Jr's Gourmet Burgers
Courtesy of Jr's Gourmet Burgers
Food inspires passion. Just look at what happened to that Marie Antoinette lady when she got all creative with her cake. But few forms of grub inspire as much as the hamburger. She is, after all, a fickle mistress. Handled carelessly, the burger can be disastrous. But crafted by careful and practiced hands, it can be a downright transcendental experience.Junior knows this. And it's with equal respect for the art form and childlike curiosity that he toils away in the kitchen — aptly labeled "the lab" — of this Miami Springs upstart. He conjures Angus perfection one-third pound ($6.99), a half-pound ($7.99), or one pound ($10.99) at a time, and all on your choice of toasted whole-wheat or cornmeal-dusted white bun. Peruse the menu and try culinary concoctions such as "the outside is in," a juicy patty stuffed with bacon and cheddar. Or check out the mouthwatering Acosta, topped with black pepper aioli, Swiss cheese, and French onions, and accurately deemed a "foodgasm." Or there's the one-pound Fat Albert, topped with Swiss and cheddar, French onions, bacon, and barbecue sauce. We won't go into detail about exotic burgers such as the "hail Caesar," Tex-Mex, beef Stroganoff, and "Mexi-can" burgers — you'll have to find out for yourself. And you'll need to check back frequently, because Junior is always in the lab, working on his next delectable creation.
Steve's Pizza
Few foods are as ubiquitous as pizza. And most people will agree that even a bad piece of pie is better than most foods done right. Yet the search for truly great 'za is a lifelong journey, and anyone with taste buds has an opinion on the best. Our pick for that hallowed title: Steve's Pizza. The cozy North Miami counter serves delectable tomato sauce and gooey-cheesy goodness on long slices of fresh-baked dough in the tradition of New York-style pizza. And at the risk of invoking cliché, the secret is in that sauce. At once scrumptiously sweet and savory, it elevates Steve's pie, which comes by the slice and in sizes ranging from small to Steve's Famous XL. You can add toppings or go with specialty pies that'll run you anywhere from $11.75 to $21.22. Try the "special," loaded with pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and anchovies (if you want them). Steve's also has hoagies, pasta, and calzones. But frankly, it's damn near impossible to skip the pie, and even the plain cheese pizza is so good it's earned a following all its own.
La Moon Restaurant
Colombians excel at making a food item considered all-American: the hot dog. La Moon's downtown location is a neighborhood place open till the wee hours. It has quite a following of partygoers, hungry people, and others who swear by the specialty. These powerful dogs regularly turn vegetarians into ravenous, flesh-eating beasts. Sure, Nathan's are delicious, but these guys come topped with love (or so it seems when you're wolfing them down at 3 a.m.). There are a few kinds available for sale, including the "Supermoon," which is garnished with a quail egg, chorizo, bacon, cheese, sauces, and potato chips. The simpler "perro Colombiano" takes the dog cake. This taut sausage is smothered in the most delightful sauces — five to be exact — that crisscross carefully over the chow. You probably won't need more than one, because each is a solid meal unto itself.
The Ranch House Original
A thunderstorm rages outside the Original Ranch House when a vintage Chevy truck pulls into the parking lot. A man clad in a poncho, plaid shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots climbs out of the driver's side. He high-steps to the front door and swings it open. The joint still has the charm of a '70s truck stop in the Appalachian Mountains despite its location in Miami-Dade's most Cuban-American city. He takes off the wet poncho and hangs it on the dry rack near the cash register. A waitress offers him a seat at one of the red leather booths. He respectfully declines, telling her that he prefers to sit at the Formica counter. He straddles a red swivel stool, reading the burger and sandwich options on the menu. He orders a patty melt on sourdough bread. The $8.55 plate comes with steak fries, his favorite kind. Some folks like their spuds crinkly or thin or cut into waffles. Not this fry guy. From his seat at the counter, he can see the cook methodically peel and slice a potato into thick white sticks. The dude's mouth curls into a smile when the fries are dropped into a scalding fryer. The waitress brings him his order. He picks up one of the golden treats. He caresses the crisp exterior and snaps the fry in half. Steam rises from the severed ends. He blows on the fry to cool it and pops it into his mouth. Outside, the downpour ceases. The Original Ranch House is open seven days a week.
Anise Waterfront Taverna
Although falafel has evolved into a classic and often-craved street food — much like hot dogs or pizza —the chickpea fritters are traditionally served as part of the meze or small plates in Mediterranean cuisine. But we're guessing your latest exposure to the Hellenic Republic was watching Russell Brand and Jonah Hill binge-drink and vomit their way through Get Him to the Greek. We place no blame. Miami isn't exactly overflowing with Greek culture (except maybe the country's licorice-flavored boozahol, ouzo). That why it's surprising to find that one of the town's best-kept foodie secrets is an unassuming taverna on the Little River called Anise. Nestled between a gas station and a rundown apartment complex, and across the street from a Wendy's (are we selling it yet?), this Greek taverna produces our city's tastiest falafel. You get five of these morsels for $8. Instead of being wrapped in flatbread and piled with pickled veggies and hot sauce, Anise's falafels are delicately plated with a yogurt-tahini sauce — in other words, you actually get to taste the Greek croquettes and not just the spicy fixings. Although you might be tempted to order multiple servings, save room for the taverna's larger plates such as moussaka ($18) and lamb shank ($19). Almost every dish here is delicious, but we'll always remember our first mouthful at Anise: the supple, fried goodness of its falafel.
Barbar Grill
Call it an extension of Murphy's Law: The last place you'd ever think to look for something is where it usually is. Your car keys? Yup, they're lodged under that unread Dr. Phil book your aunt gave you. That green T-shirt you haven't seen in weeks? Balled up into a tiny space you didn't know existed between your TV set and faux fireplace. The best hummus in Miami? Calle Ocho. No lie. Amid the cafecito-slinging counters and Mexican taquerias, just west of I-95 on SW Eighth Street, there's an out-of-place green awning topped with two marks in flowing Arabic script. Step inside Barbar Grill and it's clear you've found the real deal: Hookahs are on display above counters lined with shisha and imported date cookies and sesame crackers for sale. Order the hummus. At Barbar, the smooth Levantine dip is the picture of flawlessly whipped perfection: a beige mix of chickpeas, nutty tahini, piquant garlic, and crisp olive oil. Served with Barbar's warm, homemade pita bread — a tangy, nearly sourdough take on the staple — and you'll easily mistake the heart of Cuban Miami for Little Beirut. Just don't lose your keys. You'll never guess where they are.
1st Avenue Bistro & Bakery
The 1st Avenue Bistro is a charming spot owned by a French couple and located by the downtown Miami courthouse. You can enjoy lunch and dinner here, but we like the peaceful vibe and delectable fare served in the mornings from 7:30 to 11:30. You can go the continental route and have a freshly baked croissant with an espresso for $3.75. Or try a pair of homemade crêpes with sugar and lemon, or chocolate ganache, or crème anglaise for $6.95. Savory crêpes filled with ham, bacon, chicken, or turkey in creamy béchamel sauce get topped with a sunnyside-up egg and a side of field greens for $8.95. What's more of a French breakfast than French toast? Here it is made with French bread and accompanied by fruit salad for $6.95. A breakfast sandwich on croissant or baguette — with scrambled eggs, cheese, and choice of ham, sausage, or bacon — is also $6.95. But our favorite breakfast here is the Gallic take on an all-American classic: two eggs any style (sprinkled with herbs), creamy potato gratin, a zestily dressed salad, baguette, and coffee, tea, or small orange juice — for just $5.95. Très soigné! And très cheap!
A "flop" is a Southern drink that mixes lemonade and iced tea. At Miracle's, an extra-large cup is as big as a bucket, costs $1.75, and offers a sweet, ice-cold counterpoint to the item for which the place is most famous. Almost 40 years ago, Thomas Carr opened what has become a historical landmark in the heart of Liberty City and began selling conch fritters fried to order. They are crisp, disc-shaped, and — at just $1 — arguably the most affordable freshly cooked food we've ever met. Place your order at an outdoor counter on vibrant 15th Avenue. Then wait for your steaming-hot fritter alongside city workers, lawyers, cops, school kids, mamas, rappers, dancers, tourists, and the many other fans of this establishment. Whether you eat it straight or sauce it up, you'll likely order a second fritter before you finish the first.
Ceviche anconero
Rodrigo Moreno
Ceviche anconero
Ceviche, once a fabled dish of raw fish macerated in juices from an exotic, foreign land known as Peru, is now almost as common in Miami as chicken fingers. But only a few restaurants make it well, and few do it better than CVI.CHE 105 in downtown Miami. The moment you step in, you understand this place is meant to be a bright, boisterous destination. It buzzes with energy, and on any given night, you'll find a packed house with servers whizzing from corner to corner. Take a seat and grab a handful of corn kernels; then decide on one of the namesake dishes. The "red and white" ceviche ($12.95) is an homage to the Peruvian flag and chef Juan Chipoco's father, who hails from that country. The creamy pisco ceviche (12.95) adds the popular South American spirit to the mix, and after that boozy treat, you might end up diving into the "seafood orgy" ceviche ($13.95). Swimming in leche de tigre, or tiger's milk, it is known for being extra-spicy, creamy, and empowering Charlie Sheen to warlock status.
Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill
Tarpon Bend's raw bar menu might not be the longest in Miami, but what it lacks in variety it makes up for with consistent quality, cheap drinks, and fun personality. The oyster shots, tuna sashimi, and various chilled seafood platters are among the simple raw favorites. The Mexican shrimp "margarita," though not raw, draws raves for its exciting flavor combination: shrimp, spicy tomato tequila-chili sauce, black beans, avocados, and warm tortilla chips. But most appealing about Tarpon Bend is its bustling, convivial atmosphere. Mojito Madness Thursdays mean all-day $3.50 mojitos, with flavors like watermelon, grapefruit, and pineapple. There's also 3 to 9 p.m. happy hour Monday through Thursday, till 10 p.m. Friday, and even till 7 p.m. Saturday. Word has gotten 'round and the crowds have swooped in, but the service hasn't skipped a beat. All of this makes Tarpon Bend hands down the best place to slurp an oyster, sip a cocktail, and scope a date almost any night of the week.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®