The Indulge 25: People, Places, Dishes and Drinks that are Firing Up Miami’s Food Scene

Chef Val Chang of Dizengoff in Wynwood is a Miami cook of Peruvian-Chinese descent who incorporates ingredients from her heritage into the restaurant's Israeli-style dishes. Photograph by Carina Mask.

Our exclusive list of the 25 local chefs, restaurants and others who are making a mark on Miami’s food and dining scene in 2018. 

RESTAURANTS, CHEFS & MARKETS

1. Shelley’s 

Shelley's South Miami Cleophus Hethington
Chef Cleophus Hethington of Shelley’s in South Miami. Photograph by Christina Mendenhall.INDULGE

 

A veteran of fine-dining restaurants like Alter, Ariete and Matador Room — not to mention an actual veteran, of the U.S. Navy — Cleophus Hethington is now cooking Southern-inspired seafood and more at Shelley’s in South Miami. Go for his thoughtful creations like wahoo and oxtail with sunchoke and garlic relish, or roasted carrots with cashew cream, dates and tarragon verde. Up next, Hethington and his partners are opening Over Under this spring in downtown Miami. Expect Old Florida charm meets modern Miami cool — and soulful food: goat nuggets with curry tomato jam, and jackfruit cobbler with drunken raisins. 5845 Sunset Drive, South Miami; 786-534-7830; shelleysmiami.com.

2. Amelia’s 1931

Amelia's 1931 Eileen Andrade alligator fried rice
Amelia’s 1931. Photograph by Gabriel Gutierrez.

 

Eileen Andrade changed Kendall’s culinary landscape with Finka Table & Tap, her Peruvian-Korean-Cuban gastropub. She’s worked her magic again with the recent opening of Amelia’s 1931. The name of the cozy Cuban-style diner is an homage to Andrade’s late grandmother, Amelia Garcia, born in 1931. Like Finka, it features creative comfort food with Andrade’s characteristic Asian twists: Peruvian arroz con pollo fritters, yuca tots with pulled pork and mariquita crumble, and alligator fried rice with Chinese beans are top contenders. 13601 Southwest 26th Street, Miami; 305-554-4949; amelias1931.com.

3. Three

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Grilled hearts of palm and squash salad at Three by Norman Van Aken. Photograph by Open i Studios.

 

Glamour and fine dining meet great flavors and a little flair at Three, one of three Norman Van Aken experiences on site at Wynwood Arcade: the restaurant, a rooftop bar called No. 3 Social and a new cooking school. Van Aken’s legendary Floribbean fusion is on display in dishes like grouper in charred banana leaf, and roasted duck with moonshine chutney. His son, Justin, is creating standout drinks behind the bar. Try the Smoke-it Banana: banana-infused bourbon, sweet vermouth and simple syrup garnished with a dry hibiscus flower and cinnamon stick, in a smoked glass. 50 Northwest 24th Street, Suite 101, Miami; 305-748-4540; threewynwood.com.

4. Sushi Club

Sushi Club Miracle Mile Coral Gables
Coral Gables by way of Buenos Aires at Sushi Club on Miracle Mile. Photograph by Carina Mask.INDULGE

 

Rethink everything you think you know about sushi when you visit this Argentine import, new to Coral Gables. Unconventional nigiri and rolls like the Made in Argentina (torch-seared N.Y. strip steak, chimichurri and hoisin sauce) and the Black on Black (black-pepper tuna tataki on squid-ink rice) have already earned a fierce following. Top rolls: The Camembert, which combines sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and caramelized onions, all covered with melted camembert and crunchy sweet-potato chips, and The Red Queen, with tuna, chipotle sauce and peanut praline. 127 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 786-864-1212; sushiclubweb.us.

5. Les Banh Amis

Banh mi sandwich wynwood
One of Scott Linquist’s creations at Les Banh Amis at the 1-800-Lucky market in Wynwood. Photograph by Carina Mask.INDULGE

 

He’s created Mexican-style street tacos for Coyo and deeply flavorful moles for the dearly departed Olla. Now Scott Linquist is pivoting to Southeast Asia with the Vietnamese sandwiches known as banh mi. Located in Wynwood’s hip Asian food market, 1-800-Lucky, Les Banh Amis’ proteins are prepared sous vide then finished on a charcoal grill. Linquist pickles all his veggies and makes his own sauces, layering it all on bread from Little Haiti’s Sullivan Street Bakery. These sandwiches are on another level. 143 Northwest 23rd Street, Miami; instagram.com/lesbanhamis.

6. Palme d’Or

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Chef Gregory Pugin at Palme d’Or. Photograph by The Biltmore Hotel.

 

If the Michelin Guide ever begins to rate Miami restaurants, you can bet its reviewers will find their way to the Biltmore Hotel’s Palme d’Or. French-born Chef Gregory Pugin, a Joël Robuchon protege who is celebrating his fifth year at the restaurant, earned a Michelin star while cooking in New York and Las Vegas. His seasonally changing tasting menus at Palme d’Or are exquisite and constantly reaching new heights. Paired with white-glove service, there’s hardly a better splurge restaurant in town. 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables; 305-913-3200; biltmorehotel.com.  

7. Cafe Curuba

egg salad sandwich coffee shop cafe curuba miami coral gables
The marvelous egg salad sandwich at Cafe Curuba gets a boost from avocado and Dijon mustard. Photograph by Christina Mendenhall.INDULGE

 

We love everything about Debbie Rabinovici’s quaint coffee shop, from its rotating selection of the freshest and most interesting Counter Culture brews in town to its light bites that are ideal for breakfast or lunch. The egg salad sandwich is particularly irresistible: Unexpected additions of avocado and Dijon lend just the right amounts of creamy and spicy. 2626 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables; 786-703-9183; cafecuruba.com.

8. Chef Marriages!

Proof pizza justin flit chef miami
Melissa Hidalgo and Justin Flit.

 

An entree-size congratulations to chefs Justin Flit of Proof in Midtown and Brian Nasajon of Beaker & Gray in Wynwood, both former INDULGE Food & Wine issue cover stars (2016) who recently proposed to their significant others. Flit and fiancée Melissa Hidalgo pulled a fast one on their friends and family by staging a surprise wedding during their engagement party in the fall. Nasajon, meanwhile, popped the question to Patty Diaz in December in the middle of a packed dinner service at Beaker & Gray. “I wanted a full house in the restaurant, including her entire family,” he said. “I figured I’d make it as dramatic as possible.” Adding to the drama: Nasajon will open a new restaurant, called Mason, this spring in the former Gigi space in Midtown. Proof, 3328 North Miami Avenue, Miami; 786-536-9562; proofpizza.comBeaker & Gray, 2637 North Miami Avenue, Miami; 305-699-2637; beakerandgray.comMason, 3470 North Miami Avenue, Miami.      

9. Food Halls!

La Central Brickell City Centre
La Centrale. Photograph by Dillon Burke.

 

We’ve officially entered the Year of the Food Hall, with no fewer than five set to open around Miami. Special recognition goes to not one but two Italian culinary playgrounds at Brickell City Centre. Casa Tua Cucina and La Centrale are both sensory overloads — aromas of wood-burning pizzas floating over sights of hand-rolled pasta and pleasant chills from freshly spun gelato.

Brickell City Centre Miami Italian food hall casa tua
Casa Tua Cucina. Photograph by Marcello Cassana.

 

Casa Tua Cucina is the brainchild of Casa Tua founder Miky Grendene, and La Centrale is a collaboration between Florence native Jacopo Giustiniani and hospitality veteran Matthias Kiehm. As if we didn’t have enough reason to visit BCC — now we have two more excuses to linger even longer. Casa Tua Cucina, 701 South Miami Avenue (in Saks Fifth Avenue), Miami; casatualifestyle.comLa Centrale, 701 South Miami Avenue, Miami; lacentralemiami.com.

10. Elcielo

Miami Elcielo el cielo
Part of a multicourse tasting menu at Elcielo in Miami.

 

Colombian entrepreneur. Avant-garde chef. Instagram star. Humanitarian. Dad. Juan Manuel “Juanma” Barrientos puts out a wow-worthy tasting menu at his Elcielo restaurant in Brickell — there’s a course that involves “washing” your hands in liquid chocolate — but it’s his goodwill extracurriculars that deserve recognition. Barrientos founded the Elcielo Foundation to help drug-war victims from his native country, including wounded soldiers and their families, learn to work in restaurants. Elcielo, 31 Southeast Fifth Street, Miami; 305-755-8840; elcielorestaurant.com

11. Whole Foods Market Dadeland

Whole Foods Market ceviche dadeland
Fresh ceviche from South Florida’s newest Whole Foods.

 

Dadeland continues to add to its roster of destination-worthy restaurants (Ghee, Barley, Nanndi), and now a new Whole Foods joins the neighborhood’s Publix and Trader Joe’s on the grocery-store map. The 46,700-square-foot Whole Foods Market Dadeland opened last month, replacing the nearby Pinecrest market after 19 years. Along with a full-service coffee bar, self-service juice bar and Amazon Lockers, the new market includes El Bocadillo, an in-store gastropub serving Latin and Caribbean foods with wine and craft beer. 7930 Southwest 104th Street, Miami; 305-969-5800; wholefoodsmarket.com.   

12. iCanCook Miami

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The women of iCanCook Miami. Photograph by Christina Mendenhall.INDULGE

 

Julia Doyne and Mary Veinovic are friends and business partners who met while they were both working at The Forge, Miami Beach’s legendary steakhouse and temple of wine. Doyne was the restaurant’s first female executive chef, and Veinovic — a Johnson & Wales University graduate — was one of its top servers. Together they formed iCanCook last year, hosting private cooking classes at Doyne’s El Portal home and in their clients’ personal kitchens. “Over the years I discovered that teaching people how to cook is my real passion,” Doyne said. “I want home cooks to love food as much as I do and to understand that cooking is approachable. We think Miami is ready to learn!” 412-600-1375, 786-624-1638; icancookmiami.com.

SOUTH BEACH WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL SELECTIONS 

Lee Brian Schrager, Founder and Director of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, picks five faves from the INDULGE 25, all appearing at the festival:

13. Exquisito Chocolates

Exquisito chocolates miami chocolate company sobewff
Exquisito. Photograph by Christina Mendenhall.INDULGE

 

“It was a bold move for Carolina Quijano to leave her finance job in NYC to pursue her passion for chocolate, but South Florida has been relishing in the results. Our own female Willy Wonka is opening her first chocolate factory in Little Havana, giving customers an up-close-and-personal look at how she turns her ethically sourced Latin American and Caribbean cacao beans into indulgent bites of happiness.” Find Exquisito Chocolates at Sweet Moves: Late-Night Desserts & Dancing hosted by Bobby & Sophie Flay; 10:30 p.m.-midnight, February 24; sobewff.org/sweet.

14. Night Owl Cookie Co.

Night Owl Cookies miami andrew gonzalez lee schrager
Andrew Gonzalez of Night Owl Cookie Co. Photograph by Carina Mask.INDULGE

 

“It’s no secret that I frequently fall victim to cravings for the fresh-baked, fun flavors of Night Owl. Having just celebrated its five-year anniversary and a new brick-and-mortar spot in the works, Andrew Gonzalez’s cookie company is redefining Miami’s dessert culture, one late-night delivery at a time.” Find Night Owl Cookie Co. at multiple events, including Goya Foods’ Swine, Wine & Spirits featuring more than a dozen Miami chefs; 5:30-8:30 p.m., February 25; sobewff.org/latin.

15. Sweet Guilt by Angelica

A cake from Sweet Guilt by Angelica.

 

“Decadent elegance. That’s how I describe every one the boutique confections that come out of Angelica Lenox’s kitchen. I’m partial to this chocolate torte she has with a hint of heat, but her couture cupcakes (that look too beautiful to eat — almost) are a must for any home entertainer.” Find Sweet Guilt by Angelica at Sweet Moves: Late-Night Desserts & Dancing hosted by Bobby & Sophie Flay; 10:30 p.m.-midnight, February 24; sobewff.org/sweet.

16. Ariete

Ariete foie gras coconut grove michael beltran
Foie gras at Ariete in Coconut Grove by chef Michael Beltran. Photograph by Carina Mask.INDULGE

 

“Ariete in Coconut Grove remains one of my neighborhood go-to spots. It is consistently delicious, featuring impeccably prepared dishes that maintain the integrity of the ingredients. Not surprising, considering that Michael Beltran trained under beloved South Florida chefs like Norman Van Aken and Michael Schwartz. I especially love how he finds ways to infuse his Cuban heritage into classic dishes, like the foie gras with sour orange and smoked plantains.” Find Little Havana native Michael Beltran at Goya Foods’ Swine, Wine & Spirits featuring more than a dozen Miami chefs; 5:30-8:30 p.m., February 25; sobewff.org/latin.

17. Dizengoff

Dizengoff Miami hummus val chang michael solomonov james beard
A spread at Dizengoff Miami in Wynwood. Photograph by Carina Mask.INDULGE

 

“It was another breath of fresh air for Miami’s culinary scene when James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov swiftly opened both a Federal Donuts and Dizengoff in our bustling Wynwood neighborhood. At Dizengoff, his renowned hummus gets topped with chef-driven creations — some by Miami’s own Val Chang, who he’s tapped to execute not only the authentic Israeli flavors that Solomonov is known for, but also to sprinkle a touch of her own Peruvian heritage into the mix.”

Find Michael Solomonov at multiple events, including with chefs Justin Smillie, Jenn Louis and Jonathan Borowitz at a Kosher Dinner; 7-10 p.m., February 23; sobewff.org/kosher.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING TO DRINK

18. Happy Wine

Happy Wine Miami JC Restrepo
JC Restrepo pours a glass at Happy Wine in Miami. Photograph by Carina Mask.INDULGE

 

If Dionysus had a man cave, this would be it. Husband-and-wife partners JC and Joanna Restrepo offer excellent wines at a range of prices, and their friendly staff is happy to help you make your choice. Enjoy a bottle with their tapas menu at the original Calle Ocho shop — don’t miss the albondigas stuffed with manchego and goat cheese — or visit their Coconut Grove location for a full menu. Select wines by the glass are $2 at happy hour. No wonder they call this place Happy. 5792 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-262-2465; and 2833 Bird Avenue, Miami; 305-460-9939; happywinemiami.com.

19. Miami’s Best Craft Beers

J. Wakefield beer craft beer brewing
J. Wakefield Brewing.

 

Miami’s craft beer scene continues to thrive with recent brewery openings (Bousa, Veza Sur), distribution expansions (Biscayne Bay, M.I.A.) and creative collaborations. J. Wakefield Brewing leads the pack in that last category. After Hurricane Maria, Wakefield and Lincoln’s Beard Brewing partnered to brew Coqui Rechazado, a tart beer made with guava, oranges and bay leaves, with all proceeds benefiting storm victims in Puerto Rico. Wakefield’s third-anniversary party, WakeFest, takes place February 17 in Wynwood.

The Tank Brewing craft beer miami
The Tank Brewing.

 

A slightly younger brewing outfit, The Tank opened its tap room last year in west Miami-Dade and is already churning out some fantastic only-in-Miami brews. We love Head Brewer Matthew Weintraub’s Ventanita series of coffee-infused beers, a nod to Miami’s Cuban coffee culture featuring coffee from Per’La Specialty Roasters. J. Wakefield Brewing, 120 Northwest 24th Street, Miami; 786-254-7779; jwakefieldbrewing.comThe Tank Brewing Co., 5100 Northwest 72nd Avenue, Miami; 786-801-1554; thetankbrewing.com.     

20. J.W. Cooper Shot Glasses

Sip in style.

 

Celebrating its flagship boutique’s 25th anniversary at Bal Harbour Shops, J.W. Cooper is known for its rare and one-of-a-kind belt buckles, jewelry and accessories. These shot glasses caught our eye on a recent visit. Founder Todd L. Rauchwerger on why the $4,250 set will improve your tequila-drinking experience: “These are custom-made for J.W. Cooper by one of the oldest silversmiths in the United States. Each one is made from sterling silver with filigree and finished with the artist’s hand-engraving.” 9700 Collins Avenue, Suite 231, Bal Harbour; 305-748-6575; jwcooper.com.

21. Per’La Specialty Roasters

Per'La Coffee Miami beach coffee on the sand
Per’La won a recent Good Food Award for its specialty coffees.

Two years into their pursuit to raise the bar for locally roasted coffee, Chris Nolte and Paul Massard can measure their success by the numbers. The co-founders of Per’La Specialty Roasters, who became friends as undergrads at the University of Miami, are now roasting more than 1,100 pounds of beans every week; one of their Ethiopian coffees just won Per’La its first Good Food Award; and dozens of Miami chefs are pouring Per’La at their restaurants, including Jeremy Ford, Giorgio Rapicavoli and Jose Mendin. Massard and Nolte source beans from all over South America and Africa for single-origin roasts, but their Spring Break blend — out now — is a favorite for its distinct notes of milk chocolate and tropical fruit. 4657 Southwest 71st Avenue, Miami; 816-714-8885; drinkperla.com.

LOCAL ARTISANS WHOSE FOOD MAKES MIAMI PROUD

22. Cacao Art

Cacao Art Chocolate venezuela sisters miami local chefs
The sisters of Cacao Art in Miami. Photograph by Christina Mendenhall.INDULGE

 

Prominent careers in architecture and journalism were put on hold when Venezuelan sisters Susana and Isabel Garcia decided to pursue their love of chocolate and re-create the confections of their youth. They make bonbons by hand, developing an artistic aesthetic and elevated flavors that have earned several national Good Food Awards. A new space at Red Road and Sunset Drive in South Miami, slated for a spring opening, will feature a hot chocolate bar, cookbooks and local produce, along with the Garcia sisters’ sublime chocolates. 7165 Southwest 47th Street, Suite 316, Miami; 786-405-7479; cacaoart.com.

23. Casa Gioia’s

Casa Gioia's miami
Mari Rubio of Casa Gioia’s. Photograph by Christina Mendenhall.INDULGE

 

The idea for Mari Rubio’s bakery was born when the cheerful Johnson & Wales graduate started selling pecan pies as a hobby. Since then, Casa Gioia’s has grown, mostly by word of mouth, into a thriving sweets empire offering baked-to-order goodies made from scratch. Start with the best-sellers: chocolate chip Nutella cookies, incredibly moist zucchini bread, and guava and cream cheese bundt cake, which Rubio has crowned as “pure Miami.” 9351 Southwest 56th Street, Miami; 786-282-0447; casagioiamiami.com.

24. Jennifer’s Homemade

Jennifer's Homemade breadsticks miami
The breadsticks that launched an empire.

 

Luckily for us, Jennifer Behar listened to friends and family who loved the breadsticks she made for dinner parties and insisted she try to sell them. Made with extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt, Behar’s line of Jennifer’s Homemade products made a big splash in the gourmet-food scene when she began in 2005. Today, her naturally vegan breadsticks and flatbreads — in Original, Rosemary, and Salt and Pepper — are available at restaurants, hotels and markets nationwide. You can also order online. 4384 Southwest 73rd Avenue, Miami; 305-261-6488; jennifershomemade.com.

25. CraveClean

Crave Clean Smores
S’mores from Crave Clean.

 

Francesca Morello takes the guilt out of gluttony with her good-for-you cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts, cake pops and more. Her trick(s)? Stevia instead of refined sugar, protein powder instead of white flour, coconut milk instead of heavy cream. “We pride ourselves on bridging the gap between fitness and foodies,” Morello said. A South Miami location opened last month, complementing CraveClean’s original Coral Gables bake shop, which also ships nationwide. 3822 Southwest Eighth Street, Coral Gables; 786-534-2144; and 7370 Southwest 57th Avenue, South Miami; 305-763-8567; facebook.com/craveclean

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