Much like the neighborhood, Downtown food scene doesn’t fit into a neat little box. It’s filled with an eclectic range of restaurants, from local staples that have defined the community for decades, to experimental fusion cuisine that’s started tickling our tastebuds in just the past year. Thanks to the New Tropic community, who shared their go-to places for cheap eats, late bites, and date nights. What’s your go-to spot?
Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue
Great barbecue isn’t exactly the first cuisine people think of when they think of Miami, but Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue has been fighting the narrative for years – and doing a great job making its point. The restaurant has just about everything you could want from a BBQ joint: ribs, chicken, brisket, wings, and plenty of tasty sides to choose from. They’ve even got a vegetarian burger and some salad options if you’re feeling guilty about all the wings you put away on your last visit.
If you’re walking too fast on Northeast Second Avenue, you might miss this place but this is not a spot you want to sleep on. This low-key Peruvian spot is no frills and just good food. If you’re stopping in for lunch you can grab a quarter chicken combo with a couple sides for less than $10, but if you’re in the mood to splurge a little you can also pick from the restaurant’s extensive menu of ceviche options or bigger entree platters. The staff is super friendly and reader Javier Alonso says the food is just as good as an “upscale Peruvian place.”
Station 28 is a hidden gem for a number of reasons: it’s super affordable, the food is tasty, and it has a great vibe. You can get a Peruvian burger or sandwich for super cheap and they also have a cool selection of natural fruit juices. But beyond the food, Station 28 also has a hidden upstairs area with all kinds of live entertainment, including theater, live music, and stand-up comedy. If you stop in for the cheap, good food, maybe make time to stay for a show?
Cane a Sucre
If you’re looking for a choice sandwich or salad, this is the place to get your fix. They have takes on classic sandwiches like Cuban and club sandwiches, but also an extensive mix of burgers and a solid selection of coffee and espresso drinks. Cane a Sucre also serves up breakfast until 11 a.m. every weekday and reader Megan Conyers suggests that they will sometimes extend those hours “depending on how nicely you ask.”
When you enter this restaurant off of busy First Street, you’ll feel very far from downtown. The hanging gardens and street lights instantly set a low-key mood and the food is everything you’d expect from an Italian place: plenty of pasta, a great wine selection, plus steak ans seafood. When asked what makes Vero so awesome, reader Nicole Azzi summed it up pretty simply: “It’s yummy.” After going ourselves, we say, “enough said.”
This place is part burrito, part sushi, and all delicious. In the perfect marriage of Asian and Mexican cuisines, this Downtown spot uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients to craft the perfect sushi rolls — in the size of a burrito. Each burrito roll is customizable, so you can add more rice, cut out the mushrooms, or even nix the seaweed all together. There are a number of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, as well. And you’ll love the new delicious wonton chips, which come with every roll.
This brief has been updated.
Manolo y Rene Cafeteria
Craving a delicious cubano at 3 in the morning? Look no further. This iconic hole-in-the-wall Downtown spot’s been serving up cafecitos and medianoches 24 hours a day for almost 40 years. Serving up fresh sandwiches like pollo a la plancha and pan con tortilla, at just $5 a pop you can have two. They’ve also got one of the best café con leches in town. But be prepared with some dollar dollar bills, ya’ll, because this spot is cash only. The good news is you won’t really need that many bills.
Inspired by Dali’s melting clocks and Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, this Catalan eatery is anything but ordinary. It inconspicuously popped up between an optometrist’s office and a mini-mart a little over a year ago, relying on word of mouth and locals to garner a steady stream of customers to its quaint Downtown locale. It’s easy to miss when walking along N.E. 2nd Ave., with its green awning blending in with that of the supermarket next door. However, after trying their eclectic and delicate Catalan-style small plates, paired with the perfect glass of wine, this will be a meal you’ll surely never forget.
(Photo Courtesy of Stephan Goettlicher)
Soya e Pomodoro
This charming Italian restaurant is full of romantic nostalgia. Hailing from the Italian city of Pompei, it’s no surprise that former owner Armando Alfano chose a Great Depression-era bank as the site of his Downtown restaurant, with the giant bank vault the backdrop for nightly jazz performances. Guests sit on mismatched tables and couches, dining on impeccable Italian delicacies served up by chef Cristian D’oria, ranging from vegetarian-friendly options like the sfoglia di melanzane, a baked layer of eggplant, smoked mozzarella and fresh tomatoes topped with a puff pastry, to the more meatier filetto alla provola, a fillet mignon medallion pan seared & served with smoked mozzarella & sautéed spinach with homemade mashed potatoes.
Located inside the gorgeous Perez Art Museum, this waterfront restaurant offers a uniquely artistic urban dining experience. With a sleek white interior and a rugged wood patio, guests can enjoy both the comfort of air conditioning during Miami’s brutal summers and take in the fresh air while looking out onto the bay during our cooler months. The menu options range from crowd-pleasers like thin crust pizza to the more sophisticated bistro steak. Coffee and craft cocktails are available as well.
If you haven’t been to Bali Cafe yet, you’re messing up. It’s basically the ONLY Indonesian restaurant in Miami, so that alone should make you drop everything and go there ASAP. It’s in the heart of downtown, so parking can be kind of a pain, but it’s worth it. The staff is super friendly, and if you’re not sure what to order, they’ll suggest something dope. You can’t really go wrong with the Nasi Goreng Special, a special Balinese stir fried rice. And the chips, don’t forget about the chips. This place is cash only.
Raja’s Indian Cuisine
Given the lack of Indian food options in Miami in general, Raja’s is a spice-filled oasis in Downtown Miami. They close pretty early, so this is mostly a lunch spot when you’re craving that mid-day chicken tikka masala. With a lunch special for $8 that gives you a smattering of dishes, from samosas to sesame rice, you can’t go wrong. There’s plenty for veggies, too. It’s not the classiest of establishments, but hey, it gets the job done.
This family-owned and operated Italian restaurant has been on the Downtown scene for a decade. Twin brother chefs Roberto and Emanuele Bearzi work side-by-side in the kitchen. Roberto serves as the executive chef while Emanuele cooks up the delicious pastries. Open for lunch and dinner, they use local produce and serve up fresh seafood daily, too. We hear the pear gnocchi is a must.
If you’re craving something healthy for breakfast or lunch, Ten Fruits is where it’s at. They’ve got killer acai bowls, for starters, but there’s also great coffee, empanadas and salads too. They also sell juice cleanses if you’re looking for a fresh start. Feeling something a little more decadent? Try one of their croissants or cheese danishes.
Le Chat Noir
If you’re into wine, cheese, jazz, or all of the above, this cozy little French wine cellar tucked away in a nondescript spot in Downtown should be your go-to. The best nights are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, when live music livens up the room. And if you’re craving a meal, they’ve got a mean panini menu, too.