It's Spanish time at the former Pacific Time space in the Design District. The arrival of Andalus means the clock moves slower and the wines are perhaps imbibed a tad faster. It means small plates of food and big doses of flavor. It means dining with no fuss and much fun. It means a host of hot and cold tapas (most $7 to $15). In the former category are prawns gilded with garlic and Spanish chili, and white herrings (chanquetes) finessed with fried eggs; the latter includes all manner of regional cheeses and renowned hams at surprisingly fair prices ($15 excepting the pata negra offerings). Soups are also ladled hot or cold ($6 to $8) — from an ideal Andalusian gazpacho to a hearty sopa de mariscos stocked with five types of shellfish. Another specialty of the namesake region is hake andaluza, which comes fried, salted, and peppered. Hake is likewise plated in other classic ways, as is bacalao and sole ($18 to $23). Steaks, lamb or veal chops, and other meaty main courses run $16 to $28; a grand paella based on Calasparra rice is $40 for two. The prices are right; the ambiance is energetic. Andalus is on Spanish time, all right — and it's time you checked it out.
Los Magueye
Alexandra Rincon
This Hialeah-Miami Lakes hole-in-the-wall is hard to find but well worth the mission if only to try the enchiladas poblanas, which include exotic, spicy mole slathered onto three corn tortillas stuffed with chicken and crowned with Mexican cheese ($12.99). Vegetarians can substitute spinach for the chicken and top the whole thing off with sliced avocados. If there were a category for best quesadillas, the undisputed king would be Los Magueyes' quesadilla Michoacan ($7.95): a pan-seared flour tortilla stuffed with sautéed peppers, onions, and mushrooms swimming in a bubbling pool of jack and mozzarella cheeses. Hello, (gastronomical) orgasm.
Le Lambi
In the chain-restaurant-friendly, culinarily shy zone that is Kendall, there's a party going on near the parking lot of a Publix. Inside a nondescript, squat building, guitar music wafts, political debates sound in Kreyol, and the clink of silverware delving into platters of rich goat and fish stews fills the air. It's the area's only Haitian restaurant and a community hub, a ten-seater family joint where patrons usually know each other by name and have no qualms about entering the kitchen to greet staff or obtain extra sauce. The homemade dishes that make the rounds courtesy of owner Carine Baez, her husband, and sons: fresh lambí en sauce, conch stewed until soft and melded with spicy peppers, onions, and tomato; riz et pois, savory rice and beans cooked with diri ak djon-djon, imported Caribbean black mushrooms; and street food platters with neat arrangements of fried goat, pork chunks, and malanga fritters waiting to be dipped into searingly spicy sauces. Outside, it's strip-mall hell. But if you stay long enough in Le Lambí's warm embrace, you almost forget it.
The Middle East Best Food
Photos by Jacob Katel
No one has to tell Middle East Best's owner, Aziz Ali, that he makes the top pita bread in the region. He already knows. Actually, he'll tell anyone who's willing to listen that he makes the best pita in the whole damn nation. And if no one thinks to ask, it doesn't matter. He has signs hanging behind the register and near the front door announcing his claim. Ali won't tell his secrets, but we know he makes the dough by hand and bakes it on the premises. He claims to sell about 250 big-as-your-head pitas on an average day. So stop in and hand the man $2 for a bag of five pouches of joy and let him know your opinion. If you pick up a tub of Ali's hummus too, consider this your warning: You might not surface for days.
Maido Japanese Restaurant
Real Japanese food aficionados stuck in the United States live for the moment they find a local restaurant so good and so authentic that they can just hand the menu back to their server and exclaim, "Let the chef bring me whatever he'd like." Maido is that kind of place, except for one little detail: The extensive specials are written on marker boards so there's no need to do the paper swap. Bonus: Each time you dine here, the experience is entirely unique. Make a habit of surrendering to the chef/owners at Maido and you won't be let down, especially if words such as fermented, bitter, paste, roe, and pickled aren't offensive. Even the timid can find pleasure in items as basic as deep-fried rice cakes, while the entirely adventuresome may go hog wild for squid sashimi, silverfish tempura, and chicken gizzards with yuzu. Maido isn't big on atmosphere, but it more than makes up for it in flavor.
La Hormiga De Oro
Just off Miami Gardens Drive, inside a generic shopping center anchored by a Publix, you will find a golden opportunity to savor deliciously prepared Nicaraguan cuisine. A typical fritanga, La Hormiga de Oro offers cantina-style Nica dishes at moderate prices for dining in or taking out. Six dollars and 50 cents brings charbroiled steak and a choice of three sides that include gallo pinto (rice and beans), grilled corn on the cob, fried sweet plantains, tostones, fried yuca, fried cheese, and tortillas. Wash it down with a $3 glass of Nica fruit juice such as maracuya, cacao, or cebada. Folks looking for a twist on traditional breakfast fare can choose dishes such as huevos rancheros with white cheese, gallo pinto, and tortilla; or scrambled eggs with Spanish sausage, fried cheese, gallo pinto, and fried green plantains. Cost: $4.50 each. Family dinners are also available for $24 and $45. La Hormiga opens at 8 a.m. six days a week and 7 a.m. Saturdays, and closes at 10 p.m. daily.
Rincon Antioqueno
It's true that if you're not familiar with this place, you might miss it. It's also true that you are the last priority for the servers — you will wait for drinks, napkins, and food. Oh, and the parking sucks. But as soon as you set eyes on the flying-saucer-size pan de bonos, all of those details fade away. You'll be tempted to fill up on said pan de bonos or Rincón's perfectly crisp meat and potato empanadas, but resist at all costs. If you fall to temptation, your stomach will never have room to experience Rincón Antioqueño's Holy Grail — the bandeja paisa — a platter of steak or ground beef, fried bananas, fried pork belly, and a fried egg presented on a mound of white rice and served with an endless bowl of red beans. Your heart, your waistline, and your doctor might curse you — but your belly will thank you.
Casa Vieja Restaurant & Bar
It can be difficult deciding what to do if you find yourself on Hammocks Boulevard in West Kendall. What, you didn't know there was anything to do out there? It's home to Kendall Ice Arena, the funniest place to watch people bust their asses while wearing down-feather parkas in the middle of July. It's also home to a giant restaurant designed to look like an old house, where patrons perform vallenatos at weekly karaoke, and politicians such as Joe Garcia attempt to woo West Dade's Colombian community. But even better, you don't have to choose between watching hilarious ice sports and singing your heart out on a huge stage beneath a replica colonial window balcony. Casa Vieja's back wall is made of glass and overlooks the skating rink. So cozy up in a booth, order a platter of churrasco asado ($16.99) with some tostones and rice, and try to distract hockey players by dangling juicy meat behind the goal post. We told you the Hammocks are fun.
Little Brazil
Alexandra Rincon
Brazil, in almost every conceivable way, is the opposite of little. The largest country in South America has an exploding economy and an oversize world presence set to get bigger with the World Cup and the Olympics heading there in the next few years. The excellent Brasileño cuisine at Miami's Little Brazil restaurant isn't exactly minuscule either. The kitchen pumps out heaping plates of authentic specialties, including picanha, thinly sliced steak topped with slivers of roasted garlic and farofa, a vinegary salad; camarao com Catupiry, jumbo baked shrimp stuffed with Catupiry, a creamy cheese beloved in the land of samba; even a crazy steak Cavalo, a thick strip topped with fried eggs. On the weekends, stop by to try Brazil's national dish done right: Little Brazil's feijoada — a stew of black beans, beef, bacon, pork, and ribs — is rich, decadent, and unctuous. The only thing little about the place is its cozy space, whose walls hold rows of plates painted with scenes from around Brazil. It's the perfect spot for a big night of Brazilian.
Patagonia Home Made Products
Argentines are known for their arrogance and red meat. At Patagonia, you get plenty of the latter without much of the former. Miami has a glut of Argentine meat factories/steak houses, and most are pricey. But this place in Coral Gables seems to dispense with presentation in favor of substance. Sure, there's no waiter service — you order at the counter — and there's little similarity between this eatery and other Gables fine-dining restaurants, but we view that as a positive. Patagonia has street cred to go along with its sidewalk seating and an enviable mastery of the famous gaucho parrilla (Argentine barbecue). A wide variety of meat cuts are available for dine-in or take-home, including entraña (skirt), vacio (flank), and bife de chorizo (sirloin). And don't forget the chorizo (sausage). Additionally, the shop boasts an extensive wine selection and a long pastry counter featuring masas finas, facturas, and other baked goods. Looking for a quick bite before you take in a show at the nearby Actors' Playhouse? Then order an empanada and sandwich de miga.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®