As 2014 winds down, it's a good time to look back at the ten best "Ten Best" lists we've shared over the past year.
These lists, by the way, are not popularity contests. We do not solicit "votes" from social media. Generally, Short Order writers share their favorite places in our weekly editorial meetings, which serve as a hothouse for new ideas. Most of the lists are borne from these sessions. And, yes, the writers (collectively as a team or individually) have experienced all of these restaurants and dishes firsthand.
These lists are popular, sure, but we also get our fair share of people who call us out for not including their absolute favorite burgers or sandwiches or restaurants. When you're doing a list of ten, unfortunately, some dishes will be left out. That's not to say that we don't hear our readers. In fact, many times we'll discover new favorite restaurants to write about from the comments section.
With that in mind, here are our ten favorite lists from 2014. Whether you're new to Miami, visiting for the holidays, or are a native, we hope these will whet your appetite for discovering new places and revisiting old favorites.
Like most people, Miamians are drawn to shiny, new restaurants. That's all well and good, but sometimes you have to get off the strip to have a wonderful meal. These restaurants, many of them small establishments, serve great comfort food, like Crackers Casual Dining, with classics like deep-fried bread pudding and a fried chicken sammich. Note: Our top pick, Nemesis Urban Bistro, closed earlier this month.
Chicken and waffles might have been around since the 1930's but Miami's dining scene has really embraced the soulful dish in the past year. In fact, chicken and waffles are everywhere. On brunch menus, as a play on a classic Chinese dish, or using pork as a substitute "chicken". What's our favorite? The win goes to Kush and LoKal for their versions, made with free-range poultry and an added bacon bonus.
In a city as big as Miami, were bound to see new restaurants come and old restaurants go. But, sometimes, a restaurant is sorely missed. Maybe it's because a venue is filled with precious memories of birthdays and graduation parties. Maybe a proposal happened there during a candlelit dinner. Or it could simply be that we miss the incredible food. In any event, we remember the restaurants we miss most, including the iconic Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House.
Unlike most of the world where hotel dining equates to an act of desperation, Miami hotels are the host to some of the best establishments in our city. Our gorgeous resorts and inns are filled with five-star restaurants, many of which are owned by celebrity chefs like Nobu Matsuhisa, Scott Conant, and Masaharu Morimoto. Hotels also nurture local talent like Michelle Bernstein, the Pubbelly Boys, Michael Schwartz, and BarLab and serve as an incubator for young chefs to learn the inside-out of running a major restaurant. When it comes to choosing a favorite, it's OLA at the Sanctuary, a secret gem tucked away on a South Beach side street.
The Miami cocktail scene has come a long way in a short time. As little as five years ago, your libation options were likely a choice between a Goose and Bull or a frozen blender drink made from a mix. Now there's a community of bartenders growing herb gardens, muddling fresh fruit, and using cutting-edge culinary techniques to make sophisticated and delectable creations.
These masters of the shaker are world-class, having traveled the globe and winning various awards. But, of all the skillful talent, top honors must go to Bar Lab's Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi, whose Broken Shaker was recently named one of the world's 50 best bars.
What are the two best words in the English language? No, not "free money" (although we'll take that). It's "happy hour." Happy hour is the time when worker bees, freed from their hives, can enjoy a much-needed beer or cocktail with friends. And, while most bars and restaurants do offer a happy hour, some go above and beyond the call of duty, serving free bites, cheap eats, and bargain drinks. Of all the places to go, we love Rusty Pelican for its $3 beers, $5 well drinks, and $9 foie gras and goat cheese empanadas. Add in the best place to watch a Miami sunset and you've sealed the deal.
Christmas got you broke? You can still get a hearty meal, according to Short Order's Carina Ost. Think you can't get much for your money in a city filled with Ferraris and million-dollar condos? How about pizza, subs, roast pork, or roast chicken? Out of all these bargains, what's the best lunch bang for your (five) bucks? A mile-high frita from El Mago de las Fritas.
There is no doubt that Miami is a late night city. While other world-class destinations like London and Chicago roll up the carpet at a smidge past midnight, our city pulsates with electricity until well past dawn. Which begs the question: Where do you go at two in the morning when you're hangry? Though it's true that most restaurants are closed by then, there are still a host of places to go to get nourishment. Which one gets our nod for best place to get some after-hours chow? We call Gigi "rehab in a bowl". 'Nuff said.
The sandwich can be anything. It can be a humble lunch fit for child or busy on-the-go professional or it can be an elevated work of art. In any event, it all starts with two pieces of bread and a filling, but it takes a true artist to make it sing. If a sandwich is like a song, then the Jewban at Josh's Deli is an aria of flavor. A mashup of a Reuben and a Cuban, it's oh so Miami. And oh so delicious.
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What's more American than a burger? Sure, the meat sandwich's roots can be traced back to Hamburg, Germany in the 17th century (and even earlier forms of a chopped meat sandwich were enjoyed by Genghis Khahn's army), the good old U.S. of A. embraced it as our own -- maybe because there are so many ways you can make a burger. Dressed up or dressed down, made with various meat blends, grilled or fried -- the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That could be why Carina Ost's Ten Best Burgers in Miami received 153 comments. Who made the top spot? The Swine Burger at Swine Southern Table & Bar for the double patties that "come packed with short rib, brisket, and smoked pork and are sandwiched with American cheese, thick slices of bacon, homemade dill pickles, pickled onions, lettuce, tomato, and that special secret Swine sauce."