Best Prepared Food 2014 | Epicure Gourmet Market & Café | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Alejandra Cicilia

Imagine this: In mere hours, your dinner party guests will arrive. But you have nothing to serve them. Perhaps you got caught up at work, or maybe you simply didn't feel like cooking. Regardless, you're in a bind. This is where the prepared food section at Epicure Gourmet Market & Café comes in handy. There's everything you can imagine, from prime brisket ($18.95 per pound) and baked herb chicken thighs ($9.95 per pound) to potato salad ($5.95 per pound) and curry lentil salad ($9.95 per pound). Not only is it all made in house, but it also truly tastes homemade. Dinner, lunch, and brunch items are all offered. Epicure is a high-end grocery store with prices to match, but you get superior quality. Besides, having someone else do the dirty work for you while convincing your guests that you did it all is, well, priceless.

Zachary Fagenson

Every day except Monday, Tomas Strulovic and his team at True Loaf bake four or five varieties of fresh bread ($9 to $12 a loaf). In the early-morning hours, they shape the sourdough using only their hands and place it in an Italian steam-injected deck oven. Flavors include country, whole wheat, apricot walnut, cherry pecan, and multigrain. Step inside the minimalist, whitewashed space in Sunset Harbour, and the intoxicating aromas will blow you away. You'll need strong willpower to resist picking up a croissant ($3.75 to $4.80) or scone ($4.25) to go along with your loaf. Strulovic, a banker turned graduate of the French Culinary Institute, realized Miami lacked good bread and took courses in bread making at the San Francisco Baking Institute. The Venezuela native opened True Loaf in November 2013 and soon began selling croissants to Panther Coffee. Try it for yourself; the proof is in the dough.

Photo courtesy of Sakaya Kitchen

When Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, dubs you the "Ninja of Flavortown," it's a big deal. It's also a title that chef-owner Richard Hales of Sakaya Kitchen, Dim Ssäm à Gogo food truck, and Blackbrick Chinese undoubtedly deserves. Hales honed his skills in New York City and spent years backpacking throughout Asia, where he worked for free to learn from chefs he admired. Sakaya Kitchen opened in 2009, and the accolades came pouring in for Hales' sharp, streamlined, and inexpensive Asian/Southeast Asian grub served over the counter. Though you can't go wrong with the honey-orange baby-back ribs ($15) or the sous-vide duck herb sandwich with a side of spicy tater tots ($10), the buns are unbelievable. The pork buns ($8 for two) feature a natural bone-in Boston butt marinated for 24 hours in a blend of brown sugar, toasted spices, and sesame oil and then roasted for eight hours. The tender meat tastes of pork belly and brisket and comes in a fluffy white bun with pickled cucumber and a spattering of sweet chili sauce. Things get a little crazier with the bánh mì buns ($9 for two), featuring house-cured pork belly and duck pâté, as well as kimchee carrots, homemade mayo, and pickles. Meanwhile seafood lovers will get a kick out of the expertly seasoned soft shell crab variety ($9 for two).


Some secrets are better left untold, such as what makes Gourmet Diner's vegetable soufflé so insanely incredible. The buttery, moist, omelet-like concoction is a side dish that accompanies some main-course selections, but it always steals the show. The starring vegetable changes regularly; the broccoli and cauliflower varieties are especially scrumptious. Don't let the chrome 1950s-style diner exterior fool you into thinking Gourmet Diner is your run-of-the-mill greasy spoon. Sure, you can enjoy mainstays such as a cheeseburger ($12.95) while perched on a pale-blue banquette, but as the name suggests, the majority of the fare is quite gourmet. There's also a significant number of French items, such as the classically prepared escargots ($6.95) and the sea bass Provençal topped with tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and white wine ($29.95). The latter pairs perfectly with the vegetable soufflé, as does the roast duck with plum sauce ($22.95). Since 1983, this eatery has attracted folks for lunch, dinner, and weekend breakfast thanks to its friendly waitstaff, throwback ambiance, and high-caliber yet straightforward cuisine. The extensive menu makes choosing tricky, but the vegetable soufflé is a no-brainer.

Hankering for a meal created by a chef who worked at some of the finest Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe? No need to drive to some fancy-schmancy hotel restaurant and pay $30 for valet. Just find out where Il Fiorentino is parked for the evening. This food truck is unique in Miami (and maybe the world), for in it, one chef Lorenzo Lapi serves some of the finest Italian cuisine you'll ever eat. The handsome young chef might be easy on the eyes, but he's difficult to understand. After all, he hails from Florence, and when he gets excited explaining a dish, he peppers his speech with his native tongue. But there are no language barriers to his food. So here's a tip: When the chef suggests his polpettine di carne con purè di patata e olio al tartufo ($10), he's offering you his version of the classic meat and potatoes. Handmade meatballs rest on a bed of fluffy truffle-scented mashed potatoes. Other gorgeous interpretations of classic dishes include a near-perfect risotto alla zucca, caprino e salsiccia ($12), made with butternut squash, goat cheese, and Italian sausage. All pastas are freshly made, vegetables are locally sourced, and olive oil is imported from his homeland. Someday Lapi will certainly have a restaurant with difficult-to-get reservations, but for now you can grab his food from a truck. It's the foodie equivalent of buying shares of Apple stock in 1980 — and paying with pasta.

Courtesy of Hakkasan

Saturday and Sunday are already good days, but the $28-per-guest dim sum lunch at Hakkasan makes them that much better. Each prix fixe includes steamed and grilled dumplings with various fillings, an entrée of noodles with beef tenderloin and spinach, baby bok choi with garlic, and dessert. Located on the fourth-floor rooftop of the tony Fontainebleau, this modern Chinese restaurant is arguably the prettiest place in Miami to enjoy dim sum. What's more, Hakkasan isn't your typical Chinese joint, but one that's garnered prestigious awards and Michelin stars since it opened in London more than ten years ago. But back to the dim sum: If you order off the à la carte menu, the steamed shrimp har gau dumplings are a crowd favorite, as are the grilled Shanghai potstickers (both $16 for four). There are also copious vegetarian options, such as sweet corn dumplings ($12 for three) and wolfberry mushroom dumplings ($8 for three).

It's odd. Miami is surrounded by some of the most pristine waters in the world, yet very few restaurants here really do justice to beautiful seafood. Lure Fishbar is one of them. This South Florida outpost of a New York City classic serves an overwhelming array of sea creatures. There's an extensive raw bar featuring shellfish plateaus brimming with crab, shrimp, and oysters. There's also some gorgeous sushi. But the restaurant really lures diners in with unfussy takes on seafood favorites. A classic Maine lobster roll piles rich, flavorful chunks of the crustacean a mile high on buttery brioche ($30), and a grilled whole daurade ($34) is simply yet masterfully done. If you want pure decadence, order the bucatini pasta with butter-poached crab and uni crema ($38). Add Robert Ferrara's nautical-themed cocktail creations, and you have a meal fit for Triton.

Photo courtesy of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

The Oxford English Dictionary defines raw as "uncooked, in its natural state, not yet processed or purified." Urban Dictionary has a slightly different take. "Sex without a condom" is the leading definition. Coming in second: "slang term for any uncut drug; something pure, unadulterated, hard-core, serious, no kidding, no shit." Aside from the unprotected-sex part, that's a pretty good summary of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. Since its opening in early 2010, the midtown restaurant has developed a hard-core following. Much of its popularity is owed to executive chef Timon Balloo's masterful raw menu. Raw is all the rage these days, whether it's oatmeal or coconut water. Balloo does the word justice by dishing out simple, unadulterated seafood that satisfies. You can get fresh clams, crab legs, and lobster, of course. But Balloo's best offerings are his crudos, such as local fish sprinkled with fresh lime and ají amarillo; tuna with avocado and paddlefish caviar; steak tartare with pickled shallots, Dijon mustard, and quail eggs; and salmon slices topped with radish, pomegranate, and a tart white ponzu sauce. Serious. No kidding. No shit. Sounds pretty raw.

Italian designer Roberto Cavalli has been a fashion icon since the early 1970s, when he shocked Paris with his bold prints. Never one to be a fashion wallflower, Cavalli created colorful designs that made him famous among attention-seeking fashionistas. Now he has brought his signature brand of whimsical eye candy to his Miami Beach restaurant and lounge. If you're looking for something staid and subtle, keep walking. But if you want your restaurant to be better dressed than you, Cavalli Miami is the place. Have a cocktail at the neon-pink backlit bar and peruse the pictures on the wall that show the designer cavorting with all sorts of beautiful people. The hostess, dressed in signature Cavalli animal print, shows you to your table, where you find more animal prints mingling with psychedelic florals. It's as if Cirque du Soleil, a zebra, and a poppy shacked up inside a disco. And because Cavalli is a master of playing with patterns, this mix of colors and themes somehow works, entrancing you while you sip on a lavender-hued cocktail and dine on oversize Alice-in-Firenze plates. Adding to the decor are the celebrities who dine there — because any restaurant can have fresh flowers, but only Cavalli can have Justin Timberlake as a centerpiece.

Miami is a design-driven city with a plethora of visually stunning restaurants. Unsurprisingly, many eateries turn to the ocean for interior inspiration, but the Local House's beach-chic decor is especially enchanting. Located inside the Sense Beach House boutique hotel, the restaurant attracts diners with its fresh seafood but invites them to linger by way of a warm and inviting space. Ice-blue banquettes, white lacquered tables, and beige chairs rest atop light wood floors to create a mood that's more South Hampton than South Beach. Meanwhile, a large glossy white bookcase is festooned with books and quirky knickknacks. It's utterly serene and serves as an ideal backdrop for a casual yet thoroughly romantic soiree. Start off with oysters ($15 for six or $29 for 12); then move on to a refreshing melon and citrus salad assembled with feta cheese, spinach, and fresh mint ($12). As a main dish, the seared scallops with toasted Israeli couscous are a crowd pleaser ($26). Breakfast, brunch, and lunch are also offered, so you can enjoy the surroundings almost any time.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®