It’s a phenomenon that will happen over and again in perpetuity: some out-of-towners are in South Florida for the night, and when you ask them where they want to go to dinner, they will — without fail — say to you, “How about somewhere on the water?” As you rack your brain, you’ll begin to realize that for a city that’s pretty much surrounded by the blue stuff, we have an alarming shortage of waterfront eateries. Yeah, there are the standbys like Garcia’s, Smith & Wollensky, Monty’s, and Le Tub. But you’re a local, dammit. And your guests expect better inside knowledge than that. So here are a dozen hidden, obscure, and typically overlooked waterside restaurants set quietly around South Florida.
Driving through the condo canyons that mark the beachside county line between Aventura and Hallandale, you’d never expect to find a modern Mediterranean restaurant decked out to look like a Hamptons summer beach house. But it’s there. In Juniper you’ll enjoy fresh seafood paella, whole fish a la plancha, filet mignon, and burrata flatbread. Gaze out at the Intracoastal as you sip on specialty European wines and forget you’re, like, 20 yards from the condo swimming pool.
The only way you’d know about this tiny restaurant nestled under the lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is if you had to park really far away from the picnic areas and wandered by its tiny cove on your way to the beach. But this former pirate’s hideaway is now one of the best-kept waterfront secrets in Miami, a spot right on the bay serving up fresh seafood at the end of the park for reasonable prices. It’s also the perfect place to still grab lunch when all the barbecue shelters are taken.
Want to impress your date with a spot that’s totally off the beaten path AND one ofMiami’s most romantic restaurants? Head to this spot on the edge of Matheson Hammock Park, a fresh seafood joint housed in an old, historic stone building that was once the Matheson Hammock Pavilion. The views are spectacular, but be warned: if you find yourself out with that rarest of breeds — a Miami Native — they won’t be nearly as impressed, since they absolutely went here already for a quince or graduation dinner.