Exploring Miami’s Multicultural Food Scene

In a city best known for its beaches and nightlife, discovering the culinary side of Miami is a natural progression for visitors who love food. Though the majority of its cultural vibe comes from Cuban influences, Miami also has an Afro-Caribbean taste and flare with origins from Haiti to Jamaica. The African Diaspora is well represented throughout many of Miami’s restaurants as are European and Asian influences, modern American and Southern soul food.

So take a little time out from the sun and sand to explore the various palates of Miami with some of these standout establishments.

Biscayne Tavern is a casual, modern gastropub located inside the YVE Hotel in downtown Miami.  Specializing in craft beers and seasonal ales from around the world, the restaurant is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The menu has a variety of offerings, including updated versions of classic Floridian dishes such as Key West blue crab cakes, conch chowder and key lime pie. Other delicious possibilities include the crispy shrimp with spicy Thai chili sauce, fresh ahi tuna, grilled mahi mahi and Mexican-style elote or corn on the cob. Ingredients are sourced locally, organically and sustainably whenever possible. With big screen TVs, great food and friendly servers, you might find yourself staying a while and even reserving a room in the hotel.  www.biscaynetavern.com

Authentic Italian cuisine is alive and well in Ironside, a small creative community in the upper east side of Miami.  Ironside Pizza is a Neapolitan-style pizzeria with a wood-burning oven and a warm, friendly atmosphere.  Ingredients such as flour and extra virgin olive oil are imported from Italy as are the beautiful Italian accents of the waitstaff.  The stars of the menu here are the salads and pizza. Sweet San Marzano tomatoes are also imported from Italy and have been designated as the only tomatoes that can be used for true Neapolitan pizza (in the style of Naples). www.pizzaironside.com

Within a few blocks of the Wynwood Arts District you will be privy to stunning murals, art galleries, museums and art studios. Visual and culinary artistry is evident at Wynwood Kitchen + Bar with its contemporary menu and surrounding artwork inside the restaurant and outside on the patio.  Along with creative liquid libations, it boasts an innovative infusion of Latin and Mediterranean with a touch of the South. Short ribs with black bean puree and Cheddar grits anyone?  The small plates are a great way to taste many of the delicious offerings including bacon-wrapped Medjool dates, baby octopus, empanadas and the 48-hour crispy pork.  www.wynwoodkitchenandbar.com

Quirky presentations set the bar high for fun at Barton G, The Restaurant.  It’s an “experience” for sure and entertaining beyond expectation.  Aside from all of the decadence and gaudiness, the food is good and cool cocktails are made even cooler by the “below zero liquid nitrogen bar.”  The restaurant was created by Barton G. Weiss, an internationally recognized event concept designer and restaurateur. The service ware can become crowded on the table with highlights of the visual spectacles that include lobster Pop Tarts served in a toaster, crispy popcorn shrimp served inside a popcorn maker with popcorn, “strike-out” beef sliders complete with baseball bat and helmet, funnel cake with a carnival backdrop and 4th of July sparklers and the most spectacular of them all, the Marie Antoinette sky high pink cotton candy on top of a plastic head.  The food can be lost in the silliness of it all, and although a bit pricey, it is perfect for a special night in Miami.  www.bartongtherestaurant.com

Previously helmed by celebrity chef Herb Wilson and located in South Beach, Red Ginger is a Southeast Asian concept with updated Japanese-inspired small plates, sushi, izakaya, robata grill and an omakase or a meal choice selected by the chef. Before his departure, Wilson also created the menu which sources its ingredients locally and from Japan.  The service is spot-on and ambiance is contemporary Asian with bamboo marble flooring, Buddhas and hand-carved wood panels. Izakaya-style appetizers include delicious crispy kale blossoms, hamachi two ways and miso eggplant. From the grill, enjoy cauliflower with shiso butter, chicken meatballs and short ribs with truffle miso. The Wagyu beef with foie gras sake and the miso sea bass are great entrée choices and both are melt-in-your-mouth perfection.  Finish with a little sushi and warm sake and share everything for a well-rounded culinary experience.  www.redgingersouthbeach.com 

Jackson Soul Food is one of the pioneers of soul food in the historic community of Overtown.  The restaurant’s legacy started in 1946 with Jessie E. Jackson and Demas Jackson and continues today with the fourth generation keeping it family-owned.  The restaurant serves up home-style dishes such as baked chicken, oxtails, fried catfish and smothered liver and onions along with traditional sides such as candied yams, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. A nontraditional Bahamian breakfast of boiled fish and grits can be ordered on the weekend. According to Cartanisha Jennings, one of the nieces working in the restaurant, a second location is set to open this October. www.jacksonsoulfood.com

Situated in “Little Haiti”, Chef Creole is a restaurant rooted in Haitian tradition with plenty of conch and seafood dishes. Here you will find a lively atmosphere, friendly staff, good food and a chef with a huge personality.  Bahamian-born owner and chef Wilkinson Sejour is Haitian and embraces his roots through his food.  He created several sauces and spices which enhance the food and are for sale at the three locations throughout Miami. His secret to succulent conch is in his homemade marinade which includes sour orange among other ingredients.  The fried and grilled conch are great choices as well as the lobster, oxtails, Creole shrimp and fried pork.  www.chefcreole.com

Complete your trip to Miami with where to stay and what to do by reading my article, “Miami – A Multicultural City of Surprise.”

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau launched its Greater Miami & the Beaches Black Visitor Guide (www.MiamiBlackVisitorGuide.com).  Here you’ll find information on historic sites and events, as well as other activities such as great dining and nightlife – including black-owned restaurants and festivals and nightlife. The guide also includes the latest arts and cultural program and venues, as well as local services of interest to black travelers.

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Tracey is a Los Angeles native and professional chef. She is currently creating, testing and editing recipes for Breville Inc. along with teaching cooking classes, catering and getting inspired by the delicious life surrounding her.