Rosita's

Cruise south past the traffic-clogged vestiges of suburban sprawl, head west from the waning miles of Florida's Turnpike, and you'll cross into another Dade County. Neat rows of emerald tomato plants replace graffiti-tagged concrete. Tractors humming through palms pass by instead of Hummers blazing through stoplights. And filling your plate is home-cooked, underpriced Mexican food rather than canned salsa and overpriced, haute south-of-the-border fusion. No one does it better than Rosita's, a no-nonsense hole in the wall a few blocks southwest of the Turnpike's terminus. Everything on the menu costs less than $15, from a grease-free, piquant chile relleno ($9.50) to crisp sopes piled with veggies and chorizo ($1.75 each) to decadent pork ribs in chipotle sauce ($9.50). The map will tell you Rosita's is in Dade County, but it feels as far from Miami as Michoacán.

Brazaviva Churrascaria

The gauchos of southern Brazil were the equivalent of North American cowboys: a nomadic people who resided in the vast plains of Rio Grande do Sol in the country's southern region. Like their brethren in Argentina and Uruguay, the gauchos would dig pits in the ground and start massive fires. Then they'd roast large pieces of delicious red meat on large wooden skewers. When the meats were ready, the gauchos would carve off thin slices and pass them around, often complementing the moist pieces of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and sausage with seasonal roasted veggies from a recent harvest. Brazaviva Churrascaria in Doral continues the gaucho tradition seven days a week for Miamians in search of an affordable, mouthwatering Brazilian feast. Brazaviva offers 18 quality meats with an equal array of sides and salads at reasonable prices. Lunch is $22.99 a person, and a full rodizio meal costs $34.99 on weekends. Guests control the flow of their meats with green-red cards placed at their table. Flipping the green side up signals the carvers to begin serving. They bring out a continuous rotation of meats until you are satisfied or need a break. Flip the two-sided card to red to slow things down. To resume service, simply turn the card back to green. Brazaviva is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and till 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Just look for the burgundy canopy on a white office building.

Lo de Lea

At Lo de Lea, the husband cooks, the wife hosts, and one or two friendly servers deliver the delicious meats, fine wine, and Italian flourish we've come to love from Argentina. The grilled sweetbreads — mollejitas a la provenzal ($12) — are a perfect starter. Vegetarians have plenty of options, such as the provoleta cheese starter ($10) and the Mediterranean-inspired patmos salad with cucumbers and feta ($12). For meat lovers, the mixed grill for two, called the parrillada, includes flank steak, blood sausage, chinchulines, and much more. Five homemade chimichurri sauces ($2 to $3) are the perfect topping for a grilled half-chicken with mash and escarole ($14), or crispy salmon with bok choy ($19). Feel like pasta? Try the orecchiette with broccoli rabe, chili, and Argentine sausage ($16). For dessert, the postre vigilante marries Gouda cheese and sweet quince in a beautiful union ($6). And, oh yeah, there's also homemade ice cream, tiramisu, and crêpes ($8). Enjoy your feast in the cool enclosed back patio and you'll feel like you're in Buenos Aires.

Madrono Restaurant

When it comes to duplicating the fine dining that visitors experience in the Nicaraguan tourist resort town of Montilmar, El Madroño has a giant leg up on the competition. For 15 years, this Nica restaurant has been serving a delicious menu of traditional dishes that makes a trip into Sweetwater, AKA Little Nicaragua, well worth the drive. El Madroño holds its own against other established Nica brands, such as Los Ranchos and El Novillo, with no-frills service and great prices. And it doesn't overwhelm your senses with the vibrant, colorful Nicaraguan tchotchkes that have made places like Yambo in Little Havana stand out in travel guides. El Madroño keeps it simple with stark white walls, modern dining tables and chairs, and a diner-style counter with sleek wooden stools. The only decoration is a lone painting of La Purisima — the Virgin Mary — near the back of the restaurant. If you're stopping in for lunch, try the salpicón, a cold, tangy chopped beef dish, with a side of rice and fried plantains for $7.50. Or maybe the family wants a nice grilled steak dinner. Order a mouthwatering baby churrasco ($12.99) for the missus. For yourself, go full size for only four dollars more. Junior can have the baby carne asada for $6.95. If you're in the mood for more adventurous cuisine, try the nacatamal, the tortilla con cuajada, the enchiladas Matagalpa, or the vigorón, all for less than five bucks each. Wash your meal down with cacao, a tasty cold Nica beverage, for $2.75. El Madroño is located in a shopping center on the corner of SW 107th Avenue and Flagler Street. There's ample parking and a walk-up window for take-out. It's open seven days a week, except major holidays, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ethnic cuisine tastes best when it's prepared island-style — slowly and flavorfully. Island Restaurant, a quaint Jamaican eatery in the Hammocks in West Kendall, does just that. In the nine-table dining room, the walls are painted bright orange and decorated with iconic photos of the island, including a tokin' Bob Marley. The waitress, Teayanna, is sweet and attentive. She is accommodating and helpful with the menu, which includes many popular Jamaican dishes that might be unfamiliar to mainlanders. There's oxtail ($11.50) and callaloo with codfish ($8). Some dishes veer from traditional recipes — the red pea soup ($1.75 cup, $3.50 small, $6 large), for example, is chock full of carrots and other veggies, along with the traditional dumplings and hunks of beef. The patty ($2), a Jamaican staple, is baked to perfection — the orange-hued pastry is flaky yet tender, and the meat (either beef or chicken) is spicy but not intolerable. The store attached to the dining room sells Kola Champagne, the citrusy cream soda of the Caribbean. Patrons can also purchase chips, bread, and sauces imported from the island.

Ayesha's Fine Dining
Ayesha website

It hits as soon as you walk through the door: the mouthwatering smell of spices, curries, and flavors that you can't find anywhere else. No matter which location you choose, Ayesha's Fine Dining will take your palate on an exotic journey through the tastiest of traditions. Everything is delectable, from the lamb samosa to the chicken korma, the shrimp apna curry, and the tandoori. Make your taste buds happy with mild, medium, hot, or Indian hot. The naan is out of this world, the perfect mix of fluffy and crunchy, made in a variety of styles from cheesy to garlic and even Kashmiri. This place is no all-you-can-eat, regular old Indian joint. It's a bit on the pricey side — entrées average about $15 a plate — but it's well worth it. It's also an excellent spot for a date you really want to impress. Set the mood by pairing your dinner with a glass of terrific wine for about $8. Even if you're not trying to impress, Ayesha's is a must for Indian lovers. Hard-core fans will enjoy it, and novices won't be intimidated. What more could you ask for?

Maria's Greek Restaurant

A restaurant doesn't often transport you to its food's point of origin. At Maria's, the avgolemono soup — made with chicken and orzo in a luscious broth of stock, egg, and lemon — makes you feel like you're in Greece. Not the Greece of the Travel Channel or travel blogs, but the one of big gatherings and bigger plates. The Coral Way restaurant has been a family-run operation since 1982. Matriarch Maria Sotiriou has passed the reins to her daughter Angela and son-in law Costa Grillas, a co-owner of the Design District's Egg & Dart. But there's still the air of home cooking. It's easy to imagine being served Maria's souvlaki platter ($12.95) — more than big enough for two — in someone's home. "Keep eating! You look hungry!" they would say as they piled hunk after hunk of grilled pork and triangles of pita on your plate. "Try the tzatziki!" As if all of that wasn't enough, Maria's also delivers. Opa!

Burger Bob's
Burger Beast

"Fore!" After playing 18 holes on the Granada Golf Course in the Gables, there's no question you've worked up an appetite. Hunger takes over, your gut shifts into survival mode, and you frantically search for the nearest food spot. Calm down. Just walk to the course's clubhouse and into Burger Bob's. A hidden treasure, the diner run by Bob Maguire has been serving authentic American diner food for 20 years. Enter and you'll be transported to a real '50s or '60s hangout. The place has an endearing comfort because it doesn't necessarily realize its kitschy charm. It offers a casual, no-pressure, no-BS environment with great service from the moment you take a seat till the time you pay the check. (Cash only. Yeah, America!) The coffee tastes like actual coffee, and the cook knows the difference between over-easy, medium, and well. This is quality diner food that doesn't pretend to be something it's not. However, the burger is what keeps people coming back to Bob's. It's a perfectly sized and filling piece of meat that triggers backyard-barbecue memories for less than $5. Bob's, by the way, continues to exist even though it was almost closed as part of a large-scale development plan by the city. That would have been a tragedy.

Shinju Japanese Buffet

Most people steer clear of Chinese and Japanese buffets, and with good reason. If you've visited one of the ubiquitous Asian buffets around the city, you've visited them all. Except one. Shinju Japanese Buffet serves a wide variety of fresh food. First there's the sushi bar, which offers roll after roll. If you don't see your favorite on display, just request it — it'll appear within minutes. Then stroll by the hibachi, where you can pick up some of the best grilled chicken wings in town. There's peel-and-eat shrimp during lunch, and crab legs are up for grabs during dinner. Shinju rounds out its offerings with a full hot bar including common items such as fried rice, spring rolls, dumplings, tempura veggies, and pepper steak. There's a reason you might have to circle the lot once or twice for a parking spot. Perfect for a weekday lunch, Shinju is the best $11.95 ($6.95 for kids) you'll ever spend.

Azul Restaurant

We hear all the time that celebrities have it rough. After all, they have to escape paparazzi, endure torturous elective surgeries, and waste time at court-appointed rehab stints. But for all of this, the upside (besides the insane number of zeros on a paycheck for shilling for some car company) is being treated like royalty everywhere you go. If you haven't experienced what it feels like to be pampered within an inch of your life, book a table at Azul right now. Yeah, yeah, Azul's food is beautiful. But we're not talking about that now. We're talking about a level of service that's usually reserved for people who have a closetful of trophies. And it's all for little nobody you. Doors mysteriously open as you glide through them. Fragrant rose petals are scattered at your table for special occasions. A purse hook is placed at the table for the lady's handbag. Can't read the menu? Penlights are provided. Soft pashminas are there to shield bare arms from air-conditioning or breezy night air. A server arrives at your table with a device that resembles an iPad and begins a custom slide show complete with wedding photos for your anniversary celebration. A wine captain suggests a few midpriced bottles after gently questioning you about your food choices and your budget. These little perks and others are a good part of why Azul achieved the coveted Forbes Travel Guide five-star designation this year. It's also a fantastic reason to go. Because, while everyone should be treated like gold at least once in a while, you can do so without the annoying TMZ reporters or Betty Ford clinic stay.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®