When most people think of Miami, they think glitz and glam, beaches, and mojitos. And while the city definitely has plenty of those things to offer, it also has some surprises, like a rich abundance of Southern comfort food. If you had never considered South Florida part of the South (although, geographically, it is) because the cultures are so distinct and different, you will be in awe of the diversity of homestyle, stick-to-your-ribs eateries in the Magic City. Here are three restaurants dishing out Southern comfort food to fill up your tummy and be the bane of your beach bod.
Tongue & Cheek
Start your tour of Miami’s Southern dining scene with brunch at the whimsical Tongue & Cheek on Miami Beach. Here, Chef Jamie DeRosa proves that Southern comfort food is more than cornbread and collard greens. He starts with traditional, Deep South dishes, and then enhances them with the bounty of Florida. Take his Key West pink shrimp and grits, which include giant prawns caught in-state, classic country-style grits, pickled peppers, Spanish chorizo, and a soft-cooked egg. He tops French toast with Georgia peaches, and cheddar waffles with fried chicken, and makes bourbon cocktails even a Kentuckian would love. Try the Basilla Bourbon sour: a frothy and refreshing mixture of bourbon, basil, vanilla, egg whites, and lemon.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Dining at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach is like attending a glamorous lunchtime soirée in a refurbished country barn. In fact, much of the interior of the rustic restaurant is constructed out of reclaimed wood taken from an old barn, and its flourishes include other country staples (think light fixtures made out of Mason jars). Yardbird also classes up its Southern-style dishes—its deviled eggs are made with dill and smoked trout roe. The fried green tomato BLT looks like a work of modern art. Thick cuts of tomatoes are fried and topped with pimento cheese, slabs of house-smoked pork belly, tomato jam, frisée, and pickled lemon vinaigrette. Southern comfort food is definitely not backwoods or antiquated here.
End your Southern comfort food crawl with an intimate dinner at Blue Collar, a small restaurant in Miami’s modern architecture (MiMo) district. While Tongue & Cheek and Yardbird were focused on Southern cuisine more generally, Blue Collar has an affinity for one Southern region in particular: New Orleans. Your dish of choice should, of course, be the jambalaya, a spicy mixture of wild Florida shrimp, chicken, sausage, vegetables, and rice. Order a side of sweet potato-plantain mash, a Southern-Floridian take on smashed potatoes. Fusion dishes like these remind you that, no matter how thick your drawl gets while dining at Southern restaurants in Florida, you’ll never lose your crucial Miami-Spanish accent.