Best Seafood Market 2013 | Casablanca Seafood Market | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Devin Peppler

Your Spanish is weak, but your desire for fresh fish is strong. Worry not, seafood addict. You must learn only the following terms to shop at Casablanca Seafood, the family-owned fish market located on the Miami River:

"¿Quién sigue?" Fishmongers like to holler. They bellow and often ask who's next. Raise your hand.

"¿Qué quieres?" Fishmongers are impatient. A crowd is trickling in. A line is forming. Pristine yellowtail snapper, Spanish mackerel, and shell-on Gulf Coast shrimp can be distracting. What do you want? Make your decisions quickly.

"En filete?" Fishmongers weigh whole fish and then offer to fillet them. Unless you're better with a knife than you are with español, say . Or nod.

"Propina buena!" Fishmongers love good tips. Always provide them.

In a city where the catch of the day might mean fish netted in China or Maine, you now hold the power to walk out of Casablanca Seafood with two things: Miami fish linguistics and a baggie full of the freshest catch in town.

A freestanding wine cooler looms over the dining room at the Design District's Oak Tavern. But it holds no bottles. The refrigerator shelters "forcemeats" — minced meat emulsified with fatback and aged for weeks. There is Tuscan fennel salami, Calabrese salami, and soppressata. There is bresaola, made of beef, and even duck prosciutto. But these cured meats aren't imported or shipped from out of state. While some chefs in town are taking more and more shortcuts, David Bracha keeps one of the world's oldest crafts alive: the art of charcuterie. His meats are priced at $15 for lunch and $22 for dinner and come served atop a wooden plank alongside accompaniments, including sliced artisan bread, whole-grain mustard, pickled carrots, cucumber, green beans, mustard fruit, and marinated Cerignola olives. So his charcuterie is not only a good deal but also proof that some things — such as ground, salted pork — still improve with time.

Photo by Liz Clayman

When three fellows named Andreas Schreiner, José Mendín, and Sergio Navarro launched a restaurant group in 2010, they named it Pubbelly. When the trio partnered with Michael Pirolo, the former chef of Scott Conant's Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau, they named their restaurant Macchialina. The four-person team debuted this Pubbelly Italian restaurant with the team's signature touches: laid-back vibe, reasonable prices, and tasty cuisine. At Macchialina, Pirolo's cooking includes homespun fresh pastas such as spaghetti con vongole ($18). There's a short yet well-curated beer and wine list. There's also a unique tiramisu ($9): a jar layered with chocolate crumbles and espresso granita — quite the cool touch. But the coolest thing here isn't dessert. It's Macchialina's sheer wonderfulness.

Best Restaurant in the Design District/Midtown

MC Kitchen

Photo by Andrew Meade/Courtesy of MC Kitchen

If you were to stumble upon MC Kitchen, maybe after a stroll through the Design District's shops or perhaps drawn by the wafting aromas of Italian fare, you would probably end up sipping a cocktail made with Dogfish Head beer. (Three of six drinks are, in fact, prepared with suds.) You will enjoy the sleek dining room and then ingest Niman Ranch meats, succulent fish, and fresh pastas such as cavatelli, fiocchi, and trofie. You will sample the excellent charred octopus ($18) and delectable tiramisu ($10). Yet you won't be most impressed by the peerless cuisine or tasteful setting. You'll be positively awed by the restaurant's chef, Dena Marino, who will likely be working in the open kitchen — baking pizettes, plating crudos, and searing fillets. She'll be smiling, probably. And after dining at MC Kitchen, you will be too.

Ostrich carpaccio crowned with foccacia croutons and drizzled with rooibos-tea-smoked tomato oil. Chamomile-horseradish-glazed salmon coupled with cold quinoa salad and grilled green apple rings. Pot stickers plumped with pulled duck meat braised with figs and leeks ($8). These dishes might sound like the capricious ideas of a quixotic cook, but that could not be further from the truth. Micah Edelstein — South African native, Top Chef season three contestant, and chef of eclectic and imaginative eats — proffers these creations at her downtown restaurant, Nemesis Urban Bistro. Here, Edelstein experiments with a myriad of flavors from across the globe. The restaurant forgoes convention, which is why dining here is like a voyage. It's a globetrotting dinner, the kind where you sample smoked veal bobotie, Egyptian dukkah, and bison steaks with huckleberry/dark-chocolate chili sauce in just one seating.

"Run, pig, run" is the motto of this pork-centric restaurant from 50 Eggs Inc. Though the opening of Swine Southern Table & Bar might be extremely bad news for the oinkers of the world, it's cause for celebration in the City Beautiful. After all, in a town once known for having more bridal shops than brides per capita, it's nice to know you can walk into a place and get a heaping portion of fall-off-the-bone pig flesh and a good, stiff drink. Swine is bathed in warm amber lighting — the kind that makes everything sepia-toned, like an old postcard. Try dining on the second floor, overlooking the communal table. The decibel level is high on a Friday evening, when every seat is filled with petite women in designer finery tearing into dry-rubbed and smoked Memphis-style ribs ($32) and devouring hunks of bovine goodness in the form of Black Angus burnt ends ($16) served on butcher paper to sop up the juices. The accompanying men gladly pick up the tab to watch their dates lose themselves in a feeding frenzy filled with such raw carnal pleasure. To wash down all of this meaty goodness, the bar program features plenty of good Kentucky bourbon, including the cultish Pappy Van Winkle collection. Don't think Swine is inelegant, however. Everything in this room has a pedigree — from the shelves, made of reclaimed barn wood, to the photographs depicting Mississippi blues culture by photojournalist Bill Steber, to the iron machinery parts hanging on the wall. Swine may be rough around the edges, but there's a diamond hiding inside — and it's made of bacon.

Best Restaurant in Coconut Grove


Photo courtesy of Kush Hospitality Group

There are two ways to open a restaurant in Miami. The first is to invest a boatload of money (hopefully not yours); hire a team of decorators, consultants, artists, musicians, and public relations people; and then make the glitziest place in town. The other way is to build all the tables and the bar from scratch and stick to a simple menu based on a no-nonsense theme of serving people tasty food procured from local sources that customers can feel good about. If you're a douchebag, you'll flock to restaurant number one for expensive grub with lots of foam and edible flowers and pyrotechnics. However, if you just want a really good burger and a brew, you'll head to LoKal. Owner Matt Kuscher has done everything by hand in this small, friendly locals respite from nearby CocoWalk. He's even glued several hundred cassette tapes onto the bar for decoration, put out doggie biscuits for local pups, and picked fresh gator for the menu. The menu, by the way, comprises mostly burgers and beer. But the burgers are made from local hormone-free, grass-fed cattle. And the beer is carefully selected to be local and delicious. And did we mention that LoKal's burgers and beer were reviewed on LeBron James' personal website? It could be because there's a burger here named after the Miami Heat, made with spicy jack, jalapeños, and sriracha ($11) — or it could simply be because it's one damn fine sandwich. Not into burgers? There are "pink tacos" made with shrimp freshly harvested from the Gulf of Mexico ($11), chicken and waffles that would make your mom tear up in jealousy ($14), and fresh local gator strips ($12). If that's not enough for ya, maybe you'll be convinced by the complete doggie menu that features Bowser Beer.

Courtesy of Alba Seaside Italian
Alba's bucatini carbonara

Even though Miami is considered the "sixth borough" of New York City, it has a dearth of real, honest-to-goodness restaurants serving authentic Italian-American cuisine. We're talking red sauce, fresh clams, spicy sausage, and homemade pasta served by sassy guys who look like they could moonlight as Tony Soprano's foot soldiers. Alba's chef Ralph Pagano looks (and cooks) the part of a New York restaurateur, and the food — from the clams oreganata "Sheepshead Bay style" ($12) to the lobster francese ($34), taken from Pagano's grandfather Vinny D's recipe — makes you pine for the old country (the old country being, of course, Coney Island). Pagano also loves a party, so visit on WTF (Wine, Travel, Food) Thursday, when the affable toque will stuff you with whatever he's cooking and drinking for only $35. If you're feeling lucky, go for the Vinny D split, which gives you a chance to win your meal for free. As you dive into your bucatini carbonara, whose poached egg commingles with the pancetta and fresh pasta ($21), take a whiff of fresh sea air and close your eyes. Are you back in Sheepshead Bay or at a tony Sunny Isles Beach resort? As Pagano himself would probably say: "Just shut the f--k up and eat." So we do.

Kendall may be a lovely place to raise a family, but when it comes to dining, it can be a suburban wasteland. If you live there, you probably find yourself dining at big chain restaurants that "treat you like family" and whose waitstaff wears "flair" and suspenders. But, as if dropped from the sky by a benevolent race of space gourmands, Devon Seafood & Steak suddenly appeared at, of all places, the Palms at the Town & Country. Executive chef Scott Barrow serves a 16-ounce USDA Prime Kansas City strip ($45) worthy of any fine establishment in Chicago, New York, or... Miami! The seafood section sounds like a travel guide: barramundi from New Zealand, mahi-mahi from Costa Rica, rainbow trout from Idaho — all flown in daily. Devon uses the best purveyors for its proteins and produce — going so far as to thank them right on the menu. You might even recognize the names of some fine-dining establishments in the Design District or Brickell: Creekstone Farms, Jackman Ranch Farm, Lynn Bros. Seafood. Go ahead. Take the money you saved in gas and order dessert. After all, you're only a few minutes from home.

Best Restaurant on the Upper Eastside

Ni.Do. Caffè

Ni.Do. Caffè's bentwood chairs and wooden tables are very charming. So are the restaurant's artichoke soufflé ($14), delectable pumpkin soup, and ample meat lasagna ($16) — thick layers of pasta smothered in Bolognese sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Sure, at this Italian joint, there is wine, tiramisu, and fun. But stay focused, because these things are even more delightful with a side of Ni.Do.'s house-made cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella fior di latte, and burrata. The last ($10.50), made with cow's milk, is a wonderful knotted pouch of mozzarella with an oozing center full of fresh curds and cream. Add salty prosciutto, some marinated cherry tomatoes, and mixed olives. Italo-overload? No, no. A platter laden with fresh cheeses, vegetables, and charcuterie is as charming as dinner can get.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®