Or at least its food.
Or at least its expensive food.
In an article today about Miami's budding culinary scene (part deux, as the NYT said the same thing three years ago, around the same time, citing Sardinia and the now-defunct David Bouley's Evolution as foodie gems), Bruni waxes poetic about Micheal's Genuine's pop-tarts; Sra. Martinez's egg yolk carpaccio; and Pacific Time's soft-shell crab.
Non-Design District mentions include the Upper East Side's Red Light, Brickell's Area 31 at the Epic Hotel -- now, for the time being at least, unfortunately known as "the Legionnarie's Hotel" - and chi chi Asian spot Hakkasan in the Fontainebleau.
There's no denying any and all of the aforementioned are culinary gems (uber props for including the much-overlooked Red Light), and hooray that there is now expensive food in Miami worth its price. Paying for what's on the menu, not who's in the dining room - let's hope it's a concept here to stay.
All that said, dinner at any of these spots could easily, for many people, blow a day or two's pay. So for those frugal foodies out there, throw on some jeans and head to one of these ten restos that will make your bank account and your belly happy:
Buena Vista Bistro: Our favorite eateries in Miami always tend to be the ones in which we don't feel like we're in Miami. Every time we go to this chic, neighboorhoody spot just outside of the Design District, we feel like we're in that cute Parisian cafe Amelie works in. There are only a handful of tables, and the place is always packed. Probably because of good, affordable wine and menu items like an endive salad and hand-cut fries we could eat all day.
Casale: From the owners of higher-end Sardinia, which resides next door, this pizzeria was a welcome, affordable addition to SoBe's blossoming west side. The pizza, of course, is a must, but don't overlook the mozzarella selection, as it's all hand-made in-house by an authentic Italian dude.
Hiro's Yakko-San: This is where staff from the Japanese restaurants around the area head after their shift, which is why it's open until 2 or 3 a.m. and why it's so good. From the crispy bok choy to the enoki mushrooms in butter, this small plates hidden gem is worth a trek to its off-the-beaten-path locale in North Miami Beach.
Sylvano: Unpretentious Italian fare in a cozy setting: seems like such a simple formula, yet surprisingly hard to find on South Beach. But this little trattoria on not-so charming Alton Road is just that, and it's why this spot has stayed in business while countless eateries around it have set up and promptly closed down.
Creek 28: We're a sucker for a romantic courtyard with twinkly white lights in the trees. But the setting is only half the reason to make a reservation at this hidden spot behind the Indian Creek Hotel. Dishes such as the grilled scallops and the goulash (yes, goulash) are divine, as is the reasonably priced wine list. It's the perfect spot for date night, as you'll still have money left over for flowers. Or, even better, bling.
Mr. Yum: The last place one would probably think of heading to for sushi is Calle Ocho. But new(ish) Mr. Yum gives lovers of the roll reason to stray from their go-to neighborhood joint. The décor is pure South Beach (in a good way) with red and white wallpaper and sparkly chandeliers. And the food is equally charming: from the house special Mr. Yum roll to the spicy octopus, this place lives up to its name.
Cheen Huaye: Mexican food is as hard to find in this city as real boobs, which is why we were bouncing up and down with excitement over discovering this strip mall-bound spot in North Miami. If you're craving a margarita, you'll have to ask for it speakeasy-style, as they're not on the menu (liquor license issue). Pescado Yucatan, pollo con mole poblano, tacos Cheen-Huaye - the posibilidades are endless.
Tropical Chinese: Like Mexican food, dim sum is also a hard one to find in this city. But it does exist, in the form of this Bird Road spot. Order a bowl of the hot and sour soup while you peruse the passing carts stacked with goodies such as tofu with black bean curd and custard buns. Afterward, head down the road to Bird Bowl to work off those pork dumplings.
Burger & Beer Joint: Across the street from Casale, this place's name says it all. It has burgers. It has beer. And it is, indeed, a joint. But not in a cheesy, theme-y South Beach kind of way. B&BJ really makes you feel like you're in an authentically casual neighborhood spot, with good food to boot.
Garcia's: If you love seafood, and, hello, you live in South Florida, so you should, this local favorite along the Miami River is a must-try. Simple and unpretentious, the dishes aren't dressed up in fancy sauces or marinades. Just fresh and flavorful options like mahi mahi sandwiches and the always-crowd pleasing stone crabs. And if you'd rather make it a night in, Garcia's also offers their fresh catches to go.