Best Of :: Food & Drink
Few eating experiences are as glorious as the one found inside fritangas. They are wonderlands of hangover-friendly delights. Take, for instance, the ubiquitous queso frito. The fat rectangle of fried white cheese is carne asada's longtime friend. But leave one sitting on a steam table too long and it goes from a bubbly, crisp, and slightly gooey treat to a chewy, flimsy mess. Chayito's is the rare Nicaraguan spot where the cheese is fried à la minute, as the French would say. Every platter of juicy carne asada ($8.50), baby churrasco ($11.50), pork ($8), and chicken ($8) comes with rice, tortillas, maduros, and salad, but be sure to order the cheese for $2 extra. You won't regret it.
Egyptian brothers make Miami's best bagels. Islam and Khaled Mohammed came to the United States from their Mediterranean homeland in 2001 and took up work in bakeries throughout New York and New Jersey. In 2012, they opened the exposed-brick-covered Toasted Bagelry & Deli on a clogged Brickell thoroughfare. But they came on strong. On Sundays, they churn out more than 4,000 of the chewy little rounds topped with everything from salty-savory whitefish salad to the comforting combination of lox, eggs, and onions ($6.99). Toasted does things the old way, using kosher malt, flour conditioner, and filtered water to produce pristine bagels. However, none of that matters if you can't get your hands on a hot one. So reconsider sleeping in on weekends.
Readers' choice: Bagel Emporium & Grille
Two words bring joy to the hearts of transplanted New Yorkers living in Miami: hand-rolled bagels. Bagel Cove has them, and though purists prattle about New York producing the only decent version (while citing the Big Apple's water quality as the basis of their argument), the fact is that these are damn good bagels that don't require hopping a plane. Served with "schmear" ($2.79), they're a breakfast staple. But go for the gusto and add some nova, tomato, and onion ($12.95) for the ultimate breakfast. There's also a slew of other breakfast items designed to make you homesick for Bubbe, like the nova, eggs, and onions together in a scramble ($9.29) and the matzo brei with onion ($8.95). Starting your day at Bagel Cove is like going home again — if home were Brooklyn.
Readers' choice: Buena Vista Deli
Brunch, like many things in Miami, tends to be way overpriced for the same boring thing. A few eggs, a pancake here and there, and a little prosecco with OJ, and you're looking at about 50 bucks in some places. Add a handful of peel-and-eat shrimp and some mini Danishes, call it a buffet, and you could be dropping 100 bucks for your meal. What if you could get a spicy, savory, exotic breakfast for less than $20? A shakshuka with eggs, tomatoes, and spices, bubbling hot from the oven, is served with thick slices of rustic bread ($12). A Benedict with house-made merguez sausage comes with fiery harissa hollandaise ($16). There's even an authentic Egyptian brunch that takes up your entire table with clay bowls brimming with delights such as feta cheese, fava bean stew, and eggs scrambled with cured beef tenderloin, all for $16. As you dine in the friendly loft-like space filled with travel posters and freshly cut sunflowers, you may find yourself daydreaming that you're in a Greek taverna or a Moroccan café. Just have another glass of sangria (bottomless for $20) and go with it, because brunch at Mina's is like an afternoon in the Mediterranean. By the way, your "vacation in a brunch" is served Saturday and Sunday, so you can staycation twice a week.
Readers' choice: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Sometimes you want a classic eggs Benedict and mimosa for brunch. Other times (like any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon) you desire infinite amounts of sushi and sashimi, oysters, and baby-back ribs doused in chili, ginger, and scallions. If you're itching for the latter, head to Zuma. The fare at this Japanese izakaya located on the ground floor of the swank Epic in downtown doesn't come cheap (brunch costs $95 per person), but you can easily drink your money's worth in umami marys (Zuma's version of a bloody mary, containing house-made truffle dashi vodka). There's also uninterrupted service of sake, lychee martinis, and other rotating Japanese-inspired libations. If you want a sure thing, head to the raw counter, where you can reel in as much fresh catch as your plate (and stomach) can handle. Just be sure to leave room for at least one poached egg with chilled soba noodles. Then there's the ever-changing dessert platter, which is a reflection of the pastry chef's sweet tooth. Regardless of what you choose, one thing is certain: You're in for a treat.
If it's true that we first eat with our eyes, Sugar Yummy Mama's cupcakes, cake pops, and other delights are a delicious visual feast. Owner Giselle Pinto opened her Sugar Yummy Mama food truck around Valentine's Day 2011 and, appropriately, stole Miami's heart with colorful cake pops and cupcakes in cutesy flavors. There was "bananarama" and yummy "wuava." Even hardened cynics couldn't resist her confections, often bedecked with sprinkles, hearts, or, in the case of the recent 101 Gay Weddings event thrown by celebrity chef Art Smith, bow ties and bridal finery. Now Pinto has opened a brick-and-mortar bakery in Wynwood, where she sells to retail customers and takes orders for custom creations that range from branded cupcakes for corporate events to a mountain of cake pops for a sweet birthday celebration. Take one bite of her Bermuda Triangle cake pop (a take on the classic Caribbean rum cake), and you'll be forever lost under Sugar Yummy Mama's spell.
Readers' choice: Zak the Baker