Best of Miami®

Best Of 2011

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Chefs
Jan Jorgensen and Kris Wessel

Qualifications for this annual lifetime achievement type of award include talent, passion, creativity, and most important, a track record of having produced fantastic food for a long time. Past winners are Norman Van Aken, Mark Militello, Allen Susser, Pascal Oudin, Philippe Ruiz, Michelle Bernstein, Michael Schwartz, Doug Rodriguez, Cindy Hutson, Jonathan Eismann, and Dewey LoSasso. This year's inductees have been working their culinary magic for as long as anyone. Kris Wessel worked under Militello in the mid-'90s, and in 1999 opened his own Liaison restaurant to critical and popular acclaim. Alas, it was conceptually ahead of its time and physically behind construction barricades. Almost a decade later, the James Beard-nominated chef returned and hit big with Red Light Little River. It took awhile, but the public has caught up with Wessel's simple, home-style, regional American fare. Jorgensen found success with South Miami diners almost immediately upon opening his Two Chefs restaurant in 1994 — and it is still going strong. Although he comes from a stricter European culinary background than Wessel, Jorgensen shares a cooking style that comes down to using fresh ingredients and doing the basics right: no frills, no hype, no tricks up their sleeves — just food that is undeniably good.

8287 S. Dixie Highway, South Miami, 33143
MAP
305-663-2100
Best Pho
Miss Saigon

Let's talk alchemy. For centuries, wizened scholars — toiling in dark cellars, their wispy gray beards flirting with flames as they cooked cauldrons of metals and spices — searched endlessly for the secret to transmuting basic elements into something new, something otherworldly. Everyone from Isaac Newton to Tycho Brahe grew obsessed with finding the key. Honestly, they should have just ordered some pho at Miss Saigon. How else to explain what happens inside the massive, steaming bowl delivered to your table at the small Vietnamese eatery on Washington Avenue (or inside its larger sister restaurants in Coral Gables and Pinecrest)? In go a few basics: unctuous broth, thick rice noodles, and chunks of raw beef or chicken, topped off at the table with a plate of basil and sprouts and squirted with bottles of fiery red hot sauce and deep-black plum sauce. Yet into your mouth goes a magically complex meal, infinitely better than the sum of its humble parts. (And a steal at $10.95 for a bowl easily big enough for two). If that's not alchemy, our name is Ptolemy.

710 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-531-4200
Best Breakfast
First & First Southern Baking Company
Photo by photo by Christina Staalstrom ​

The American South has given us Hee Haw, boll weevils, Dollywood, and 92 percent of all mosquitoes in the United States. But it has also bestowed upon us Ray Hicks of West Virginia. It was he who brought Miami locals the First & First Southern Baking Company. When it comes to breakfast, Hicks's hot licks include cornmeal/blueberry pancakes; potato pancakes; blackberry waffles; chicken and waffles (with real maple syrup); a "lumberjack" breakfast of eggs, fried potatoes, two pancakes, two bacon strips, two sausage links, and a fruit cup; oatmeal; and, of course, grits. Most breakfasts run $5 to $9 and are served from 8 to 11 a.m. It's almost enough to make you want to put on a Lynyrd Skynyrd CD. Almost.

109 NE 1st Ave., Miami, 33132
MAP
305-577-6446
Best Chicken Wings
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Almost as famous as this local chain's coal-oven pizza are its chicken wings. Spared from goopy sauces, Anthony's are seasoned with flavorful herbs and roasted at high heat in the oven. They arrive at the table in orders of ten ($8.95) or 20 ($14.95) with sweet caramelized onions and focaccia on the side. Their skin sports a nice char, and the flesh is moist inside. They are to the palate a coal-fired delight.

17901 Biscayne Blvd., Sunny Isles Beach, 33160
MAP
305-830-2625
Best Restaurant in Coconut Grove
Lulu
Photo by Photo by billwisserphoto.com

We all love Lulu — at least those of us old enough to remember her tearfully singing, "How do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume?" to Sidney Poitier in To Sir With Love. Huh? Oh. Yes, of course. It goes without saying that we also all love Lulu the restaurant — operated by the team behind the Grove's number one meeting spot, GreenStreet. In fact, it is located right across the street from that landmark eatery and is something of a smaller, cozier version with the same mission: to provide a sidewalk café environment where locals can gather for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch — and lollygag over cocktails, wine (all bottles $25, all glasses $8), and value-driven cuisine. They call it "neighborfood," which means sandwiches of fried green tomatoes and apple-wood-smoked bacon ($11); shrimp tacos ($15); hamburgers, and patties culled from turkey, pork, and brown rice/black beans too ($12 to $15). Entrées likewise lean toward popular American classics: rotisserie chicken with French fries ($18); truffled mac and cheese ($13); and chimichurri churrasco ($20). We all love Lulu, which is why its tables have been packed since opening day. Wonder what became of that other Lulu?

3105 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove, 33133
MAP
305-447-5858
Best Restaurant in Coral Gables
Route 9
Photo by Michael McElroy

It is a labor of love born from a love story: Jeremy and Paola Goldberg met while they were students at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After years of earning their stripes in other people's restaurants, the couple serendipitously ended up in Miami and opened a place of their own — located in Coral Gables and named for the highway that swoops by their alma mater. Jeremy helms the dining room, Paola is the chef, and the restaurant serves fresh, home-cooked fare. The concise menu includes charcuterie and cheese plates ($13), soups and salads ($6 to $9), small plates ($6 to $13), main plates ($14 to $23), and sides ($6). There are sticky chicken wings, burrata cheese with fig preserves, and entrées such as prosciutto-wrapped pork loin, and flank steak with grilled romaine hearts and blue cheese vinaigrette. Each plate, of course, is likewise loaded with love. The waitstaff here is excellent, and service is about as good as it gets: personable, knowledgeable, efficient, and professionally trained. Those years spent managing restaurants evidently served the Goldbergs well.

1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 33134
MAP
305-569-9009
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Best Chefs: Jan Jorgensen and Kris Wessel

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