Five Best Restaurants on South Beach

Categories: Best of Miami
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The Royal at the Raleigh: like a wonderland for grownups.
There are so many restaurants in South Beach that we love, it was really hard to choose one for Best of Miami 2011. But what to do? Well, there could only be one winner, Pubbelly, but we have so many more favorites.

With that in mind, we now present other SoBe favorites.

5. Macaluso's Italian Cuisine

When a restaurant bills itself as "authentic Staten Island cuisine," we know we're home. The curb appeal ain't that great (the restaurant is in a strip mall that contains a tanning salon, dry cleaner and dog groomer), but walk into the little storefront and be accosted by the sights, sounds, and tastes of the most-forgotten borough in New York City. Red walls are covered by pictures of Italian grandmas, wise guys, and crooners. As Sinatra sings, order from the blackboard that changes daily. Start with a glass of wine and peaches as you wait for your giant meatball. Pastas and Sinatra's shrimp are usually on the menu (market prices prevail), as are Tony Bennet's sausage and peppers and house-made ravioli with green peas. Don't think of dieting or substituting here - just enjoy. It's what Sinatra would have done.

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Macaluso's meatball..tastes way better than Staten Island.

4. Sardinia Ristorante

Another Italian entry on our list of favorites, Sardinia features the flavors of the Mediterraean. Meats and cheeses are cut and sliced to order at the bar (three for $18). Pickled vegetables and olives (three for $18) round out a starter platter. Almost all entrees are cooked inside the giant wood-burning oven. Pastas are homemade and delicious. The Pappadelle Cio Ciara topped with a dollop of fresh ricotta ($9/$16) is a personal favorite, as is the Orecchiete with wild boar sausage ($12/16). We especially love that half portions of all the pastas are available so we can indulge in multiple menu items. The lively scene lends itself to one more quartino of Primitivo ($13) and an indulgent Mille Feuille for dessert.

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Save room for the Mille Feuille at Sardinia.

3. The Cafe at Books & Books

South Beach is all about sitting outside with a glass of wine in a little bistro. People watching is the number one sport at our own version of The Riviera. Here's the problem - most of our little cafes are touristy rip-offs with food not fit for consumption. One exception lies in The Cafe at Books & Books. This bistro proves two things - (1) that an outdoor cafe can serve delicious salads, sandwiches and vegan offerings without becoming a tourist trap and (2) yes, people in South Beach can read.

Chef Bernie Matz combines Floribbean, Asian and Cuban influences into a light yet satisfying menu. Grilled marinated shrimp on tomato grits with yucca fries ($21.95) and guava glazed pork tenderloin ($18.95) bring local ingredients to the table, while the vegan in your life will appreciate the amazingly-tasty vegan curried "chicken" salad ($13.95) and grilled tofu wrap with avocado salsa and caramelized onions ($10.95). Grab a book, sit with a glass of Chardonnay, and watch the people stroll by to your heart's content.

2. AltaMare

AltaMare has grown up in the past few years. Its moved from its little corner to a larger venue just up the street. That could have signaled a change from the little place with the freshest fish in the world. Thankfully it didn't AltaMare is like the urban legend of the actress who still loves her grandma - success didn't go to its head. The fish is still delicious and so fresh you can almost hear it backtalk, the ingredients still locally sourced whenever possible. Pan-seared, day-boat scallops ($16) are insanely sweet, local snapper ceviche ($14) is cool and refreshing, and the grilled octopus ($16) is tender and flavorful. For dinner have the terracotta seafood pot ($34), filled with mussels, clams, calamari, rock shrimp and local fish or go for the catch of the day (literally swimming a few hours earlier). There are other non-seafood items, but that would be like asking Eric Ripert for beef jerky.

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1. The Royal at The Raleigh Hotel

When John DeLucie took over the restaurant at The Raleigh Hotel we cried for joy. When he left we cried tears of pain. Turns out, things haven't changed much. Chef Jimmy Corona was promoted to Executive Chef and the quality is just as amazing. A tuna nicoise salad includes a perfectly seared piece of tuna and tiny quail eggs topping crisp greens. Pan-seared organic chicken ($26), squid ink fettuccine ($26), and whole snapper a la plancha ($32) round out the menu of well-made food. And, of course, the scenery hasn't changed. This restaurant is literally the most romantic and whimsical places in Miami Beach. If you aren't transported to a faraway place where life is very good indeed, you're lacking a pulse.

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The Royal's tuna nicoise is poolside perfection.
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17 comments
I AM ME
I AM ME

This is a bold title...and the choices even more so.  What about Clarke's, Casa Tua, Red, Quinn's, Blue Door, Tap Tap, Cecconi's, A Fish Called Avalon, Joe's, Escopazzo... plenty of other options. Macaluso's? Maybe... Books & Books- now that's just crazy.  Btw 3 Italian owned restaurants...kinda pushing it here don't you think.

Yak
Yak

All good choices especially when considering the diversity of food. Have gone to each and will continue to do so.

Ppp
Ppp

i will give u alta mare

Ppp
Ppp

This writer is has no idea what she is talking about.  None are top 5. Writer is clueless and a bad writer.

Blasfamy
Blasfamy

You don't go to upscale restaurants and ask the chef to modify his menu. Enough said...

Diner
Diner

5. Macaluso's Italian Cuisine= RUDE and will not make accommodations for diners with special dietary restriction. "Our way or the highway." Does not know the meaning of "GUEST". We chose the highway!

Jonah B
Jonah B

Great list, all great restaurants...the only one missing is Joe's.  Did somebody say Van dykes..bad at best.  Cafe Books is a wonderful choice best on Lincoln Road.  Altamare is always very good & Macaluso's is best Italian in Sobe.

Jessica Martin
Jessica Martin

I'm sure it was difficult to narrow down to a top 5, but I'd say the list is pretty close to accurate. Although Books and Books seems like an odd placement. The fare is good but not great or memorable. I'd put Grazie as #3 - the best seafood pasta I've ever had! Some others I would add to the list are the restaurant at the Scarpetta, Betsey Hotel, La Provence (new to SoBe) and 660 at the Angler's.

Check out my Yelp list if you'd like to see a list of top affordable SoBe restaurants. http://www.yelp.com/list/south...

morgan
morgan

"curb" appeal . . . the royal is no longer

Ryan
Ryan

Yay for The Royal!!!!! Come and see why!!!!

Delli
Delli

Uh. The chef at the Raleigh Left..and took his food with him!

Beast
Beast

News Cafe and Van Dykes is average to below average at best

Randy
Randy

Books and books is good if you want something specific - healthy.

I'm not sure how it got on this list, and something like the news or van dykes didn't.

Ridonk
Ridonk

oh please.  its food.  Not the end of the world.  That's got to be the most ridiculous comment and probably why most "upscale" **rolls eyes** restaurants close after ten minutes in this town

Tatiana917
Tatiana917

Joe's gross.. Reminds me over New Jersey

Juan La Rocca
Juan La Rocca

I think the best one  always will be Da Leo Tracttoria Italiana!!!!! Saludos Juan La Rocca!

Short Order
Short Order

Hi Delli - the menu items listed are from the current menu by chef Jimmy Corona. True the chicken under a brick is gone, but some great items have taken the place. It's still magical and delicious.

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