Miami’s food and drink scene is a distinctly dynamic one, made up of several hallmarks: coastal cuisine, the best cortaditos this side of the ocean, and of course, anything Cuban. But prominent chefs and restaurateurs around Miami have shown dramatic diversity in recent years. Thanks to a collective push for global influence and the embracing of various cultures, Florida’s cosmopolitan crown jewel is now as much a culinary destination as it is a beach weather haven. Sure, there’s no shortage of great options for your next Tinder date, but consider this your go-to guide by the pros themselves. Read on for Miami’s top date spots for any palate.
Mondrian South Beach Pool
Joseph Natale, Vice President of Food and Beverage Operations at Menin Hospitality (Bodega, Pizza Bar, Ricky’s, Gale South Beach, The Shelborne, Mondrian South Beach, et al) might be biased, but he’s partial to one of his portfolio’s pools, and for good reason. The Mondrian Hotel’s beautiful, bow-shaped infinity pool overlooks Biscayne Bay. “You and your date can enjoy the Miami sun while comfortably lounging on an oversized daybed with a view of Star & Monument Island,” he says. Guests can browse the Mondrian Caffè menu for some poolside al fresco bites.
Natale’s ideal secluded poolside date continues with further lounging (and wine, of course). “Later in the afternoon, visit the beach area of the pool deck, where you and your date can gently swing on a hammock with a bottle of rosé champagne.” If you time things right, you’ll catch the “most beautiful sunset that you can find in the city of Miami,” according to Natale.
“Makoto is one of the top Asian restaurants in the area,” Natale says. It’s part of one of the area’s most upscale shopping and dining destinations, the Bal Harbour Shops. He’s a fan of chef Makoto Okuwa’s modern take on Japanese fare, especially when paired with the setting. (You and your date can choose between the dark, woodsy dining room or the patio, rife with greenery and the place to be if you feel like checking out the catch of the day, flown in daily from Japan.) “Uncovering how adventurous your date is when it comes to exotic foods in such an intimate setting is the best way to find out if he or she is a keeper,” Natale continues. “Tip: make sure to study the sashimi menu and the pronunciation of the different offerings before dinner so you can look like a connoisseur in Japanese cuisine.”
Enoteca at La Centrale
Jacopo Giustiniani, Managing Partner & CEO of La Centrale Italian Food Hall (and a native of Italy himself), gives an inside look at Brickell’s new 40,000 square foot gustatory behemoth.
“The third level of La Centrale is by far my favorite — it holds our Tuscan-inspired wine bar, and Enoteca is the perfect date spot for any price range,” Giustiniani says. As far as the menu goes, if your date is into sharing, Giustiniani recommends ordering a few dishes from the fritti menu paired with a bottle of wine from the restaurant’s very own vault (or a selection from the by-the-glass list of over 30 varietals). For those who prefer a more guided format, there’s a $20 prix fixe dinner menu on offer, too. Giustiniani continues: “If you’re looking for something more interactive, you can also sign up for pizza making classes, wine pairings, wine tastings, and about 40 other classes happening every month just a few steps away at our cooking studio.”
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
“I love the laid-back yet intimate and romantic atmosphere at Mandolin Aegean Bistro,” Giustiniani says. “And the food is always amazing — the menu features traditional recipes from both Greece and Turkey. This is a great outdoor date spot if you really want to impress your date and feel like you’re in a small Greek island.”
Soya e Pomodoro
Giustiniani’s third pick is perfect for date duos with a penchant for live music. “Take your date to Soya e Pomodoro if you enjoy an unassuming atmosphere and live jazz. The setting is unique; it feels like a cozy Italian alleyway with vintage knick knacks found in every corner. Whenever I eat at Soya, I feel like I’m eating in an Italian family’s home.” Buon appetito.
Chef Helene Henderson of Malibu Farm at Eden Roc Miami Beach recommends picking a spot with a chill vibe and the option for an easy change of scenery (should the date prove worthy). Her pick? PLNTHOUSE. “It makes for a great casual meet-and-greet, full-on date, or healthy first date opportunity,” she says. “If the date is a bust, you can soothe your feelings with a green juice, and if the date goes well, it can continue up on the rooftop bar of the One Hotel.”
Henderson also suggests Mandolin Aegean Bistro as great date spot — but only for those who first make the grade at the nearby sister coffee shop. “I would meet them next door at the café and home goods shop, Mrs. Mandolin, to determine if the date should continue with mezes and wine all night or if it’s just coffee and run!”
Jacqueline Pirolo, Managing Partner & Beverage Director at Macchialina, recommends her home turf for the perfect date. “Not to toot our own horn here, but the chef’s tasting menu is the way to go for date night — it takes the decision making out of the equation so you can just sit back and try everything with your dining partner. For me, dates should totally include a food component, and sharing is a must!”
For something more hands-on, Pirolo recommends Neapolitan hotspot Stanzione 87. “Let me first say that this is my favorite pizza spot in Miami — they also offer pizza making classes, which could be great for an out-of-the-box date idea.”
The Seven Dials
Also on Pirolo’s list is The Seven Dials in Coral Gables, a gastropub with American and British influences. “The Seven Dials is home to the foie gras torchon and is truly not to be missed. What’s great about this spot is that you can come for a Sunday brunch date or any night for dinner and it’s equally great.”