Everyone knows South Beach Miami as one of the top beaches in the world. From the clear waters, white sandy beach, exuberant art deco buildings, luxury resorts, exciting nightlife, celebrity sightings and more, it is a place to get away. Of course, as a foodie, I was very anxious to check out the restaurant scene.
First off, I needed a hotel in the epicenter, and there were many options for luxury accommodations. I decided to go with a proven hotel brand that has a reputation for delivering world-class service by catering to the most discerning guests. The Ritz Carlton South Beach is an oceanfront-restored 1953 Arte Modern building in the art deco district just steps away from the iconic Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road. The location also offers easy access to some of the top restaurants, so it was the perfect place for me.
I stayed in a beautiful suite and was surprised by a nice bottle of wine and an assortment of premium chocolates, along with a beautiful basket full of fresh fruit. I opened my balcony to a stunning view of the beach. I knew right away that it was going to be a trip to remember.
I was only in South Beach for a few days and each day was busy with restaurant visits. The Ritz Carlton hotel had a private car for me during my stay so when I went out to dinner it was really convenient. My food journey started at the hotel’s popular restaurant Bistro One LR. The restaurant is art inspired with a beautiful patio overlooking the pool and the ocean. Upon arrival, Chef de Cuisine Luis Grant, as well as the hotel’s management team, were at the door, and they all warmly greeted me. The hospitality right from the beginning was unforgettable. Luis moved to Miami from Nicaragua. He grew up on a cattle farm surrounded by a lot of root vegetables and citrus fruits. His grandparents ignited his love for cooking, and so he decided to pursue his passion and attended culinary school. Just like any young chefs, he traveled a lot and worked in New York, Spain, Chicago, and California to pursue his dream.
Luis enjoys taking advantage of the local and seasonal products readily available from the local farmers. He says he likes to use both old and new world cooking techniques inspired by cross inter-continental cuisines with strong Latin American, Caribbean and North American influences.
“The center of South Beach has been considered the melting pot of all cultures and the diversity is what makes the place so unique. The food has to stand out by using only the best, local ingredients as there are a lot of restaurants people can choose from in the area.” according to the chef. Most recently, they launched different live stations around the hotel each day to keep things exciting. I particularly enjoyed the fresh smoothie bar poolside which available on weekends while listening to a live band. I also visited the hotel’s beach club. It is the only luxury beach club right on the beach where you can enjoy a sea to table menu along with an impressive handcrafted cocktail selection.
My next stop was the iconic Prime 112. I had to check out why this restaurant has amassed an extensive list of A-list celebrities and top athletes. Considered a landmark in South Beach, the restaurant has perfected the concept of an “All American Steakhouse.” With its popularity, it has also become the cornerstone in the revitalization of the prosperous “South of Fifth” district. From the moment you walk in, the place exudes luxury, sophistication, and elegance.
Executive Chef Todd Zimmer is a renowned chef in South Beach and one of the people responsible for the success of all the Prime restaurants. He is a Florida native and grew up in Fort Lauderdale. His enthusiasm for cooking came from his father when he was little as he watched him cook for their family. It wasn’t until Todd enrolled in law school when he realized that he needed to take the culinary path instead. He switched gears and pursued his unwavering passion for cooking. He went to culinary school and after several years of training and working in the kitchen, he crossed paths with the Myles Restaurant Group and the rest is history. He eventually was given command of the Prime brand, which also includes Prime Hotel, Prime Italian, Prime Fish and Big Pink.
Prime 112 has been recognized several times for its creative approach and excellent menu choices through the chef’s tireless efforts of sourcing only the finest premium ingredients. “The Prime name comes synonymous to quality, experience, and unique atmosphere.” says the chef. For him, Americans celebrate with steak and claims they are close to the Latin American culture, so the restaurant has a strong Latin American influence.
Todd said he has taken a new modern American steakhouse over the top and only uses prime cuts of dry aged meats which he hand selects himself. He stated that the restaurant does not advertise and believes in the power of word of mouth. He says it is the most effective way of getting customers through the door. He changes the menu throughout the year but always keeps staple items in all of their restaurants. According to him, the staples get customers coming back over and over again.
The chef also shared that serving 700 people on a regular night is typical at Prime 112. I was there for the first seating on a Friday night, and within an hour, there was a huge line-up at the door. Todd ensures the food is always consistent and says he is lucky to have a great team behind him. To the chef, his staff is everything. He shared that he has five key people who have been with him from day one.
Chef Todd had me try their famous Big Eye Tuna appetizer made from high-grade tuna freshly caught and sourced from Hawaii. The main event was the 48oz Porterhouse steak, and it was honestly the most flavourful and perfectly cooked steak I’ve ever had. The deep-fried Oreos for dessert sealed the deal for me, and as my night wrapped up, I understood why celebrities frequent this restaurant often. “You’re only as good as your last dish. If it’s off this is what people are going to remember,” exclaimed Todd.
Estiatorio Milos is a “go-to” Mediterranean seafood restaurant also in the South of Fifth or the “So-Fi” district as it’s often called. The restaurant started out in Montreal and had been owned by chef and restaurateur Costas Spiliadis for over three decades. The vibrant restaurant has many locations, and the brand is known for its elegance yet has a minimalist approach to Mediterranean culinary traditions. Recently, it was included in the top 10 by Zagat’s and Miami New Times.
One of the prominent features of this restaurant that caught my eye was the dazzling, colorful fresh seafood market display. The fish were all laid on a flat bed of ice where guests can hand-pick from the various options offered as a fresh catch of the day. The seafood gets cooked immediately in the open kitchen where you can observe and get entertained. The restaurant uses simple cooking and preparation methods and works very hard in preserving the distinct flavors and nutritional values of each dish. I love the idea of convivial family-style sharing. We started with the Greek mezze platter; mezze is a huge part of the tradition in the Mediterranean Greek culture. I also had the grilled octopus dish served with Santorini fava along with their famous and tasty tomato Greek salad featuring barrel aged feta. One of the highlights for me was “Milo’s special” which is a lightly fried stack of zucchini and eggplant with tzatziki and kefalograviera cheese. This dish, in particular, left me wanting more. For mains, we shared a Mediterranean sea bream called “Dorado Royale” fresh picked from the market display and cooked on the charcoal grill.
Milos only uses seafood suppliers who deliver exceptional quality products while observing sound environmental considerations. Vendors range from companies in the Greek islands and the shores of Morocco, Tunisia, and Portugal, to independent fishers from parts of North America, Florida and Nova Scotia in Canada.
A few days is certainly not enough when visiting top restaurants in South Beach. Please check back in October for more details on the other exciting restaurants I visited.
Cristina Carpio is a television personality, brand and restaurant strategist as well as a passionate food and beverage expert. Travel and living life to the fullest is in her DNA. In addition to hosting Going Global, Cristina is a country ambassador for a global immersive dining platform and has a column for a noted North American food and beverage industry magazine. She has also been recognized for her work and involvement in charitable and community projects and has hosted several prestigious festivals, fashion and cultural events.