Miami's Hidden Gems, from a Dad Who Knows

To most people, Miami exudes a certain luxurious lifestyle, with sleek expensive cars, sun-kissed skin, expensive hotels and glamorous beaches. But for those that call Miami home year-round, there’s much more happening behind the scenes than perhaps tourists get to see...

As a native South Floridian (and proud dad to identical twin 4-year old daughters), our Nibble+squeak Miami host Juan believes Miami is on the verge of being proclaimed one of the best foodie cities in America. He’s here to tell us where to eat in the Magic City whether you’re there on vacation with the family or a local who wants to enjoy a good meal with pipsqueaks-in-tow.


Café Roval   A favorite brunch spot from longtime Miami restaurateur, Mark Soyka (and one of the locations where we held a Nibble+squeak lunch!) This aesthetically gorgeous restaurant built inside a historic coral rock house, is surrounded by lush backyard gardens, a Japanese-style pond and a romantic ambiance that’s hard to find in Miami. At night, it’s the perfect date spot but for Sunday brunch, there may not be a better spot with the kids than Café Roval.


What to Eat?  The kids (and adults) will love the Meyer lemon pancakes, garnished with a scoop of brandy-soaked blueberries and a drop of cream. Pipsqueak tip: Make reservations and ask for backyard seating. Take a stroll with the little ones around the charming pond while you wait for your food to arrive.

Ceviche 105   The Peruvian restaurant scene in Miami is highly competitive and that’s great for us consumers. This Downtown Miami hot-spot never disappoints and is arguably the most recognizable name in Peruvian cuisine in town. Fancy a pisco sour? Sangria? Try them both and take an Uber back to your Airbnb/Hotel.


What to Eat?  What not to eat should be the question. If so, no holds barred. We’re big fans of Peruvian cuisine in my household. My girls love the lomo saltado, a stir fry with marinated strips of steak, with onions, tomatoes, french fries and rice. We pick at their dish but we also order fish ceviche. You can do mixed variations of ceviche with different seafood types but I judge a good Peruvian restaurant by how fresh their fish ceviche in lime juice tastes.   Pipsqueak Tip: Families congregate here all the time so they have high chairs and a designated family bathroom with a changing table. They recently opened up a second location in Aventura Mall, the 4th largest mall in the US.


Finka Table & Tap  This gastropub is located in Kendall, a suburb about 30 minutes west of the city of Miami. Finka in certain ways embodies what Miami is all about: a melting pot of cultures and flavors infused together. Cuban, Peruvian and Korean influences are unified to create a distinctive flavor set with a gorgeous ambiance and décor. What to Eat? Korean style brussels sprouts, oxtail mushroom risotto, and ‘Japchae’ Noodles are musts for parents. For the kids, order the Mac n’ 3 Cheese with carne asada, bacon and scallions, hold the scallions if your little one is picky (like mine).  Pipsqueak Tip: Make Finka part of your day if you plan on going south to visit Zoo Miami. The gastropub is about a 20 minute drive north from the zoo.  


Beaker & Gray Wynwood’s favorite casual, yet hip, happy hour and dinner spot has small plates, inventive food and a warm ambiance that welcomes families and a trendy crowd alike. Their beloved happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 4pm to 7 pm and features a variety of $5 - $7 libations and small plates. What to Eat?  They produce my favorite ‘old-fashioned’ in Miami and at $7 during happy hour, a steal. Their ‘bites’ menu must try’s are the cheeseburger croquettes (wagyu, aji amarillo, bacon) and sandwichito, a creative take on the traditional cuban sandwich. The pumpkin gnocchi with pork rib is divine.  Pipsqueak Tip: The kids love the skirt steak or the chicken thighs.

Mandolin Aegean Bistro  This Greek restaurant housed in a transformed 1940’s bungalow in the design district neighborhood is an absolute gem. Serving simple Greek dishes using the freshest ingredients thanks to their own farm in the back of the restaurant. The charming outdoor space houses the majority of seating but if you really want to avoid the sun, they have ample indoor seating. All tables outside have canopy umbrellas so you can enjoy a lunch outdoors.


What to Eat? Start with the ‘mezes’ and smother your bread with the spreads. Order a spicy mandolin kebab sandwich or try the delicious moussaka made with eggplant, ground beef, potatoes and béchamel. Sit outside, close your eyes and you’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to the Greek islands.  Parent Tip: One block south of the restaurant, Mrs. Mandolin curates a beautiful selection of homeware in her boutique, plus a café and coffee bar. 

Sabor a Peru  Home cooking. That’s exactly what Sabor a Peru delivers. We visit often and every time we dine here, there’s 2-3 older ladies in the kitchen preparing the dishes with love and care. I’d venture to say this is our favorite Peruvian restaurant in all of Miami. Despite stiff competition, my brother-in-law who is of Peruvian descent says Sabor a Peru serves up the most authentic cuisine of the hundreds of Peruvian restaurants in Miami. What to Eat?  Go with the jalea, a heap of breaded shrimp, clams, calamari and fish. The jalea is enormous so split it with the table and then order arroz chaufa, a fried rice better than anything you’ll have at any Chinese takeout spot. Finish off the meal with an alfajor, a cookie with dulce de leche filling. Share with the kids.  Pipsqueak Tip: If your pipsqueak prefers chicken over steak, order the lomo saltado with chicken instead of beef. Easier to chew for them and equally delicious. Comes with french fries and rice too.

Genuine Pizzeria  James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz (of Michael's Genuine) was the brainchild behind one of the top pizzerias in America, Harry’s. He decided to expand his brand and re-named the pizzeria, Genuine Pizzeria. With locations expected to open up all over South Florida, this coal-fired pizza jewel uses only fresh, chef-curated toppings and the pizza crust is tender.  What to Eat? Signature items include polenta fries and my two favorite pies: rock shrimp pizza with roasted lemon, manchego, scallion and cilantro and the short rib pizza with gruyère, caramelized onions and arugula. The kids will love the banana Nutella panini for dessert and so will your sweet tooth.  Pipsqueak Tip: Genuine Pizza is located at the Aventura Mall, the 4th largest mall in America. Walk off that pizza and take the pipsqueak to the indoor playground area inside the mall.


Wynwood Kitchen & Bar  Definitely one of the most visually striking restaurants in the city, WKB is directly inside the Wynwood Walls. An hip place to stop by for deliciously international-inspired small plates with a unique surrounding of walls covered with graffiti and street art behind you. My girls are usually mesmerized for the first 30 minutes here.  What to Eat? Start with the ‘The Wynwood’ salad with red and yellow beefsteak tomatoes, manchego cheese, piquillo peppers, arugula puree. Order several tapas: tuna ceviche with watermelon lime sauce, jicama, red onion, cilantro slaw, and avocado, and ropa vieja empanadas which are heavenly. Add a side of brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and bacon for good measure.  Pipsqueak Tip: Ask for a table in the outside patio area and observe the wall art from your seat. Best area for people watching in the hippest neighborhood of Miami.

Blue Collar  The man behind this unpretentious, American comfort food gem is owner and local celebrity chef Daniel Serfer. Located 10 minutes from the Wynwood/Design District neighborhoods, this small mom-and-pop spot has been pleasing Miami palates for years. Although there isn’t much space for two high-chairs for twins in this joint, we have dined with babies on laps because the food is so darn good. I’ve dubbed this "the most consistent restaurant in Miami" because I have never, ever, had a bad meal here. 


What to Eat?  Veg Chalkboard. I am as carnivorous as the next meat-loving Dad but the veggie plate at Blue Collar puts all veggie dishes, anywhere, to shame. Choose 4 items from 20+ veggie options including the roasted beets with goat cheese, curried cauliflower puree and roasted artichoke hearts. If you are still craving something heartier, the dry aged cheeseburger made with prime NY strip beef, lettuce, tomato and onions inside a Portuguese muffin, is a killer burger. Pipsqueak Tip: With a location right on busy Biscayne boulevard, opt to sit inside with small ones.

Ironside Kitchen Pizza & Coffee Co.  Tucked away in Miami’s historic Upper Eastside neighborhood, Ironside serves up authentic Neapolitan pizza pies. “Authentic” is such a cliché word to describe a restaurant’s true-to-form cuisine but Ironside even hired a professional pizza maker, certified by Italy's pizza polizia, to oversee pie creation. The pizza here is produced according to the Neapolitan tradition on wood fired oven with only the finest "00" flour from Mulino San Felice and tomatoes from San Marzano in Italy. On any given afternoon, you’ll find large families with small children sharing a coal-fired pizza and succulent pasta in a relaxing outdoor space.  


What to Eat? Really hungry? Start your meal off with delicious Italian meats like prosciutto di Parma, Parmacotto ham, calabrese, salame. The game plan here is to order either two pies or a pie-pasta combination in order to fully appreciate the flavors of this authentic Italian eatery. I recommend the Regina with toppings of cherry tomato, arugula, parmigiano, prosciutto crudo and mozzarella fiordilatte. They’re not afraid to customize a pasta for you so ask and you shall receive.  Pipsqueak Tip: I’m not a pizza purist. I like toppings. But the classic Margherita here is very tasty and the kids love it. Just hold the basil, please.


Spring Chicken  From the same owners of the famous Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in South Beach, this casual Coral Gables eatery proudly makes everything from scratch in–house, including some of the tastiest fried chicken in South Florida. It is inundated with families on weekends looking to enjoy a casual yet delicious meal.  What to Eat? We usually go with the Superfood Kale Salad which comes with crispy or grilled chicken breast or ‘The Yardbird’ sandwich, an ode to the beloved South Beach restaurant which is served on a toasted potato bun and includes pickles and mayo. Pipsqueak Tip: The jumbo tenders are hand-breaded and HUGE and they have a section on the menu titled “Lil Ones” where you can get Jumbo Tenders with a choice of fries or watermelon for the pipsqueak. If you have multiple children with you, order the tender combos that come with 3 or 4 jumbo tenders for under $10. You may need to help them finish because they are enormous!


94th Aero Squadron  The aviation geek in me loves this place. I come here for the views and enjoy the food but the focal point is the unobstructed views of planes taking off and landing at Miami International Airport. Reasonably priced brunch on the weekends is why locals come here but tourists flock to this place all week. This place is a necessary stop before your flight back home.  What to Eat? Come for a brunch of seafood items like stone crab claws and shrimp along with prime rib, chicken dishes and steaks. There’s really something for everyone.  Pipsqueak Tip: Make a reservation in advance and ask for a table by the windows. The AvGeek in your family will thank you.

Smith & Wollensky  Besides the beautiful location at South Point Park and stunning views of Fisher Island and yachts frisking by, this South Beach steakhouse institution cooks up one of the best dry-aged beef steaks around. Enjoy your meal while you relax, people-watch and reflect on the views.  What to Eat? Any cut of beef you prefer is prepared to your liking here. The lobster mac n’ cheese is one of the best I’ve ever had. The Wollensky’s Butcher Burger is succulent and tastes as it should, fresh and of top quality.  Pipsqueak Tip: If you’re visiting during lunch and want to enjoy the proximity of the beach, pack some belongings and walk 5 minutes. There’s a small children’s playground with water features that my kids love. Find shade under a palm tree and let the little ones enjoy.


Wynwood Yard   Wynwood is Miami’s hippest artsy neighborhood and one of the hottest neighborhoods in the nation. Before 10:00pm, both children and furry children are embraced in this outdoor hub of food, drink and entertainment in the heart of Wynwood. Trendy food trucks, live music and craft brews abound with plenty of space for children to run around. You’ll see a nice mixture of after-work crowd, couples and groups along with an eclectic international family crowd. Embrace the multiple languages being spoken at once.  What to Eat?  Many food truck concepts to choose from. Hop around and try multiple.  Pipsqueak Tip: Go early. Enjoy a few hours of evening family time before the late crowd (around 10:00pm) begins their night.

Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor Located in Dania Beach, approximately 20 minutes from Miami and 5 minutes from Fort Lauderdale, Jaxson’s is an iconic institutional ice cream parlor in South Florida. Show up on a hot summer day and the lines are insanely long. To be fair, the line goes by fast and you’re rewarded with a heap of delicious ice cream concoctions. What to Eat?  Jaxson’s Jr. Sampler - three jumbo scoops of creamy ice cream, beautified with whipped cream, a cherry and your choice of three syrups or toppings. The traditional hot fudge sundae is also awesome.  Pipsqueak Tip: If there’s a long wait, find a table in the front outdoor covered area (behind the small horse carousel) and you’ll get your order in quicker.


The Salty Donut  What started as a Wynwood pop-up donut stand selling donuts out of a trailer is now the latest and greatest donut shop in Miami. No longer a pop-up, this brick and mortar shop produces donuts such as the maple-bacon 24-hour-raised brioche doughnut and a guava and cream cheese donut (very Miami). Innovative donuts is what they do and they do it better than most. Alcohol infused donuts? Yup, they do this too and they are divine. Lines are a bit long but worth the wait.  What to Eat?  Get a ½ dozen donuts and make sure to try 6 unique ones. The artisanal donut game is strong here and it’s just a shame to just try one or two. Self-guilt not included. Pipsqueak Tip: Go early in the morning. They tend to sell out by the late afternoon of the popular donut flavors.

Juan Ruiz, a devoted father and self-proclaimed “foodie”, works at a university and when he’s not with his identical twin girls, he’s busy writing about travel, parenting and the latest foodie spots in his blog,