Good tapas do more than combine the robust Spanish flavors of extra-virgin olive oil and paprika into bite-size dishes. The best ones, like those at Brisa de España, transport you to the streets of Spain. As the name implies, the restaurant brings a little Iberian breeze to Doral. Spanish products — from paella pans to alpargatas (espadrilles) to tabloids — adorn the "tienda: la española." There's FC Barcelona and Real Madrid soccer memorabilia, decorative plates with images of Spain, and Spanish flags that separate the store from the restaurant. Although the menu changes daily, the real Spanish vibe lies with the tapas, including roasted red peppers smothered in olive oil, tortilla española, piquillo peppers stuffed with codfish, and chistorras (thinly cut Spanish sausage) cooked in wine sauce. Most of them cost less than $10. A bottle of wine and a tarta turrón (nougat cake) complete your tapas experience.

Welcome to Hialeah. Gus Machado is just down the street, and ¡Ño Que Barato! is a mere stone's throw away, but you're not in the mood for car or consignment shopping. You're in the mood for food. A Cuban sandwich, perhaps? Look no further than Yoyito Restaurant y Café. For the past 12 years, this classically Cuban cafeteria has consistently been filled with good people and delicious eats, making sure every customer experiences what the café's straightforward slogan is all about: "'pa comer rico" — a perfectly Cuban saying that simply means "to eat well." The prices here are low, but don't be fooled: The sandwiches are immense and made right. The palomilla in the pan con bistec ($4.70) is cooked like an honest steak rather than the leathery strip of overdone flesh you get in all too many cafeterias. The medianoche — a sweeter iteration of the Cuban sandwich served between two halves of a soft egg bun that adds a subtle hint of dulce to your savory meal ($4) — is fresh and sumptuous. And the croqueta preparada is a perfect marriage of ham, Swiss cheese, lechón, croquetas, and the perennial flavor accent of sliced pickles. Pass by any day of the week from 5:30 in the morning to 10 at night 'pa comer rico.

Bread + Butter
Jessica Daly / Miami New Times

Miamians know it's not a party unless there's some roast pork on a plate somewhere. And everybody knows it's not an afterparty unless there's leftover lechón asado the next morning, sitting in the fridge, waiting to be eaten. The pan con lechón at Bread and Butter is not authentic. The shredded pork comes encased in a steamed Chinese bao bun. To someone who loves Latin comfort food, that stuff would be a heresy. Except it totally works, and the reason it's so great is because we really want to hate it. But we can't. El sigh. Nestled in the heart of Coral Gables, Bread and Butter boasts a menu of small Latin-style tapas. Think bacon-wrapped plantains and baby-back rib empanadas — eclectic spins on well-known staples in a Latin kitchen. The fist-size bao bun comes stuffed with slow-roasted, marinated pork shoulder. The fluffy, chewy bun is topped with piquant mojo sauce and pickled garlic. The bun is the optimal vessel for sopping up the sauce that comes with this $6 dish. It's a little oily and plenty sour, and after noticing all of its characteristics, you'll have to remind yourself this is the most unconventional pan con lechón you've ever had — and you're completely consumed by it. Remember this phrase: "Sorry, I'm not sorry."

Jamón, pollo o pescado — chicken, ham, or fish: Your waiter wants you to know these are the three choices of croquetas ($1.15) at Islas Canarias restaurant. The decision sounds simple, but it's also surprisingly difficult. Order the chicken, and nibble on a plump fried croquette filled with flecks of poultry and sprinkled with minced herbs. Order the ham, and crunch on a brown exterior stuffed with smoky specks of pink ham. Order the fish, and savor delectable, briny bits cooked to perfection. Each bite begins crisply, the result of a golden bread-crumb coating. Each morsel ends creamily, the product of an ivory béchamel-like core — tender, smooth, and rich. Jamón, pollo o pescado: At Islas Canarias, really, simply order them all.

Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine
Las Vegas website

When you order a dish of plátanos maduros, you want just the right mix of burnt and sweet. At Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine, the sweet plantains are always at that perfect equilibrium of ripe and substantial. The menu is consistent. Tostones are served fresh every single time — crisp on the edges but soft in the center — with garlic mojo sauce. Boiled yuca is topped with an equally pungent blend of onions and mojo worth every cent of that $3.75. And the entrées are just as savory as the sides. In addition to essentials such as vaca frita and churrasco steak with chimichurri sauce, one of the most original dishes is fillet of grouper encrusted with a breading of crisp plantain bits. At $14.95, camarones enchilados — seven jumbo shrimp sautéed in a creole sauce of olive oil, garlic, wine, green and red bell peppers, and onion — are the best bang for the buck. The red creole sauce also goes well with the accompanying rice and black beans and those sweet plantains. On top of such fair prices, the Spanish-speaking waiters provide exceptional and friendly service.

Zila Cafeteria
Zila Cafeteria facebook

Haitians have a saying: "Sel pa vante tèt li di li sale," or "Salt doesn't boast that it is salted." In other words, good food doesn't need advertising. The proverb was practically made for Zila Cafeteria, a tiny but tasty joint that is harder to get hold of than Heat point guard Norris Cole on a fast break. You've probably never heard of the Little Haiti eatery. And if you have, chances are you've called for delivery, only to get an out-of-service message. The truth is, we have no idea who owns Zila Cafeteria or if the place delivers. But that's beside the point. Park your car on NW Second Avenue near 59th Street and follow the smell of roast chicken and the sound of Haitian compas to the door. Then sit at the checkered tables, order an absurdly cheap beer or two, and stuff your face with simple but delicious food. This hole in the wall offers Haitian staples such as griot (fried pork chunks) and mais moulu (cornmeal) as well as daily specials like succulent chicken with beans and rice for just $4.99. With beer as cheap as $1 for a Bud Light or $2 for a Prestige, you'll never want to leave. When you finally do, you'll agree: Sel pa vante tèt li di li sale.

Panya Thai
Photo by Javier Ramirez

Panya Thai: Duck so spicy,

Egg rolls, fish cakes, not too pricey.

Steamed whole snapper ($28.95), pork panang curry.

Dancing shrimp ($8.95), eyes get blurry.

North Miami Beach, strip-mall sights.

What an array of Siam's bites.

Tofu, noodles, salad, soup, rice.

Oh goodness! That poh tak's got spice!

At Panya Thai, tongues get woozy,

A perfect place to bring your floozy!

Rincon Escondido Café

Welcome to Rincón Escondido, the teeny, tavern-like Spanish restaurant in Edgewater. To start, would you like some Spanish wine? And then how about a platter of jamón serrano, chorizo de Cantimpalos, lomo de cerdo, or chorizo de Palacios ($15)? No? Perhaps some bread will strike your fancy. The montaditos, with salty anchovies and caramelized onions ($7), or the sliced baguette with liver or salmon pâté ($6), are a fine choice. Not that either? Why not go for the Spanish potato omelet ($10) or pulpo a la gallega — octopus doused in smoky paprika? Stop crying! What do you mean you can't decide? Please, please. No more tears. At Rincón Escondido, you are supposed to tapear. That's Spanish for "stop whining and just order the whole menu already."

Momi Ramen

If Momi Ramen were a house of worship, its altar would be the slab of pork belly atop the noodle house's communal wooden table. In this Brickell kitchen, massive kettles of tonkotsu broth — a silky, opaque liquid made with pork bones and gleaming globs of fat — bubble away and simmer for hours. They fill the restaurant with the pungent aroma of garlic and swine. There are noodles too. They are made daily by owner Jeffrey Chen and served smothered in broth. Bowls are in the $14 to $16 range at this late-night noodle house. Before Momi Ramen, Miami had few choices when it came to the Japanese noodle-and-broth soup. Now, this little shop proffers bowls that rival other ramen altars across the land.

Frenchie's Diner
billwisserphoto.com

If there were a showdown of casual French cuisine, and restaurants around town were assessed according to their French onion soup ($7), Frenchie's Diner in Coral Gables would win for its perfect broth and bubbling, blistered layers of cheese. If the contest were to measure spots by their croque-monsieur ($10), Frenchie's would take the prize yet again — this time for its peerless ham sandwich smothered in béchamel and finished with golden, melted Gruyère. Similar outcomes would result from Frenchie's crème brûlée, steak frites, and duck confit ($26) — and perhaps also with its chocolate mousse, moules frites, and escargots. It might be easier to crown Frenchie's the most superb source for French cooking in town. But to rob these pretend judges of their glorious research, well, that just seems awfully cruel.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®