Best Of :: Food & Drink
When Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata (along with a third partner) opened a little pop-up in an office building in downtown Miami, the city went wild for the concept and the food. In what might have been the Magic City's first true pop-up, the partners would turn the space into a restaurant each day and serve Vietnamese cuisine tinged with Zapata's Texan and Latin American influences. The two, who later opened the Federal in a Biscayne Boulevard strip mall, would occasionally resurrect Phuc Yea for special events and dinners to enthusiastic turnout. Last year, Phuc Yea returned with a permanent home. The restaurant, set amid a host of glowing Chinese paper lanterns, boasts several rooms and an outdoor garden. Starters such as the mama roll ($8) — filled with Chinese sausage, jícama, dried shrimp, and peanuts — are sharable and flavorful, but the Cajun/Vietnamese hot pots (market price) are a must. A steaming crock arrives at the table filled with corn, potatoes, and your choice of Florida shrimp, clams, crawfish, or other water creatures. Gloves accompany the dish, but go ahead and get your hands dirty for the real experience.
When Panther Coffee alum Camila Ramos announced the opening of her own java shop, we knew it would be something special. Nestled downtown between the Corner and Fooq's, her bright, expansive space is a welcome addition to the neighborhood's club-dominated scene. Inside, a simple neon board shows All Day's coffee varieties, including pour-overs ($5) and cortados ($4.25), along with more distinct brews such as Thai iced coffee with xocolatl mole bitters ($5) and a nitrogen-infused Brooklyn brew by Toby's Estate Coffee ($5.50, $7.50, or $9.50). Coffees come wet or dry, which is a sophisticated way of saying creamy milk versus a cap of froth. Curb your hunger with small and large bites such as French toast, soft-scrambled eggs, house-made pastries, and pan con croqueta ($10), a sandwich stuffed with ham croquetas, Gouda cheese, egg spread, and pickles.
Readers' choice: Panther Coffee
There is a food truck for almost everything: tacos, burgers, French fries, and doughnuts. Now there is one for coffee. Miami-based wholesale coffee purveyor Relentless Roasters is behind one of Miami's newest food truck concepts: cold-brew coffee on wheels. At C.B. Station, short for "Cold Brew Station," java is iced and put on wheels. Find a variety of flavor pairings made with two bases. Awaken and its sister brew, Awaken Nitro, which offers a creamier consistency similar to a Guinness beer, are blended with sundry ingredients, creating flavors such as raspberry-lemonade, an Arnold Palmer variety, and a classic milk-and-cream version. The truck serves two sizes — 12 and 16 ounces — priced between $4 and $5. To find out where the truck is parked, check its Instagram page.
Opened a little more than a year ago, Vice City Bean caffeinates Miami's not-so-sleepy Omni neighborhood. The café was founded by Roland and Eva Baker, who moved from Los Angeles, where they had recognized and enjoyed the sophisticated coffee culture. It's a perfect place to sip a cup of joe after a poolside live music session at the Filling Station Lofts or meandering through the stalls at the Miami Flea. Large street-facing windows fill the industrial space with warm light. It's located within walking distance of Wynwood's kaleidoscopic murals, but this café's vibe is far less pretentious than anything you'll find over there. An easygoing vibe fills the space and local artists' illustrations hang on the walls. There's plenty of seating for anyone to buckle down with a laptop for a few hours. The menu includes everything from crisp empanadas to rooibos tea latte. The highlight, though, is the specialty coffee from Madcap Roasters of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
While the rest of America goes to Starbucks, Miami heads to its neighborhood Cuban spots. Of course, born-and-bred South Floridians will always have a difficult time deciding on their favorite ventanita, but it comes down to who makes the best coffee: the strongest cortadito, the most authentic cafecito, or the smoothest café con leche. If it's the last you're searching for, look no further than Tinta y Café, a tiny Coral Gables coffee shop and eatery open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Located on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, it's a small slice of home for anyone who wanders in from the street to relax. You can sit in the lounge space, adorned with mismatched furniture, or line up at the outdoor window. Inside, a small bar peddles all manner of caffeine, including a version of the cortadito made with evaporated milk ($2.25) or without ($2). It's like café con leche on steroids. But it's the traditional café con leche ($2.95 to $3.25 depending upon size, plus 60 cents extra for a double shot) that's won the hearts of many. Maybe it's the perfect balance of dense foam and warm, creamy milk that mellows out the dark, rich flavor of the espresso. The final touch: expertly crafted leaf- or heart-shaped latte art so beautiful it's a shame to ruin it with your first sip.
This light, airy juicery is all about the positive vibes. If you forget to turn your frown upside down before entering, an array of inspirational signs will remind you. And if all else fails, the prices are sure to put a smile on your face. Cold-pressed juices in a rainbow of hues cost only $8 each — maybe Miami's tastiest cheap drink. Try the Got the Beet, an infusion of beet, carrot, celery, apple, and lemon. Down the Love Potion #9, a concoction of pear, pineapple, beet, chia, and ginger. Or sip the Essential, a verdant mix of green apple, cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, ginger, lemon, and spirulina. And liquid magic isn't the only thing on the menu. Smoothies ($8) contain exotic ingredients such as dragon fruit and maca. Check out a zoodle (zucchini noodle) bowl ($9.50), avocado toast ($5.50), green vegetable soup ($4.50), or a superfood salad ($9.50). The juice bar is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. At Roots, you'll drink the rainbow, eat the rainbow, live the rainbow.
Despite the growing number of vegan bodybuilders and cruelty-free athletes, some people are still under the impression that plant-based foods lack protein. That's a myth, however. Just ask Miami Instagram all-stars Vegan Thor and Badass Vegan. If you want to follow in their footsteps and avoid animal products while pumping up your protein intake, Raw Juce's E3 Green Monster smoothie ($13.50) is everything your muscles need. This buffed-up drink is a mashup of pineapple, banana, almond "mylk," green apple, kale, spirulina, E3Live algae, and Vega sport protein, all topped off with chopped almonds, bee pollen, and raw honey (which you can leave off to keep it 100 percent vegan). It's all of the muscle building with none of the artery clogging or animal abuse.
It's Sunday morning, and you're still a little drunk from the night before. As you peel yourself from the bed, you're amazed that this zombie-like husk of a body still holds a beating heart. There's one thing that can cure all your ills: a proper bloody mary. So you pull yourself together long enough to make it to the Grove Spot. This tiny Coconut Grove establishment is a locals' secret spot for solid fare and cheap drinks. You sidle up to the bar and order a bloody mary ($9). The first sip of the libation, made with tomato juice, Stoli, and a house-made recipe of spices, brings color flooding to your cheeks. A second sip and you're on your way to becoming a person. As you order another bloody, text your friends to meet you for breakfast here even though it's late: The Grove Spot serves the morning meal daily until 3 p.m.
Monday through Friday, you do the whole egg-whites thing. But today is Sunday, and your brunch needs the three s's: soulful, sinful, and Southern. The Local's brunch covers all the bases, from grits to lamb-belly pastrami to a bitter green salad. Every brunch item is upped with decadence (and usually a touch of bourbon for good measure). Take, for example, the French toast made with thick Sally Lunn bread, served with bourbon maple syrup ($13), or a Benedict where the Canadian bacon is replaced by pulled pork and then drizzled with hot sauce and hollandaise ($14). The Local will even up your chicken-and-waffles game with fried chicken and cheddar-rosemary pancakes served with (what else?) bourbon maple syrup ($17). Want more? Top anything with homemade Cheez Whiz or an egg, just because it's Sunday. And forgo the usual lame mimosa and go straight for one of the Local's crafted cocktails. Because real ballers drink whiskey with brunch.
Readers' choice: The Biltmore
Break your morning açai-bowl-and-cold-brew routine. Wagons West specializes in the country breakfast, the kind that has powered the workin' man and woman through hours of backbreaking labor for decades, if not centuries. And you've got to be eager to get it. This Pinecrest spot begins filling up shortly after opening around sunrise, and asserting your place in line is the only way to get a table. Once you're seated, the job is far from over. Will it be twin pork chops with a pair of eggs and crisp hash browns ($15.25) or perhaps the catfish and eggs ($14.25) on the so-called lighter side? "What'll it be, hon?" a bespectacled waitress in a bright-pink shirt calls to you while passing your booth. Make up your mind, and quick, because everyone here has somewhere to be.
Readers' choice: GreenStreet Cafe
Warm and doughy, with a slightly crisp exterior and a thick smear of cream cheese, these New York-style bagels are close to perfect. Roasters 'n Toasters boasts four locations across Miami-Dade: Pinecrest, Aventura, Miami Beach, and the Falls. This deli has been whipping up fresh, flavorful rings of dough that are not at all chewy since the '80s. Taste aside, they also happen to be ridiculously cheap, about $1.55 each, but prices double with the addition of a chunky coating of cream cheese. Make it a meal by ordering a nova platter ($14.50), where slices of smoked salmon, onion, and capers are layered on a bagel, giving it a little more oomph.
Readers' choice: Bagel Emporium
A small brown box is left on your front doorstep. Inside the package awaits an assortment of chocolate chip cookies, double-chunk brownies, colorful macarons, and maybe even a chocolate-covered cannoli. No, you're not dreaming. It's from Jarly, a Miami-based startup that each month delivers a box of baked goods to your home. Through Jarly, customers can choose one of two subscription plans: a box delivered once a month ($20) or twice a month ($40), plus a $5 delivery fee. Each box is filled with five to seven items from a different featured baker each month. Every treat is prepared fresh that day — and Jarly suggests they be eaten within three to four days. Previous boxes have included dark-chocolate cookies, red velvet cupcakes, pistachio crisp muffins, honey cakes, triple-chocolate brownies, and sweet and soft blueberry scones.
Readers' choice: Zak the Baker