Miami International Airport
Granted, the quality of eats found in food courts is generally not of epicurean note, but the selections at Miami International Airport's North Terminal (post-security, especially) give travelers a good taste of some pretty recognizable local offerings, so it deserves cred. Tourists who get to the airport late or go straight to South Beach would miss out on Little Havana's top menu items (AKA some of the finest Cuban eats in the city), if not for Café Versailles and La Carreta representing at MIA. How tragic for those sunburned visitors to not try one little smoky ham croqueta or medianoche before they go back home! Even those who skipped Nobu or SushiSamba can get a bite of fresher fish than they have back in Minnesota, for sure, at Sushi Maki. It's a decent place for not only a roll or two but also entertainment — check out the "Fun With Chopsticks" illustrations on the utensil packaging. There's nothing better to keep the kiddies amused while waiting at the gate than showing them how many ways you can shove wooden poles into your nostrils. Traditionalists can also find hot dogs, pizza, Chinese food, and French-style baked goods that seem perfect for breakfast when you have a 6 a.m. flight and nothing but anti-airsickness pills in your stomach. Got a craving for sweets? Down fudge and brownies at Boca Bites and a ring or two of glazed goodness at Dunkin Donuts. If you're just plain ol' thirsty, there's Coffee Beanery, Starbucks, Corona Beach House, and Tradewinds Bar. Try it all, but just remember to throw a few Pepto tablets in your carry-on. And Godspeed, intrepid travelers.
Hakkasan
Courtesy of Hakkasan
Hakkasan in London is one of the finest Chinese restaurants in the world, which is evidenced by a consistent Michelin-star ranking. Thankfully, the second incarnation, which debuted at the Fontainebleau Hotel in April 2009, has maintained the same standard of excellence in food and service. While the Cantonese cuisine is far more gourmet than your standard lo mein and beef with broccoli fare, fans won't be disappointed by a lack of Americanized dishes. Chef Wen Sian Tan's specialties include fall-off-the-bone jasmine tea smoked ribs; fluffy balls of sesame prawn toast; spicy fried soft-shell crab; vegetarian-friendly wild mushroom lettuce wraps; stir-fry lobster with Chinese chives; savory lemon chicken; earthy braised lamb with chestnuts; briny stir-fry green beans with preserved olive oil and dried shrimp; and wild mushroom hand-pulled noodles. Wash it all down with a signature cocktail, the Hakka, which combines vodka, Kubota sake, lychee juice, lime, coconut, and fresh passion fruit. Despite Miami's dearth of professional waiters and waitresses, the service is always stellar at this stunning spot, which was decorated by French design firm Gilles & Boissier. Although it is a modern space, there's a traditional Chinese motif including silk lanterns, lattice-work screens, and hand-carved teak panels. A dim sum brunch on weekends is elegant and delicious, although sans the pushcarts one would find in New York's (or London's) Chinatown. Nevertheless, you will be satisfied with a plethora of dumplings, buns, and fried rolls. Ultimately, Hakkasan isn't going to replace your corner Chinese haunt (especially at the high prices). But you will be hard-pressed to find more luscious and authentic Chinese fare in all of South Florida.
Gourmet Gourmet
For 17 years, Coral Gables residents snacked on lo mein and the like at Gourmet Gourmet. A year ago, the popular Chinese eatery moved to new, cheaper (less glamorous) digs in the heart of Miami. Not that the original location was anything spiffy. Fans of Chinese cuisine went there for the honey-garlic chicken, orange beef, and won ton soup. The new incarnation is sparse, but the fare still ranges from typical Chinese dishes (mu shu pork and spring rolls) to the more exotic (shrimp in Cajun sauce and smoked salmon and spinach won tons). Chef/owner Jose Sang is of Dominican and Chinese descent, which explains the fusion-focused items. Don't miss his chicken over jade blossom, which combines peppery slivers of white meat with crisp, sweet, fried spinach. For brave diners, there are six stools for eating, three of which overlook the open kitchen. Most patrons take their fare to go, which is well packaged and arrives home piping-hot and intact. We were impressed that the spinach was packed separately from the chicken — it remained crisp on our trek all the way back to Miami Beach.
Sun Wah Chinese Restaurant
One thing about Chinese cuisine in the City of Progress: You can always count on dishes with a touch of Latin flavor. Sun Wah knows what we are talking about. The family-owned restaurant serves "sunny fried rice," the traditional Chinese dish modified with pineapple chunks for a sweet kicker. It is by far the most popular item on the menu of 75 dishes. Of course, Sun Wah is all about home-style Chinese cooking with Mandarin, Hong Kong, and South Asian influences. Your mouth will water at the sight of the "Sun Wah happy family," a smorgasbord of shrimp, crab meat, chicken, beef, and mixed vegetables sautéed in a brown sauce. The prices are reasonable too. The most expensive item costs $12. Lunch and dinner combo specials are available for $4 to $8. And if you have a hungry brood waiting at home, take advantage of the family combo specials that range from $12.99 to $31.99. They are large enough to feed six to nine people. Sun Wah is conveniently located about a half-mile west of the NW 122nd Street exit off the Palmetto Expressway, just past Palmetto General Hospital, in the Gran Lago Plaza. It is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; on Fridays and Saturdays, the joint closes a half-hour later; and on Sundays, it's open from noon to 9:30 p.m.
LT Steak & Seafood
Photo courtesy of LT Steak & Seafood

Rapper BLT Stake, keepin' it real:

The popoveralone makes this a worthy stopover.

The size of a baseball mitt

eggy steam escapes from it

when open — no dope'n.

Chef Gorenstein's a Beard nominee

You don't like meat, try yuzu with hamachi

but it's the seared sizzling steaks

like porterhouse and rib eye, for God's sakes!

Angus or Wagyu, 30 or 40 Georges per slab

Jalapeño mashed potatoes?

I'll take that jab

Artisanal cheeses, lemon-blueberry pie

Makes drugs seem a dumb-ass way to get high

Seize a seat and take a pause

in beautiful Betsy or the patio outdoors

BLT Steak — it don't stand for bacon

Bistro Laurent Tourondel ain't fakin'.

Red South Beach
It has become somewhat common for fine-dining restaurants to serve traditionally low-end comfort foods such as pizza and chicken wings — at fine-dining prices. But you won't find them at Red the Steakhouse. Why wouldn't chef Peter Vauthy finally quiet the chorus of customers who've been requesting burgers? Why wouldn't owner Brad Friedlander insist the high-profit item be part of the bill of fare (both here and in the original Cleveland branch)? "I have a hard time justifying putting a hamburger on the menu for $30 or whatever the price point might be," Vauthy explains. Plus he just doesn't think it belongs in Red's fine-dining format. Period. In other words, their refusal to join the herd of haute establishments is based on principle. Superior steaks, an award-winning wine list, and a stunning dining room are reasons enough to frequent Red. Still, it's nice to know there's integrity behind the stellar dining experience.
Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina
Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
The hamburger was named for the German city of Hamburg — although residents of Hamburg, New York, claim it was created in 1885 at the Erie County Fair when vendors Charles and Frank Menches ran out of pork for their sandwiches. It wasn't until 1912 when ground meat patties were actually called "hamburgers," and it didn't occur to folks to throw stuff like lettuce, onions, pickles, and tomatoes on top until the 1930s (1938 is believed to be the year when the first cheeseburgers came about). Nowadays, hamburgers make up about 60 percent of all sandwiches eaten in America — and that doesn't even include the dozens of tofu patties sold. Hamburger joints also seemingly compose 60 percent of the restaurants that have opened in Miami over the past year. This explosion of chopped-beef consciousness has yielded a Burger Bash, a Burger Beast, and all sorts of people proclaiming that the best hamburger is this or that. But we're here to dish the truth: Bourbon Steak's wood-grilled USDA Prime/American Kobe beef hamburger just can't be beat. The charred beauty gets plunked into a sturdy house-baked bun — with a homemade pickle and Tuscan pepper speared through it — along with either house topping of melted farmhouse Cheddar, shredded lettuce, and balsamic-glazed onions, or your choice among six really cool toppings (such as truffle aioli or poached organic egg). That's a lot of bang for $14, and complimentary truffled popcorn precedes the meal. Five bucks more will get you Michael Mina's famous duck-fat fries, and you can wash it all down with a Jim Beam milkshake. Residents of both Hamburgs can eat their hearts out.
According to owner and operator Notorious Nastie (AKA Nassie Shahoulian), Nassie's Famous Franks were conceived to "end world hunger by putting delish dogs inside the mouths of hungry, hungry hipsters." Translation: These wieners are drunk food for cool kids. They include footlong, kosher, all-beef, and veggie varieties. And even though you're free to top your dog with pretty much whatever the hell you want, Nastie suggests you try one of his $6 custom creations. There's the Maui Wowi, a whacked-out snack swamped in pineapple, cheese, and relish. Then you've got the Havanarama, a quintessentially Cuban perro covered in potato sticks, chipotle mayo, and cheese. Or, finally, if you're an anti-meat freak, there's the San Frantastic, a hippie-dippie orgy of tofu, spicy mayo, cheese, and cucumber tomato salsa. For the past year, the best place to get your fill of Nassie's Famous Franks is any number of too-cool-for-school club nights such as Poplife at Grand Central. But soon Nassie's Famous Franks will get their very own storefront. "Yeah, I'm gonna open a spot," Nastie croaks. "This is just work experience like they used to have in junior high. Hot dog work experience."
Asia De Cuba
The white-on-white décor inside this restaurant is reminiscent of fairy tales, while the hotties for which South Beach is famous congregate here for late-night supper and drinks. There are dinner, lunch, and breakfast, brunch, and poolside menus. One favorite option on the lunch and poolside versions: a side of mojito fries. They come with several dishes or à la carte for $7. They're flavored with lime juice, cilantro, parsley, salt, and garlic, which is actually more mojo than mojito. But if you can get past the name, they are both tangy and delicious.
Prime Italian
While bread baskets are de rigueur at almost any restaurant, none are as anticipated as the warm garlic loaf that arrives at the beginning of each Prime Italian meal. The first time we tasted the luxurious slab of bread, we were in love. The tasty, tantalizing stuff is served with a saucer of hot and rich tomato sauce for dipping. The bread is crusty and crunchy on the outside and oozing with garlicky oil and Parmesan cheese on the inside. There's no mushiness within. Did we mention that in addition to olive oil, there is also butter and Parmesan cheese? There's no doubting that this is the Italian-American version of garlic bread. No one in Italy would ever serve anything this filling or decadent before dinner. Consider it the Jersey Shore of bread: a high-caloric guilty pleasure. While Atkins devotees and other dieters may frown, your only option is to dive into the garlicky goodness. You might be too full to finish your meal, but hey, Prime Italian packs up leftovers like nobody's business.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®