6 hottest new restaurants in Miami right now

I predict a “bigger belt” epidemic in Miami very soon.

The city is constantly banging out exciting, new restaurants, and 2017 has been a banner year, and star chefs from across the country are heading to the Sunshine State to unpack their knives.

Upland Miami.

Upland Miami.

It’s actually pretty crazy how Miami is becoming a huge foodie destination, and I’m loving every minute. From progressive Asian cuisine to lobster-centric hot spots, these are the best new restaurants I dined at, and I know I’ll be back for seconds/thirds.

1. KYU.

The art-centric Wynwood neighborhood was never really known for dining (art is Wynwood’s claim to fame), but this is destined to change with KYU, which is spearheading a notable restaurant scene.

Former Zuma and Jean Georges chef Michael Lewis helms this stylish, industrial-themed restaurant (think: stone walls, blonde tables, exposed pipes) that’s heavy on Asian influence. Most all the (sharing-style) dishes are fired up in the wood-fired oven. Because I’m originally from the south, I have high expectations for fried chicken. It’s my weakness (along with pizza, tacos and chocolate, which is why I’m height/weight disproportionate, so). Here, it was brined to perfection with tangy, spicy and flavorful herbs and spices, though other dishes like crispy hamachi and roast cauliflower certainly make KYU worth the trek.

It opened February 2016, but still has that new restaurant feel.

2. Upland.

Upland may be off the beaten path for Miami (just on the outskirts of South Beach in South of Fifth), but that’s a perk for locals who like to keep this contemporary spot as a tourist-free neighborhood joint (let’s see how long that lasts). I actually walked there from The Betsy, with my shirt off, because YOLO. The design of this Stephen Starr restaurant is trademark contemporary cool, with lines of jarred produce on shelves along the backlit wall, so it’s visually stunning.

Chef Justin Smillie taps into his California roots for farm-fresh dishes, and  I came for weekend brunch. The elevated version of chilaquiles (baked) with strips of steak and a tangy, rich red sauce hit all the right spots. It was one of those dishes you eat VERY slowly because you don’t want it to end. When it did, I cried like a baby. Just kidding, I didn’t… but I wanted to. Upland opened November 2016.

3. Lobster Bar Sea Grille.

Taking over the former China Grill space (a 20-year-old institution), Lobster Bar is also in South of Fifth. Guys, now is the time to bust out your Gucci suit (OK, Banana Republic is fine, too). Only open two months, Lobster Bar Sea Grille is SUPER FANCY. It’s the type of place you’ll find rich locals slapping down their AmEx for lobster-centric dishes, as well as fresh fish and steaks.

It’s swank AF (think vested waitstaff, white table cloth, tiled ceilings and chandeliers). I think some dude was wearing his sunglasses inside, it’s that type of place. Anyway, the lobster comes in from a variety of international purveyors, all fresh daily, and you can enjoy lobster here any way you want (from boiled and steamed to pasta dishes).

Lobster pasta at Lobster Bar.

Lobster pasta at Lobster Bar.

4. Mare Mio.

Espanola Way is a thriving, restaurant-packed street that’s lively at night and feels crazy Latin because nobody really eats until 9 pm here.

The new Mare Mio, opened last year, is on the corner with a busy patio and cozy indoor space with smiling waitstaff to boot.

The restaurant is low on frills, which is ideal considering the fresh seafood is spectacular. At the time, I was like “I can’t right now.” Opt for fresh grilled fish (caught daily and featured in a display), which they’ll debone in front of you. Also, I rarely get excited about mashed potatoes, but ORDER THE MASHED POTATOES.

Grilled fish at Mare Mio.

Grilled fish at Mare Mio.

5. Pubbelly Station.

The guys who brought you Pubbelly Sushi is back in action with Pubbelly Station (inside Langford Hotel). It’s designed to feel like a retro train station with a menu specializing in New American cuisine with elevated, international twists, but to be honest, it was just really nice comfort food. The interior is actually a design masterpiece, so make sure you have full batteries in your phone.

The French Onion Soup Dumplings is as rich as you’d expect, and the Rockefeller Oysters were awesome—though you can also order burgers, steaks, fried chicken and fresh fish. Stop by the rooftop bar, which gets tons of action around happy hour. It’s where all the cool cats hang, minus saxophone players.

Pubbelly Station.

Pubbelly Station.

6. Lolo’s Surf Cantina.

I love that Mexico City-born chef Richard Ampudia helms this new, retro-inspired, modern taco joint.

I’m a sucker for good Mexican food (no, scratch that… I LIVE for good Mexican food), and my expectations were exceeded at Lolo’s. The guacamole was fresh, the tacos were flavorful and simple and the corn on the cob was extra sweet and crunchy. I can basically eat chips and salsa while I sleep, so it’s a good thing I didn’t sleep here.

Lolo's Surf Cantina. 

Lolo’s Surf Cantina.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

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