Top Five Restaurants for Outdoor Dining: Beyond Best of Miami 2011

Sitting outdoors at Red Light won't cost you a fortune.
​Last year, we bestowed our Best Restaurant for Outdoor Dining award on Cecconi's Miami Beach for its lovely garden patio with retractable roof. And, of course, we also like the food, a factor too often overlooked in "Best Outdoor Dining" compilations. Sure, there are gorgeous waterfront properties and groovy garden venues that are great for grabbing a beer and cocktail -- maybe catch a romantic sunset while you're at it. But if the cuisine isn't special, well, let's just say that at some point the sun goes down and you don't want to be left sitting in the dark with a mediocre meal.

The food at our five favorites (six including Cecconi's) is as fab as the setting -- or at least in four of the five (we'll let you know the one we're not sure about). We've tried to give it some range as well. Our list encompasses a bayfront, riverfront, lily-pond-front, mansion, and art gallery.

And really, there is no sweeter season for dining outdoors in Miami than right now.

Jacob Katel
View from The Villa dining terrace.
5. The Villa by Barton G.
Credit Gianni Versace for the elegant and thoroughly distinctive décor of the Villa; let's face it, the man had taste. The stroll through the lobby and past the dining room to get to the outdoor tables is an eye-opening museum-walk in itself (there are plaques of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud in the courtyard, and a bust of Benito Mussolini somewhere in the house). But the cozy patio overlooking the fountain/pool area has to be one of the most romantic spots to dine in town (because of historical significance, the courtyard had to be kept as it originally was, which is to say a copy of Christopher Columbus's place in Santo Domingo circa 1509). Cuisine by chef Jeff O'Neill is equally beautiful and sophisticated, even if you have to be as wealthy as an Italian aristocrat to pay for it. Start saving now, so when the time calls for a special swoon-worthy outdoor dining spot (like, say, Valentine's Day), you'll be ready.

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Setai: Romantic and zen some.
4. The Restaurant at the Setai
If the Villa takes you on a historical tour with a mix of all manner of architectural styles, the Zen-like outdoor courtyard at the Setai is all clean lines and architectural harmony. Guests are seated around the perimeter of a lily-padded pond, with moonlight streaking through palm trees and trellises of wood overhead. It is an oasis of tranquility and beauty -- which sounds like a purple-prosed exaggeration, but it isn't. Nor is it a stretch to say that chef David Werly's cuisine of Far East-influenced plates is just as pretty and balanced. Just as romantic and unique as the Villa, which means just as ideal a spot for Valentine's Day. Also, it's just as expensive.

Location Info

Red Light Little River - CLOSED

7700 Biscayne Blvd., Miami Shores, FL

Category: Restaurant

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Red Light may have good food, but the service is the worst I've experienced at any restaurant in Miami, if not to say ever. "Plus this is the only restaurant on our list that operates without any pretension." Really? REALLY?! Our waiter couldn't give three sh*&# about our table. We even went a second time to see if maybe it was just a bad night the first time and it was actually worse. No thanks.  There's plenty of good places to eat in this city where you don't have to get up to find the waiter for every single request...including just to get menus after sitting for 20+ minutes.

ignant chico
ignant chico

honestly the BEST outside vibe and view in my opinion in ALL of Miami is by no doubt that of Smith and Wollansky i can honestly say if there is a heaven its in the ouside of the restaurant with an 8oz. filet mingon. 


we didnt get to sit outside unfortunately- we were in the tiny dining room, which looked like the dining room of a mansion, which it is I suppose. But was still very nice and elegant.


My wife and I recently enjoyed the best real foodie meal of our lives at Villa barton g. we took a risk and ordered a chefs tasting menu. Holy holy cow- great food.   

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