Big Deal Brunches

From dim sum to drag, South Florida’s most au courant brunches (all with pandemic-friendly outdoor seating options) are a testament to the dynamism of the week’s most anticipated meal

Enter a world of whimsy inside Pani at Aventura Mall, which serves up pastry delights like alfajor de nuez, chocolate chip cookies, and croissants. Courtesy of Wiper Agency

  Ladies Who Brunch

Arrive hungry for the Miami social scene and plenty of Instagram fodder—not to mention excellent food.

Swan, Design District

Nightlife impresario David Grutman and Grammy Award-winning singer Pharrell Williams are the masterminds behind Miami’s supreme see-and-be-seen à la carte brunch. Located amid the haute couture boutiques of Miami’s swish Design District, expect a full display of pricey threads, even pricier handbags, and on-point trends in Swan’s lush outdoor garden and within the Instagram-perfect, rose-tinted dining room. The small-but-mighty seasonal brunch menu homes in on both sweet and savory late morning cravings: The former is best fulfilled via the caramel-drenched bourbon cinnamon roll, while the latter works with the salmon El Bagel. (Or consider meeting in the middle over the blueberry compote- and crème fraiche-crowned ricotta pancakes with local honey on the side.) 

Courtesy of Wiper Agency

Pani, Aventura

In a whimsical, feminine setting of pastel-hued chairs, crystal chandeliers, and other princess-chic furnishings, Argentinian-born pastry chef Eliana “Pani” Trotta transforms fairytale into reality at her namesake restaurant. The Alice in Wonderland-inspired interiors foreshadow the fantasy that is Pani’s brunch menu: a pre-fixe, 14-course spin of the chef’s greatest hits for two people, starting with a duo of French toasts—Oreo and Berry Extraordinary—followed by brie-stuffed empanadas and continuing on to other scrumptious dishes like the Potato, Potahtoh, an open-face potato and Parmesan waffle stacked with roasted vegetables and mozzarella. As expected, brunch’s finale is a grand one: Choose a decadent slice of cake from among 19 eye-catching masterpieces displayed in the dining room. Opt for the My Fav, a creamy lemon ricotta cheesecake dressed in dulce de leche, lemon glaze, and crunchy cobbler crumble, for taste; pick (and snap) the Oreo-heavy Black Cookies Cake to invoke guaranteed Instagram envy. 

Rethinking the Buffet

Just when we thought COVID-19 had squashed a lifestyle of living without limits, these restaurants are adopting creative ways to satisfy the all-you-can-eat brunch imperative. 

Lona Cocina & Tequileria, Fort Lauderdale Beach

Celebrated chef Pablo Salas, of Mexico’s Amaranta fame, puts on a surprisingly affordable all-you-can-everything brunch every Sunday with ever-changing, chef attended food stations and bottomless margaritas, mimosas, and Bloody Marys. Standouts from a recent brunch included a taco and guacamole bar, a ceviche station, and a specialties section with Salas’ signature chicken poblano, salmon mole, and braised short ribs. What’s more? The ocean views from Lona’s sprawling patio are some of the dreamiest in all of South Florida.

Zuma Miami, Brickell

Zuma Miami’s famed buffet brunch retreats from its grand dining room showcase back to the kitchen, from which servers now deliver 20 of the izakaya’s signature cold and hot appetizers, including spicy yellowtail maki, assorted nigiri sushi, watercress salad, robata-grilled beef skewers, and glazed pork ribs. Beyond an endless supply of apps, each diner can choose one entrée from the likes of vegetable tempura, spicy beef tenderloin, and a 1.5-lb. lobster roasted in shiso lime butter. All-you-can-imbibe bundles begin with the “Classic,” underscored by Louis Roederer Champagne, hot and cold sake, and lychees martinis, and escalate to “Premium Champagne” with bottles of Dom Pérignon ’06 (and a truffle and caviar tasting bonus). 

Novikov, Brickell

This swank downtown Asian-fusion restaurant offers two limitless brunch options for Miami’s power crowd, the “Signature” and the “Premium,” each featuring specific cocktail and Champagne options, unlimited appetizers from the kitchen, a choice of entrée, and desserts. We’re partial to the “Premium” for that endless pour of Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rosé, continuous rounds of wasabi martinis, serving after serving of truffle-laced hamachi carpaccio, and a heaping platter of robata-grilled, honey-basted king crab legs. Need we say more? 

Jaya at The Setai, Miami Beach

South Beach’s most coveted buffet brunch endures with the reboot of Sunday Jazz Brunch at Jaya at The Setai. The smooth sounds of live jazz radiate from the center of The Setai’s alfresco courtyard, which is strewn with reflection ponds and socially distanced tables and couches for dining. Indoors, an impressive spread awaits, with food stations tucked behind plexiglass and servers at-the-ready to pile plates with elevated pan-Asian and intercontinental cuisine. Of note is the Indian food selection, a pride of executive chef Vijayudu Veena, who gives us eight dishes specific to his homeland, from lamb curry to mutter paneer, plus naan made-to-order in a tandoori oven. Other items speak to Jaya’s Inter-Asia theme (hello: Malaysian beef Panang curry and shrimp pad Thai) while a more familiar raw bar, pastry corner, omelet station, carving and rotisserie station, and display of breakfast favorites (like bacon, sausage, and waffles) cater to diners seeking fewer exotic flavors. Meanwhile, waiters ensure a constant top-off of Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, included in the brunch.

Rainbow Bright

Finally, Miami gifts us a gender-bending brunch that thoroughly celebrates queer           culture—and we can’t get enough!

R House, Wynwood

With the artistry of drag on full display every weekend at R House, expect an all-out extravaganza of pop music, comedy, choreography, and costume changes over two hours of hearty eating, heartier drinking, cheering, chanting, and dancing in—and on—your seat.  Different experience packages fulfill caloric and alcoholic needs of all levels, maxing out with a choice of entrée, family-style sides, bottomless mimosas, sangria, or mojitos—and, of course, a seat to ogle the drag spectacular. While performing queens are the main stars of this brunch, the food also puts on a show. Of note is the Latin-tinged French toast with cream cheese, coconut, and guava syrup as well as the all-American Angus beef burger topped with cheddar cheese, shredded short rib,  and barbecue sauce. Despite the occasional tiara-topped bachelorette party, expect an audience of LGBTQIA-identifying individuals, allies,  and admirers eager to maximize their weekend drag delights.

Dim Sum Divine

The cosmopolitan sophistication of Hong Kong lands in Downtown Miami at Hutong, the Magic City’s new apex in Chinese haute cuisine.

Hutong, Brickell

East meets West in the best way possible at Hutong, which excites through design and gastronomy. The restaurant’s interiors dazzle at first sight.  Walls alternate between glass and inlaid, antique bricks, hailing from a deconstructed 1930s Chinese building. Triple-story, hand-carved lattice screens create partitions while a cantilevered amalgam of Chinese wood doors and panels float above the bar. The extraordinary brunch takes shape as an unlimited, free-flow dim sum menu with 21 artisanal selections on offer, from Sichuan peppercorn prawn dumplings to pan-seared lobster bao buns to Peking duck with pancakes. (Suggested course of attack: Sample the entire menu and then go back to your favorites—if you have room!) Upgrade to an unlimited beverage option to include the likes of unlimited lychee bellinis and sake and rum mojitos and/or an endless pour of Tattinger or Krug Champagne. 

Brunch with a View

Fabulous food and amazing views go hand-in-hand at these Sunday funday spots.

Takato, Fort Lauderdale Beach

Takato, the wildly popular Japanese and Korean fusion restaurant at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, has finally launched its much-anticipated Sunday brunch, which commingles Asian gastronomic excellence with sublime ocean views. Whether seated on the expansive terrace or in the sleek dining room, revel in the good life by enjoying a fixed menu of unlimited mimosas and bellinis, continuous flow of hot and cold apps (including those served from picture-perfect, tableside dim sum carts), choice of entree, and dessert platter, all created by noted executive chef Taek “Taka” Lee and his all-star team. 

Rivertail, Fort Lauderdale

A highpoint in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s renaissance is the addition of Rivertail, a seafood-forward restaurant by five-time James Beard Award-nominated chef José Mendín. Overlooking the New River, this hotspot promises a weekly brunch bar to remember—or forget, depending on how much you drink—thanks to savory Bloody Mary options like the Bacon Mary (local bacon-infused vodka, house-made Bloody Mary mix, and laced with candied, crispy bacon strips) plus flavorful Micheladas. Brunch grub ranges from decadent Maine lobster benedict to sweet crab doughnuts (fried brioche filled with crab salad and doused in spicy honey) to ricotta-topped pumpkin pie pancakes. 

Baia Beach Club, Miami Beach

Baia Beach Club is the cornerstone of Mondrian South Beach’s $20-million renovation, unveiled in December. Translating to “bay” in Italian, Baia at once alludes to the club’s superlative Biscayne Bay location and its Mediterranean coastal flair, expressed through thoughtful open-air design, European-inspired cuisine and mixology, and vibe-heavy, DJ-led sessions. Pop in for “La Festa” Sunday Brunch, gawking at the Bay’s cerulean waters, snazzy water toys, and an easy-on-the-eyes crowd while choosing from a prix-fixe Mediterranean menu, inclusive of one cocktail, family-style apps, one entrée, one side, and dessert. Better yet, make a full day of Baia with ongoing orders of a la carte options, refreshing frosés, fruit-filled sangrias, and frozen negronis. Direct marina access means boaters can arrive by water. 

Traymore, Miami Beach

James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, the man synonymous with Miami’s farm-to-table movement, brings us an ingredients-driven brasserie with the reopening of Traymore at the COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach. At Sunday brunch, Schwartz showcases his talents over the likes of international dishes like spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs and domestic favorites such as the grass-fed beef double cheeseburger, stacked with umami onions and American cheese. The location is also tops—brunch is served  under a canopy of palm trees along the Miami Beach Boardwalk.   

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