Hialeah has a small but bustling Nicaraguan community that finds the comforts of its homeland at Rincón Nica, a homey restaurant just minutes away from the Palmetto Expressway's NW 103rd Street exit. The place is not overly decorated with Nicaraguan artifacts and knickknacks, like other Nica eateries throughout Miami-Dade, except for the oil painting of national poet Rubén Darío that greets patrons walking through the front door. In business since 1996, Rincón Nica is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering affordable and deliciously prepared food. For early risers, five bucks will score a plate with two eggs, choice of ham or bacon, and Nicaragua's signature dish: gallo pinto, a sautéed concoction of rice and red beans. Substitute a warm flour tortilla for toast and it's like you're waking up in Matagalpa, a city in the mountains of the country's continental divide between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Daily soups include typical broths such as black bean soup and mondongo (tripe soup) for $8 each. Other staples on the menu include nacatamal, repocheta, and vigoron for less than $5. And it goes without saying — but we'll say it anyway — that the meat entrées are absolutely delectable. We suggest the $15.75 puntas de filete a la jalapeño, a traditional dish in which three pieces of steak are served in a white creamy sauce bursting with jalapeños and onions.

The Noodle Shop is a restaurant within a restaurant, located in the foyer leading to O Asian Grill. Its small but exceptional menu of quick-to-prepare Asian favorites gives shoppers and bar hoppers a much-needed carb recharge in the middle of their activities. Sit at the counter and watch the chef prepare your meal — much like at a sushi bar. He'll stir-fry classics such as the pad thai or yakisoba (both $10.95) or serve you chilled noodles (also $10.95). If it's one of those rare cold days, order the ramen or soba noodle soup for $8. The shop also offers dumplings, springs rolls, and Asiatic-influenced salads for $5 to $10. It's a very different experience if you are accustomed to Miami restaurants — fun but classy at the same time. It's located on the east end of Lincoln, just off the beaten path from the pedestrian mall.

Grass is a veritable Garden of Eatin'. The carpet is a lush lawn. The walls are covered in climbing vines. There is bamboo, bonsai, all manner of bushes, trees, and plants, as well as a beautiful bar, behind which is a wall of illuminated apothecary jars flush with vivid flora. A thatched, tiki-style roof covers most of the tables; stars provide a canopy for the rest. The cuisine, a contemporary melding of American and Asian, lends its own rich, natural notes (as for the other green — most entrées are under $30). The surroundings are so lovely, so verdant, so Miami that once you're embedded in one of the cushy white sofas, you're not going to want to leave. That's all right, too, because this Design District hotspot stays open late. Have another saketini.

Paradise Farms

Three years ago, Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms joined chef Michael Schwartz to stage a series of organic dinners forged from products grown in South Florida. The setting is outdoors amid Paradise Farms' five acres of avocados, microgreens, heirloom tomatoes, and tropical fruits. Dinners are limited to 60 guests and encompass a cocktail reception, farm tour, and six courses — prepared by Miami's top chefs — paired with complementary wines. Last season's culinary participants included Govind Armstrong, Clay Conley, Allen Susser, Tim Andriola, Sean Brasel, Giancarla Bodoni, Michael Bloise, and Mr. Schwartz. The cost per person is $150 (the money goes to eco-conscious charities), but you'll have to wait a bit before you get to break bread under the stars: The dinners take place only from early December through late April.

Rice House of Kabob
Leah Gabriel

Have you been looking for a fresh, fast Persian for lunch? Well, you'll have to provide your own exotic date here, but if you're craving delicious food at attractive prices, Rice House of Kabob is a much shorter hop than a nonstop flight to Tehran. This unassuming little chain dishes out assorted Persian favorites in a sparse, relaxed atmosphere. Kebabs served on polo rice with a grilled tomato accompaniment are the national dish of Iran. At Rice House, they cost between $9 and $13 a plate and are cooked when you order them, so they arrive as fresh as you can get anywhere else. You also have the option of having your kebabs served on a flatbread wrap. Rice lovers should take advantage of the zereshk, adas, or bhagali at $6 each, while vegetarians have several options from $3 to $8, including the usual favorites borrowed from Mediterranean cuisine. The only drawback is that the addictive Persian khoreshs (stews) aren't on the menu, but maybe with a little pleading, we can persuade the chef to bring the water to a boil.

Little Saigon
Carina Ost

One might feel intimidated upon inspecting the overwhelming, 12-page bilingual menu at this family-operated Vietnamese restaurant. But fear not. Little Saigon has the best pho you'll ever wave a chopstick at. Pho (pronounced fuh) is a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup that is often served in a clear beef broth and garnished with bean sprouts, scallions, and fresh herbs such as Thai basil and cilantro. Variations range from beef tenderloin to fish balls to lemongrass to mustard greens. This place has about 15 pho to choose from, all different in taste yet similar in outcome. Patrons have been known to slurp down a bowl until the soup's last drop — a requirement in some Asian cultures. So slurp as much as you want, and belly willing, try all the different pho. One thing is for sure: The average price for a pho dish is $6. That leaves enough money for you to come back pho more.

Primo Pizza

Vinnie Oreganata is a man of habit, and none as regular as his Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday jaunts to Primo Pizza for dinner. When people ask Vinnie why not Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, he replies, "That would be crazy." Vinnie is a little displaced — you can take the kid out of Brooklyn and so forth. Primo, located on First Street just west of Collins Avenue in South Beach, serves the type of slice Vinnie grew up eating, the sort sold under nearly every elevated subway station in his home borough. And like those joints, it is open late (until 5 a.m. weekends). It isn't that he misses good pizza more than family and friends, but rather that the slightly floppy crust, mild layering of sweet tomato sauce, and thin but dense blanket of mozzarella make him think of family and friends. Primo also sells a plush cheese calzone and doughy rolls filled with mozzarella, marinara, and choice of meatballs, eggplant, chicken, broccoli, sausage, and steak with peppers. The pizzas come with choice of 31 toppings, including pineapple, jalapeños, and sun-dried tomatoes, but folks don't go for that crap back where Vinnie comes from. He gets the "regular": cheese, sauce, and a scattering of fresh basil. Paying just $3 a slice and only $12.95 per pie, Vinnie can fill his belly with Miami's tastiest pizza and at the same time hail an imaginary cab ride back to memories of home.

Umi Sushi & Sake Bar

Dining alone is one of life's underrated pleasures. Eat quickly; eat slowly. Gawk at other diners; bring a book. Have a glass of wine; have six. Every choice is sweetly your own, including the most important: Which restaurant? Blue Sea works on all sorts of levels. First, the food, an innovative array of sparkling fresh sushi presented with artistic flair (artists are said to eat by themselves quite often). Appetizers include a spicy lobster martini ($25) and ceviche of diver scallops with mango, ginger, and lime ($14). Nigiri kick bass with selections such as the roe from salmon, uni, and flying fish ($7). Maki and jumbo maki rolls are available, as is pressed oshi — don't miss the salmon and tuna with mango jelly. Sushi sauces excel: tamari, ponzu, asam manis, peanut, eel, and kim chee. Rolls are under $20, but Blue Sea is not cheap — especially if you delve into the caviar offerings. But that's another beauty of solo dinners — you pay for only one. Then there is the setup to consider. Blue Sea consists of one long communal table that juts at an angle from the sushi bar to the cusp of the Delano's still-happening-after-all-these-years lobby scene. Talk about gawk-worthy! Plus, while in regular restaurants it is generally considered rude to lean over to people seated at the next table and introduce yourself, it is common practice at communal tables, which are conducive to conversation among those who don't know each other. Even more so after imbibing some of the singular sake selections. Maybe you will make a friend. Maybe not. Either way, pristine sushi is a given.

Coimbra Restaurant

It would be wrong to say Portuguese cuisine rests solely on its treatment of salt cod, or bacalhau, but it's hard not to admire the culinary alchemy that transforms something resembling salted drywall into one of the tastiest things you can put in your mouth. Which is one reason it's hard not to admire Coimbra, where a clientele ranging from young couples to extended families chows down on airy, crisp salt cod fritters (85 cents each) and lusty sautées of the star protein with potatoes, olives, hard-cooked eggs, and lots of good, fruity olive oil ($15.95). There's plenty more to like too, and it would be wrong if you didn't check it all out.

OLA at Sanctuary Hotel

Do not eat the single and singular meatball-size sphere of pan d'bono that gets plunked upon your bread plate at OLA. Oh no. Made with yuca flour, mozzarella cheese, sugar, and milk, this ungodly delicious little ball will cause you to crane your neck to seek the waiter who traipses through the dining room with a basket of it fresh from the oven. After snagging a second one, you will be thinking of the third — and after the third, you will be too full to fully savor the Nuevo Latino flavors that jump from the hamachi ceviche, plantain-crusted mahi-mahi, and tenderloin churrasco — and you will no doubt have to bypass the signature chocolate cigar for dessert. That would be a shame. So don't even think of trying the pan d'bono. You'll just have to take our word that it's out-of-this-world.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®