With a nationally famous wine and food festival, 11 Michelin-starred restaurants, several James Beard Award semi-finalists and a new restaurant opening roughly every 15 seconds, Miami is having a dining moment.
And in its latest issue, Bon Appétit magazine has applauded that accomplishment by proclaiming Miami as the “food city of the year.”
Editor-in-chief Dawn Davis writes that as editors traveled around the country looking for bold new places to eat, they admitted the one place they kept wanting to return to was Miami.
“The always-evolving city is buzzing with opportunity, and a wave of creative chefs and restaurateurs have picked up on that air of possibility,” she writes. “It’s led to a spate of daring, exciting restaurants that are contributing to the city’s rich culinary history while bringing entirely new dimensions to the dining scene.”
The magazine has highlighted several Miami hot spots, calling them “restaurants we fell for.” Topping the list was Itamae, the Peruvian-Japanese restaurant in Miami’s Design District that was designated a Bib Gourmand (a restaurant offering great value) by the Michelin Guide last year. The magazine’s cover image of seafood was shot at the restaurant, which started as a vendor in the former St. Roch food hall (now called MIA Market).
Nando Chang, who opened Itamae with his father Fernando and sister Val Chang Cumpa, said that being singled out was rewarding for his whole team, from the prep cooks to the photographers who make his food famous on Instagram.
“This one means so much,” he said. “We believe we’re putting our best foot forward every day. These are the moments you really get emotional. You look at your team and say, ‘Look at this!’ . . . Two or three years ago, we all were struggling. These mom and pop restaurants had it tough. For Miami to be the favorite food city, that’s a huge thing.“
Chang wasn’t the only one who got emotional over the news. His usually stoic father was excited, too.
“He couldn’t contain himself,” Chang said, laughing. “He came into the restaurant with six magazines. He never buys anything like that.”
The other spots praised by Bon Appétit writers are Wynwood coffee shop Suite Habana Café; El Turco Turkish restaurant in Upper Buena Vista; beloved Southern brunch spot Rosie’s in Little River; Zak the Baker in Wynwood; Broken Shaker cocktail bar at the Freehand Hotel in Miami Beach, named one of the 50 best North American bars in 2022; North Miami Beach’s wine bar and pizza shop Paradis Books & Bread; and Jaguar Sun in Miami, which Yelp named as one of the best restaurants in the country earlier this year.
El Turco and Zak the Baker were also designated as Bib Gourmands by the Michelin guide in 2022.
The magazine also praises Chef Sebastian Vargas, who launched two separate restaurants under one roof in Coconut Grove: Krüs Kitchen, another Bib Gourmand, and Los Félix, which earned a Michelin star.
It also urges would-be diners to try soul restaurant Lil Greenhouse Grill and Red Rooster in Overtown; Michael Beltran’s Michelin-starred Ariete in the Grove; and Doce Provisions and Azucar Ice Cream Company in Little Havana (there’s also a new location in Suniland for Kendall ice cream fans).
David Whitaker, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that seeing restaurants from so many different neighborhoods was a thrill.
“It’s obviously a tremendous validation when a reputed, established and credible publication acknowledges us,” he said. “The food experience here is a tour of the diversity of this amazing city.”
Akino West of Rosie’s, a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for best emerging chef, said the award means a lot — especially in terms of luring local diners during Miami’s long, hot summer.
“We put in a lot of time and dedication,” he said. “All the people throughout the city that originated this — people like Niven Patel and Michelle Bernstein — all the people we’ve worked for helped us get to this phase. It’s up to us to continue that push they worked for. . . . If Miami succeeds, we all succeed.”
This story was originally published March 29, 2023, 4:30 AM.