[ SOBE RESTAURANTS ]

Ocean Drive

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— BLT Steak 
1440 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-673-0044
A short Mason jar of slightly warmed chicken liver spread arrives with planks of grilled bread and a slim assortment of pickled vegetables. Gruyère-glazed popovers the color and size of baseball gloves come next. BLT elicits a considerable wow factor before the first course even gets served. Appetizers comprise mostly cold dishes, including shrimp cocktail, tuna tartare, hamachi with yuzu vinaigrette, and raw bar selections such as clams, oysters, and stone crabs. Even the sole warm offering - a moist, lusciously herbed crab cake - comes pooled in chilled dill-flecked Meyer lemon dressing. Steaks are USDA Prime, certified Black Angus, or Wagyu - dry-aged, broiled at 1,700 degrees, and finished with a brushing of herb butter. Try the top cap cut if it's on special. Non-steak eaters might try lemon-rosemary chicken, seven-spice duck breast with foie gras and mango mustard, or harissa-crusted swordfish steak succulently grilled and highlighted with olive oil and lemon. For dessert, diners can choose three or five of eight all-American artisan cheeses or a round of blueberry-lemon meringue pie with a sweetly brittle pte sucre crust, lemon curd, baked berries, a cap of browned meringue, and a scintillating quenelle of lemon-verbena sorbet on the side.
Steakhouse

 

— The Villa by Barton G. 
1116 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-576-8003
Part of the thrill of dining at the Villa is the opulent ambiance. From the nostalgic splendor of the Moroccan Room to the intimate dining area with Versace-designed Rosenthal china atop tables draped in royal-blue linen, diners know as soon as they enter Casa Casuarina that this dining experience will be singular. Yes, it's pricey, but you can see the money on the plate. A truffled asparagus salad, for instance, includes a warm ricotta flan generously gilded in white truffle shavings and sumptuous morel mushrooms. Snapper ceviche arrives looking like a little psychedelic garden, with delicate herbs sprouting vertically from a ring of raw snapper, pickled key shrimp, minced mango, jalapeño, red onion, candied citrus zest, and crisp coins of taro. Main courses, more substantially portioned, include a luscious pairing of a giant breaded scallop and a petite, melting-soft nugget of veal cheek -- with wilted chicory leaves, beech mushrooms, and a puck-size toasted oat cake accented with cumin and moistened with a broth flecked with capers and golden raisins. The flavors bounce off of and light up the senses like a pinball -- emblematic of talented chef Jeff O'Neill at his boldest and best.
Contemporary, Continental$$$$

 

— Café Med 
940 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-674-6776
Located in the Breakwater Hotel,  noted for its famous façade (a favorite among filmmakers).
Italian $$$

 

— Cafe Cardozo 
1300 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-695-2822
Located in the heart of Miami's infamously loud Ocean Drive, Cardozo Café's spacious terrace is relatively calm. That doesn't mean this is not a great spot from which to people-watch. But for those searching for quiet, sit on the elevated second patio and order breakfast; eggs Benedict, or the Cardozo special ($8.95) namely eggs served with sausage, potatoes, and your choice of bacon or ham, croissant or bagel. As you contemplate the day, enjoy the musical stylings of a live saxophonist (yes, it's true). Lunch brings a selection of salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Try the tilapia wrap ($10.95); fresh, grilled fish, shredded cabbage, roasted red peppers, topped with a jalapeno tartar sauce, all stuffed inside a spinach tortilla. For dinner you could pick from the "Cuban-Chinese" menu; beef steak, chicken, shrimp, and Asian vegetables stir-fried with rice, but what ever you eat, finish with the mouth-watering "banana wrap" — lightly sauteed bananas wrapped in a moist crepe, topped with vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche — perhaps the sweetest $7 you'll ever spend.
Cuban $$

 

— Chef Vincent 
736 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-535-8283
Chef Vincent offers satisfactory fare in one of the best people-watching spots on South Beach: Ocean Drive. Diners can sit under big umbrellas and even bigger palm trees, enjoy a cocktail from the extensive menu, and ogle at passersby. Start with the full-page mojito menu, which offers extensive flavors and a sugar-free "Mojito Madness." Drink choices also include infused margaritas and a large array of sakes to complement the sushi menu. Lunch picks are peppered with tantalizing appetizers and the self-proclaimed "Best on Ocean Drive" nachos. Choose from a selection of sandwiches such as a delicious avocado turkey wrap ($7.95) and the Philly cheese steak ($8.95), or sample a slice of pizza. The kids will love the build-your-own-pasta option. Chef Vincent also offers surprisingly good sushi -- a perfect option for those hot days when you just want something light. More traditional dinners include a grilled salmon steak and a USDA five-ounce filet mignon.
American, Contemporary $$$

 

— De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean 
101 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-672-6624
The style of cooking and presentation here don't fall far from the Doug Rodriguez tree - plantain-crusted mahi-mahi, oxtail stew, crisp croquetas, kooky ceviches, mini tacos lined up in a wooden stand - yet with its bacalao fritters, fritta sliders, and medianoche sandwiches, D. Rodriguez Cuba is one of the few dining establishments in Miami where you can indulge in creative, contemporary Cuban cuisine. Ceviche might not be Cuban, but it is a Rodriguez specialty. Witness the tiradito of paper-thin snapper slicked with sour orange juice - a sleek, tangy tarp for the ceviche confetti of conch, red pepper, tomato, and crisp fried onion threads. Empanaditas are enticing too, especially an oxtail version with scrumptious smoked pineapple purée. Skip yuca-crusted flatbread in favor of robust salads such as goat cheese-coated watercress with calabaza purée. A favorite among main courses is rabo encendido en lata, or oxtail stew served in a can. Beyond the clever presentation are chunks of braised meat bolstered with tomato, capers, olives, and piquant red wine sauce, all plated upon roasted cauliflower purée. The frozen bittersweet chocolate ganache stogy, one of Rodriguez's whimsical old tricks, comes coated in powdered cocoa and presented in a cigar box. A diverse collection of real cigars is also proffered, as are pitchers of mojitos, Cuba libres, and hand-blended daiquiris.
Contemporary, Latin, Seafood $$$$

 

— A Fish Called Avalon 
700 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-532-1727
This sleek South Beach eatery in the refurbished Avalon Hotel combines minimalist décor with topnotch cuisine. The menu makes use of local sea bounty and is influenced by Asian and Caribbean cooking styles. Look for signature dishes such as "bang bang shrimp" (jumbos marinated in curry and served with minted yogurt) and caramelized Caribbean snapper (accompanied by grilled chayote, plantains, and a black bean/corn salsa). Homemade espresso ice cream provides for a kick dessert.
Seafood $$$

 

— La Marea 
1220 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-604-5070
The Tides has really revived with the arrival of chef Gonzalo Rivera and his clean, uncomplicated Mediterranean fare. There is no getting around it, La Marea is expensive, but it's worth the money. Seafood is the main catch, a smart selection including loup de mer, dorade, Florida yellowtail snapper, and wild salmon served grilled, roasted, or steamed, accompanied only by olive oil and sea salts (which is all they need). Pastas are priced more affordably than other entrées, and are plated in full or half orders — the latter generously portioned.
Mediterranean $$$

 

— Larios on the Beach 
820 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-532-9577
(Also in Downtown Miami) Owned by the Estefans, this Cuban sidewalk café has been a primary destination since its opening in 1992 for those who prefer the scenery of Ocean Drive but like the flavor of Eighth Street. For small bucks get big satisfying plates of vaca frita smothered with onions; chicken breast stuffed with chopped shrimp, chicken and yellow rice; and some of the best black beans in the city. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Cuban $

 

— Mango's Tropical Cafe 
900 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-673-4422
The entertainment comes nonstop at Mango's, which features Caribbean art, Latin rhythms and hot dancers. It's Latin flavor done flashy and over the top. No matter the time of day, there's always something to do - from tabletop salsa dancing to live bands and to signature shows. There's also a choice of rooms to do it in, including the Mojito Room on the second floor and the Jungle Room, which features the Mermaid Bar. Depending on the room and the night, there's reggae, hip-hop, salsa, and house. But if you've been to Mango's only for the crazy nighttime entertainment, you've missed out. During the day, it's a totally different experience. Sit outside for some of the best people-watching in South Beach and enjoy a hearty meal. Start with the fried calamari — not the healthiest option, but one of the crunchiest on the Beach. Then try one of the restaurant's elaborate offerings, such as the chicken mambo wrap. Or the Caribbean mahi-mahi, which brings touches of sweetness and spice. Night or day, don't miss the mojitos. The bar serves a wide variety of drinks but leans towards the really sweet and fruity.
American, Caribbean, Cuban $$

 

— Philippe by Philippe Chow 
36 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-674-0250
Clad in white elegance and black lacquer floors, this room is as debonair as one might expect from a Chinese restaurant named Philippe. The space soars with supper-club sophistication, central focal points being a circular bar and a large window that offers peeks into the big, bright, spotless kitchen. The fare is fresh and tasty, if not a whole lot different from that at your favorite neighborhood Chinese-American joint. What distinguishes Philippe is price, meaning a considerable amount more than one is used to paying for this particular ethnic food — though you do get some South Beach scene. Skewers of chicken satay are a signature starter, and the bright orange strips of meat, dyed in carrot juice, are lusciously enlivening via a sweetened, very buttery, hot-Buffalo-wing-like crust. Other high points are the dishes crafted by master noodle chef Wai Ming Cheng — such as his "noodles with veal bean sauce": firm-to-the-bite linguine-shaped rice noodles topped with a meaty ragout. Dumpling dough is dainty and delicious as well, whether steamed with pork filling or pan-fried and plumped with beef. Peking duck for two is a dandy too, but skip the American desserts.
Chinese $$$$

 

— Prime Italian 
101 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-695-8484
This Italian sister to the stunningly successful Prime One Twelve succeeds as an all-purpose upscale dining venue. Patrons can begin by choosing from soups; salads; coal-oven pizzas; oysters; caviar; cocktails of shrimp, crab, or lobster; baked clams; fried bufala mozzarella; antipasti; and one big Kobe meatball with ricotta and a memorable marinara sauce. Entrées include the same selection and quality of char-grilled steaks as those at One Twelve, plus seafoods, pastas, and classics such as hot and sweet sausages, shrimp scampi, lobster fra diavolo, eggplant parmigiana, and some two dozen à la carte sides, including a whole section devoted to spuds. There's also Sinatra over the speakers, white linens on the tables, fine wines in the delicate stemware, and attentive service to go along with the solidly prepared traditional Italian fare. Prices are high, but that's no more surprising than Ol' Blue Eyes over the speakers.
Italian, Steakhouse $$$$

 

— Prime One Twelve 
112 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-532-8112
There's much more than just beef at this inventive New American steak house. Noncarnivores can also dine happily on creative "chef's composition" entrées featuring poultry or seafood (like wild salmon -- incomparably better than farmed fish — with a lemon nage) or on meal-sized salads like the signature Prime 112 (romaine, spinach, cucumber, hearts of palm, celery, tomatoes, asparagus, and bacon chunks) or on cold-water oysters and other pristine raw bar selections. That said, the prime dry-aged steaks are superb, and so are the sides diners can order à la carte. These upgraded versions of steak-house classics — vibrantly green creamed spinach with crispy shallots, cornmeal-crusted real onion rings, and the like — plus unique creations like sweet potato and vanilla bean mash cost $12 each but well worth it. Reserving weeks in advance is wisest.
American $$$$

 

— Quinn's 
640 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-673-6400
Quinn's makes no bones about it: The ocean rules the menu. Although a 20-ounce blackened bone-in rib eye steak and herb-crusted New Zealand lamb chops are not to be overlooked, it's executive chef/owner Gerry Quinn's "Floribbean" seafood cuisine that forms the soul of this quintessential South Beach hub. His "Bam! Bam! Shrimp" appetizer, marinated in 14 spices and palm sugar, is hailed as one of the boulevard's favorites. Caribbean snapper is caramelized with the same spices and served alongside a cool orange sauce. The wine collection is impressive, with prices ranging from $10 to $400 a bottle. Overall, Quinn's presents fresh local goods and tropical flavors that fare well after a sunny day at the beach. The desserts are on a verbal menu and change frequently — except for a silky key lime pie that has been praised by Miami New Times as the city's best.
Raw Bar, Seafood $$$