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From the lavish to the lowkey, South Florida food editors share the best eats of 2023

People sit around a table eating food
Courtesy of Tâm Tâm restaurant in Miami.

In South Florida, 2023 was a year of expansion and culinary side-quests for established restaurants. Some chefs opened new projects and pop-ups grew up to be restaurants. Other standout places embraced South Florida culture by injecting it straight into their menus.

Food editors from the Miami Herald, the Miami New Times and The Infatuation spoke on WLRN's Sundial to share some of the best places to eat in South Florida, as well as the dishes that wowed them.

"We're at a time in the city where Miami's food identity, which has shifted throughout the decades, is being decided right now, by a new, exciting generation of chefs," summed up the Infatuation's Ryan Pfeffer.

It was another good year for food in Miami, so let's dig in.

Noteworthy Restaurants

TâmTâm quickly became a favorite, with its eclectic Vietnamese dishes a welcome addition to the city. What started out as a promising pop-up Vietnamese supper club turned into a fully fledged brick-and-mortar, located just across the courthouse in Downtown Miami and near its sister restaurant, Over/Under.

The owners adopted the Vietnamese concept of “quán nhậu” — which translates to "drinking places" — with the intent of fostering an atmosphere of drinking and feasting. It boasts fun, funky interiors such as wavy mirrors and what Pfeffer can best describe as "karaoke bathrooms." The TâmTâm wings made with a fish sauce caramel, the tamarind glazed pork ribs and the scallops with nước chấm and crispy garlic all come highly recommended.

Pictures of three Vietnamese dishes
Courtesy of Tâm Tâm restaurant in Miami.

Pfeffer also praised the highly anticipated Maty's, a Peruvian restaurant opened by the creators of Itame. The deeply personal menu offers dishes based on family recipes that are served with flavors of "NASA-level" innovation, he said.

"They're just kind of pushing Peruvian food in Miami to places where I don't think it's ever been before in the city," Pfeffer said. He names the ceviche, which "jumps off the plate" in a way that is familiar yet different — oysters with aji amarillo and huacatay, or ocean trout with passionfruit and gooseberry.

"It's like tasting these foods for the very first time," he said.

The wood-fired oven at Walrus Rodeo
David Bley
The Miami Herald
The wood-fired oven at Walrus Rodeo is not just for pizza — it’s the centerpiece of Jeff Maxfield’s menu.

In the same vein of conceptually interesting restaurants, the Miami Herald's food editor, Connie Ogle, offers up Walrus Rodeo as a top pick. Started by the people behind Michelin Star restaurant Boia De, it distinguishes itself with wood-fired cuisine.

But its website is quick to clarify "it's not just a pizzeria."

The menu includes charred bone marrow and charbroiled oysters to name just a few of the foods they toss over an open fire. Unique dishes like cabbage carbonara and the carrot tartare in particular impressed Ogle and Pfeffer.

"When I tell you all the different things they do to a carrot, you're gonna look at me like I'm crazy, but I'm telling you, it's amazing," Ogle said.

Located in the same strip mall as Boia De, it suffers from high expectations from its sibling restaurant, Pfeffer adds, but it sidesteps all comparison.

Instead of using the traditional clams, Chef Niven Patel uses Bahamian conch with pasta in the dish mafaldine at Erba.
Evan Sung
The Miami Herald
Instead of using the traditional clams, Chef Niven Patel uses Bahamian conch with pasta in the dish mafaldine at Erba.

Niven Patel of Ghee Indian Kitchen fame has opened a new, Italian-inspired restaurant called Erba. It also took an interesting approach to meals, wowing Sundial host Carlos Frías with a butter candle — at the beginning of the meal, a cylinder of clarified ghee melts for you to sop up with your bread.

Attractions aside, the biggest draw to the restaurant comes from the taste of home. Erba offers homemade pasta tastings, some of which feature Bahamian conch and Key West pink shrimp. And fresh produce is sourced from Patel's own farm in Homestead.

"He filters these cuisines through a very local lens," Pfeffer said. "So many of the dishes are Italian in technique but taste very South Florida in execution."

Poulet Roti, one of the French dishes that will be served at Bouchon in Coral Gables.
The Miami Herald
Poulet Roti, one of the French dishes that will be served at Bouchon in Coral Gables.

French restaurants also made some inroads in South Florida, namely The Bouchon Bistro by Thomas Keller and Pastis.

Newly crowned food editor of the Miami New Times, Nicole Lopez-Alvar, laudedBouchon's atmosphere. Once inside the former Las Palmas hotel in Coral Gables, customers can seek some reprieve from the upscale and flash restaurants of downtown.

"It feels like you're not in Miami, even just for a little bit," Lopez-Alvar said.

With a slew of lavish restaurants opening every other week, Lopez-Alvar said Bouchon offers a French dining experience where the meal speaks for itself.

The chicken, according to Pfeffer and Ogle, are solid choices. It's classic French food without the superfluous frills but all the excellence.

For a more reasonably priced, neighborhood spot, Pfeffer also recommends the newly reopened The New Schnitzel House that was resurrected by the people behind Gramps.

As far as trends go, understated elegance looks like it will be the name of the game. In Broward County, there's a small, intimate restaurant away from the hustle of Las Olas called The Katherine. It's spearheaded by James-Beard nominated chef Timon Balloo and his wife, Marissa Katherine.

READ MORE: Tinta y Café brings it home: How the Miami restaurant is earning its chops in the food world

The man who cut his teeth at Sugarcane and was known for his signature bone marrow dishes has carved out a space in downtown Fort Lauderdale with dishes that call back to his Trinidadian roots.

The New York Times recently named his Thai Red Curry Yellowtail as one of the best American dishes of 2023. Although, the clam chowder fries is also nothing to turn up your nose at.

"He's still incorporating Miami elements with the seafood in Florida, and I think that's what makes him stand out — he's not trying to be a froufrou restaurant. He's also low key and understated, which I think that's what people are drawn to ... and the opposite of these 'club-staurants,'" Lopez-Alvar said.

Complete List of Restaurants Mentioned In the Episode

  • Apocalypse BBQ | Kendall
  • Bouchon Bistro | Coral Gables
  • Banana Café | Key West
  • Chuggs | Coconut Grove
  • Erba | Coral Gables
  • Happy Wine | Coconut Grove
  • Itamae | Coming soon to Midtown
  • Lola's Bistro | Key West
  • Maty's | Midtown Miami
  • Minji's Café | Lauderhill
  • Miss Crispy Rice | Wynwood
  • Mr. Omakase | Downtown Miami
  • Oise | Wynwood
  • Pastis | Wynwood
  • Shaddai Fine Lebanese Cuisine | Pinecrest
  • Smoke & Dough | West Kendall
  • Sra. Martinez |Coming Soon to Coral Gables
  • Stage Kitchen & Bar | Palm
  • TâmTâm |Downtown Miami
  • The Katherine | Fort Lauderdale
  • The New Schnitzel House | Miami
  • Tropical Smokehouse | West Palm Beach
  • Walrus Rodeo | Little Haiti
  • You Know Korean Bistro|Hollywood
  • Zak the Baker | Wynwood
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.
Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Alyssa Ramos is the multimedia producer for Morning Edition for WLRN. She produces regional stories for newscasts and manages digital content on WLRN.
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