virgin Atlantic operate daily flights to Miami from London Heathrow and you will always find the very best fares on our website or visit Virgin Holidays for a tailor-made trip.

If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Miami, the Delano (home of the Blue Door Fish) is a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partner hotel, so members of our frequent flyer programme can earn miles with every night they stay.

Many thanks to Phillip Pessar and Elin B on Flickr for the great photos.

Do you have any more recommendations for places to eat in Miami? Share them with us in the comments below.


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January 2011
Now you're making me really hungry ;-)

And I love the pic of that diner...

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VirginAtlantic1 January 2011
just a step from the beach. And if you ever manage to drag yourself away for a bite to eat, our food lover’s guide to Miami will send you in the right direction.Romance in the Big Apple at the Mondrian SohoFor the ultimate
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Dixons April 2011
All decent choices, however the food at Blue Room is quite poor if a seafood lover (Asian, Peruvians listen up).

Also do by all means avoid anything Asian in Miami, as a current Londonite and former Miami resident I am doing everyone a favor. What Miami does well is one thing, Latin food. It's spectacular and authentic.

Miami in general is considered one of the worst coastal food cities in the entire US by serious American travellers. If you're up for the trip, and still want a beach head to Honolulu. Undoubtedly the finest city beach in the world. The actual "beach" at South Beach is very dirty, and South Beach itself has regressed considerably over the past decade. Posh shopping has gone far north to Bal Harbour, and many shops close their doors for holidays due to the sporadic violence and poor clientele who flood South Beach 3-4 times a year.

A shame, was quite a nice place once.

Tuesday night however, dress nicely.....be with a beautiful woman and enjoy th Delano lounge. If you can do neither of those, you won't get in. That's the only world class nightlife left in Miami.

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DennisA November 2011
Miami South Beach has to be the start for any "newcomer" to the City. Don't be put off by negative comments. Okay, some of the hotels are not as good as the brochures show, but to worry about where you're laying your head to sleep is totally ridiculous. Get the most from the weather, the people, the food, the bars. If you travel so far just for sun and sand then you've more money than sense. Remember that Florida is virtually as big as Great Britain, there's so much to do and see that 2 weeks isn't really long enough. A visit to Bay Front Market, right alongside the port, is quite an experience in itself. Even the Holocaust Memorial, if you've got any soul in you, is something you will NEVER forget.
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About the author: Maxine

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.