On any given day, I’ll get a text from a friend or a family member asking, “Where should I eat?”
If you’re in Coral Gables, you’re right around the corner from my house, so I’ve got some thoughts.
You don’t have to end up at a chain like Hillstone on Miracle Mile or the meat market at Tarpon Bend. Some of my favorite Coral Gables spots are out of the way and better for it.
Like the rest of Miami-Dade County, this lux Miami-adjacent city is developing some of the most exciting, interesting cuisine in the country.
This is a list of my favorite spots in the the Gables, places where I actually eat, my go-tos for an average Tuesday when I don’t have the time to cook for my daughters or when I want to treat myself midweek. Among them are unadorned comfort classics to menus meant for special nights out.
If you’re venturing into other Miami neighborhoods, check out my full list, ‘Here’s how to eat like a local in (almost) every neighborhood in Miami’.
Westchester native Giorgio Rapicavoli opened his first restaurant with money from winning Food Network’s “Chopped.” There he creates food inspired by his upbringing but styled with his culinary skill. I love how he mixes genres here: cauliflower “elote,” croquetas with smoked pork belly, chicken and waffles with spicy buttermilk, pasta carbonara with black truffles. The seasonal menu promises you’ll always have something new to treat your tastebuds. It’s a small restaurant so use Open Table to make same-day reservations.
Naomi Harris makes my favorite croissant in Miami. (I went again the day after returning from Belgium, where I subsisted on a diet of croissants, and I stand by my statement.) Wake up early on Sunday, get her killer croissant and a pain au chocolat and bring them home to have with your morning coffee. You won’t regret it. If you want something heartier, the bacon quiche is fluffy, flavorful and the crust buttery and delicate. They mill their own flour here, and all that means to you is fresher, delicious bread.
The Seven Dials
This, Cardon y el Tirano and Eating House are in my eat-a-little-nicer-but-don’t-break-the-bank list near my house. It’s not just the delectable fish and chips at this true-to-form British spot, where chef Andrew Gilbert (a Michelle Bernstein protégé) and wife Katie Sullivan embrace the diversity of London. It’s falafel, foie butter and date toast, housemade charcuterie, jerkies and pates, bangers and mash. The place is a little off the path, on a side street in the Gables, but don’t give up on Waze. Go find it.
Tinta y Café
By day, it’s a perfect spot for fluffy egg breakfasts, incredible sandwiches and cafe con leche. By night (usually Sundays, check the website), it’s a restaurant pop up between the children of two longtime Miami restaurant families. Their cafe con leche is sweet and creamy, maybe the best I’ve had that doesn’t come out of my kitchen. I’m also a breakfast sandwich guy, and I love the Bori: prosciutto and eggs on toasted Cuban bread. It’s a bit hidden in a residential neighborhood and the hours are weird, so double check before you go.
From the day it opened, The Local became a staple for Coral Gables. It was among the first so-called gastropubs, focusing on great food better than you’d find in a bar and a craft beer list worth coming back for. It suffered through a couple of years where it catered to the college-kid crowd with music that was too loud and beers you can buy at Publix. But it has returned to its roots as a cool hangout with satisfying comfort food and a beer list that looks for top local brews (plus a few special beers from around the country). The brisket-blended double-cheeseburger with Mississippi “comeback sauce” is a sure-fire hit paired with a J. Wakefield Hot For Teacher IPA.
150 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables
Whisk (South Miami)
These guys were doing Southern food in Miami before it was cool, and they do it well. The fried green tomatoes with seasoned buttermilk dipping sauce are a must. So is the fried chicken, however they’re serving it (they vary every few months between a platter, chicken and biscuits and an open-faced fried chicken sandwich). And the shrimp and grits is always a winner. The menu changes with the season, which I love. This spot is Gables-adjacent, so I thought I’d included it if you happen to be on the south side of town.
7382 SW 56th Ave., South Miami
El Mago de las Fritas (West Miami)
To me, there are only two legit places to order a traditional frita cubana in Miami and El Rey de las Fritas is the other (1821 SW Eighth St, Little Havana or 9343 SW 40th St, Westchester). El Mago is a personal preference because it’s near my house, and I love the cumin-and-chorizo-flavored sauce they use to flavor the ultra-flat burger once it hits the griddle. Their crispy papitas are fried throughout the day (no awful potato sticks) and they carry a selection of craft beers because the owner’s son-in-law, who helps run the day-to-day operations, is a craft beer nerd. A beer and frita go a long way toward finding enlightenment. West Miami is literally across the street from the west side of the Gables, so I thought I’d include it for you, as well.
5828 SW Eighth St., West Miami