Hi everyone. You're participating in this conversation as someone who has knowledge of the kosher restaurant scene in South Florida and has expressed their unbiased opinions in the past about restaurants.
With thousands of Jews about to descend on the region in the coming days, this conversation is timely. Many people ask me for my opinions on which kosher restaurants they should eat at, and often I have to rely on the local experts that I trust for those answers. Thankfully, I have spent plenty of time in South Florida (namely Miami Beach and vicinity) and hit 17 restaurants in one week last Winter / Yeshiva Week. So much has changed in the past year that I wanted to make sure we had more voices in the mix.
So my first question to everyone is, if you're advising travelers which 2 kosher restaurants they should venture out to (assuming they only had time for 2), what would they be and why?
(I'll get us started with my own picks in the coming comment. Feel free to add pictures/links to your comments if relevant)
For me, the best 2 places that I have been recommending have been Zak the Baker in Wynwood and 26 Sushi & Tapas in Surfside.
ZTB blew me away with everything they had to offer. After I ordered and ate, I went back and ordered some more. The breads, spreads, pastries, sides, literally everything was amazing, fresh, and beautifully presented. My only gripe is the lack of seating, but that is to be expected of such quality food.
26 was one of the dining experiences I will never forget partially due to the innovative and tasty dishes, and partially due to the service. Our waiter was not only attentive, he was passionate and excited to describe to us dishes on the Peruvian / Asian menu.
I could spend a week in Miami and only eat at these 2 places, although I probably won't. ;)
As someone who has been living here for 17 years I have seen great establishments come and go so for the 2 best on dairy and meat I choose:
Dairy - 26 Sushi & Tapas & Zak the Baker
Meat - Harbor Grill & Rare Steakhouse
However .... There is no way anyone is getting into Zak the Baker during yeshiva break since there are lines for hours outside so my third choice would be a more family friendlier and consistent Beyond by Shemtovs.
The idea of the "best" places to eat is really subjective. The old adage among restaurant owners is that you earn income 9 months per year but pay bills 12 months. Some places have the discipline to put away for a rainy day and those are the ones that last. But one thing you should know about kosher dining in South Florida, expensive does not make for better and more casual does not mean a less than magnificent meal. The food itself is very important but our overall experience is based on the level of service, professionalism of the staff, wait times, etc. How many times do we swear never to return to a restaurant, not due to the food, but due to poor service, excessively long waits, etc?
If you're shlepping kids, you need to look first and foremost at a family friendly menu with diversity in its offerings, quick service and almost certainly within a budget. You can't go wrong with Shemtov's, Mozart (any location) or House of Dog (both locations).
If it's just the two of you and you want to kick back, no rushing, enjoy a cocktail or some wine, you'll be glad you went to Fuego, Acqua, Cine Citta, Butcher Block Grill, Harbor Grill or Tapas26.
A lot of these great new restaurants are clustering around one another which adds to the overall kosher dining experience. Many people decide to "eat" 41st Street, Harding Avenue and increasingly The Waterways. Boca has some great dining with Asia, Butcher Block Grill and Mozart all literally next door to one another at The Fountains.
Dani asked us to pick two. Tough assignment. For meat with the family, I'd go to Mozart (Sunny Isles) or House of Dog (Boca). Quiet night out without the kids, you can't go wrong with SOHO or Fuego.
On the dairy side with the family, I'd hit Mozart Boca (it really is better than the others) or Fresko (be warned that they are easily overwhelmed when they get busy). A little more reasonably priced but consistently delicious is Shemtov's (Ok that's three choices). I'm not big into upscale dairy but I have had great meals at Cine Citta and Acqua.
Most importantly, try not to rush. You're on vacation. It's exceedingly busy in most good restaurants during "the season" so be prepared, don't get frustrated and remember to enjoy yourselves.
As most previous commenters already mentioned, asking for people's best bets can vary greatly depending on what the customer is looking for. Dairy? Meat? Price range? Ambiance? Dinner? Lunch?
I will assume this question is in a vacuum where price and value are no object, and therefore, the two overall "best" spots in miami would have to be Harbor for meat, and 26 Sushi & Tapas for dairy. I haven't been to Acqua yet but I assume that will be 26's next major competitor. Looking forward to seeing how it stacks up!
In my opinion, the best overall when you factor in price/food/value/service, I would probably give the dairy nod to the 2 miami old reliables: Mozart Cafe for dairy and Grill Time for meat, if you want the typical meat fare and Fuego if you are looking for a bit more adventurous/bbq.
However, Zak the Baker is a totally diff category and a "must visit" as it's basically Miami's most famous unique spot.
Hope this helps!
So given that there's no question there will be lines from the throngs of people in Miami, how would you advise families or couples to either avoid the lines, or deal with the inevitable long waits?
2) come before 5 or after 10pm
3) have some serious connections :)
4) go somewhere that's not as flooded with tourists such as Hollywood or Boca
This is a crazy exciting time to be a kosher consumer in south Florida!
Everyone across the board has upped their game in terms of service, decor, menu, selection - no longer do we have to "settle".
There are many options across the board in terms of variety as well as some stand alone unique establishments that have really gone out of their way to offer totally unique product and experience. In that category - unique, one of a kind - I would recommend 26 Sushi & Tapas for a high end, outstanding service, artfully crafted small plates, and ambiance.
Foozo which stands out for the freshest custom made salads with a wide variety of toppings from goat cheese, grilled portobellos, caramelized onions and so much more not found at any other south Florida salad bar. Plus they have a wood fired oven which produces customized pizzas and sandwiches made to order with the same fresh and outstanding toppings. It lacks ambiance but is perfect for taking to go.
Zak the Baker is a must! The artisanal breads pastries and pies are beyond compare. The shakshuka is special and the daily specials- healthful and made with only the highest quality ingredients pair with an atmosphere that attracts plenty of non kosher diners in the design district (which, let's face it, is the ultimate test of a restaurant).
Thanks everyone. I think those tips that Zalman mentioned (other than having connections, which is not in ones immediate control) are serious considerations that people don't always think about.
2 follow up questions (for all to answer):
1) Which restaurants in Hollywood or Boca would you recommend?
2) Which restaurants open past 10pm would you send people to (sans kids I hope!) ?
I've been a resident of Hollywood for the past 11 years.
For a town with as many kosher diners as we have, it's disappointing and confusing that we face a dearth of variety and quality in the restaurant department. There are zero high end options. There is one sit down meat option but sadly, I can not in good faith recommend it at all.
The meat restaurant that I CAN recommend with a resounding endorsement is Levy's. It is consistently fresh and consistently delicious. Standouts are the Zalmy burger, shawarma, and the outrageous chocolate babka.
There are a couple of other shawarma places and they are fine but not noteworthy in times of atmosphere, food, or service. As for dairy options - we have a couple of pizza shops - one in a gas station (not kidding) one that has been around forever but has the WORLD'S WORST service, plus sticky tables and very high prices, which I also can not recommend. A newbie - Mizrachi's Pizza on Stirling Road which is the only one I can recommend at this time.
For sit down dairy we have four options: Mozart Cafe, Grand Cafe, Yumberry, and Urban Rustic.
Once upon a time Mozart was everyone's favorite but unfortunately has gone downhill in the recent past and both service and food have been terribly inconsistent.
Yumberry is a casual family friendly place - used to be only frozen yogurt but over time they have added salads, smoothies, bourekas, and sandwiches. They also do full breakfast service in the morning with pancakes, eggs etc. It's not fancy but it's clean, family friendly and fairly priced.
Urban Rustic has changed hands several times. The present owners feature sushi, salads, soups, and fish. They are open late and have some outdoor seating options.
The BEST dairy option in Hollywood by far is Grand Cafe. Always consistent, friendly service and a large menu featuring Israeli breakfast options like bourkeas salads eggs shakshuka, beverages- iced coffees cappuccinos, lemonana, a range of pasta dishes, seared tuna, panini, sandwiches and pastries. It's open from early morning until Midnight with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.
Past 10 pm recommendations: Kosh, Rustiko, Grand Cafe, Mozart Cafe in Sunny Isles, Fuego
I love the food at Mozart, however I stopped going there after I have witnessed to many fights between the waiters & owners and it turned me off.