Miami’s Ten Best Old-School Restaurants

Here are ten of the best dining establishments in Miami that have stood the test of time. For more than a quarter century, these restaurants have been a fixture among generations of Miami foodies. Some might call them timeless while others refer to them as old-school originals. Regardless of what you call them, these are the finest examples of Miami’s best old-school restaurants.

 

Fresh stone crabs at Joe's Stone Crab restaurant

Fresh stone crabs at Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant

1. JOE’S STONE CRAB

11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

Now in its 109th season, Joe’s Stone Crab continues to be one of the hardest tables to get in town.  Joe’s has long been regarded as one of the best restaurants in Miami, even earning the patronage of multiple presidents. In fact, Barack Obama had stone crab delivered right before his presidential debate in 2012. Also, many other notables have dined at Joe’s including Madonna, Muhammad Ali, and Jennifer Lopez.

Above all, Joe’s has become synonymous with timeless, old-school restaurants as far as Miami’s dining scene is concerned. However, the signature stone crab claws are not the only delicacy on the menu, the fried chicken and key lime pie are as much of a Miami legacy as Joe’s itself. Check website for dining days and times.

 

Façade of Art Deco hotel Avalon on Ocean Drive

Façade of Art Deco hotel Avalon on Ocean Drive

2. A FISH CALLED AVALON

700 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach

Located in Miami Beach’s historic Art Deco district inside the refurbished Avalon Hotel, A Fish Called Avalon has been a South Beach experience for over three decades. Views from the restaurant and its terrace feature the iconic Ocean Drive and the ocean beyond.

The menu is filled with seafood-centric dishes with Asian and Caribbean influences. Dine on their terrace where live Latin-Caribbean music set an authentic South Beach experience. The dinner menu includes a raw bar, macadamia-crusted snapper, their signature bang bang shrimp and the fish of the day, among other bestsellers. Most importantly, their homemade espresso ice cream gives a kick for dessert.

 

Inside Puerto Sagua Cuban diner in South Beach

Inside Puerto Sagua Cuban diner in South Beach

3. PUERTO SAGUA

700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Another one you can call an old-school institution in Miami’s restaurants circuit is Puerto Sagua. This is a down-home Cuban diner on South Beach. In fact, Puerto Sagua has been a South Beach favorite for authentic Cuban dishes since opening its doors in 1968.

The restaurant’s casual atmosphere has a feel of a neighborhood hangout where you can enjoy Cuban classics like fried plantains, ropa vieja, tender strips of meat basted in a tomato-flavored broth, pressed Cuban sandwiches, as well as fried whole snapper.

For example, the tasty picadillo has the requisite green olives, while the chicken with yellow rice is an enormous portion. Moreover, the black bean soup is fragrant with bay leaves and rings of white onion. Accompanied with buttery white rice or toasted Cuban bread, a bowl of this stuff will last you all day.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, don’t forget to try their Cuban coffee.

 

Entrance to portuguese restaurant Old Lisbon in Miami

Entrance to portuguese restaurant Old Lisbon in Miami

4. OLD LISBON

1698 SW 22nd St., Miami

Old Lisbon’s first location opened its doors in January 1991. It has since expanded to three locations across the city and continues serving authentic Portuguese cuisine with an open kitchen concept and sumptuous seafood dishes.

Old Lisbon serves a variety of traditional Portuguese dishes including grilled octopus and their signature cod croquettes. The restaurant has an Old World atmosphere with white tablecloths and an extensive wine list.

5. TUTTO PASTA

1751 SW 3rd Ave., Miami

Locals love Tutto Pasta, where for less than $20 per entrée, you can feast on delicious homemade Italian pasta. With culinary honors earned from the Miami Herald, Zagat Guide and other publications, Tutto Pasta has a reputation as one of the best Italian restaurants in Miami. In fact, the pasta is made fresh daily in an open kitchen and, similarly, the fresh baked bread make for a great dining experience.

Start with bruschetta or salmon carpaccio, try the famous lobster agnolotti or the tilapia sautéed with shrimp, calamari, scallops and tomato sauce. Above all, don’t skip the decadent dessert menu that is sure to impress.

Next door is Tutto Pizza Beer House, which serves burgers, paninis and thin pizzas. Try the Portuguesa topped with ham, mozzarella, black olives, eggs and onion. Lastly, finish with Tutto chocolate cake or creamy trifle called pave.

 

Inside Caffe Abbracci's dramatic dining room

Inside Caffe Abbracci’s dramatic dining room

6. CAFFE ABBRACCI

318 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

True to his native Venezia, owner Nino Pernetti continues bringing classic Northern Italian dishes to Miami. An authentic Italian restaurant that’s been part of the fabric of Miami for beyond three decades. Caffe Abbracci has seen its fair share of famous faces, including presidents, politicians, athletes and actors such as Sean Connery and Paul Newman.

But besides its celebrity sightings, the allure here is feeling as if you’ve stepped into a Martin Scorsese film. Order from the excellent menu of Italian comfort food favorites: vitello tonnato, penne puttanesca, veal scaloppine, and longtime favorite cannelloni di Mauro. And last but not least, there’s also an extensive list of international blends to choose from.

 

Outdoor seating at French restaurant Pascal's on Ponce

Outdoor seating at French restaurant Pascal’s on Ponce

7. PASCAL’S ON PONCE

2611 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables

The restaurant boasts authentic contemporary French cuisine. Pascal’s was named among the best new restaurants in America by Esquire the year it opened, 2000. In fact, Pascal Oudin still runs the restaurant which features white-tablecloth in a still unpretentious and elegant atmosphere.

Among the delightful dishes is the lobster bisque, crispy sea bass in a red wine reduction, veal rib-eye, and similarly delicious steamed salmon with shrimp and scallops. Desserts at such place are always in order. Don’t miss the clafoutis with fresh, dark cherries. Additionally, the restaurant has received Wine Spectator Award and Wine Enthusiast Magazine Distinction Wine List.

8. CHRISTY’S

3101 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables

Christy’s Restaurant has been one of Miami’s best steakhouses and a classic fine dining experience since 1978. The white-tablecloth affair adds to the Mad Men vibe of the dining room. Start your evening with a dirty martini at the bar. Afterward, feel free to trust your server to choose your dinner for you, as most of the waitstaff has been here since the restaurant opened.

You can’t go wrong with the shrimp cocktail, oysters Rockefeller, or the wide array of prime-aged beef such as the prime rib roast served with horseradish sauce. Don’t miss the table side flambéed baked Alaska for dessert. Can’t get more old-school than that.

 

Outside Cuban restaurant Versailles in Little Havana

Outside Cuban restaurant Versailles in Little Havana

9. VERSAILLES RESTAURANT

3555 SW 8th St., Miami

And talking about timeless restaurants, can’t get more old-school than Miami’s Little Havana’s Versailles.

Versailles Restaurant is a longtime gem tucked away in Little Havana, a favorite gathering spot for the Cuban community. Since 1971, Versailles has been serving authentic Cuban cuisine. Diners get to choose from an extensive menu that includes Cuban comfort classics like croquetas and vaca frita to an assortment of Cuban sandwiches. There’s also beef, chicken, pork and seafood entrees accompanied by classic sides such as black beans and rice, moros or sweet plantains.

Customers on the go can order a potent shot of sweet Cuban coffee from the restaurant’s adjacent takeout window. Those with a sweet tooth, can load up on Cuban pastelitos (pastries) at the restaurant’s bakery. Reservations are not accepted unless your party is 15 or more guests.

10. MONTY’S RAW BAR

2550 S. Bayshore Drive, Miami

At first sight, you wouldn’t call Monty’s old-school, however, this lively beach bar has withstood the test of time among Miami’s oldest restaurants. Monty’s Raw Bar is a beach-casual restaurant with a tiki bar feel and a highly rated menu of raw dishes.

You haven’t lived in Miami until you’ve spent an afternoon gulping down a cocktail while gazing at a cotton-candy sunset at Monty’s. The Coconut Grove institution has seen a half-century of patrons flock to the restaurant for happy hour and tropical views.

Relax on the shaded patio area and soak up the view of the marina while you sample dishes that include conch, clams, and Gulf oysters. But no trip to Monty’s is complete without a round of Pain Removers, the bar’s version of the Painkiller, a tiki cocktail trademarked in the 1970s, made with island rum, pineapple juice, OJ, and coconut cream. Pair the sweet strong cocktail with a dozen oysters or the seafood roll and you are all set. Live music.

 

Need recommendation for live music spots in Miami? Don’t miss our guide for the best places for live music here.

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