Best Sides 2014 | Prime Italian | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

At Prime Italian, dinner always comes with a side order of top-tier people-watching. But even the quirky characters of Ocean Drive take a back seat to the side dishes offered at this swanky South Beach eatery by restaurateur Myles Chefetz. Many of the "accessories," as they are called ($13), originated at its sister restaurant Prime One Twelve, and it's no secret that diners often get more excited about these accompaniments than the mains. The luscious creamed corn and creamed spinach are particularly outstanding, as is the creamy four-cheese truffle macaroni. Heck, you can easily skip the veal Parmesan ($47) or the Kobe beef lasagna bolognaise ($29) and cobble together an entire meal just from side dishes. There's a saying that accessories make the outfit, and at Prime Italian, they make the meal.

"Raw" is the word at Bar Crudo, a hidden gem tucked away in Miami Beach's South of Fifth neighborhood. Inside the miniature restaurant, you'll find walls lined with pop-art-style murals of seductive babes. You also might notice the lack of ovens and stoves. Instead, proprietress Andy Travaglia (of Lee & Marie's Cakery) has equipped her eatery with sous-vide machines and induction burners. She also hired talented chefs Reto Von Weissenfluh and Jan Tomaszewski to wow diners with their curing, preserving, and raw-cooking techniques. Every component of the artfully constructed dishes is included to emphasize the main ingredient. Indeed, a white shrimp ceviche would fall flat were it not for the addition of avocado, mango, and orange. The same goes for the mixed ceviche, which mingles octopus, snapper, orange, and yuzu. Bar Crudo likes to switch up its small-plate-centric menu, but most items are in the $12 range. Charcuterie and cheese options abound for $6 to $9, and carnivores will be pleased to know that meat gets the raw treatment too.

Remember the Great Compromise? Yeah, neither do we. But we do know that SuViche is our great dining compromise. It's for those meals when you can't decide between sushi or ceviche or when you are torn between two sushi rolls. Here, you can order half rolls. SuViche is versatile, and with three locations in Miami, it's easy to wrap your chopsticks around its Peruvian-Japanese fare. Try the aptly named perfection roll ($10.50), made with fried shrimp, cream cheese, and real crab salad in the center, avocado and tempura flakes on top, and a savory squirt of spicy mayo and eel sauce to finish it off.

Along Calle Ocho, delicious Cuban food and decadent ice cream are a given. But great Mexican is a bit of a surprise. For more of an unexpected kick, take a bite into Mi Riconcito Mexicano's enormous burrito rolled up and stuffed with your preferred meat, beans, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream ($5.50). If you want even more of a punch, order the burrito chorreado ($6.95) with mole. You can also get your tortilla wet — topped with salsa rojo or verde. Any way you get it, it's a massive meal drenched in goodness and topped with shredded cheese.

Tacos are the ideal food. They're portable for on-the-go eating but are also fine for sitting at the dinner table. They're also just the right size. One is a snack, two make a satisfying lunch, and three or four are a substantial supper. That being said, you still want to make the most of your taco experience. That's where Ralph Pagano's "chef-driven" bites come in. Though this celebrity chef isn't Mexican, he knows his way around a tortilla. From the crispy baja fish — the original sustenance of surfers on the Pacific coast — to the classic carne asada ($5), Pagano's tacos include fresh ingredients and pay homage to Mexican street food. But it's the creative offerings that truly shine. Spicy poke "tuna" tacos are bright and refreshing after a day at the beach. Green eggs and ham tacos satisfy your breakfast cravings any time of the day in the most whimsical (and Seussian) way. In fact, if he can cook it, Pagano will put a taco shell around it — be it duck, lamb, pork, or even cauliflower (for you veggie lovers out there). At five bucks apiece, they're a soulful bargain. But head to Naked Taco on Tuesdays, when your taco is free with a purchased margarita. Because the only thing better than a taco is a free taco.

Alexandra Rincon

Elsie Chin has been serving roti and other Trinidadian street food favorites for 28 years. However, her pearls of wisdom are timeless: "There are no forks here — so if you been scratching somewhere, you better go wash your hands." Beyond the sage advice at LC's Roti Shop are delectable roti — crepe-like bread filled with curried goat ($9) or spicy potatoes ($6) and sometimes even shrimp, chicken, beef, duck, or conch. They're folded full of flavor and well worth the drive to Miami Gardens. However, along with devouring roti, potato pies, and pholourie, be sure to take in all of the house rules adorning the establishment: "Cash only," "No cellphones," and "Farting prohibited." Even something as simple as a listing of business hours includes notes about times that LC's "occasionally" opens or closes. Some of the comments are as confusing as quips from the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. "Some days or afternoons we aren't here at all, and lately I've been here just about all of the time. Except when I am some place else, but I should be here then, too." We can't even explain; we can just scratch our heads and feel comforted by the fact that great roti in a humorous environment makes for a memorable meal. The proverbial cherry on top of the roti is the LC secret hot sauce. Numb your mind and your tongue — and enjoy!

You say you like your wings spicy, but do you like them seven-sauces hot? Try your luck with the Filling Station's "party in your mouth" wings. They'll cut you down to size or make you a king among your wing-loving friends. For less adventuresome types who just want a taste of how amazing a chicken wing can be, try the spicy jerk barbecue. Those suckers are the most delectable chicken wings your taste buds will ever touch. The ranchaladas may be a close second, and those are only three of the six wing flavors the Filling Station offers. Each variety comes with eight wings, blue cheese, and celery or carrot sticks for $8.41. Back up your order with some out-of-this-world chili-cheese tater tots ($7.01) and a few cold brews, and you have yourself an unforgettable evening. Head to the downtown dive Wednesdays before 7 p.m. and take part in the weekly trivia night for a chance to win a "mystery box" and a free bar tab for you and your knowledgeable friends.

Most Miami restaurateurs are lost in space. Suffering from delusions of grandeur, they quickly overextend themselves. Like solar systems, they expand beyond the bounds of their own gravitational pull. The farther the food orbits from its star, the colder and blander it gets until, finally, flavor goes hurtling off into space like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. But all is not lost. Like a culinary George Clooney, Andres Tovar is here to rescue Miami from the flavorless abyss. Tovar opened Miami's most succulent restaurant two years ago. Initially called Con Sabor a México Carnitas Estilo Michoacán, the Calle Ocho eatery had a complex name but a simple mission: delicious tacos. Now renamed Viva Mexico, the restaurant has propelled Tovar from secret genius to standard-bearer for Miami's burgeoning slow-food movement. Instead of opening more stores to maximize his profit, however, Tovar partnered with Pancho Taco to take his meat to the masses. How many thousands of hipsters have been drinking at Wood Tavern and suddenly catch a whiff of carnitas on the evening breeze? How many have been able to resist? Tovar has won the town's taste buds without store openings or promotional schemes.

Who is this Ricky and how does he rule North Miami? The person who gave his name to this hole in the wall on NE 123rd Street is the adorable 9-year-old son of owner Giuliano Carrafelli and chef Majcha Manomai. Dad hails from Italy, and Mom is from Thailand. But don't worry — the kid doesn't eat everything that comes from the kitchen; there's still some for you to enjoy six nights a week. This family-focused neighborhood restaurant rules with freshness. They serve some of the freshest and most flavorful Thai fare in North Miami and beyond. The family grows their own lemongrass, kaffir leaves, Vietnamese and Thai mint, galangal root, and much more. The tom kha goong ($5), featuring succulent jumbo shrimp in a spicy, sweet-and-sour coconut soup with lemongrass and lime juice, is enhanced by the freshness of the herbs. The same is true of the pad kee mow ($12), AKA drunken noodles, which boasts locally made, delicate, flat and wide rice noodles topped with fresh basil, cilantro, scallions, bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, and bamboo shoots. Whatever you order, it's hard to go wrong in this cozy restaurant, but if you're stuck, ask Ricky. This outgoing boy knows which curry goes with which meat and has strong opinions about what his mom makes best.

Casa Panza Café may be located in the heart of Little Havana, but the Spanish restaurant brings el sabor español to Calle Ocho. After you walk past the wooden doors, wine barrels, Spanish tile, and hanging ceramic plates, a hostess welcomes you into la cueva. On Friday and Saturday, Juan de Alba, Estrella Morena, and invited guests charm the crowd with their tablao flamenco skills and Spanish canciones. As the sangria is poured from a ceramic pitcher into your glass, it's off with the tapas. The light and airy tortilla española ($5), followed by sizzling chorizo al vino ($7) and an order of garbanzos frito ($6), will get your taste buds working. Then comes the main plato. Traditionalists will opt for the paella Valencia ($30) or the zarzuela de marisco ($35), but meat lovers will go for the tender and well-seasoned churrasco a la parrilla ($20). For dessert, it's the tarta Santiago — almond cake topped with ice cream ($7) — a shot of espresso ($2), and more sangria. Singer and comedian Juan de Alba will keep you entertained with his chispa, sparkling costumes, and beaded head wraps long after your table is cleared. But there's a $10 cover, so be sure to reserve your spot.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®