Best of Miami®

Best Of 2008

Neighborhoods

  • + Aventura/North Miami Beach
  • + Beaches
  • + Boca Raton
  • + Brickell
  • + Central Dade
  • + Coconut Grove
  • + Cooper City
  • + Coral Gables
  • + Coral Gables/South Miami
  • + Coral Springs/Margate
  • + Cutler Bay/Palmetto Bay
  • + Dania Beach
  • + Davie
  • + Davie/West Hollywood
  • + Doral
  • + Downtown/Overtown
  • + East Kendall/Pinecrest
  • + Florida Keys
  • + Fort Lauderdale
  • + Hallandale Beach
  • + Hialeah
  • + Highland Beach
  • + Hollywood
  • + Homestead/Florida City
  • + Key Biscayne
  • + Lauderhill
  • + Little Haiti/Liberty City
  • + Little Havana
  • + Miami Gardens
  • + Miami Lakes
  • + Mid/North Beach
  • + Midtown/Wynwood/Design District
  • + Miramar
  • + North Dade
  • + North Miami
  • + North Palm Beach
  • + Oakland Park
  • + Out of Town
  • + Outside South Florida
  • + Palm Beach County
  • + Palm Beach Gardens
  • + Pembroke Pines
  • + Plantation
  • + Plantation/Sunrise/Tamarac
  • + Pompano Beach
  • + Pompano Beach/Deerfield Beach/Coconut Creek
  • + Riviera Beach
  • + Sea Ranch Lakes
  • + South Beach
  • + South Dade
  • + Sunrise
  • + Sunrise/Plantation
  • + Surfside/Bal Harbor/Bay Harbor Islands
  • + Sweetwater/Westchester/West Miami
  • + Tamiami
  • + Unknown
  • + Upper Eastside/Miami Shores/Biscayne Park
  • + Wellington
  • + West Dade
  • + West Kendall
  • + West Palm Beach
  • + Weston
  • + Wilton Manors
Map It

Bars & Clubs

Food & Drink

People & Places

Shopping & Services

MORE

Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Empanada
Delicias de Espana

Empanadas can be such a good thing. What could be better than an easy-to-carry pouch full of spiced meat? Sadly, more often then not, they are little pockets of disappointment: ancient, dry things that sit under heat lamps in gas stations. In the old-old country (Spain, not Cuba), they were heavenly. The tradition continues at this market, which churns out fat pies filled with cod, ham, tuna, chorizo, or chicken. Each slice is about the size of a DVD case and three times as thick — it's yours for $3.50. For $23 you can have the whole sheet. Be careful, though: This place has everything fine and Spanish. The chorizo is rich with the smoky flavors of authentic pimentón. The cheese is pricey and delicious. The Serrano is second to none. Even the women are pretty, frank, and funny. Get in, get your empanada, and get out, lest you wind up penniless and love-struck.

4016 SW 57th Ave., Miami, 33155
MAP
305-669-4485
Best Alfajores
Buenos Aires Bakery

Remember that trip to Buenos Aires? There was supposed to be tango dancing until dawn and a smoky-eyed lover. Instead you tripped over your own feet and got fat eating alfajores. Now that you're back in Miami, the porteños are gone, but there are still alfajores. Buenos Aires Bakery offers three kinds of the cookie and dulce de leche sandwich at $2 a pop: dark chocolate, white chocolate, and maizena. The cookies are moist and the Argentine caramel perfectly gooey. Take a bite, make peace with your chubbiness, and daydream about the Paris of South America.

7134 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 33141
MAP
305-861-7887
Best Argentine Restaurant
Estancia Argentina

Argentine steaks are revered not because of how they're cooked, but because the meat is incredible. The cattle roam the fertile pastures of the pampas and are never forced to exert themselves (because exercise makes the meat tougher). They are carted around the country in train cars. This special treatment produces beef that melts when it hits your tongue and is unrivaled in tenderness and flavor.

But until just last year, the USDA — out of protectionism and semi-legitimate fears of hoof and mouth disease — banned the import of Argentine beef. Now that it can again be imported, you don't want to go to some fancy Argentine steak house and have them jack up the price on you just for cooking the meat. That's where Estancia Argentina comes in. It's a Miami-based chain owned by Buenos Aires transplants, with locations in Aventura, Coral Gables, Kendall, and Miramar. It's half restaurant, half market, and all good. The empanadas ($1.55) and sandwiches ($8) are delicious, made fresh with quality ingredients. The walls are lined with bottles of wine, so you can buy a Malbec and drink it with your meal. The meat counter is to drool over, with all sorts of Argentine beef cuts, cheeses, chorizos, and chimichurris. They also have great desserts ($1 to $5). The place is always packed with Spanish speakers enjoying a cup of vino or guarana soda with meaty skirt steak or prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches. Join them.

17870 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura, 33160
MAP
305-932-6477
Best Bagels
The Bagel Express

There's no Brie, quail eggs, or diced jalapeños baked into the dough of the bagels at this Kendall joint. Nor is there any caviar-infused shmear or exotic fruit toppings shipped from some remote village in the heart of the Amazon. That's because The Bagel Express, a non-descript delicatessen squeezed into a small, suburban strip mall, simply makes great bagels. There's greatness in the first bite. And the second. And the thirtieth.

Made from scratch and baked fresh daily, the bagels here are classics — pumpernickel, sesame, egg, poppy seed, garlic, salt, cinnamon, plain, and everything. The price: $6.60 for six and $11.95 for a baker's dozen. For the carb-conscious, there's also whole wheat and eight-grain available with your choice of regular or low-fat cream cheese (plain, chive, vegetable, strawberry, and honey walnut) for $2.75 a pop. Speaking of pop, The Bagel Express has Dr. Brown sodas (diet and regular). Then there's fresh, hand-sliced Nova lox for $7.99 per quarter pound and delicious, buttery rugelach for $10.95 a platter.

Still not convinced? Oy vey! Then swing on in after the morning rush and try a Boar's Head deli sandwich served in a large woven basket with your choice of bagel, for $7.95. While you're there — now don't get all verklempt — ponder this: Although a bagel topped with Alba white truffle cream cheese and goji berry-infused Riesling jelly sounds superb, it'll run you $1,000 at the Westin Hotel in Times Square. But these tasty bites in Kendall will cost you a mere $1.25 each. Enjoy!

11616 SW 88th St., Miami, 33176
MAP
305-273-9919
Best Bakery
La Provence

If great bread is the staff of life, all of us here in South Florida are living on borrowed time, eating mushy, pallid, tasteless loaves made from ultrarefined flour that no self-respecting Parisian or Italian would use for a doorstop. But thankfully, for those special occasions, we have La Provence, where you can get a proper baguette ($2) or crusty loaf of sourdough ($2.25) or hunk of multigrain ($4.35). But man (and woman) doesn't live by bread alone, so if you're hungry for a light, flaky croissant; luscious Danish, fruit tart, or cheesecake; even savory quiches or empanadas, La Provence has you covered there too. Just no doorstops.

Multiple Locations
Best Brazilian Restaurant

For more than nine years, Aziza Yuself has made Varanda's a place where Brazilians can savor authentic cuisine. That's why the low-key eatery draws so many of the Brazilian expatriates residing in North Beach, who can watch Brazilian television and have long conversations in Portuguese while dining on exceptionally good food, especially the muqueca de peixe, fish perfectly simmered in a coconut sauce ($14.95). Meat lovers will enjoy the picadinho ao mohlo, beef strips in a delicious hot sauce, for $10.95, or the frango ao mohlo curry, curry chicken in coconut sauce for $13.95. For many folks, Varanda's is a home away from home, but even if you're not from São Paulo, you can drop by too.

6616 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 33141
MAP
305-867-2929
Best Bread
Cioppino
Jonathan++Postal
A+slice+of+Tuscany+served+in+a+simply+stunning+setting

As much as we love the simple Tuscan cuisine on Cioppino's menu, we never seem able to finish our risotto scampi or signature mare e fetunta. Why? Because we gorged ourselves on the restaurant's savory bread basket, which brims with ciabatta and grissini flown in from Italy. It's even harder to stop picking at the Parmesan and rosemary lavash, baked on the premises by Cioppino's pastry chef, Frédéric Monnet. The bread basket is served with extra-virgin olive oil from Tuscany, a unique blend from Villa Manodori Artigianale by chef Massimo Bottura. Cioppino is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

455 Grand Bay Dr., Key Biscayne, 33149
MAP
305-365-4500
Best BYOB
Sawaddee Thai-Sushi and Coffee Corner

No more eating at the restaurant and then drinkin' in the alley for you, oh no. Have your dinner and drink, too, at Sawaddee on Normandy Isle. The menu, which comprises a great selection of Thai food along with the apparently mandatory assortment of sushi, is reasonably priced enough to justify a visit on its own. A basic pad thai costs about $8, and most dinner dishes are less than $15 and generously portioned. But the real secret is that you can bring your own booze, and it's a-okay with the owners. Can you crack a 40-ounce at the table? We don't know, but give it a shot! If you want something classier, try running across the street to Normandy Beach Supermarket, open until 11 p.m., which always has a decent red for five bucks or less. Bon appétit!

6968 Bay Dr., Miami Beach, 33141
MAP
305-866-8111
Best Caesar Salad
Prime One Twelve
Courtesy of Prime One Twelve

The caesar salad at Prime One Twelve is bigger than life itself. Or maybe not. Would you believe bigger than a breadbox? How about bigger than any other caesar salad in Miami? And better, too, not because of any trendy twists such as cotton candy croutons (the ones here are born of buttery brioche) or a sprinkling of fennel dust (paper-thin shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano do the trick). Beneath the toppings are crisp hearts of romaine lettuce with a heady garlic-lemon-anchovy emulsion clinging to the leaves like Julius Caesar clung to Rome (or like Caesar Cardini held onto his original recipe for the salad). The caesar here is great because it is classic, as befits the city's most esteemed steak house. That it can feed two or three people makes the $15 price something of a bargain. One Twelve's fat prime steaks, Kobe beef hot dogs, or white truffle French fries are a bit pricier, but they complement the caesar quite well.

112 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-532-8112
Best Cafe Cubano
Caciques Corner

When it comes to café cubano, it's all speed — getting the black life-giving nectar from can to cup to belly fast enough to fuel you through that booooring meeting. Under the Metromover, across from the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, and steps from Miami Art Museum, Caciques Corner is situated to please.

The café, which is shaded by blue awnings, has three windows ready to serve up a jolt of sugar and caffeine. During busy morning hours, cups are ready for loading and reloading. On Sundays, when much of downtown is shuttered, Caciques is open to shake off that hangover. And at 60 cents a cup, it taunts the caffeinated promises of the unnamed chain-to-go a block away.

100 W. Flagler St., Miami, 33130
MAP
305-371-8317
Best Cakes Not by Little Debbie
Mary Ann Bakery

The sweet smell of cakes a-bakin' tickles your nose way before you step into Mary Ann Bakery, and you'd have to be subhuman to resist the urge to walk into this unassuming little spot tucked away on 163rd Street. The front window is filled with birthday and bridal cakes, and although they look (and probably are) delicious, the real gems are inside. Side-by-side, draped in icing, and calling your name are the most fabulous minicakes this side of the Little Debbie factory. Whether you fancy mocha, chocolate, strawberry, orange, or almond, one of the dozens of confections in the refrigerated case of this Chinese bakery will surely hit your spot. The spongy texture of the cake plus the not-too-sweet yet oh-so-buttery icing make these treasures better than anything vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag. And none costs more than $1.25, making your decision to pass up the 7-Eleven baked goods aisle that much sweeter.

1284 NE 163rd St., North Miami, 33162
MAP
305-945-0333
Best Ceviche

They spell it cebiche at this Japanese-Pan Latin newcomer. And the renditions served here are distinctive in other ways as well. For one thing, they're prettier than others — the seafoods steeped in flavor without being seeped in a puddle of lime juice and buried in cilantro and red onions. The garnishes and marinades are more creative than most: Lobster luxuriates with slivers of fresh mango in key lime juice; cold-water prawns get invigorated by chipotle-tangerine sauce; tuna tangles with yuzu tobiko, wasabi, scallion, and soy. Prices are $12 to $16 for a generous portion, but a $30 sample proffers any three cebiches of your choice, accompanied by a refreshing scoop of shiso-kiwi sorbet. While you're here, you'll probably want to try this stylish restaurant's sushi, tiraditos, or flashy Latin-Asian fusion dishes. But it is the cebiches that will keep you returning.

X

Best Empanada: Delicias de Espana

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >