Best Supermarket 2014 | Trader Joe's | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Dear Trader Joe's:

It's not every day that I share my feelings, but I had to write to tell you how, like, totally awesome I think you are. For years, I looked longingly at pictures on your website in the hope that one day you would come to Miami. And then I heard the news — you'd be heading right to my neighborhood. Finally, I could walk your aisles and take in all of your colorful yumminess. At long last, I could taste the sweet, sweet nectar of your cookie butter, drink in your Two-Buck Chuck, feel your ripe produce, and inhale the scent of your fresh floral bouquets. I thought that maybe all of this was too good to be true, that maybe you were too cheap for me. But then you gave me a lei on opening day, and your thoughtfulness sealed the deal. You kept luring me back with your cranberry goat cheese and witty packaging. And I know our love is mutual. How else can you explain your generous gift of complimentary coffee every time I see you? Or the fact that you offer me non-genetically modified products? I'm letting you know I broke up with Publix. Now I can spend all of my time with you. Chill a few bottles of that $2.99 Pinot Grigio I adore. I'll be over around 6.

How many times have you shopped at a Miami farmers' market and discovered that the avocados were grown in Mexico? Sure, you won't find too many local apples, but it's a damn shame to buy fruits and vegetables trucked in from far-flung places when South Florida has some great family farms. Nick Bernal agrees. The local forager started this weekly market in the Coconut Grove Playhouse parking lot to give local farmers an opportunity to sell direct to the public. How local? Ninety-five percent of the vendors grow on land within 35 miles of the Grove. Every Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m., you can peruse the fresh veggies pulled directly from the ground or buy locally made products such as breads, jams, and treats. The items vary (so you'll just have to go back every week), but there's a treasure trove of goodies each time, such as piña colada preserves from Freakin Flamingo Jams, goat cheese from Hani's Mediterranean Organics, colorful beans (not magic) from Seasons Farm Fresh, and maybe even a giant emu egg that can make an omelet for a family of four. Free parking and live entertainment seal the deal.

Have you ever enjoyed a weekend in one of those quaint little bed-and-breakfast communities by the seashore somewhere? If so, you'll feel at home at the Village Stand. Nestled on a side street in Miami Shores, this adorable shop brims with delights. Hand-crafted chocolates are displayed next to embroidered dish towels. All sorts of deliciousness awaits your perusal — locally made preserves, artisan cheeses, gourmet pastas. But this little spot is so much more than a place to pick up the fixings for your dinner. Every third Friday evening, neighbors gather for a free "wine-down" happy hour, and nearly every Saturday there's some gathering — a crepe social here, a jewelry trunk show there. Back in the day, every town had a place to gather — be it a bar, a coffeehouse, or a barbershop. In Miami Shores, it's the Village Stand. Head over and have a glass of wine and a chat — even if you don't live nearby. As Mr. Rogers famously said: "Won't you be my neighbor?"

The only bad thing about Noa Cafe in Wynwood is that it's open only for lunch on weekdays. That's because chef-owner Adi Kafri's primary business is a catering company, while the miniature restaurant is her side project. That said, the Israeli native's passion for what she calls her "baby" is undeniable. So is her commitment to offering clients fresh and vibrant dishes at surprisingly low prices. The portions are generous and the ingredients topnotch. For $12.95, you can feast on salmon teriyaki with orange peel, scallions, ginger, and lemongrass served with two sides such as sweet potatoes and organic mixed greens. If you dine in the intimate space, you'll easily forget you're at a restaurant and think you're being served by an unusually talented home chef. Other permanent fixtures for lunch include lemon-grilled chicken with rosemary ($11.95), chicken pad thai ($12.95, or $10.95 without the meat), and focaccia sandwiches ($8.95). Each week , Kafri introduces new entrées, such as vodka cheese ravioli with salmon ($14). This blink-and-you'll-miss-it spot has officially upped the ante on affordable, gourmet lunches.

Bo Legs BBQ photo

Barbecue should always begin and end with the nose. The smoky aroma will lead the way as you're cruising along NE 167th Street. When you arrive at Bo Legs, someone will be manning the grill and the chatty lady at the counter will ask you a million personal questions and provide you with these sage words: "Chicken is the weekday must-order item. Ribs are for the weekend." There you have it. Barbecue or jerk chicken is $7, and ribs are $9. The sauce is the key to the meat, so squirt away. Sides are $3 for small and $5 for large. The mac 'n' cheese is a favorite that boasts a tasty tang from Muenster cheese and plenty of pep from black pepper. Even after you lick your fingers, the scent lingers. Sniff on.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®