We visited all these restaurants to try their Miami Spice menus. Here’s what we loved

Byblos' roasted red beets on labneh cheese is great for sharing during Miami Spice.

If you don’t mind paying for a terrible meal, feel free to skip right past this story.

Oh, you’re still here? It must mean you’d like to know which Miami Spice meals are the best deals this year. We did, too. Just because more than 240 restaurants have agreed to offer fixed-price lunch and dinner menus ($23 or $39, respectively) from August through Sept. 30 doesn’t mean every place put its best foot forward.

So we asked several of our writers to attend some of the preview events in July to see what different restaurants have in store. Here are some of our favorites.

Agaveros Cantina at The Gates Hotel South Beach

What we had: If their collection of more than 75 mezcals and tequilas isn’t enough to get you to the recently opened Agaveros Cantina at The Gates Hotel South Beach, their Miami Spice menu should do the trick. The hardest part about visiting is selecting what to eat — Agaveros Cantina lists eight different appetizers, seven entrees, and four desserts to choose from. You’ll find traditional chips and salsa and guacamole and chips in the starters sections, but we suggest stepping outside the box with the crab fritters, served with lime crema and mango salsa, or the red snapper ceviche, which comes prepared with diced mango and ginger beer. The Gringo Burger is a solid choice for a main, coming in hot with white cheddar, Ito, house-made pickles, secret sauce, and fried potatoes. Or you can go vegetarian with tacos loaded with wood-grilled mushrooms and heirloom tomato pico de gallo in a soft shell tortilla. For dessert, try the coak float served with dulce de leche ice cream, or some crispy Mexican sopapillas served with honey and cinnamon.

Who should go: Channeling contemporary beach vibes, the Gates South Beach is the perfect shoreside hideaway for families, couples and solo travelers alike. Like the rest of the property, Agaveros Cantina is chic, sleek and welcoming. You can stop by for a laid-back lunch or end the night here with three courses and a tour around that impressive mezcal and tequila list.

2360 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

2360 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

Amara at Paraiso

What we had: When a Michael Schwartz restaurant rolls out a Miami Spice Menu, you run to make a reservation. We started our meal with a refreshing charred carrot and avocado salad (made with both orange and purple carrots), goat cheese, cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds for that extra crunch. One of Amara’s signature dishes, the Arroz Verde, is offered during Miami Spice. Cilantro rice with romesco, mushroom escabeche, avocado, cucumber and a poached egg are all mixed together for ultimate flavor. We finished our meal with the Buttermilk Dark Chocolate Cake drizzled with a chipotle chile chocolate sauce.

Who should go to this venue: Miamians who want to hit the hottest new spot would absolutely love the breathtaking Biscayne Bay views and the Latin American flavors of each creative dish that comes out of Schwartz’s kitchen.

— Kathy Buccio

3101 NE SEventh Ave., Miami

3101 NE Seventh Ave, Miami

Azabu

Dining room at AzabuHandout

What we had:  Like its Michelin-starred sister restaurant in New York City, Azabu Miami Beach highlights upscale authentic Japanese dishes in a warm and intimate setting.  To start, we had seared A5 grade Wagyu served with truffle ponzu that managed to be the perfect richness. It was a decadent precursor to the main event, Azabu’s robata-grilled Sakura Pork. Pre-marinated in shio-koji—a simple seasoning blended to enhance the umami, the richness, of the meat—the Sakura Pork is a butter-soft plate of perfection. Azabu’s Spice menu also offers a Chirashi sushi bowl that includes a fresh assortment of mixed sashimi served over sushi rice. For dessert, we went with a yuzu key lime pie and a matcha cheesecake, both Asian-inspired riffs on the classics.  

Who should go: The restaurant’s cozy layout, chic soundtrack, and stellar bar program make it the perfect spot for couples on dates.

— Amanda Mesa

161 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach

161 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach

Bourbon Steak

Bourbon Steak offerings

What we had: We attended a preview dinner that gave an overview of both the Bourbon Steak and Corsair Kitchen dinner menus (both of which are offered seven nights a week). The lobster salad from the Corsair starters is a big-ticket item and a nice way to begin while Bourbon’s beef carpaccio is festooned with shaved summer truffles – lovely to see on a Spice menu. Corsair’s campanelle pasta comes with fava beans and kale pesto and Bourbon’s Yemenite-spiced NY strip will satisfy any carnivore. The hazelnut panna cotta on Bourbon’s menu was a crowd pleaser while Corsair’s key lime tart was an interesting take on a classic Florida dessert.

Who should go to this venue: Both spots are polished and chic, and perfect for an upscale night out. But while Bourbon has an adults-only atmosphere, Corsair is a bit more family-friendly.

— Sara Liss

19999 W. Country Club Drive, Aventura

19999 W. Country Club Drive, Aventura

Byblos

Shakshouka at Byblos is always a hit.

What we had: Every year that they’ve participated Byblos has put on an impressive show for Spicers and this year proves no different: each diner gets to choose from dozens of options with each person getting two small plates to start, a main course, a side and a dessert – an impressive spread worthy of a Sultan. Standouts on the appetizers include the shakshouka (baked tomato-egg dish), the beets with labneh cheese, pide bread with spinach and feta, lamb ribs and duck kibbeh. On the mains they’ve added the decadent Byblos burger from this year’s SOBEWFF Burger Bash competition along with crowd pleasers like the Middle Eastern fried chicken, yogurt-baked cod and shortrib kebab. Sides of sweet jeweled couscous and Persian kale rice will keep everyone happy while desserts of honey-soaked loukoumades and pistachio ice cream pizzelle are a fitting ending to the crazy feast. Bonus: the Spice dinner is offered all seven nights a week – a generous touch.

Who should go to this venue: This place is perfect for a big group of friends – there are so many options that you’ll have dozens of plates crowding the table making it a gorgeous family-style meal.

— Sara Liss

1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach,

Chotto Matte

Chotto Ceviche

What We Had: We started with an order of edamame for the table, which quickly followed with the Chotto Ceviche made with branzino sashimi and a citrus sauce that gave it a salty kick. The Ebi Harumaki, shrimp spring rolls made with shiitake, yuzu, shiso and ponzu salsa, were crisped to perfection. An unlikely hit was the Nasu Miso- a miso-glazed eggplant dish with apricot, puffed soba and sesame seeds. A traditional spicy tuna roll is also included and dessert changes daily. We had the brûlée de la passion, an almond cake with ahi amarillo and guava sorbet.

Who should go to this venue: Fans of Nikkei cuisine will definitely want to make a reservation.

— Kathy Buccio

1664 Lenox Ave., Miami Beach

1664 Lenox Ave, Miami Beach

Corsair Kitchen and Bar

Cavatelli dish at Corsair Kitchen & Bar.

What we had: Corsair’s Spice dinner menu is offered seven days a week — a nice touch. The lobster salad off the starters list is a big-ticket item and a nice way to begin. There are three choices for entrees including a grilled salmon, an upscale version of meatloaf and a campanelle pasta that comes with fava beans and kale pesto. For dessert the key lime tart was an interesting take on a classic Florida dessert.

Who should go to this venue: The dining room overlooking the hotel’s golf course is polished and chic – perfect for a fancy night out but also laid-back enough to bring the kids.

Address: 19999 West Country Club Drive, Aventur

19999 West Country Club Drive, Aventura

Graziano’s

What we had: Graziano’s claims to be “the home of damn fine Argentine,” and they certainly live up to the title. Although we’re not sure how Argentine this dish is, for lunch, we recommend the signature Butcher’s Burger, made with ground Angus beef short rib, Miami Smokers Heritage bacon, tomatoes, fried egg and truffle fries. If you’re vegetarian, go for the Hongos y Espinaca — grilled Asado-style veggies served on fettuccine). Dessert is a vanilla flan with housemade dulce de leche that will blow your abuela’s rendition of the water. You can even add wine pairings for an additional $15.

Who should go to this venue: Each of Graziano’s four locations offers a laid-back neighborhood-style vibe. Families are definitely welcome, and the intimate no-frills atmosphere makes it perfect for a fuss-free date night or lunch among colleagues.

— Amanda Mesa

394 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables

394 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables

Jaya at the Setai

Wagyu bao buns at JayaHandout

What we had: If you’re thinking of doing Miami Spice at Jaya, come thirsty. A standout of the menu is its selection of four sake bottles offered for $24 in partnership with Joto Sake. We started with the Joto Hou Hou Shu Sparkling Pink — a perfect pairing for Jaya’s sweet steamed wagyu brisket bao buns and tomato and melon salad. An additional $8 will get you the chef’s truffle dumplings, stuffed with steamed scallops and served with truffle cream emulsion and a generous drizzle of shaved truffle. After polishing off two chili passion martinis (also on the Spice menu), we moved on to the beef ribeye, finished with a soy ginger glaze and served with fingerling potatoes and foie gras foam. If you must choose one dessert, the chocolate chip bread pudding is a sinfully good pick served with bourbon cream and chocolate ice cream.

Who should go: Dim lighting and lounge music inside, and a stunning zen courtyard oasis with softly burbling fountains outside — could it be any more romantic?

Address: 2001 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

2001 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

Katsuya Brickell

Soba shitake salad

What we had: Foodies, rejoice — you no longer have to venture to South Beach to enjoy some gastronomic goodness by master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi. If you love your pork belly, start with the Kakuni Tonkatsu as your appetizer. The kurabuta pork belly is butter-soft and served with carrot puree and heirloom carrot salad. For lighter fare, go with the Kampachi Kalamansi, a refreshing dish of compressed watermelon, kampachi sashimi, kalamansi and rare white shoyu. For the main dish, we tried Katsuya’s Miso Black Cod, served with creamed daikon, chewy sea beans, asparagus and (ready for this?) edible sand. For an additional $12, you can take your dinner to the next level with the Lobster Robata, grilled to perfection and served with sriracha butter, potato puree, garlic root and frothy bisque air. For dessert there were two options: a tropical confection of coconut mousse, key lime curd, macaroon and mango mochi called Winter In Osaka and the Salty Samurai, salted caramel ice cream with warm caramel foam, candied popcorn, and shoyu gelee. 

Who should go to this venue: The dim lighting and a bass-driven soundtrack create a posh and sultry dining atmosphere that’s perfect for date nights and power dinners. Maybe leave the kids at home with a babysitter for this one.

— Amanda Mesa

1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

The Local House

What We Had:  We lunched at The Local House, starting with the Goat Cheese Croquettes with the sweetest guava sauce for dipping. The seared tuna tacos were especially light, crispy and perfect as an after-beach treat. They were simply (but big in flavor) made with avocado, radish, and pickled onions. For dessert we couldn’t pass up the Key lime pie. It’s a specialty.

Who should go to this venue: Anyone who wants an authentic dining on Ocean Drive that isn’t a tourist trap.

 400 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach

3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann

High-Rise Strip Steak from Los Fuegos

What we had: We started with a chilled beet soup served with feta cheese, charred leek, breadcrumbs and mint before moving onto the heartier fare: Mallmann’s famous High-Rise Thin Sliced NY Strip. Piled over crispy thin potato crust and brushed with chimichurri, it’s like a layer cake for meat lovers. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, you can opt for the local catch of the day, served with tapenade crust, or a roasted eggplant milanesa. Desert is a choice between grilled pineapple and coconut ice cream, and a dulce de leche flan prepared with mascarpone cream (we went with the flan, because, Miami).

Who should go to this venue: Los Fuegos is located inside the Faena hotel, so you’ll definitely see families with some very well-dressed kiddos, but after sundown the space takes on a more grown-up vibe. It’s a great place for a date night — all that dim golden light does wonders for any complexion (no filter needed).

— Amanda Mesa

3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Mr. Chow

What we had: Guests can choose from four appetizers, four entrees, two sides and two desserts. Our favorites were the water dumplings (which are said to bring prosperity) and the Beijing Chicken, a sweet-and-sour classic served with fermented yellow bean sauce and candied walnuts. For dessert, we went with a creamy house-made fruit sorbet to combat Miami’s summer heat.

Who should go to this venue: While this is a hotel, MR CHOW’s audience skews toward suited execs, champagne-sipping socialites, and young glammed-up parties sitting down to dinner before hitting Wall Lounge, the hotel’s nightclub, later in the evening.

— Amanda Mesa

2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

2201 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

Palat

What we had:  Our dinner started with an order of the mussels in a white wine sauce, with ‘nduja and creme fraiche. It set the tone and flavor for our main dish, the Octopus Pasta with with a perfectly braised octopus, juicy tomatoes that blended well with the squid ink chitarra. To finishe, we tried the Ice Cream Sandwich- simple but flavorful made with chocolate cookies and creme fraiche.

Who should go to this venue: If you love Mediterranean inspired tapas, in a lively setting that’s inviting, cozy, and eclectic, this is your spot.

— Kathy Buccio

4702 NE Second Ave., Miami

4702 NE 2nd Ave, Miami

Root and Bone

What we had: We kicked it off with the Drunken Deviled Eggs flavored with pickled onion, dill, and spicy potato chips. We couldn’t say no to the signature fried chicken, Jeff McKinnis’ specialty. It comes with two pieces of Springer Mountain free range chicken brined in sweet tea and dusted with Tabasco lemon honey, with a side of squash and grits. We finished off the meal with a slice of Key lime pie. A $9 glass of Lyric by Etude pinot noir and Russian River Valley Chardonnay are available for the Spice Menu.

Who should go to this venue:  Locals and tourists who are down for some fine Southern cuisine and want a good perch for people watching on South Beach.

— Kathy Buccio

1801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Inside the Shelborne hotel.

1801 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

The Strand Bar and Grill

The Strand Bar & GrillHandout

What we had: We visited for lunch and started our dining experience with a summer-lovin’ watermelon salad with charred corn, mint, heirloom tomatoes, pickled red onions, feta cheese, and finished off with a Calabrian chili vinaigrette. For our entree, we had the Campanelle, rich, but still light enough to enjoy for lunch with whipped ricotta, arugula pesto, tomato concasse and toasted walnuts.

Who should go to this venue: Diners looking for the Miami Beach dining experience in a zen environment that focuses on wellness and offers breathtaking beach views while dining.

6801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

4385 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Cecconi's at Soho Beach House

What we had: We visited for  dinner and began with an amazing burrata with eggplant funghetto and broccolino. For our entree, we had the branzino, spinach, tomato and olives.

Who should go to this venue: Diners looking for a low-key yet luxurious  club-style experience. The outdoor garden is a great spot and the service is spot-on.

Cecconi’s at The Soho Beach House, 4385 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

4385 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Tanuki

What we had: Like its Pan-Asian menu, which runs the gamut from dim sum to sushi, Tanuki’s Miami Spice experience is a well-rounded and tasty culinary journey through different cultures and countries — all with a Far East flourish. We started with Brussel sprouts roasted with tomato, radish, truffle vin and a touch of citrus, and tender steamed Peking duck dumplings. There’s a sushi option, too, as well as an assortment of wagyu tacos served with chipotle aioli for meat lovers. The showstopper, though, is the snapper papillote with yuzu soy and black garlic butter, which is served within a parchment paper pouch ready to be cut open like a present. An assortment of flavored mochi ice cream caps off the meal (our favorite was the coconut). The South Beach restaurant, which shares the name but has some different investors, won’t feel like a massive chain. The 3,500-square-foot space was designed by Russian designer Andrey Zigankov of Studio Nograph, who is responsible for many of Moscow’s restaurants and hotels. Miami Beach-based firm Charles H. Benson & Associates, Architects has been hired to execute the project. Tanuki will feature 100 indoor and outdoor seats surrounded by Asian-inspired art. Focal points of the restaurant include a live ticker displaying pricing from the world’s stock exchanges, as well as the restaurant’s namesake, a tanuki. The creature, a Japanese raccoon dog, is believed to have shape-shifting powers and is a symbol of generosity and prosperity.

Who should go: Unlike its sister restaurants in Moscow (there are more than 60 of them) which serve sushi 24 hours a day, Tanuki’s South Beach outpost has the feel of a refined neighborhood haunt. Designed by Studio Nograph’s Andrey Zigankov, the space features artful arrangements of Japanese swords on the walls. From the center of the restaurant, a giant statue of a Tanuki — a Japanese raccoon dog — watches over diners. Families are definitely welcome but don’t rule this spot out as a date night or post-work hangout. The vibes are friendly, fun and laid back.

Address: 1080 Alton Rd, Miami Beach

1080 Alton Rd, Miami Beach