Luminescent high-rises reach to intracoastal-colored skies—the waters of Biscayne Bay bouncing off their reflective sides—and office workers eat lunch on benches under gently swaying palms. Known as the financial center of Miami, Brickell and its scenery are like Wall Street meets tropical getaway. With a growing roster of condos, hotels and entertainment options, it’s where business and pleasure collide.
At first glance, the Brickell neighborhood which spans about 20 blocks from the Miami River to the Rickenbacker Causeway, and from Biscayne Bay to I-95, is marked by an abundance of construction cranes dotting the skyline including the anticipated Brickell City Centre, a mixed-used development including a luxury shopping center along South Miami Avenue between Sixth and Eighth streets. But slowly and steadily this area of Downtown Miami has grown to a thriving dining and nightlife scene. From casual comfort fare to authentic Asian and modern South American from one of the best chefs in the world, the downtown Miami and Brickell dining scene is white-hot, right now.
Perricone's Marketplace & Cafe
Perricone’s Marketplace & Cafe began serving the business crowds long before the area became a food and nightlife destination. In 1996, 30-year restaurant industry veteran Steven Perricone opened the doors of his namesake restaurant in an old house just west of Brickell Avenue. Perricone sought to provide high-quality comfort food in a warm setting. With both a sit-down restaurant and a gourmet market featuring an array of old-world charcuterie, cheeses, sweet treats, prepared dishes and sandwiches. The market took off immediately, but the restaurant grew gradually over time. “When we first opened, we’d sit at the bar at night and we wouldn’t see any headlights on the street,” says Perricone. “If we did, we’d get excited that we might get a customer.”
Over the past eight years, that’s changed. Now the area garners foot traffic from locals and visitors from near and far, and the restaurant is packed in the evening with guests noshing on fresh fish, light salads and Italian-American cuisine, such as the decadent fiocchi gorgonzola, imported purse-shaped pasta filled with pear and four cheeses in a creamy walnut gorgonzola sauce. Old family recipes from Perricone’s mother and grandmother are also featured, including the lasagna and eggplant parmigiana.
Overlooking the Miami River, American Social is one of the newer hot spots to take advantage of the changing climate set forth by hospitality trailblazers. It’s the second outpost of the beloved Las Olas original, and owners and South Florida natives Paul Greenberg and Rick Mijares knew the growing area was the ideal place to bring their craft beer and all-American vibe and comfort food. Everything is made in-house, from the pretzels and rock shrimp flatbread to the 24-hour-braised, black-truffle short rib trio. The food and the drinks are top-notch (including table-side beer taps). But here, forging relationships with guests in a convivial atmosphere is just as important. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than talking to people and seeing the smiles on their faces,” says one pleased Greenberg. “Everybody always has a good time.”
Momi takes that from-scratch ethos to its signature Japanese and Chinese staple. Unable to find a place to get their ramen fix, owners Mei Yu and Jeffrey Chen took matters into their own hands, opening a cash-only shop in a small, historic house set amongst condos and skyscrapers. There, Chen dishes up steaming hot soup made from a 22-hour tonkatsu stock and noodles created by hand. The succulent pork belly is the most popular topping, but a few lighter options are offered, too. Rather than weigh itself down with a large menu, the aim at Momi is to do one thing and do it well. “We don’t have a concept, it’s ramen. If you don’t like ramen, we have no food for you,” Yu says with a laugh. “We’re like the Seinfeld Soup Nazi.”
La Mar by Gaston Acurio
The area has started to garner the attention of international all-star chefs. When Gaston Acurio, the ambassador of Peruvian cuisine and owner of one of the world’s “50 Best Restaurants,” looked to expand to Miami, he looked no further than the waterfront Mandarin Oriental Miami on Brickell Key as a location for La Mar. Each La Mar has its’ own personality. Here, executive chef Diego Oka focuses on creating modern renditions of authentic dishes, including the popular lomo saltado, a stir-fried beef dish. Local seafood, meanwhile, is a centerpiece in a diverse list of ceviches. “They know our flavors and culture in Miami,” says Oka. “But it’s great to serve first-timers who don’t know anything about my country or ceviche. That’s cool to see.”
What to Do in Downtown Miami and Brickell
You'll find other points of interest in the area including The Shops at Mary Brickell Village, an open-air shopping destination with clothing boutiques, specialty food stores and bars, the rooftop lounge at Club 50 at Viceroy Miami, the Miami Seaquarium, dinner theater at El Toucan Cabaret and Cocktail Lounge and live entertainment at the laid-back arts lounge and bar, Sidebar.