After a multi-million-dollar refurb in 2011, this Key Biscayne landmark dating back to 1972 is more sleek nouvelle phoenix than ungainly oxidized waterfowl, with a very contemporary feel and sophisticated surf-and-turf menu from new chef Jim Pastor, a veteran of the W Hotel in South Beach. But one thing that hasn’t changed, which makes dining here a surefire memory-maker: the million-dollar view over Biscayne Bay. Birds (pelicans included) swoop by, local scullers and kayakers slice through the water just feet away, and behind it all in the distance is downtown Miami’s high-rise skyline. Creative entrees include local black sea bass in cinnamon broth and Barolo-braised lamb shanks, but my favorite part of the menu is the diverse “small plates,” such as grouper sliders (also great beef sliders), a tasty pork-belly skewer that isn’t slimy or fatty as pork belly tends to be, wild-mushroom cappuccino, ceviche, sushi, and more. The happy-hour and bar scene, meanwhile, makes it easy to strike up conversations with locals, if you’re so inclined.
- David Paul Appell