Get a Taste of the Mediterranean at These South Florida Hotspots

By Kathy Buccio | February 27, 2018 | Food & Drink

The flavors of the Mediterranean are running rampant in South Florida, and you won't need to get on a transatlantic flight to savor some of the rich yet health-centric foods that come along with it. Spanning continents from Europe to North Africa, dining at one of these Mediterranean hot spots in the Magic City will make you feel like you’re on a culinary getaway. Grab the hummus or a slice of pinsa romana and check out one of these dining destinations that are sure to satisfy your Mediterranean craving.

Byblos

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This Eastern Mediterranean hot spot is not only a hub for authentic Med fare, but it also has a celeb draw, bringing in regulars such as Diddy and Drake to its art deco digs inside the Royal Palm Hotel. The restaurant keeps with the Levantine culture of family style dining with plates such as short rib kebabs, or the widely popular grilled branzino (hermoula, saffron toum, shiso cress). Adding modern methods to traditional Mediterranean cooking, Byblos is about capturing the essence and spices of the region. You can’t leave without trying the barberi, a crispy Turkish bread cooked in a stone oven, served fresh with organic house made Lebnah and a variety of regional olive oils. Wrap up your meal with a cup of Moroccan mint tea while you sit back and enjoy the vibrant colors of the Mediterranean in the restaurant’s bustling dining room. 1545 Collins Ave., 305-508-5041

Atlantikos

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Expect to step into the majestic landscape of Santorini when you come and dine at Atlantikos, located inside the luxe St. Regis Bar Harbour Resort. Your senses—and palate—will surely be transported to the Grecian island via the bright blue and white interior that is quintessential of Santorini’s canvas. Besides the tranquil ambiance, the spotlight is on the traditional Greek dishes such as the Mediterranean seabass, slow-cooked in parchment with sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, fennel, garlic, and white wine, as well as the Cretan Dakos barley rusk aromatized with ouzo, tomato, capers, Xinomizithra cheese from Chania, baked olives, and sea fennel. It’s important to note that Atlantikos is serious about embracing the authenticity of their country’s cuisine with the fresh fish coming directly from the Greek fish market in Piraeus, as well as from local Miami fisherman. Now that’s a reason to yell, Opa! 9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305-993-3300

Meraki Greek Bistro

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It’s hard to imagine that right smack in the middle of downtown Miami, there’s an nondescript alley, reminiscent of Athens, that gives way to a Mediterranean hidden gem that has all the locals talking. Meraki Greek Bistro delivers a true and unforgettable Hellenic dining experience not just because of it’s welcoming and vibrant ambiance (Chef Giannis and co-owner Alex Karavias built the bistro from inside out all by themselves), but because Chef Giannis Kotsos pours his heart and soul into preparing each dish with that same Grecian flavor and taste that can only be done with talent and love. One of the restaurant’s most popular items (and a very traditional Greek dish) is the Sagnaki. The flaming cheese is ignited with Greek brandy and served as a mezze. Another must-try is the lamb kabob platter, which is served with three kabobs, grilled tomato, pita bread, Greek fries, tzatziki, and a traditional Greek salad. You can’t have Greek without having lamb, right? 142 SE 1st Ave., 786-773-1535

Deck Sixteen

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Lamb ribs, octopus, and chorizo are just three reasons to check out Hyatt Centric’s Spanish-Mediterranean Eatery, Deck Sixteen, perfectly situated in the hotel’s rooftop. Mediterranean dishes with a twist are served al fresco (indoor seating also available) and best enjoyed with the South Beach skyline. Think tapas-style dining with memorable and good-to-the-last-bite dishes such as spiced lamb ribs with mint yogurt, Spanish chorizo with potatoes and alioli, pan roasted fish fillet with fennel, onions, mix herbs, and garlic, and Adena Farms organic chicken breast with roasted potatoes, kale, olives, tomato, and herbs. Here’s a tip: stop by their daily happy hour from 5-8 p.m. to take advantage of the $6 bites and cocktails—spectacular views free of charge.1600 Collins Ave., 305-695-7400

Kiki on the River

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Modern Greek cuisine and boho-glam vibes dominate the atmosphere at this eclectic hot spot along the Miami River. Kiki on the River takes Greek fare to elegant heights without sacrificing the taste and spirit of the Grecian islands. Prepare those taste buds for appetizers such as the filet mignon souvlaki (filet mignon marinated in rosemary, garlic, and olive oil served with tzatziki sauce) as well as entrées that pack a punch, including the salmon saganaki (grilled salmon, topped with grated tomato sauce, feta cheese, Greek oregano, and olive oil). The baklava, a signature Greek dessert, will be waiting for you at the end of the meal, and if you can score a table right on the dock, consider yourself an A-lister. 450 NW North River Dr., 786-502-3243

Call Me Gaby

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If pinsa romana is what you’re craving, then head over to the newest Mediterranean addition in the blossoming South of Fifth neighborhood. At Call Me Gaby, owners Kathy and Anthony want to transport you to the magical atmosphere and taste of Italy and the South of France. If the smell of that wood-burning oven doesn't get you, then its cozy French Riviera-inspired décor (think plush pillowed banquets, light wood furnishings, and abundant greenery) will surely do the trick. There’s just one more thing—the pizza, which is front and center at the eatery. There are classic pies on the menu, such as the Romana with San Marzano tomatoes, anchovies, capers, black olives, and imported extra virgin olive oil (all products are imported from Italy), but if you want to try something different, go for the Carla, made with Mortadella, basil pesto and pistachio crumble. We can’t talk Mediterranean without mentioning wine. The restaurant boasts a mostly European selection of wines by the glass or bottle. Treat yourself to a glass of Barolo and really feel like you’re in paradiso. 22 Washington Ave., 305-531-4800

Pesce at La Centrale

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Brickell City Centre’s most anticipated Italian food hall, La Centrale, has finally opened its doors and it’s giving locals a taste of the Mediterranean by way of the seafood-centric restaurant, Pesce. The coastal Italian cuisine, which is inspired by the region of Liguria, features the freshest catch both South Florida and the Mediterranean have to offer, in addition to a Bollicini/crudo bar and a seafood display at the entrance of the space. Standout dishes such as the ceviche siciliano (locally caught snapper, cherry tomato, capers, olive, lemon) and the spaghetti felicetti (Manila clams, white wine broth, and parsley) bring to life the flavors and spirit of Italy. Pesce evokes the essence of a seaside restaurant along the Italian Riviera, and the nautical and airy interior isn’t too shabby either. And if you fall in love with your meal (as I’m sure you will), you can purchase all the ingredients at Pesce in order to try your hand at recreating the dish in the comfort of your own home—there’s nothing wrong with bringing a little bit of Liguria to your kitchen. 601 S Miami Ave., 305-720-2401

Seaspice

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Come by yacht (or car) and see what has both locals and celebrities buzzing. Known for its trendy scene and globally-influence Mediterranean cuisine, this luxe dining spot along the Miami River is a must-visit. Visually breathtaking with contemporary nautical design and unmatched skyline views, Seaspice is not just an epic dining experience, but a social one as well. Before popping bottles of champagne, dig in to some of Seaspice’s mouth-watering dishes such as the organic chicken tangine made with Moroccan couscous, roasted tomatoes, shallot confit, and crispy capers. The restaurant is getting ready to unveil AIR, a private upstairs deck where guests and celeb clientèle will be able to hold private dinners. Who knows, you might just rub elbows with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, whose been spotted dining at the waterfront digs. 422 NW North River Dr., 305-440-4200

Skorpios

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Aegean cuisine has arrived in Midtown, but don’t let the shark hanging on the wall scare you away (she answers to Daisy btw), because the food is sure to keep you coming back. Expect a lively Greek taverna and authentic Mediterranean fare when you come dine at Skorpios (named after Aristotle Onassis private island). Dishes such as soujuk pide flatbread (spicy sausage, Bulgarian cheese, and egg) or traditional domaldes (grape leaves with rice, tomato, fennel, pine nuts, sultanas) are served daily, and are quickly becoming a foodie favorite. However, sometimes the tastiest dishes can be the simplest, and in keeping with Mediterranean cuisine, Skorpios offers a daily catch that is prepared and grilled with olive oil, oregano, and lemon. Extra points for being healthy and cholesterol-friendly. 3252 NE 1st Ave., 786-329-5905

Boulud Sud

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Renowned chef, Daniel Boulud, has graced Miami’s culinary scene with his latest Mediterranean concept (and NYC cult favorite), Boulud Sud. Located inside the JW Marriott Marquis in the heart of downtown Miami, the eatery is a true testament not only to Boulud’s creative talent as an innovative chef, but the coastal flavors of the Mediterranean—from the Cote d’Azur to Tunisia. From appetizers to side dishes, every plate is executed impeccably to showcase the flavors and ingredients of the cultural mosaic of the Mediterranean. Start with the bold short rib barbajuans appetizer before moving on to the andalusian gazpacho featuring watermelon, cucumbers, and croutons. For entrées, the seared Mediterranean branzino (garnished with freekeh, apricot, artichoke) is sure to melt in your mouth. 255 Biscayne Blvd., 305-421-8800

Habitat

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Chef Jose Mendin of Pubbelly fame is bringing his talents to the 1 Hotel South Beach with a new globally-inspired restaurant, Habitat. Fusing his love of Spanish, Asian, and Latin cuisine, Habitat—his first restaurant under his newly-formed Food Comma Hospitality Group—is also sprinkled with Mediterranean influences such as the langostinos al ajillo with fermented garlic parmentiere, and the savory lamb chops served with raita, cucumbers, and red pepper. The restaurant inhabits the former Beachcraft space, which still boasts some of that eco-friendly and rustic-chic interior with lots of natural light. Craving a cafecito at the end of your meal? Step outside to the restaurant’s courtyard where a vintage trailer, parked amongst cafe lights and lush greens, serves up coffee that is sure to hit the spot. 2341 Collins Ave., 305-604-6700

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

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Already on the map as one of the top restaurants for Aegean cuisine, this Buena Vista Med hot spot just received Beyoncé and Jay Z’s stamp of approval. Mandolin Aegean Bistro, located in the bungalow-clad neighborhood of Buena Vista, is a visual paradise that begins at the restaurant’s famous blue gates. Grab a seat under the lights in the picturesque outdoor area (a warm and quaint seating area is also available inside) while enjoying the Mediterranean hospitality that comes along with the food and atmosphere. The menu features traditional recipes from both Greece and Turkey, keeping in mind not only freshness and simplicity, but also health-conscious cuisine that is straightforward, home-style cooking. Start off with a meze such as the Turkish sampler, which includes hummus, tomato, and eggplant, or the fried calamari with almond tarator drip. The pork souvlaki served as an entrée with fries and pita is a winner, which can be paired with a dry white from Greece. If Bey likes it, we like it. 4312 NE 2nd Ave., 305-749-9140



Photography by: photography courtesy of Byblos; Atlantikos; Meraki Greek Bistro; Deck Sixteen; Kiki on the River; Call me Gaby; Pesce at La Centrale; Seaspice; Skorpios; Boulud Sud; Habitat; Mandolin Aegean Bistro