Chef Creole

Wilkinson "Ken" Sejour's "seasoned kitchen" has grown into a mini-empire, with five restaurants across Miami's Haitian belt, from Little Haiti to North Miami to Miami Gardens. But it's not like most chains. Each Chef Creole outpost has a distinctive character. While most include some form of outdoor seating, the 54th Street flagship offers it in the greatest abundance — all under a tiki hut with a view of Little Haiti's busiest corner. It's also where you can stock up on bottles of made-to-order cremas — molasses-thick, eggnog-sweet Haitian rum cream — made by Sejour himself. But no matter which location you visit, you'll get the best griot (fried pork chunks) north of Port-de-Paix and some of the freshest fried seafood anywhere in the county. Sejour, whose parents are from Haiti, was born in the Bahamas and raised in Miami. His background is reflected on the menu in the form of perfectly crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside conch fritters and flavorful fried conch. And no Chef Creole meal is complete without some of Sejour's pikliz. The spicy pickled vegetable salad, made with vinegar, sour orange juice, and Scotch bonnet peppers, is so good you'll want to take home some extra — which you can, in a 16-ounce jar, for $5.

Makoto

Iron Chef Makoto

Trained with Morimoto

Award from James Beard-oto

Clean stream of tradition flows

Edomae sushi fresh like ocean:

Hotate, aoyagi, shime saba,

Kobe, cooks tableside on

hot river stone

Udon ramen

Black edamame

Kurobuta belly, Kurosawa rib eye

Branzino, wasabi, chimichurri

Chimichurri?

Tuna air bread, caesar foam

Frosted fried rice, foie gras

Main plates $14 to $24

Wagyu/Kobe steaks $20 to $90

Makoto Okuwa

Far from Nagoya, Japan

Bal Harbour oasis

Close to our heart.

Japanese Market Sushi Deli

For a low-key sushi experience at rock-bottom pricing, the sushi bar at the Japanese Market can't be beat. It's a tiny Asian place nicknamed "Sushi Deli," as indicated by the neon sign displayed inside an otherwise nondescript storefront, located in a random strip mall on the 79th Street Causeway. Chef Michio Kushi's hands work quickly to mold rice, which he tops with an array of fresh fish from a countertop selection that is somehow of higher quality than many local high-end Japanese restaurants. Salmon, yellowtail, fluke, and eel ($1.50 each) are thinly sliced, as he prefers them; edges of the tuna sashimi are almost translucent. A piece of tako sashimi ($1.50) is faultless, and we are picky about our octopus (can't be too thick or it gets chewy). Ask for uni ($2.50) and hope there's some left. On occasion, it runs out early because the Japanese Market is the cheapest place in town to go crazy for urchin (it's easy to rack up quite a tab at most other places). We suggest a few nuggets of sweet shrimp, whose heads are removed and deep-fried. The raw tail flesh becomes pristine sushi, and the tentacles and eyes get nice and crunchy. Sushi Deli makes a few kinds of spicy tuna — the "Marie" roll ($4.75) boasts a roasted garlic topping, while "Captain Tuna" is the "rich and spicy" version ($5.95). The "regular combo" is a steal: six pieces of assorted nigiri and a California or tuna roll for $8.95. Head to the rear of the market, select a bottle of sake to go with your meal, and simply ask for it to be added to your tab. You have to eat early, though. Last call for sushi is 6:45 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays, and 5:45 Sundays. The sushi bar is closed Monday and Tuesday.

Dynasty Buffet

It's lunchtime. You want to fill yourself with gobs of food without paying too much. And you don't want the same old thing. Chinese food is a nice alternative to the usual drive-thru fare, but you always seem to get hungry an hour after eating it. So what better way to go Asian than a Chinese buffet? And Dynasty has just what you're looking for: a great choice of steaming-hot Chinese goodness. You can feast on staples such as delectable sweet 'n' sour chicken and hardy pepper steak. General Tso's chicken has a nifty kick, and there are sushi rolls, crab legs, and pan-fried dumplings. And if you're looking for the best endless kung pao chicken in town, well, you've found it. Dynasty is clean and well lit, so you can sit contentedly in the comfy modern dining area as you happily stuff your face and then get up for more. There are also sweets such as ice cream and fresh fruit. The lunch special, which includes a drink, costs only $7.55 and runs Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The dinner special is available from 4:30 to 10 p.m. and costs $10.55. Weekend prices vary.

Confucio Express Chinese Gourmet Cuisine

Operating out of a remodeled gas station on the corner of Coral Way, Confucio Express serves "Chinese gourmet cuisine" created by a bunch of Colombians. Almost a half-century ago, owner José Choi's Chinese immigrant parents landed in Barranquilla, opened a fancy food spot called Jardines de Confucio, and taught their kid how to run a restaurant. He mastered the wok, the deep fryer, and the flat-top grill while shuttling back and forth between the States and Colombia. But for the past seven years, Choi has been a full-time South Florida guy, managing a local outpost of his parents' restaurant in Fontainebleau (10658 NW Seventh St., Miami 33172; 305-228-9272) while also working with the entire Confucio Express crew — including co-owner Carlos Visbal and a superfast kitchen staff — to bang out big batches of Latin-influenced Chinese take-out for Brickell's hungry masses. The ideal order starts with a massive serving of Choi's signature dish, Confucio special fried rice ($13.50), loaded with succulent chunks of sliced barbecued pork, two fistfuls of plump shrimp, and big, juicy cubes of seared ham. Then add some scorching Szechuan soup ($4), six honey-garlic chicken wings ($9.50), crunchy crab rangoon ($7), and a whole pound of spicy Mongolian chicken ($11.80). Of course, you'll have to invite ten friends over to help you finish it all off. These are family recipes — the helpings are huge. Do not eat alone.

Hong Kong House

Sometimes you don't want to cook, but you crave something hearty, surprising, and flavorful. And you have only $8.25 in your pocket. God bless the no-frills Chinese take-out joint. Hong Kong House boasts a superfriendly and quick staff, and has a quiet cult following in North Miami that troops there for the roast-pork fried rice, which features plump squares of meat and is delightfully free of grease. Or they — who are we fooling? — we stuff our faces with the beautifully addictive "krab" rangoon, fried goodness full of fake crab, cream cheese, and scallion-like spices. Dammit, there we go again, making ourselves hungry. If you'll excuse us, we're going to see how much money we have buried in our couch.

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When it comes to flapjacks, you can't beat City Hall. The three-stack of steaming-hot plain pancakes ($11) is lusciously infused with sugar, vanilla, and enough butter to make a crêpe jealous. Real maple syrup is served. Other varieties of hotcakes include chocolate chip ($12.50), blueberry ($13), and banana pecan ($13). A great plate of pancakes deserves an equally worthy cup of coffee. And this bi-level American brasserie delivers a strong brew of Lavazza. As we say, you can't beat City Hall, but you can beat it over there and enjoy the breakfast.

If you don't know about this little sandwich shop/shake stand, you probably didn't grow up in West Hialeah. You don't come here for the scenery or seating. It's standing room only against a wall inside. But the food is tasty, and the prices are simply ridiculous: Sandwiches are all under $5, and most are under $3. That includes what many believe is the finest pan con bistec in South Florida. You can also catch a mean pan con lechón, pan con chorizo, grilled chicken breast on a soft white bun, as well as pan con ajo (garlic bread) and pan con ajo y tomate (Cuban bread toasted with garlic and tomato). S & N Vegetables is likewise known as "El Mejor Batido de Hialeah," and when you sip on a mamey, mango, or passionfruit shake, you'll understand why. Fresh-squeezed fruit juices are great too; we're partial to the "Suspiro," which is juice blended with milk. Service is so fast it sometimes seems as though the food arrives before you finish ordering. Cash only!

Clive's Cafe

At nearly 40 years old, this Wynwood institution is the longest-running eatery of its kind in the city, and the most centrally located, right next to the Electric Pickle and up the block from the Shops at Midtown. Pearline Murray and her late husband Clifford opened Clive's (named for their now-middle-aged son) in the mid-'70s, when their clientele consisted primarily of local factory workers. The neighborhood has changed considerably since then — for the worse and then for the better. So has the menu. Clive's initially served typical American diner fare, and its old-fashioned luncheonette counter is perfectly preserved. While there's still some evidence of Clive's greasy-spoon past on the menu (tuna fish sandwiches and BLTs) diners flock primarily for Clive's reliably tasty spins on classic Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken, curry goat, and oxtail. Whatever you order, be sure to get a side of steamed vegetables. Clive's peppery variation on this Caribbean dinner staple is the most flavorful you will ever taste.

Narcobollo

The legend starts like this: In a quiet house on a tranquil Cartagena street, a family began cooking up bollo de yuca — a coastal Caribbean delicacy of mashed yuca boiled in corn husks — and selling it to neighbors. The dish was so good that customers soon were coming and going all day with brown bags of the stuff. Narco cops noticed the traffic, and — it being Colombia — they couldn't believe all the fuss was over some boiled yuca. So they raided the house, sliced open every bollo, and found nothing more than Cartagena's best budget lunch. To mock the authorities, the owners rechristened the joint "Narcobollo." Doral's outpost of the Cartagena standby doesn't just have a ludicrously entertaining backstory; it's also Miami-Dade's best spot for mouthwatering Colombian delicacies. The unassuming room in a Doral strip mall serves arepas con huevo and arepas con queso for a couple of bucks each, heaping plates of sweet arroz con coco, and for just $6, a multiplate bandeja paisa feast of rice, arepas, eggs, and plantains. Don't tell the DEA!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®