Pita Hut Israeli Restaurant & Grill

— I'm telling you, it's the best hummus in the world. You could travel to Israel and wouldn't find better.

— Pardon me, Saul, I think I have something stuck in my ear. I thought I heard you say the hummus at Pita Hut is better than any in Israel.

— That's what I said, Al, and I have been to that country many times. I had some hummus at Pita Hut yesterday and, holy Manischewitz, the smoothness you wouldn't believe. A baby's tuchis should only be so soft!

— You shouldn't be drinking Manischewitz this early.

— What are you saying, 'Drink Manischewitz'? Who's drinking? I tell you, the blend of chickpeas with whispers of lemon, garlic, and olive oil — such a flavor you don't get every day. And a pool of tahini rests on the hummus as lightly as a lily pad on a pond.

— Lily pad on a pond? Suddenly he's Robert Frost! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Saul Finkelstein, the poet laureate of hummus!

— Sit down and don't get so worked up. No wonder you have heart problems! I'm only saying that for $6.99, you won't get a better deal. Plus you get pita bread, of course. And Pita Hut is not just a falafel joint these days, but also a full-fledged restaurant with an extensive menu of Israeli specialties. It even serves kosher sushi!

— Better than any sushi in Israel, no doubt.

— I try to tell you about great hummus and I get sarcasm. Better you should use your energy to make it to Pita Hut. Or if you prefer, you can fly to the Promised Land and get your hummus there. But if we each live to be 110, never again will I mention hummus to you.

— That's more than fine by me. By the way Saul, have you ever tried Pita Hut's falafel? I hear it's pretty good.

— Oy vey.

Harry's Pizzeria
Courtesy of Harry's Pizzeria

The fries at Harry's Pizzeria are practically Robespierre-esque in the way they revolutionize the idea of being French. For those tired of the greasy excess of the potato aristocracy, the polenta fries at Harry's offer a tuber-tastic alternative. Eating them feels not like a retreat from taste, but an attack on the world's taste buds. At Michael Schwartz's new pizzeria in the Design District, they take a block of polenta and slice it cleanly, as one would the neck of a noble in a guillotine. After deep frying, the fries are stacked into stubby towers much like those of the Bastille. Actually, Harry's version resembles French toast sticks more than French fries. The dusting of kosher salt on top takes the place of powdered sugar and is mild enough to enhance the earthy flavors of the polenta without overpowering it. Instead of maple syrup, Harry's serves a house-made spicy ketchup, eschewing liberté, égalité, and fraternité in favor of onion, garlic, and cilantro. For a mere $5 per serving, let them eat polenta!

Vicky Bakery
Vicky Bakery website

Every time you bite into a croqueta from Vicky Bakery, you know it's made with the type of love that's lasted 40 years in El Exilio. In the early '70s, Antonio and Gelasia Cao arrived in Miami with their two children. While Gelasia made leather goods, her husband worked three jobs in a local bakery and a couple of cantinas to make ends meet. By 1972, the couple had saved enough money to open a pastry shop in Hialeah. Today, the Caos, their children, and their grandchildren own nine other locations in Miami-Dade and Broward, ensuring every Vicky Bakery stays true to making pastries and croquetas from scratch. Batches of the oblong morsels are fried to crisp perfection throughout the day seven days a week. They are even more scrumptious stuffed inside a fresh, warm Cuban roll. You can choose from ham, chicken, or cheese filling. Party platters vary in price and quantity, but a single croqueta goes for 55 cents.

La Latina
Isadora Gaviria Photography

There are so many types of empanadas in this city. Argentine, Colombian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan are just a few. They're all hot and tasty. But take cover, kids, because we're crowning the Venezuelans empanada kings for 2012. La Latina is a tiny, well-decorated hole in the wall across the train tracks from the Shops at Midtown. Walk in, take in the fluorescent-pink elephants and colorful wallpaper, and then order empanadas to your heart's desire. Our recommendation is the pabellón: black beans, cheese, shredded beef, and sweet plantains, all conveniently packaged in golden, flaky goodness. It's made fresh too. Bonus: Anti-gluten people can enjoy it as well. The dough is gluten-free, and the meat is antibiotic- and hormone-free. Cost? Less than four bucks. Go ahead, indulge in six of 'em — we won't tell a soul.

Vesper Brasserie

Everyone does Sunday brunch. But you're not everyone. You're sexy, confident, and a little dangerous — just like James Bond. But even agents of Her Majesty's Secret Service need eggs and a mimosa once every now and then to keep up their strength. Which is why you should do brunch at Vesper Brasserie. On Saturday (which, of course, is designed to fool any and all supervillains who notoriously have brunch only on Sunday), this poolside restaurant, named for one of 007's favorite cocktails, is a tribute to our favorite spy and offers a $28 prix fixe brunch that runs from noon to 4 p.m. The menu changes, because a spy has to stay on his or her toes, but expect to find the usual brunchy eggs and waffles along with some very seductive surprises such as a raw bar and a sushi station. A mimosa is included — shaken, not stirred. Stay for the pool party, which includes a live DJ until 8 p.m., and make a day of it. Is that Pussy Galore in the yellow bikini?

Hammond's Bakery

In Miami Gardens, not far from the football stadium where the Dolphins plan not to lose again this year, stands Hammond's Bakery. There, owner Wayne Hammond offers warm, moist Jamaican patties just like you'd get on the island. The dough is not that crappy yellow stuff you find at gas stations. These aren't frozen. Nor are they greasy. In fact, the vegetarian callaloo version is downright healthy. But the meat patties — ah, the meat patties. You will want to buy a dozen, which costs $18. They are so worth it. You and your friends will be eating them for days. This kind of patty should be available all over Miami-Dade. Too bad it's not.

B & M Market

Husband-and-wife team Sheir and Nafeeza Ali have run this friendly neighborhood grocery store since 1980. But it's more than peanut butter and chips. B & M Market carries authentic Caribbean products and hot food made fresh to go. Whether you're looking for an ice-cold Jamaican Ting soda, an Irish moss peanut drink, locally baked ginger bulla bread, a can of gungo peas, a freshly made plate of saltfish and ackee, a just-rolled order of goat roti, or produce for cooking your own typical island dishes, this is the place to shop. Vegans and vegetarians in search of authentic Caribbean products too elusive for Whole Foods might be pleasantly surprised to find just what they're looking for as well. They might even run into chef Michelle Bernstein there; she's a fan. And if you need a Guyanese folk remedy for a tummy ache, some Trini beauty products, or Guadalupan sundries, you'll find those too.

Burger & Beer Joint

There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and new hamburger joints opening in Miami. And just as the manner of death and amount of taxation differ from person to person, so too do the burger emporiums. Burger & Beer Joint, part of the original wave of boutique burger bars that burst upon South Beach back in 2009, is distinguished by its superior hamburger (a second B&B has since opened in Mary Brickell Village). It's a ten-ounce, certified Angus beef prime patty that is assertively grilled and garnished according to your preference in rock song. Thunder Road? That brings smoked Duroc pork-belly bacon, American cheese, bourbon barbecue sauce, and, like all burgers, a side of skinny fries ($14). Hotel California? The burger gets dressed with guacamole, ranchero salsa, grilled red onion, cilantro sour cream, sharp cheddar, and a sunny-side up fried egg on a brioche bun ($14). Mustang Sally cuts the portion to eight ounces but ups the beef quality to Wagyu, with red onion marmalade, prosciutto, and Brie ($16). There's an ahi tuna burger, a portobello mushroom burger, a turkey burger, a chicken burger, and a Wagyu burger with foie gras, black-truffle demi-glace, and duck-fat fries ($32). Octane chicken wings, beer-battered onion rings, and mac 'n' cheese are among the snacks. But remember, this is a beer joint too: The selection, 99 strong, is one of the most extensive on the Beach. Booze-boosted shakes and rock 'n' roll tunes fuel the fun at this local favorite. Finally, we appreciate that B&B has a big heart: Ten percent of all 2012 sales from the kids' menu is donated to help St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Los Perros Aqui

After grabbing groceries, beer, and Lotto tickets at Presidente Supermarket; bleaching a batch of undies at Coin Laundry; re-upping your cell phone at Metro PCS; shaking some booty and slurping a mojito at Kaffe Krystal; and losing half of last week's paycheck at Luxor Gaming Center, you're gonna be superhungry, bro. Just stagger over to Los Perros Aqui and scarf a Super Perro Aqui. We're talking about hot goops of Swiss cheese, crisp chunks of bacon, a messy scoop of coleslaw, an entire bag of crushed chips, shredded bits of pineapple, spicy mayo salsa, and four hard-boiled quail eggs — all stacked atop a juicy, eight-inch hot dog. Sure, this whacked-out wiener is just a riff on the classic perro caliente colombiano, a boiled-dog dish native to Medellín, Bogotá, and Cali that won't be wholly unfamiliar to the average partying meat eater from Miami. Still, the Super Perro Aqui is a simple, straight-up masterpiece. Plus it costs only $4.85.

Kings County Pizza & Heroes

Boutique pizza has been overwhelmed by fancy burgers this past year, but the owners of Kings County Pizza in Aventura couldn't care less. Their Brooklyn/Neapolitan pies don't rely on coal-fired ovens or whole-wheat dough or truffled pineapple toppings. Instead, pizza lovers flock here for the crisp crusts, sweet tomato sauce, and melted mozzarella cheese. A slice costs $2.25, a medium pie is $9.95, and a large is $12.95. The half-dozen varieties of the basic bring toppings such as fresh mozzarella and crushed tomatoes; salami, caramelized onion, and eggplant; and a "meatlovers" pie garnished with ham, sausage, pepperoni, and meatball. Kings County also boasts the classic square Sicilian pie ($15.95) with thick, airy dough. You can get subs, salads, and a limited range of Italian entrées ($7.95 to $10.95) here as well, but pizza is the king at Kings.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®