Restaurant listings for the BT Dining Guide are written Pamela Robin Brandt (
). Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, but please call ahead to confirm information. Icons ($$$) represent estimates for a typical meal without wine, tax, or tip. Hyphenated icons ($-$$$) indicate a significant range in prices between lunch and dinner menus, or among individual items on those menus.
$= $10 and under
$$$$$= $50 and over
2699 Biscayne Blvd.
From the street (which is actually NE 26th, not Biscayne) this Honduran restaurant seems unpromising, but inside it’s bigger, better, and busier than it looks. Unlike many Latin American eateries, this one sticks close to the source and proves a crowd-pleaser. On weekends especially, the dining rooms are packed with families enjoying authentic fare like baleadas (thick corn tacos), tajadas (Honduras’s take on tostones), rich meal-in-a-bowl soups packed with seafood or meat and veggies, and more. $
20 NE 41st St.
At this homey neighborhood jewel, located in a former apartment building, husband/wife team Tom Worhach and Karina Gimenez serve up warm welcomes and playfully inventive breakfast, lunch, and snack fare: bacon-wrapped egg and cheese cups; pressed Philly steak panini; an elegant yuzu-dressed smoked salmon, grapefruit, avocado, and arugula salad. But the must-eats are sweets, housemade by Worhach, formerly executive pastry chef at the Mansion at Turtle Creek and similar gourmet palaces. One bite of his decadent yet impossibly light white-and-dark chocolate mousse cake will hook you for life. $-$$
3221 NE 2nd Ave.
Despite this tiny place’s modern décor, the family-run ambiance and Italian-American comfort food evoke the neighborhood red-sauce joints that were our favored hangouts growing up in NJ’s Sopranos territory. And low prices make it possible to hang out here frequently. Pizzas with hand-tossed crusts, not wood-oven but resembling honest bread, for less than fast food pizzeria prices? It’s an offer you don’t refuse. Don’t refuse garlic rolls, either, or sinful zeppole (fried dough) for dessert. There’s more complex fare, like chicken à la Francese, too. And they deliver. $$
2010 Biscayne Blvd.
At this Indian eatery the décor is cool and contemporary: muted gray and earth-tone walls, tasteful burgundy banquettes. And the menu touts “Modern Indian Cuisine” to match the look. Classicists, however, needn’t worry. America’s favorite familiar north Indian flavors are here, though dishes are generally more mildly spiced and presented with modern flair. All meats are certified halal, Islam’s version of kosher — which doesn’t mean that observant orthodox Jews can eat here, but Muslims can. $$$
Bin No. 18
1800 Biscayne Blvd.
At this wine bar/café, the décor is a stylish mix of contemporary (high loft ceilings) and Old World (tables made from wine barrels). Cuisine is similarly geared to the area’s smart new residents: creative sandwiches and salads at lunch, tapas and larger internationally themed Spanish, Italian, or French charcuterie platters at night. Though the place is small and family-run friendly, chef Alfredo Patino offers sophisticated snacks like the figciutto: arugula, gorgonzola dolce, caramelized onions, pine nuts, fresh figs, and prosciutto. Free parking behind the building. $$
3451 NE 1st Ave. #103
Inspiration for the Chinese food at this hotspot came from authentic flavors Richard Hales (from Sakaya Kitchen) encountered during travels in China, but the chef’s considerable imagination figures in mightily. Example: Don’t expect General Tso’s chicken on the changing menu. The General’s Florida Gator, though, is a distinct possibility. Dishes less wild but still thrilling, due to strong spicing: bing (chewy Chinese flatbread) with char sui, garlic, and scallions; two fried tofu/veggie dishes (one hot, one not) savory enough to bring bean curd maligners (and confirmed carnivores) to their knees. $$-$$$
3252 NE 1st Ave. #107
A bocce court outside plus interior décor imported from Italy, floor to ceiling, serve notice that this eatery’s shareable small plates (salumi/cheeses, pastas, and composed antipasti featuring perfect produce) are thoroughly Italian-inspired. But all are elevated by inventive twists from chef Timon Balloo, of adjacent Sugarcane. Vegetarian dishes especially impress: creamy polenta with a poached egg, savory rapini, and shaved truffle; crispy artichoke with mustard-seed aioli; Thumbelina carrots with mascarpone and “pistachio granola,” a dish that magically makes the common root veggie a mouthful of wonderfulness; 25 year-aged balsamico ice cream. $$$
Buena Vista Bistro
4582 NE 2nd Ave
If a neighborhood eatery like this one -- which serves supremely satisfying bistro food -- were within walking distance of every Miami resident, we’d be a helluva hip food town. Like true Parisian bistros, it’s open continuously, every day, with prices so low that you can drop in anytime for authentic rillettes (a rustic pâté) with a crusty baguette, steak with from-scratch frites, salmon atop ratatouille, or many changing blackboard specials. Portions are plentiful. So is free parking. $$
Buena Vista Deli
4590 NE 2nd Ave.
At this casual café/bakery, co-owned by Buena Vista Bistro’s Claude Postel, the day starts in authentic French fashion, with fresh breakfast breads, chocolate almond croissants, and other delights. At lunch cornichon-garnished baguette sandwiches (containing housemade pâtés, sinfully rich pork rillettes, superb salami, and other charcuterie classics) are irresistible, and a buttery-crusted, custardy quiche plus perfectly dressed salad costs little more than a fast-food combo meal. As for Postel's homemade French sweets, if you grab the last Paris-Brest, a praline butter-cream-filled puff pastry, we may have to kill you. $-$$
The Butcher Shop Beer Garden & Grill
165 NW 23rd St.
Unbelievable but true: At the heart of this festive, budget-friendly beer-garden restaurant is an old-school gourmet butcher shop, where sausages from classic (brats, chorizo) to creative (lamb and feta) are house-made, and all beef is certified USDA prime -- rarely found at even fancy steakhouses. Take your selections home to cook, or better yet, eat them here, accompanied by intriguing Old/New World sauces, garnishes (like bleu cheese fritters), sides, and starters. Desserts include a bacon sundae. Beer? Try an organic brew, custom-crafted for the eatery. $$-$$$
297 NW 23rd St.
This elegantly comfortable multi-room indoor/outdoor venue is described as an “art gallery/lounge,” and some do come just for cocktails like the hefty café con leche martinis. But don’t overlook chef Guily Booth’s 12-item menu of very tasty tapas. The signature item is a truly jumbo-lump crab cake with no discernable binder. At one South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Martha Stewart proclaimed it the best she’d ever had. Our own prime pick: melt-in-your-mouth ginger sea bass anticuchos, so buttery-rich we nearly passed out with pleasure. $$
97 NW 25th St. #103
Somewhat secreted on a side street from Wynwood’s action-central arts and eats drag, this pizza-plus-wine/beer bar is hardly the area’s only source of beautifully burn-blistered wood oven-fired pies. But several features make it a perfect fit for the neighborhood’s working-class/arts vibe, like exuberantly eccentric retro-Italian décor -- no derivative designer pretensions. Equally suited to starving artist sensibilities: pizzas topped with more-than-usual generosity (even basic Margheritas have, for once, enough mozzarella!); pizza prices several bucks less than usual. Other superb bread-based items include truly crusty crostini, panini, more. $-$$
Cerviceria 100 Montaditos
3252 NE 1st Ave. #104, Shops at Midtown Miami
Student budget prices, indeed. A first-grader’s allowance would cover a meal at this first U.S. branch of a popular Spanish chain. The 100 mini sandwiches (on crusty, olive oil-drizzled baguettes) vary from $1 to $2.50, depending not on ingredient quality but complexity. A buck scores genuine Serrano ham, while top-ticket fillings add imported Iberico cheese, pulled pork, and tomato to the cured-ham slivers. Other options revolve around pâtés, smoked salmon, shrimp, and similar elegant stuff. There’s cheap draft beer, too, plus nonsandwich snacks. $$
The Cheese Course
3451 NE 1st Ave.
Not so much a restaurant as an artisanal cheese shop with complimentary prepared foods, this place’s self-service café component nevertheless became an instant hit. Impeccable ingredients and inspired combinations make even the simplest salads and sandwiches unique -- like bacon and egg, elevated by hand-crafted cream cheese, roasted red peppers, avocado, and chipotle mayo. Cheese platters are exceptional, and customized for flavor preference from mild to bold, and accompanied by appropriate fruits, veggies, nuts, olives, prepared spreads, and breads. $$
City Hall the Restaurant
2004 Biscayne Blvd.
After 30+ years spent guiding other owners’ restaurants to success, Miami Spice program creator Steve Haas has opened his own expansive, two-floor place, on a stretch of Biscayne Boulevard that’s suddenly looking fashionable. The vibe is a mix of power-dining destination and comfie neighborhood hangout, and chef Tom Azar (ex-Emeril’s) has designed a varied menu to match. Highlights: an astonishingly thin/crunchy-crusted pizza topped with duck confit, wild mushrooms, port wine syrup, and subtly truffled béchamel; crispy calamari (rings and legs) with light, lemony tomato emulsion; and tuna tartar that is refreshingly free of sesame oil. Big portions and a full bar to boot. $$-$$$$
2300 NW 2nd Ave.
If you go to this affordable Mexican street-food-themed joint expecting one of today’s many fast-casual, healthy-type Mexican taco/burrito chains, where the attraction is mainly just that fillings are fresh, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Here tortillas are handmade and fillings are either genuinely traditional (like cochinita pibil) or delightfully original -- and sometimes satisfyingly sinful, like duck confit with enough skin and fat to scandalize all the health-obsessed places. There are first-rate vegetarian fillings, too, like mushroom/huitlacoche with cotija cheese; tasty churros for dessert; and beer and margaritas. $-$$
Crumb on Parchment
3930 NE 2nd Ave.
Though located in a difficult spot (the Melin Building’s central atrium, invisible from the street), Michelle Bernstein’s bakery/café packs ’em in, partly due to Bernstein’s mom Martha, who makes irresistible oldschool cakes: German chocolate with walnuts, lemon curd with buttercream frosting, more. Lunch fare includes inspired sandwiches like seared rare tuna with spicy Asian pickles and kimchi aioli. And for morning people, the savory chicken sausage, melted cheddar, kale, and shallot sandwich on challah will convince you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. $-$$
The Cypress Room
3620 NE 2nd Ave.
Deer and boar heads on wood-paneled walls juxtapose with crystal chandeliers at this tiny fourth restaurant in Michael Schwartz’s burgeoning empire, evoking feelings of dining in a century-old millionaire’s hunting lodge -- in miniature. Many dishes are similarly fun fantasies of 1920s Florida fine dining, pairing yesteryear’s rustic proteins (including wild game) and veggies with preparations that are ultimately refined interpretations of the past: antelope/wild mushroom gnocchi; “French onion soup” with a sort of gruyere tuile float instead of the usual gooey melt, served on a lacy doily. Don’t miss the royal red shrimp, or Hedy Goldsmith’s desserts. $$$$$
The Daily Creative Food Co.
2001 Biscayne Blvd.
While the food formula of this contemporary café is familiar – sandwiches, salads, soups, breakfast food, and pastries, plus coffee and fruit drinks – a creative concept differentiates the place. Signature sandwiches are named after national and local newspapers, including Biscayne Times, giving diners something to chat about. Sandwiches and salads can also be do-it-yourself projects, with an unusually wide choice of main ingredients, garnishes, breads, and condiments for the creatively minded. $
3401 N. Miami Ave. #123
Masterminded by Chef Allen Susser, the concept is to bring diners the comfort of homemade grilled cheese -- like mom’s, if mom hadn’t usually burned the bread and improperly melted the cheese. The Melt’s custom grill press browns/melts sandwiches perfectly every time. Additionally, Susser tested numerous all-American cheeses (no imports or artisanal products) for gooey goodness. Mom probably also didn’t create combinations like cheddar with green apples and Virginia ham, or allow a simple signature grilled American cheese to be dressed up with truffle butter. Accompaniments include roasted tomato soup, chopped salads, and sweet melts like s’mores. $
190 NE 46th St.
At the house whose original restaurant tenant was One Ninety, décor has been renovated dramatically from shabby to chic, and the pan-American gastropub cuisine also matches a more mature Miami. Horacio Rivadero’s dishes reflect both Latin and American influences with considerable creative flair and fun. Favorites: lobster tacos with pickled cabbage, aji Amarillo escabeche, and crisped shallots; luscious lamb tartare, featuring toasted pignolias and mustard oil; and the Black Magic mousse, with vanilla/sweet potato drizzles, housemade marshmallows, and a pistachio cookie. $$$-$$$$
7030 Biscayne Blvd.
Since opening, this hot dog-PLUS (capital letters intended) joint has had several owners and menu changes. Currently it’s in a “Best of” phase. Main draw remains 100% beef dogs with numerous regionally inspired topping combos (our favorite: the elaborate, authentic Chicago), but vegetarians can again enjoy the original menu’s veggie franks, absent for several years, topped identically. More recent adds worth sampling are regional specialty sandwiches, like New Orleans shrimp po’boys. And though there’s no indoor seating, current owner Diego Villamedi has expanded the outdoor area and spruced up its landscaping for better insulation from Boulevard traffic, making picnicking more pleasant. $
2917 Biscayne Blvd.
This minimalist, modern-looking casual eatery serves some satisfyingly evocative food. Top picks here are pita platters or sandwiches, featuring fabulously fluffy flatbread and an unusually large variety of generously portioned fillings, from particularly succulent gyros (vertically roasted lamb stacks) to loukanikos (Greek sausage), koto-bacon (bacon-wrapped chicken souvlaki), and skewer-grilled veggies. The rest of the menu ranges from some pricey entrées to affordable and fun snacks like Greek fries, showered with feta cheese chunks. $$-$$$$
278 NW 36th St.
Dozens of little Latin American eateries, all looking almost identically iffy, line 36th Street. But this family-owned “bajareque” (shack) is one where you definitely want to stop for some of Miami’s most tasty, and inexpensive, Puerto Rican home cooking, from mondongo (an allegedly hangover-curing soup) to mofongo, a plantain/chicharron mash with varied toppings plus garlicky mojo. Housemade snacks are irresistible, too, and great take-out party fare: pork-studded pasteles, similar to Cuban tamals but with a tuber rather than corn masa dough, or empanadas with savory shrimp stuffing. $
4600 NE 2nd Ave.
Don’t come to this embassy for passports. The name is short for “Embassy of Well-being and Debauchery.” You will, however, feel transported to Spain’s gourmet capital, San Sebastian, after sampling ambassador Alan Hughes’s cunning pintxos (complexly layered Basque-style tapas). From a self-serve bar, choose from a changing selection of skewered stacks; brie, homemade fig jam, and twizzles of silky jamon Serrano; roast tomato, goat cheese, and anchovies on buttery garlic toast; many more. Small plates, to-die-for desserts like floating island with lychees, and weekend brunch items demonstrate similar mad-chef skills. $$-$$$
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop
186 NE 29th St.
This Cuban breakfast/lunch old-timer actually serves more than sandwiches (including mammoth daily specials )-- and since reopening after a fire, does so in a cleanly renovated interior. But many hardcore fans never get past the parking lot’s ordering window, and outdoors really is the best place to manage Enriqueta’s mojo-marinated messy masterpiece: pan con bistec, dripping with sautéed onions, melted cheese, and potato sticks; tomatoes make the fats and calories negligible. Accompany with fresh orange juice or café con leche, and you’ll never want anything else, except maybe a bib. $
Five Guys Famous Burger and Fries
Shops at Midtown Miami
Buena Vista Avenue
No green-leaf faux health food here. You get what the name says, period, with three adds: kosher dogs, veggie burgers, and free peanuts while you wait. Which you will, just a bit, since burgers are made fresh upon order. Available in double or one-patty sizes, they’re well-done but spurtingly juicy, and after loading with your choice of free garnishes, even a “little” burger makes a major meal. Fries (regular or Cajun-spiced) are also superior, hand-cut in-house from sourced potatoes. $
2300 NW 2nd Ave.
Sure, some fast-food chains let you “Have It Your Way” -- unless your way means healthy. But Canadian-based Freshii, arguably the world’s fastest-growing franchise, is attempting to make high cholesterol obsolete several hundred locations at a time. All four entrée categories (wraps/burritos, salads, soups, bowls) start vegetarian, and chef-conceived dishes like quinoa-centered “Baja burritos” remain so; a build-your-own option enables customizing with numerous proteins, toppings, and sauces. But sadly for grease monkeys, choices are only semi-sinful (cheeses, Asian peanut sauce) at best. $-$$
3500 N. Miami Ave.
Conceived by a well-traveled ex-pat pair from Bucharest (and their alt-culture gang of friends), this restolounge has a Wynwood-appropriate combination of gallery/grunge décor and food self-described as “Asian fusion.” Actually, far from the LatAmerAsian sushi and small plates the term usually means in Miami, dishes are distinctively flavored but inventively lightened/brightened ultra-fresh interpretations of fare from numerous East Asian destinations -- Thailand, Japan, China, Malaysia, Tibet, more. Romanian touches (like mamaliga, polenta-like peasant porridge fancified with foie gras), and elaborately elegant continental desserts heighten the quirky fun. $$$
3470 N. Miami Ave.
As befits its location in artful, working-class Wynwood, Gigi has minimalist modern diner ambiance paired with truly creative contemporary Asian-influenced comfort food from Top Che contender Jeff McInnis (formerly of the South Beach Ritz-Carlton) at surprisingly low prices. From a menu encompassing noodle and rice bowls, steam-bun ssams, grilled goodies, and raw items, highlights include pillowy-light roast pork-stuffed buns, and possibly the world’s best BLT, featuring Asian bun “toast,” thick pork belly slices rather than bacon, and housemade pickles. There’s $2 beer, too. $-$$
3918 N. Miami Ave.
In this humble space (formerly Pizza Volante) are many key components from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink two blocks east -- local/sustainable produce and artisan products; wood-oven cooking; homemade everything (including the ketchup accompanying crisp-outside, custardy-inside polenta fries, a circa 1995 Michael Schwartz signature snack from Nemo). Beautifully blistered, ultra-thin-crusted pizzas range from classic Margheritas to pies with house-smoked bacon, trugole (a subtly flavorful -- fruity, not funky -- Alpine cheese), and other unique toppings. Rounding things out: simple but ingenious salads, ultimate zeppoles, and Florida craft beers. $$
Hurricane Grill & Wings
Shops at Midtown Miami
Buena Vista Avenue
Shops at Midtown Miami Buena Vista Avenue, 305-576-7133 This Florida fast/casual chain became an instant hit in Midtown Miami owing to a winning concept: more than 35 heat-coded sauces and dry rubs meant for custom-tossing with wings and other things (including white-meat "boneless wings," really wing-shaped chicken breast pieces), accompanied by ranch or classic blue-cheese dip and celery. It would be silly to not pair your main with garlic/herb-butter parmesan fries. There are many other items, too, including salads. But hey, celery is salad, right? $$
2700 N. Miami Ave. #5, 305-573-1505
No need to trek to South Beach for what many consider Miami’s best classic Puerto Rican mofongo (fried green plantains mashed with fresh garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings, surrounded by chicken or shrimp in zesty criollo sauce). This new location is bigger and better than the original, plus the mofongo is served every day, not just on weekends. But don’t ignore the meal-size salads or high-quality sandwiches, including a pressed tripleta containing roast pork, bacon, Black Forest ham, provolone, and caramelized onions. $$
Joey’s Italian Café
2506 NW 2nd Ave.
The first new restaurant in the Wynwood Café District, this stylish indoor/outdoor Italian hangout is as casually cool as one would hope -- and as affordable. There’s a five-buck half-serving of spaghetti al pomodoro and respectable vino for under $30. And few can resist delicately thin, crunchy-crusted pizzas like the creative Dolce e Piccante or orgasmic Carbonara. Pastas are fresh; produce is largely local; the mosaic-centered décor is minimalist but inviting. And no need to be wary of the warehouse district at night: Valet parking is free. $$-$$$
Kouzina Greek Bistro
3535 NE 2nd Ave.
Across the tracks from Midtown Miami, this hidden-by-hedges spot features a patio with authentically festive ambiance and food by Alexia Apostolidi, also authentically Greek but known to locals for her critically acclaimed fare at defunct Ariston. The menu includes many mezes, both traditional (like tsatziki and eggplant spreads) and unusual (bacalao croquettes with garlic purée and roasted beet coulis; sesame-sprinkled manouri cheese envelopes), plus limited entrées highlighted by cheese/herb-crusted lamb at dinner and lunchtime’s lamb pita wrap. Don’t miss the semolina purée side -- heavenly Greek cheese grits. $-$$$
2003 N. Miami Ave.
From the folks behind the popular Coral Gables artisanal beer pub LoKal -- voted a “Most Green Restaurant in Florida” by the Nature Conservancy -- Kush pushes the concept farther: that farm-to-table dishes (some from LoKal, others created new) and craft beers aren’t mere craft; they’re art. Which you’ll find on the walls. On tables you’ll find, among other things, the Kush & Hash burger: Florida-raised beef, ground in-house, served with hash (the edible, not smokable, kind), bacon, fried egg, and housemade ketchup on a waffle bun, with a side of maple syrup. Edgy enough for ya? $$-$$$
2200 Biscayne Blvd.
(See Brickell / Downtown listing.)
3425 NE 2nd. Ave.
In New Orleans, “lagniappe” means “a little extra,” like the 13th doughnut in a baker’s dozen. And that’s what you get at this combination wine and cheese bar/backyard BBQ/entertainment venue. Choose artisan cheeses and charcuterie from the fridges, hand them over when you pay (very little), and they’ll be plated with extras: olives, bread, changing luscious condiments. Or grab fish, chicken, veggies, or steak (with salad or cornbread) from the hidden yard’s grill. Relax in the comfie mismatched furniture, over extensive wine/beer choices and laidback live music. No cover, no attitude. $$
4600 NE 2nd Ave.
The menu here reads like your standard sandwiches/salads/starters primer. What it doesn’t convey is the freshness of the ingredients and the care that goes into their use. Entrée-size salads range from an elegant spinach (goat cheese, pears, walnuts, raisins) to chunky homemade chicken salad on a bed of mixed greens. Sandwiches (cold baguette subs, hot pressed paninis, or wraps, all accompanied by side salads) include a respectable Cuban and a veggie wrap with a deceptively rich-tasting light salad cream. $-$$
Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
Shops at Midtown Miami
Buena Vista Avenue
Like its South Beach predecessor, this Lime was an instant hit, as much for being a hip new Midtown hangout as for its carefully crafted Tex-Mex food. The concept is “fast casual” rather than fast food – meaning nice enough for a night out. It also means ingredients are always fresh. Seafood tacos are about as exotic as the menu gets, but the mahi mahi for fish tacos comes from a local supplier, and salsas are housemade daily. Niceties include low-carb tortillas and many Mexican beers. $
Limón y Sabor
3045 Biscayne Blvd.
In this dramatically renovated space, the room is now light and open, and the food is authentic Peruvian, with seafood a specialty. Portions are huge, prices low, quality high. Especially good are their versions of pescado a lo macho (fish fillet topped with mixed seafood in a creamy, zesty sauce); jalea (breaded and deep-fried fish, mixed seafood, and yuca, topped with onion/pepper/lime salsa), and yuca in hot yet fruity rocoto chili cream sauce.
Lost & Found Saloon
185 NW 36th St.
There’s an artsy/alternative feel to this casual and friendly Wynwood eatery, which, since opening as a weekday-only breakfast and lunch joint in 2005, has grown with its neighborhood. It’s now open for dinner six nights a week, serving Southwestern-style fare at rock-bottom prices. Dishes like piñon and pepita-crusted salmon, chipotle-drizzled endive stuffed with lump crab, or customizable tacos average $5-$8. Also available: big breakfasts and salads, hearty soups, housemade pastries like lemon-crusted wild berry pie, and a hip beer and wine list. $
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
4312 NE 2nd Ave.
Inside this converted 1940s home’s blue-and-white dining room -- or even more atmospherically, its tree-sheltered garden -- diners feast on authentic rustic fare from both Greece and Turkey. Make a meal of multinational mezes: a Greek sampler of creamy tzatziki yogurt dip, smoky eggplant purée, and airy tarama caviar spread; and a Turkish sampler of hummus, fava purée, and rich tomato-walnut dip. The meze of mussels in lemony wine broth is, with Mandolin’s fresh-baked flatbread, almost a full meal in itself. $$-$$$
4141 NE 2nd Ave.
Chef/co-owner Dena Marino calls MC’s food “modern Italian” -- neither an evocative description nor explanation for why this place is one of our town’s hottest tickets. But tasting tells the tale. Marino’s food incorporates her entire culinary background, from her Nonna’s traditional Italian-American kitchen to a long stint in Michael Chiarello’s famed contemporary Californian eatery Tra Vigne, with pronounced personal twists that make eating here uniquely exciting. Particularly definitive: lunchtime’s “piadenas,” saladlike seasonal/regional ingredient combinations atop heavenly homemade flatbreads. Cocktails feature ingredients from za’atar to salmon roe. $$$-$$$$
4141 NE 2nd Ave.
Adjacent to Dena Marino’s hot hangout MC Kitchen, the contemporary Italian chef’s artisanal market and breakfast/lunch café is for diners wanting a quicker (but not fast-food) sit-down meal, or inventive take-out. Pressed for time? Try a pressed sandwich like Marino’s Italian Cubano (porchetta, prosciutto cotto, Swiss, pickles, and Dijon mustard dressing, on ciabatta). Along with hot or cold sandwiches, there’s a wide variety of homemade breakfast pastries, breads, cookies, and fresh-baked quiches, plus salads and a daily-changing soup. Market items include exotic jams, craft beers, and Marino’s private label EVOO. $-$$
Miam Café & Boutique
2750 NW 3rd Ave. #21
It’s hard to miss the striking striped Wynwood Building housing this indoor/outdoor café, intended as a European-style all-day breakfast-through-dinner hangout. Featuring the best locally sourced products and organic produce, the fare created by chef Gail Goetsch (ex-Yardbird and Essentia) is simple -- sandwiches, salads, pastries/desserts -- but as the name says, “miam” (pronounced “meeAHM”, French slang for “yum”). Delicate-crusted quiches, accompanied by salad, are particularly recommended. To drink: craft beers and wine plus local Eternity coffee. An integrated mini-mart features artisan foods, plus foodie gift items. $$
Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink
130 NE 40th St.
An instant smash hit, this truly neighborhood-oriented restaurant from chef Michael Schwartz offers down-to-earth fun food in a comfortable, casually stylish indoor/outdoor setting. Fresh, organic ingredients are emphasized, but dishes range from cutting-edge (crispy beef cheeks with whipped celeriac, celery salad, and chocolate reduction) to simple comfort food: deviled eggs, homemade potato chips with pan-fried onion dip, or a whole wood-roasted chicken. There’s also a broad range of prices and portion sizes to encourage frequent visits. Michael’s Genuine also features an eclectic, affordable wine list and a full bar. $$-$$$$
Mike’s at Venetia
555 NE 15th St., 9th Floor
This family-owned Irish pub, on the pool deck of the Venetia condo, for more than 15 years has been a popular lunch and dinner hang-out for local journalists and others who appreciate honest cheap eats and drinks. Regulars know daily specials are the way to go. Depending on the day, fish, churrasco, or roast turkey with all the trimmings are all prepared fresh. Big burgers and steak dinners are always good. A limited late-night menu provides pizza, wings, ribs, and salad till 3:00 a.m. $-$$
2519 NW 2nd Ave.
On the same strip as Wynwood Kitchen & Bar and Joey’s, this more casual alt-culture café is a sandwich/soup/salad spot with a difference -- chef Alan McLennan, whose mentors include Michelin 3-star chefs Michel Guerard and Fredy Giradet. The elite French training is reflected in Mmmm’s signature items: tartines, open-face sandwiches on crusty toasted sourdough indistinguishable from Paris’s famed Poilane bread, except made in Miami. Among the perfectly balanced toppings are an especially tasty tuna and artichoke with olive mayo, or daily specials like crab/avocado. Wine, too, and locally made tropical ice creams from Azucar. $$
28 NE 29th St.
Housed in a beautifully refurbished 1930s private home, Morgans serves eclectic, sometimes internationally influenced contemporary American cuisine compelling enough to attract hordes. Dishes are basically comfort food, but ultimatecomfort food: the most custardy, fluffy French toast imaginable; shoestring frites that rival Belgium’s best; mouthwatering maple-basted bacon; miraculously terrific tofu (crisply panko-crusted and apricot/soy-glazed); even a “voluptuous grilled cheese sandwich” -- definitely a “don’t ask, don’t tell your cardiologist” item. $$-$$$
2711 NE 2nd Ave.
Originally just a catering company, tiny NOA (initials of Israeli-born chef/owner Adi Kafri’s three daughters) gradually became a “best-kept secret” lunch spot for its budget-friendly fresh focaccia sandwiches, plus perfectly dressed full-meal MediterAsian salads. The cute Edgewater oasis now serves dinner, too. Highly recommended: the big, beautiful Middle Eastern mezze platter (with falafel balls, silky hummus, tahini, grape leaves, heaps of grilled veggies, more), or lavishly veg-studded pad Thai (with an unusual lemongrass/orange peel-spiked sauce), either enough for two to share over wine. $$-$$$
NoVe Kitchen & Bar
1750 N. Bayshore Dr.
At NoVe, the restolounge at the Opera Tower condo in NoVe (new nickname for the bayfront neighborhood north of the Venetian Causeway), the food is East-West. Meaning you can get burgers, pasta, and so on, or try the inventive Asian small plates and sushi specialties Hiro Terada originated at his past posts, Doraku and Moshi Moshi: the Atlantis roll (tempura conch with asparagus, avocado, scallions, and curry sauce); spicy, crunchy fried tofu atop kimchi salad; much more. Open 6:00 a.m. for breakfast to 3:00 a.m., it is kid-friendly and dog-friendly, too. $$-$$$
Orange Café + Art
2 NE 40th St.
The paintings hanging in this tiny, glass-enclosed café are for sale. And for those who don’t have thousands of dollars to shell out for the local art on the walls, less than ten bucks will get you art on a plate, including a Picasso: chorizo, prosciutto, manchego cheese, baby spinach, and basil on a crusty baguette. Other artfully named and crafted edibles include salads, daily soups, several pastas (like the Matisse, fiocchi pouches filled with pears and cheese), and house-baked pastries. $
3801 Biscayne Blvd.
(See Brickell/Downtown listing)
275 NE 18th St. #109
Close your eyes while eating Naples-born Sal Matuozzo’s wood-oven pies and you’ll be in Naples. Crusts: Thin rather than Roman super-thin; there’s just enough chewy thickness to emphasize you’re eating honest bread, not a cracker. Toppings: High-quality (fresh fior di latte, not commercial mozzarella ; intensely flavorful sauce featuring imported San Marzano tomatoes; garnishes including fresh black truffles) and applied judiciously enough that each bite tastes slightly different -- neither ungenerously Spartan nor crassly overloaded. Prices: higher than typical neighborhood pizzerias, lower than a plane ticket to Italy. $$
3500 N. Miami Ave.
(See Brickell / Downtown listing)
Pride & Joy
2800 N. Miami Ave.
Behind this Wynwood warehouse façade you’ll find pure Southern roadhouse, and the backyard patio is an even more relaxing place to kick back with beer, blues music, and barbecue from pit master Myron Mixon. Oddly, considering Mixon’s many BBQ championships, the ’cue can be inconsistent. Our favorite choices: St. Louis ribs, tender without being falling-off-the bone overcooked, and enjoyably fattier than baby backs; vinegar-doused pulled pork sandwiches, which, unlike meat plates, come with sides -- fries, plus slaw to pile on for added juice and crunch. $$$
1717 N Bayshore Dr, Miami, FL 33132, 305-371-9055
The imposing, cavernous lobby of the Grand doesn’t have that “do drop in” locals’ hangout vibe. But this lively Italian spot is actually a great addition to the neighborhood. The pizzas alone – brick-oven specimens with toppings ranging from classic pepperoni to prosciutto/arugula – would be draw enough. But pastas also please: diners’ choice of starch, with mix-and-match sauces and extras. And the price is right, with few entrées topping $20. The capper: It’s open past midnight every day but Sunday. $$
3404 N. Miami Ave.
Frankly, we don’t get why this expansive, high-ceilinged space with enormous front windows and open kitchen is so often described as evocative of a Prohibition-era speakeasy; ambiance here is artfully and amusingly sinful, not secretive. Fare is a fun, familiar mix of modern comfort foods (truffled lobster mac ’n’ cheese, NY strip steak with truffled parmesan fries, many other items featuring truffle oil) and retro favorites like meatballs. It’s simple, solid stuff served in generous portions to match the menu items that best truly evoke Prohibition times: hefty, old-fashioned, two-fisted cocktails. $$$
Proof Pizza & Pasta
3328 N. Miami Ave.
This first-time restaurant venture for a young but impressively credentialed Miami homeboy team (the French Culinary Institute, plus gigs at DBGB, Bourbon Steak, more) avoids the typical pitfall of talented novice chef/owners -- overreaching -- instead concentrating on a limited but changing and uniquely creative Italian fusion menu. For proof, try an authentically Neopolitan-crusted wood-oven pizza with oxtail, black garlic, mozzarella, caramelized onions, and thyme; pastas like angel hair with crab, Calabrian chilis, and lemon breadcrumbs instead of parmesan cheese; desserts like sugar/spice doughnut holes with refined espresso sabayon. $$
2727 NW 2nd Ave.
A strikingly stylish restaurant that’s part art gallery could be pretentious, in a still largely ungentrified area of cutting-edge artsy yet still working-class Wynwood. But modular movable walls to accommodate changing installations, and its own name make it clear the art component is a serious working gallery. Hardworking chef/owner Rocco Carulli demonstrates a locals orientation with a menu highlighted by skillfully crafted, hearty entrées (Brazilian seafood moqueta stew, coffee/chili-rubbed short ribs, sweet pea falafel) available in affordable half-portions: small plates of big food for starving artists. $$-$$$
Riviera Focacceria Italiana
3252 NE 1st Ave.
This kitchen actually serves a full menu of specialties firmly rooted in Liguria, the northern Italian coastal region around Genoa, pesto capital of the universe. Pastas like panisotti (plump vegetarian triangles containing ricotta plus chard, spinach, and typical herbs/spices) are definitely not generically Italian. Still, the reason to come here: the variously stuffed or topped focaccias, particularly signature focaccia di Recco (a Ligurian hill town). Two ultra-thin layers (almost transparent) of light char-bubbled bread filled with imported stracchino, a mild fresh cheese like mozzarella, but swoon-inducingly oozy-soft. $-$$
2697 Biscayne Blvd.
On a quick drive-by, this eatery surrounded by still-ungentrified storefronts rather resembles a hole-in-the-wall Latin cafetería. Inside, though, the look is rustic-chic, and the menu features some of Miami’s most refined traditional or creative Spanish tapas. We love the open-faced sandwiches, particularly montaditos de boquerones (with fresh anchovies and brunoised veggies). Traditionalists will find patatas bravas satisfyingly spicy; braver experimenters should try bombas de queso (fried cheese balls with sweet orange blossom sauce), actually alarming in name only. $$-$$$
S & S Diner
1757 NE 2nd Ave.
Some things never change, or so it seems at this classic diner. Open since 1938, people still line up on Saturday mornings, waiting for a seat at the counter and enormous breakfasts: corned beef hash or crab cakes and eggs with grits; fluffy pancakes; homemade biscuits with gravy and Georgia sausage – everything from oatmeal to eggs Benedict. The lunch menu is a roll call of the usual suspects, but most regulars ignore the menu and go for the daily blackboard specials. $-$$
Sabor a Peru
2923 Biscayne Blvd.
Opened many years before ceviches became a staple on every Miami hipster-bar menu, this formerly tiny family-run Peruvian place serves food that’s traditional, not trendy. That includes ceviches, simple and servicable. But Sabor’s strong suit -- and why it has not only survived but thrived (as a recent expansion attests) -- is its cooked dishes, always fresh, flavorful, and served in prodigious portions. Our personal fave: jalea (a delicately breaded, crisp-fried mix of tender marinated fish and shellfish, with yucca and criolla onion sauce); one order feeds at least three diners. Note: Open for big breakfasts, as well as lunch/dinner. $-$$·
2001 Biscayne Blvd.
At this fast-casual restaurant, diners can enjoy a wide variety ofchef-created salads and wraps, or go the DIY route, choosing from one of four greens options; four dozen add-ons (fresh, dried, or pickled veggies and fruits, plus cheeses and slightly sinful pleasures like candied pecans or wonton strips); a protein (seafood or poultry); and two dozen dressings, ranging from classic (Thousand Island, bleu cheese) to creative contemporary (spicy Asian peanut, cucumber wasabi, blueberry pomegranate). Additionally, the place creates lovely catering platters, plus individual lunchboxes -- perfect picnic or plane food. $-$$
3451 NE 1st Ave. #104
In Italy, salumerias started, like American delicatessens, as shops selling salumi (cured meats), but evolved into the equivalent of eat-in deli/restaurants that also serve cold and hot prepared foods. At this modern Midtown salumeria, the soups-to-salads-to-sweets range of fare is the same. Custom-sliced imported cold cuts are a main focus, especially for those who enjoy taste-testing a plate pairing Italy’s two most famous prosciuttos: Parma and San Daniele. But homemade pastas are also impressive, as are hard-to-find regional entrées like fegato alla Veneziana, which will turn liver-haters into lovers. $$-$$$
Shops at Midtown Miami
Buena Vista Avenue
This chef-driven, fast-casual Asian eatery is more an izakaya (in Japan, a pub with food) than a sakaya (sake shop). But why quibble about words with so many more intriguing things to wrap your mouth around? The concept takes on street-food favorites from all over Asia, housemade daily from quality fresh ingredients. French Culinary Institute-trained Richard Hales does change his menu, so we’d advise immediately grabbing some crispy Korean chicken wings and Chinese-inspired, open-faced roast pork buns with sweet chili sauce and homemade pickles. $$
275 NE 18th St.
Sake takes a back seat to sushi – and sophisticated décor – at this small but sleek restolounge. Among the seafood offerings, you won’t find exotica or local catches, but all the usual sushi/sashimi favorites, though in more interesting form, thanks to sauces that go beyond standard soy – spicy sriracha, garlic/ponzu oil, and many more. Especially recommended: the yuzu hamachi roll, the lobster tempura maki, and panko-coated spicy shrimp with hot-and-sour mayo and a salad. $$-$$$
2001 Biscayne Blvd.
At this fast-casual restaurant, diners can enjoy a wide variety of chef-created salads and wraps, or go the DIY route, choosing from one of four greens options; four dozen add-ons (fresh, dried, or pickled veggies and fruits, plus cheeses and slightly sinful pleasures like candied pecans or wonton strips); a protein (seafood or poultry); and two dozen dressings, ranging from classic (Thousand Island, bleu cheese) to creative contemporary (spicy Asian peanut, cucumber wasabi, blueberry pomegranate). Additionally, the place creates lovely catering platters, plus individual lunchboxes -- perfect picnic or plane food. $-$$
2929 Biscayne Blvd.
The first stateside offshoot of a popular Venezuelan mini chain, this "urban Mexican grill" serves health-conscious, made-fresh-daily fare similar in concept to some fast-casual competitors. But there are indeed differences here, notably pan-Latin options: black beans as well as red; thin, delightfully crunchy tostones (available as a side or as the base for a uniquely tasty take on normal nachos). Other pluses include weekday happy hours with two-for-one beers -- and free parking. $-$$
Shokudo World Resource Café
4740 NE 2nd Ave.
At its former Lincoln Road location, World Resource’s café was better known for people-watching than for its standard sushi/Thai menu. But as the new name signals, this relocation is a reinvention. The indoor/outdoor space is charming, but creative takes on popular pan-Asian street foods are the real draw. Travel from Japan and Thailand through Korea, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and beyond via light housemade momo, curried potato-stuffed Tibetan/Nepalese steamed dumplings; savory pulled pork buns with kimchi and crisped onions. Noodle dishes, hot or chilled, are especially appealing. $$-$$$
Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
3250 NE 1st Ave.
This chic indoor/outdoor space is an offspring of Lincoln Road’s SushiSamba Dromo and a sibling of Sugarcane lounges in NYC and Las Vegas, but more informal than the former and more food-oriented than the latter, as three kitchens -- normal, raw bar, and robata charcoal grill -- make clear. Chef Timon Balloo’s LatAsian small plates range from subtle orange/fennel-marinated salmon crudo to intensely smoky-rich short ribs. At the daily happy hour, select dishes (like steamed pork buns with apple kimchi) are discounted. $$-$$$
2751 N. Miami Ave.
As its fusion name suggests, this artsy indoor/outdoor eatery doesn’t merely serve a mix of Japanese sushi and Latin ceviches but a true fusion of both, largely owing to signature sauces (many based on Peru’s citusy/creamy acevichado emulsion with Japanese spicing) that are applied to sushi rolls and ceviche bowls alike. Additionally there are some popular Peruvian-fusion cooked dishes like Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese) lomo saltado, served traditionally, as an entrée, or creatively in springs rolls). To add to the fun, accompany your meal with a cocktail from Miami’s only pisco bar. $$-$$$
1951 NW 7th Ave.
Just over the border from artsy Wynwood, this ultra-cool café (whose interior features a 30-foot Italian glass floral mosaic) isn’t what you’d expect to find inside one of the medical/lab buildings in Miami’s sterile “Health District.” But the owner is Thea Goldman, former founding partner of Wynwood’s pioneering restolounge Joey’s, which explains both the stylishness and the menu, highlighted by imaginative wood-oven designer pizzas, plus artisan charcuterie/cheese platters, creative salads, and housemade salted caramel gelato. Not your typical hospital food. Call ahead regarding dinner. At this writing, it’s being served Fridays only. $$-$$$
3 Chefs Chinese Restaurant
1800 Biscayne Blvd. #105
Until this eatery opened in late 2010, the solid Chinese restaurants in this neighborhood could be counted on the·fingers of no hands. So it’s not surprising that most people·concentrate on Chinese and Chinese/American fare.·The real surprise is the remarkably tasty, budget-priced,·Vietnamese fare. Try pho, 12 varieties of full-flavored·beef/rice noodle soup (including our favorite, with welldone·flank steak and flash-cooked eye round). All can be·customized with sprouts and fresh herbs. Also impressive:·Noodle combination plates with sautéed meats, salad,·and spring rolls. $$
Tony Chan’s Water Club
1717 N. Bayshore Dr.
The décor at this upscale place, located in the Grand, looks too glitzy to serve anything but politely Americanized Chinese food. But the American dumbing-down is minimal. Many dishes are far more authentic and skillfully prepared than those found elsewhere in Miami, like delicate but flavorful yu pan quail. Moist sea bass fillet has a beautifully balanced topping of scallion, ginger, cilantro, and subtly sweet/salty sauce. And Peking duck is served as three traditional courses: crêpe-wrapped crispy skin, meat sautéed with crisp veggies, savory soup to finish. $$-$$$
Vintage Liquor & Wine Bar
3301 NE 1st Ave. #105
Gentrified atmosphere, a remarkably knowledgeable staff, and a hip stock (including liquor and global beers as well as wine, plus gourmet packaged foods to accompany them), and a self-service wine dispenser for sampling make this an enjoyable retail shop. And a wine/cocktail/tapas bar (open from 4:00 p.m. daily) makes it an enjoyable neighborhood hangout, too. The simple but tasty tapas include spinach or hummus dips, shrimp cocktails, a traditional Spanish tortilla, and lavishly garnished imported cheese and charcuterie platters. $-$$
Wine Vault Miami
Shops at Midtown Miami
Fountain Circle #105
From a Wine Vault press release: “Over 1300 square feet of pure decadence.” In fact, the soaring, two-story space, complete with glass elevator, has a look that lives up to the hype. But the most decadent thing inside is a nibble from its tapas list: chocolate-covered bacon. Go ahead and make a meal of it. We grown-ups can eat what we want. More substantial plates to accompany the roughly four dozen wines, artisan beers, or cocktails include chorizo with new potatoes, and sweetly piquant piquillo peppers stuffed with shredded tuna. Happy-hour wine prices are so low we’d better not mention them. $$-$$$
450 NW 27th St.
Located inside the Wynwood Warehouse Project, an art gallery/workshop/consulting space, this alt-culture eatery is sort of a starvation-budget, working-artists’ version of the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s high-end café, Verde: light-bite focused, but with unbelievably low prices. Specialty is “The $3 Sandwich,” choice of quality coldcut (pastrami, salami, turkey, or ham) plus provolone, spinach, tomato, and Dijon mustard sauce. A $5 “Monster” features three meats. Also notably tasty and cheap are coffees, desserts, and fresh-fruit smoothies (including a take on NYC’s classic Orange Julius). $
Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
2550 NW 2nd Ave.
The exterior is eye-popping enough, with murals from world-famous outdoor artists, but it’s the interior that grabs you. Colorful and exotic work by Shepard Fairey, Christian Awe, and other acclaimed artists makes it one of the most striking restaurant spaces anywhere. As for food, the original menu has been replaced with Spanish/Latin/Mediterranean-inspired favorites from chef Miguel Aguilar (formerly of Alma de Cuba): gazpacho or black bean soups; shredded chicken ropa vieja empanadas with cilantro crema; grilled octopus skewers with tapenade; plus fingerling potato-chorizo hash and other seasonal farm-to-table veg dishes. $$-$$$
Zak the Baker
405 NW 26th St.
This part-rustic/part industrial-chic breakfast and lunch spot, located in Zak Stern’s bakery, is one certified-Kosher café where neither religious dietary laws nor culinary standards are compromised. Reason: The menu of open-face sandwich “toasts,” soups, salads, and small plates doesn’t overreach, but stays centered on Zak’s substantial and superbly crusty organic sourdough loaves, arguably the best bread in Miami. Varieties range from classic Jewish deli rye to exotic olive & za’atar or All American cranberry/walnut. Toast toppings, sweet or savory, are mainly local vegetable and dairy combos, so non-carnivores, as well as diners keeping Kosher, luck out. $$