Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Erin Lavan |
Food And Dining

Not too long ago, Downtown Miami was known mainly for basketball, Bayside, and banking. Living “downtown” was an edgy concept, and cuisine was restricted to lunch on-the-go. When the cranes came up, we gasped with anticipation. Who would feed all these brave city dwellers?  Who other than seasoned restaurant veteran, chairman of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), and local celebrity personality—Steven Haas. He staked his claim on the corner of 19th and Biscayne in 2011, bringing us the gloriously dignified two-story bistro, City Hall, The Restaurant {2004 Biscayne Boulevard; 305.764.3130}. The space is inviting and relaxed, as is the staff, and the menu has something for everyone, from Tuna Tartare to Country Fried Chicken. Don’t miss the boisterous Gospel Brunch every Sunday, when City Hall’s smile grows even brighter.

Further downtown, Tre Italian Bistro {270 East Flagler Street, 305.373.3303} lit a fire on a corner of Flagler near Biscayne, with bright orange umbrellas flowering the street while plates of pasta, pizza, and panini tempted from tables inside. A pioneer in the financial district, Tre brought a sense of metropolis to our budding borough, and has become a neighborhood favorite for bustling lunches, Wine-Down Wednesdays, and Happy Hour offered six day a week.


Then, slowly, but surely, like a little bag of popcorn, our downtown started popping. What would downtown be without fast, fresh delivery of Asian cuisine? Wok Town {119 Southeast First Avenue; 305.371.9993} validates this urban concept with its über-chic pan-Asian outlet (just around the corner from Tre), serving up an array of eats from the East and beckoning diners to design a dish of noodles or rice with a helping of farm-fresh protein of choice. But this fresh face of Chinese food is not just for delivery. Pop into the quaint downtown locale and have your lunch or dinner alfresco.


Wandering around the streets au pied is the best way to get the lay of the land here, and possibly the only way you may stumble upon a little barbecue joint so nostalgic, it might just bring tears to your eyes. Or, maybe it's the spice-rubbed, Hickory-and-Apple-Smoked Chicken Thighs causing you to tear up. Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue {204 Northeast First Street; 305.377.2877} keeps a low profile on the corner of Northeast First Street and Second Avenue, but the piled-high, pulled pork sandwich definitely does not. Open for lunch and dinner, this is a place to unwind and forget about your worries—unless you are worried about your waistline.


In case you are, take a walk down Second Avenue to Bryan in the Kitchen {104 Northeast Second Avenue; 305.371.7777}, whose green allure practically spills onto the friendly sidewalk, inviting you into its Zen domain. Like an urban oasis, Bryan in the Kitchen is of the fast-casual set for the health-conscious and flavor-conscious alike, with a serene setting, fresh juices, and wholesome dishes for breakfast and lunch. Stay-tuned for their expansion next door, with exciting new menu selections and a hip new list of wines to pair with their artisanal cheese plates.


Ready for dinner? Well, just a stone's throw from Bryan’s is the Culinary Institute of Miami on Second Avenue, housing the elegant Tuyo Restaurant {415 Northeast Second Avenue; 305.237.3200}. Brought to life by legendary Chef Norman Van Aken, Tuyo is a sparkling gem of downtown cuisine, embracing farm-to-table and sustainability practices, and sourcing ingredients from its very own edible organic garden. Make a reservation for dinner at this masterpiece, and if you don’t fall in love with your date, you can be sure that the unsurpassed downtown views or the impeccable seasonal cuisine will take your breath away.


Not every night is meant to be fancy, and for this we are grateful for Elwoods Gastro Pub {188 Northeast Third Avenue; 305.358.5222}, just around the corner on a little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it strip called Third Avenue. Yes, downtown has its own authentic British pub, and this hip local joint is not only a comfy place to call home with a pint and plate of fish and chips, it also offers a pristine wine selection, grass-fed burgers, and Wagyu steak fit for a king.


Speaking of steaks, let’s wander to the waterside and welcome New York native, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener {} who has made its new home here with dazzling views of the Miami River at One Miami. And, since we have meat on our minds, peek around the corner to find the cavernous Toro Toro {100 Chopin Plaza; 305.372.4710} in the Intercontinental Hotel. A lounge-y environment with plush leather chairs, dark wood, and iron accents, Toro Toro delights with Latin-inspired creations off the churrasco grill, offering mouth-watering meats of the finest cut and preparation.


But, this isn’t the only restaurant dazzling downtown hotels. Further up Biscayne Boulevard Way, DB Bistro Moderne {255 Biscayne Boulevard Way; 305.421.8800} brings a big name to downtown, and does not disappoint. Situated in the JW Marriott Marquis, Daniel Boulud's namesake restaurant graces us with his French bistro-style cooking, tailored to the rhythm of downtown Miami. The food is exquisite, as is the space, boasting soaring ceilings, a handsomely outfitted lounge and bar, and a street-level terrace overlooking the Miami River with all its yachting glory.


Feeling sleepy? It’s probably just the Grand Marnier. If you opt for a room upstairs, you'll no doubt be delighted to wake up so conveniently close to Clos Bistro {100 South Biscayne Boulevard; 305.416.3300}, the best place for a café con leche and croissant. Clos is also open for lunch, with arguably the best empanadas in town, as well as fresh sandwiches, soups, salads, and even a fine wine selection with gourmet specialties to take home.


Now that we're cocktailed, well-fed, rested, and caffeinated, we'll call it a day. With so much to eat and explore right here off the beachen' path—why go anywhere else?