If you were to look back at the restaurants openings of 2012 in Miami, you might notice a bit of a trend. Our epicurean vista has evolved and diversified.
We are now home to more mid-priced, chef-driven eateries: Surfside gained a deli; South Beach has a ceviche joint run by a James Beard nominee; and the Upper Eastside debuted an eatery serving pig wings and duck in a jar. Design District and Midtown continued on the culinary ascent, with recent additions like Oak Tavern and MC Kitchen, and Wynwood's nightlife scene exploded with late-2011 newbies like Wood Tavern.
Yet not every eatery was a charmer. Miami still has an unrelenting obsession with the small-plate concept. (Which by now just means forking over $15 for Brussels sprouts with bacon and "fusion" raw plates with pretty things doused in ponzu or soy sauce.)
But that just makes me appreciate the good eateries even more. So, here's the list of the 7 best new restaurant of 2012 in Miami. These are the places that I love for their character, good pricing-to-quality ratio, and just simple, delicious eats.
7. J&G Grill
One long name, three words, one hyphen: Jean-Georges Vongerichten. In early 2012, powerhouse restauranteur Jean-Georges opened the first Miami outpost of his international empire. (His restaurants are located in New York, Shanghai, Paris, St Barths, and beyond.) This Bal Harbour joint has already won love from New Times; it was prized with 2012's Best Outdoor Dining. But J&G Grill is also a symbol of what the Magic City has become. With big names coming in, Miami's epicurean prospects are definitely on the rise.
In the Upper Eastside, in a strip mall, past a liquor store, and next to a health food shop, there is an American eatery serving up things like jar o' duck, Buffalo-style pig wings, crispy soft shell crab po'boy, and farmstead cheeses. Run by Aniece Meinhold, Alejandro Ortiz, and Cesar Zapata, this is the neighborhood joint known as The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions. Prices aren't cheap -- think $40 to $50 a person. But there are craft beers, good wines, and a tavern-like atmosphere. Picture good ol' wall-mounted taxidermy and mason jars. A notable addition to the neighborhood, indeed.
The Pubbelly team, composed of Jose Mendin, Sergio Navarro, and Andreas Schreiner, understands what Miami needs: mid-priced eateries with good fare, good beers, and good ambience. This year, the group called in Michael Pirolo (previously of Scott Conant's Scarpetta) and launched Macchialina on Alton Road. The menu features salumi, intriguing antipasti such as escarole salad with preserved lemon, pistacho and pecorino, and a selection of "pasta fatta in casa" -- fresh pastas like agnolotti del plin and, one of my favorites, cavatelli Macchialina (with meatballs, porchetta and, again, pecorino). The setting bespeaks good vibes, big city, and fun. And that's what this city is all about.
With Surfside's Josh's Deli, Joshua Marcus has given Miami a delicious solution to its cravings for latkes, house-cured meats and fish, and pickles. And I mean a lot of pickles. But, then again, the white chocolate chip pancakes are good too. And so is the poutine. And the duck hash. And the "Jewban" sandwich with pastrami, roast pork, pickles and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread. In short, Josh's Deli is a great place, with good food, and a cool owner who appreciates the value of quality corned beef and slaw.
3. The Bazaar
Jose Andrés, the James Beard award-winning Spanish toque credited with introducing avant-guarde and traditional Spanish cuisine to the United States, opened his first Magic City eatery this year. The Bazaar debuted with much fanfare, and rightfully so. The restaurant serves croquetas in a resin shoe sculpture and liquid mozzarella that explodes in your mouth. Do you really need anything else? Well, if you do, there's also things like bao con lechón, Japanese tacos, and dragon fruit ceviche with hibiscus air. We know it's one of Miami's "que super fancy"-type dinner (a dinner can easily cost $90 per person). But we also know that Andrés makes it worth it.
2. Blue Collar
Danny Serfer, the chef and owner of Blue Collar in the Upper Eastside, is usually at one of two sections in this 25-seat restaurant. He is either busy in the open-kitchen, or sitting by the bar, chatting it up with patrons. Regardless of where you spot him, Serfer's cooking is always simple and delicious. Menu listings include sandwiches, like a cordon bleu option with crispy chicken, serrano ham, manchego cheese, and dijon mustard for $13, or entrees like pan roasted organic chicken or grilled mahi mahi for under $21. Serfer has earned quite the following with his "veg chalkboard", a rotation of vegetable dishes including roasted beets with goat cheese, curried cauliflower puree, and sauteed kale. That's because diners love to mix-and-match -- and also because Blue Collar has delectable eats for honest, fair prices.
1. My Ceviche
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My Ceviche gets the number one spot for many reasons. To start, this an affordable seafood joint run by two experienced, talented youths. Sam Gorenstein is a James Beard-nominated chef, who has already been recognized with Forbes' 30 Under 30. His partner is Roger Duarte, who also runs George's Stone Crab. This year, Duarte made the list for Forbes' 30 Under 30, too. These two are a strong team.
Then there's the the out-of-towner factor: when family or friends visit from elsewhere, they are always taken to My Ceviche. That's because Gorenstein and Duarte offer fresh, local Florida-caught seafood (including stone crabs) at affordable prices. This is the type of food that is unique to Miami. And if you think a seafood ventanita doesn't deserve the number one spot. Well, then, you've clearly never tried My Ceviche's burrito.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.