By Josie Gulliksen and Yours Truly
Coral Gables has long had its iconic restaurants that have stood the test of time. And now, in the past year, new ones on the scene are revving up the competition. Here’s our list of the 9 best restaurants in Coral Gables:
When you mention iconic restaurants in Coral Gables, it’s impossible not to mention this one, opened by Nino Pernetti in 1989. It’s almost like a club, with a group of “regulars” who have come for almost as many years as the restaurant has been open. At Abbracci, the ambiance is classic, much like the authentic Italian dishes they’ve been executing well for 30 years. The tuna carpaccio and crispy fried calamari and zucchini are ideal choices as starters. Make your way down the menu to a dozen pasta dishes including classic lasagna, pappardelle, tortellini, ravioli and rigatoni to name a few. Veal Scaloppine two ways, filet mignon and the fish of the day (always very fresh) are just some of the favorite entrees. Caffé Abbracci is also a local favorite for celebrating a special occasion.
Bursting on the Gables restaurant scene, Bulla quickly became the go-to place for Coral Gables residents, professionals and lovers of “tapitas” of course. Their authentic Spanish style tapas are all the rage especially their serrano ham croquettes served with fig jelly, huevos Bulla eggs, homemade potato chips, serrano ham, potato foam and truffle oil. By all means, order their paella, patatas bravas (crispy potato cubes in spicy brava sauce and aioli) or their gambas al ajillo (sautéed shrimp with garlic and guindilla). Brunch is special here, especially their sangria, a perfect accompaniment to all these dishes. They also have a private party room on the second floor.
Another mainstay, this one on Miracle Mile, Ortanique has been serving up Caribbean-influenced fine dining since 1999 when Chef Cindy Hutson opened in the current location. The award-winning chef and author of several cookbooks, Hutson’s menu features dishes from all over the Caribbean with a variety of jerked options including chicken, pork and even foie gras. West Indian influences are everywhere too from fresh jumbo lump crab cake to Cornish game hen. The interior’s warm colors and tropical feel will make you think you’re in the Caribbean.
With its grandiose lawn and towering structure, the Biltmore Hotel resembles something out of the Great Gatsby, and it ought to since it was built in 1926. When anyone in the Gables mentions the best restaurants in Coral Gables, they almost always list the Old World French restaurant Palme d’Or. Overlooking the pool, the view is as amazing as the food, where Michelin star Chef Gregory Pugin is curating a wonderful menu with selections like warm butter poached Maine lobster, Japanese Kobe beef tenderloin with porcini mushrooms and Zaccagni pasta in a Bordelaise sauce. And don’t miss the award-winning brunch, rated one of the best in Miami.
Bellini in the Mr. C Hotel
One of the hottest new spots in town is Bellini Miami in the Mr. C Hotel (2988 McFarlane Road). It’s arguably now the best restaurant in Coconut Grove. This Italian restaurant, from fourth generation Ciprianis — Maggio and Ignazio– is booked well in advance for weekend nights so be forewarned (lunch is less busy). Eater perfectly described the decor as “Old school Italian meets Miami”, with indoor and outdoor seating. I went there for lunch in a “first look” with a friend and found it super buzzy, an attractive place with attractive people, and the food was high quality. Portions are not for sharing, and it’s pricey. Figure on easily $75 per person for lunch with one glass of wine and tip. And of course, they serve the classic Bellini which the family invented.
A reliably solid French restaurant, Pascal’s, is located in Downtown Coral Gables on Ponce de Leon Blvd. Chef/Owner Pascal Oudin who has received several accolades for his cooking, opened his 55-seat restaurant in 2000. Priding himself on preparing recipes with local ingredients and fresh to order, the menu features classics like crispy duck confit, wild salmon slowly poached in olive oil with pappardelle and porcini mushroom and foie gras soup.
Another go-to on Ponce de Leon Blvd., Fleming’s is a classic steakhouse which is the perfect choice for lunch, dinner or a great bet for happy hour. A smoked trout dip with a kick of jalapenos served with crispy plantain chips, beef carpaccio or crab cakes are just some of the excellent appetizer choices. Entrees are all about the steak choices including filet mignon, New York strip and for big appetites, three types of ribeye. There are plenty of other options from chicken to salmon, sea bass and pork. There’s no shortage of sides including the classics – creamed spinach, mashed or baked potatoes, crispy Brussels sprouts and mac ‘n cheese.
Situated on the bottom floor of the iconic Hotel St. Michel, this handsome restaurant is serving creative, upscale Italian cuisine. Like “buzzy” places? You can always count on Zucca. At lunch or dinner, try the Insalata di Farro with barley grain and baby artichokes, baby burrata served over a marinated tomato carpaccio, a macaroni dish with Italian sausage and saffron sauce and raw fish of the day. Then there’s pistachio- and grissini-crusted mahi-mahi filet with sautéed asparagus and a lemon sauce, ravioli stuffed with ricotta and salmon, or breaded New Zealand lamb chops with an arugula and cherry tomato salad. Choose the tiramisu or wild berry tart for dessert. Come early and have a drink at the happening bar.
The list wouldn’t be complete with one of the newer and notable entries, Fiola, which I recently wrote about. Click here for more.