Have you ever been to a restaurant and after your first bite or sip of wine, become instantly transported back to a specific time or place? Food has the power to activate thoughts and memories or awaken the imagination. If you are anything like me and love to travel, you will have a true appreciation for restaurants that can capture the essence of the most spectacular places through divine food, drinks, atmosphere, and of course incredible views- especially during a global pandemic when travel can be limited.
I have been fortunate enough to eat and drink my way through some of the most breathtaking places the world has to offer. Living in South Florida, I've managed to find a few gems that truly bring me back to these destinations, even if only for a few hours. These 6 local hotspots rekindle some of my favorite trips, and will make you feel like you are in a completely different place too, from the mouthwatering menus, exceptional service, fancy cocktails, live music, and breathtaking scenery. Here we go!
A little piece of Tulum, Mexico right in our backyard!
If you have been dying to go to Tulum, Mexico and have not had the chance to go, look no further than this boho chic restaurant. Joia Beach is an extraordinary beachfront gem that offers the fun of Mexico in Miami, along with amazing food and drinks from noon until night. Looking for scenic relaxation or a place for dancing after dinner? Whatever you're looking for, Joia Beach is where you want to be! The European inspired menu will not disappoint either. And if that's not enough, perhaps the happy hour Wednesdays through Fridays (with no reservation required) will entice you to try out this premier culinary, entertainment, and relaxation destination!
Italian heaven… seriously!
Carbone originated in New York City and recently made its way to Miami. Every detail is accounted for in this sophisticated and swanky setting, from the accent furniture, to the tables, the chandeliers, and more. Carbone will make you forget you're in South Florida. And the food is even better. Their famous Spicy Rigatoni Vodka is a must! A rich, creamy, and delicious combination of slow-cooked onions, tomato sauce, heavy cream, Calabrian chilies, and the Carbone touch have given this signature dish a reputation all its own. After a night at Carbone, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say- Italian heaven!
Welcome to Barcelona!
Etapas is a hidden gem in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale offering the most incredible (and authentic) tapas, paella, and sangria, accompanied by live music as well as shows and events on certain nights. Like the streets of Barcelona, the atmosphere at Etapas will make you want to get up and dance some Bamboleo! It's the perfect destination to share traditional Spanish dishes and unforgettable memories with friends and family.
An Asian dream.
I have never been to Asia, but I feel like I am there every time I go to Jaya at the Satai. It is one of the most interesting places I have ever dined. The astonishing variety of dishes from India, Thailand, China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam is a menu you won't quite find anywhere else. Jaya means “victory” in Sanskrit and is inspired by the historical silk and ancient spice trading routes, a theme that is reflected in the menu. Each dish is seasoned with some type of exotic spice blend that takes the flavor to ridiculous heights- a true experience for the palate. And the cocktail menu is no different. If you are a Mezcal lover like me, I highly recommend you try the “La Vida" cocktail for a surprising and refreshing Mezcal twist.
The perfect Parisian date night!
This award-winning restaurant is located in the Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach, just steps away from Worth Avenue. The restaurant features renowned Chef Daniel Boulud's traditional French cuisine techniques. The tuna tartare and oysters are absolutely stellar, especially when shared on the beautiful backlit bar or al fresco in front of the magnificent courtyard fountain, as if you were having an evening under the stars in the Place de l’Étoile. Do I hear French music? From menu to ambiance, Café Boulud has every ingredient for a romantic escape with that special someone.
Peru... with a view!
In the last ten years, Peru has become recognized among the world's leading culinary destinations, and Chef Gaston Acurio's La Mar restaurant in the Mandarin hotel, is the perfect restaurant to experience the cultural fusion and gastronomic delight that is Peruvian cuisine. La Mar features three different bars, including one offering a front row seat to their chefs preparing your food- an experience in and of itself. They offer indoor and outdoor dining, but I have to say, the beautiful views overlooking Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline make me partial to their patio. If you're thinking of trying La Mar, consider a Sunday brunch, complete with unlimited Pisco Sours!
As a tourist destination, South Florida is filled with some of the world's leading dining destinations, capturing the essence of unique places through sight, sound, feel, and of course, taste. Lucky for us, we are only a short car ride away from transporting to another time or place. I would love to hear of your experience if try some of these wonderful places. And remember, “the best memories are made around the table.”