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Miami: A food lover’s guide to South Beach

Contemporary yet harking back to a bygone era, elegant but gloriously informal, South Beach is classic Miami in dazzling Technicolor, complete with swaying palms and turquoise sea and the pastel-hued Art Deco district standing sentry just beyond.

So what’s the best way to take it all in? We say it’s by taking time to savour the restaurants, pavement cafés and great value diners of this sun-kissed oceanside neighbourhood. Start your journey with a handful of our considered faves…

Blingin’ Breakfast: News Café

As the queen of Ocean Drive’s sidewalk venues, the glamorous News Café is the ultimate people-watching venue and a South Beach landmark. Wait for an outside table to truly appreciate the experience, and sit back and enjoy the show.

Breakfast here is a big deal; many seem to have honed the art of making it last all morning. Start with a fresh papaya juice – you are in the tropics after all – and follow with a super-strong Cuban coffee. Food-wise, there’s a wide choice of classic American morning staples – pancakes or French toast with maple syrup, bagels with cream cheese, and a bewildering array of hot dishes (the ‘Egg News Benedict’ might possibly last you all day). The health-conscious will find plenty of ‘light’ choices on the menu too, including yoghurt, nuts, fresh fruit and low-fat bran muffins. Just inside there’s a news stand with a collection of local and international newspapers, if you can’t face watching any more of the beautiful people drift by.

News Cafe, 800 Ocean Drive (at 8th Street), Miami

A Lazy Lunch – LT Steak & Seafood at The Betsy Hotel

LT Steak & Seafood – the LT stands for award-winning chef Laurent Tourondel –is a top-class but easygoing beachfront bistro located in the beautifully restored Betsy Hotel, at the northern end of Ocean Drive.

The Miami outpost of the famous restaurateur’s empire is a modern American seafood and steakhouse, with a cool, relaxed interior plus an 80-seat outside patio overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You’d be amiss to forgo the signature meat dishes here of course, especially with the certified American Wagyu beef being prepared to such exacting standards. But if you’re seeking a slightly lighter experience try one of the innovative salads; the lemon-poached lobster and the black garlic skirt steak are both excellent.

BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami

Afternoon Coffee & Cakes – The Café at Books & Books

Located in the heart of the Lincoln Road pedestrianised shopping district, Books & Books is Miami’s best-loved bookstore and is home to one of South Florida’s finest collections of art, design, architecture and photography tomes. But that’s not all – the coffee and cakes at the Books & Books cafe are among the best in town.

In addition to the relaxed pavement setting, there’s more seating in the wide covered entrance shared with neighbour Design Within Reach, a modern furniture and accessories emporium.

After a good browse through both, you’ll be just about ready to grab something from the extensive magazine selection and settle down for the afternoon. The entire coffee menu is available hot or iced, and if your sweet tooth is calling, go for a portion of the Cuatro Leches – a traditional Cuban dessert topped with meringue, or a decadent slice of Mango Blossom cake.

The Café at Books & Books, 927 Lincoln Road, Miami

All Night Grub – The 11th Street Diner

You won’t find anything more all-American in Miami than this gleaming, original Art Deco diner on the intersection of 11th Street and Washington Avenue. It lived in Pennsylvania for 44 years before being dismantled and moved to South Beach’s Art Deco district, where it was painstakingly restored to its original state before re-opening its doors in September 1992.

Besides being utterly authentic down to the tiniest detail (hence its popular use as a filming location, including music videos by the Bee Gees and Will Smith), the menu is deservingly celebrated too. Voted one of the best five diners in the USA by Food Network and winner of multiple Zagat awards, its traditional diner favourites – milkshakes, malts, 15 different types of burger, baked apple pie and cheesecake – are especially praised. But the best thing about this place, other than it being open 24 hours a day, is that unlike many of its fast-food competitors, the 11th Street Diner also offers a really wide variety of high-quality, healthy-eating options too: plenty of interesting salads, vegetables, fresh fruit bowls, granola and cereals. There’s genuinely something for every belly.

11th St. Diner, 1065 Washington Ave, Miami

Image credits:

Sunrise © iStock: mayapet

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