New Times' annual Best of Miami issue hit the streets and went live online this week. The special edition honors everything wondrous and worthwhile in Miami, from best museum to best pizza.
Of course, everyone loves sinking their teeth into the culinary equivalent of a big hug, from fried chicken to croquetas. Here are the five best comfort foods in Miami.
Best Hot Dog: Miami Smokers
You might know Miami Smokers for the bacon, but it's the Floridian ($9) that will lure you back to this Little Havana smoke spot. It begins with a baguette and continues with a wild boar sausage culled from Okeechobee pigs. It's a smoky, rich affair that's like a Middle Eastern merguez, a British banger, and a piece of juicy lamb leg all rolled into one. Then come spicy mayo and orange segments, which cut the richness. Avocado purée brings some of it back. Pickled peppers temper it all just right, while a flutter of cilantro provides a final tropical accent. It's more Miami than driving home a Noche Buena pig from an illegal Hialeah slaughterhouse in a rented Ferrari with the top down.
Best Croquetas: Old Lisbon Restaurants
Behold the five stages of croquetas. Stage 1: croqueta de queso. Filled perhaps with goat cheese, it is otherwise a glorified mozzarella stick. Stage 2: croqueta de pollo. Now we're talking! Meat, baby! Stage 3: croqueta de jamón. This is where most of us live day-to-day. Good, but it could be better. Stage 4: croqueta de chorizo. All the delights of ham, with an additional hit of smoke that is the signature of this Spanish sausage. Stage 5: croqueta de bacalao. This is it. You have arrived, especially with one of Old Lisbon's bolinhos de bacalhau ($10.99). These empowering little fritters forgo the breading of their Cuban counterparts and include meaty bits of Portugal's beloved salt cod in a slightly sweet batter. With one in hand, there's nothing you can't do.
Best Burger: K Ramen. Burger. Beer.
Order the burger ($17) at this Japanese-anime-themed noodle spot hidden away in the basement of the Townhouse Hotel, and the only thing to decide is whether you want French fries or tater tots. Just let the kitchen do the rest. This beast of a burger is bookended by slices of sturdy yet tender brioche bun that's as soft as a Martin's potato roll but won't mush up or let you down. It's a double-patty affair, and each one of the pair is round, has a slightly pink center, and boasts a woody char. There's also some sweetness courtesy of caramelized onions and a hit of acidity from a thick slice of tomato. A blend of American cheese mingles sensually with a house spicy sauce that cascades over each bite. If some is left on your chin, so be it. Such is the price of entry to burger heaven.
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Best Pizza: Paulie Gee's Miami
Hellboy ($18) is your friend. The kitchen crew at this Brooklyn pizza transplant has figured out how to get a crisp, oven-charred crust on this foot-wide pie despite Miami's unrelenting humidity. The crust is delicate and tender at the center, and a pockmarked ring surrounds grated tomatoes and milky, fresh mozzarella. But the real lure is the salty, hot soppressata made with Berkshire pig meat, the holy of holies when it comes to swine. Then a drizzle of spicy honey is liberally applied, giving each bite an alluring flavor contrast that makes it disappear from your table faster than the pizzaiolo can pull another one from the 900-degree oven. Of course, don't get too distracted, because you won't want to miss this former Chinese restaurant's other prized possession: the pie called Cherry Jones ($20). Here, it's Gorgonzola, prosciutto, sour cherries, and honey that are more overpowering than a blotter sheet of acid. You might just want to lock yourself in the bathroom and never come out.
Best Fried Chicken: Bird & Bone
This is fried chicken food porn at its finest. After all, you are sinking your teeth into a golden breast or thigh, crisp on the outside, moist and juicy on the inside. What could make it even more sensual? A tingle on the lips. Richard Hales' obsession with Nashville hot chicken led him to bring the craze to Miami Beach at his Bird & Bone inside the Confidante hotel. But unlike the original iteration that turns up the fire, Hales knows it's best to tease. His chicken is brined for a day and then fried to order before being coated with a special blend of spices and peppers. Finally, he drizzles honey on the bird. The result is pure pleasure: a sweet top note gives way to a sultry warmth as your teeth penetrate the flaky crust to get to the tender flesh. Go ahead — let out a low moan. The finest porn stars always do.