Sweetness Bakeshop & Cafe
Alex Broadwell

The cupcake is the ideal dessert. It's a personal cake, not too big, nor is it too sweet and chewy like a cookie or brownie. But don't settle for the basic — that's so 2000s. In the 2010s, desserts come in weird mashups (cronut, anyone?). At Sweetness Bake Shop, the selection of cupcakes is not only unique (and uniquely Miami) but also impressive enough to put a smile on any kid's face. Cupcake flavors change daily, so prepare for the unexpected (or just check the website). One regular is the guayabera: a cupcake filled with guava and topped with cream-cheese frosting. For some extra mouthwatering sweetness, visit the shop's Instagram account, @sweetnessbakes.

Few things are better than sitting in an opulent Louis the XIV-style Parisian bakery. War, peace, the latest hemline — none of this matters. The only real question in such a place is whether you want your macaron with wisps of rose petals or lemon zings. Mike Mayta and Keily Vazquez, the couple behind roving sweets seller Illegal Bakery, turn this hoity-toity experience on its head. They sell delicate, sugary little sandwiches for breakfast in the flavors of Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Cap'n Crunch. Later in the day, they peddle a more refined selection, such as jasmine, strawberries, and champagne, or chocolate and cardamom ($24 for a dozen). The pair, regulars at pop-ups and farmers' markets, recently joined the kitchen at Michelle Bernstein's Cena, but there are no plans to get off the sweet train anytime soon — they'll still sell macarons at farmers' markets around town.

Various locations in Miami-Dade; illegalbakery.com

Traymore Restaurant & Bar
Courtesy of Traymore

Decadent desserts belong in hotels, perhaps because you have to walk only a short distance to your room after the sugar high crashes. At Traymore, in the Metropolitan Miami Beach by Como, executive pastry chef Emanuel Alves brings a sense of wonder to sweets. He plays with texture in exciting ways. Take, for instance, the passionfruit cannelloni ($12): It differs from a traditional cannoli because it uses a sesame-seed tuile as the shell, which comes stuffed with passionfruit cream instead of ricotta or pistachio. His desserts are different nuts to crack. The orange-chocolate texture ($15) is bold and tart with a blood-orange sorbet and rock-lava coulis and crunchy crepe flakes. The deconstructed lemon pie has strawberry foam and spicy piquillo pepper ice cream to pique your interest. Come for dinner, but stay for desserts so addictive you might have to check in to the hotel for a night.

Readers' choice: Barton G the Restaurant

You expect fried chicken, green bean casserole, fried okra, and good old Deep South fixings at any Southern restaurant. Though Crackers Casual Dining serves some of the Magic City's tastiest finger-licking, country-inspired comfort food, the Miami Springs eatery takes home the blue ribbon for its fried bread pudding ($5.95). Cut into cubes, deep-fried to perfection, and served on a warm platter with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, Crackers' fried brioche bursts with flavor. With a crisp, golden outer layer and a soft, creamy center swirling with cinnamon sugar and just the right amount of raisins, this bread pudding melts in your mouth. Sure, this dessert is large enough to share with the table, but after one bite, you'll want it all for yourself, no matter how stuffed you may be.

Fireman Derek's Bake Shop
Photo courtesy of Fireman Derek's Bake Shop

You know the saying: Firefighters make darn good pie. No? Well, it should be a saying considering fireman Derek Kaplan bakes the most luscious ones in town. Kaplan's story began with an affinity for baking at the age of 15. Then he grew into a six-foot-tall college football player and, after graduation, took a job as a firefighter at Miami's Fire Rescue Station 1. But between putting out blazes and rescuing cats from trees, he turned a rundown Wynwood storehouse into a vibrant bakery. It's a sliver of a space, but its mural of psychedelic pies is just the right way to illustrate his flagship creation: the key lime pie. Everything is done in-house using the good stuff — from the buttery graham cracker crust to the plump key limes (he and his crew go through 300 to 400 pounds per week). It's easy as pie to take home a whole one for $25 to $30. Want to practice sweet restraint? A single slice will set you back $5.40 — but good luck eating just one.

Blue Collar
Photo courtesy of Blue Collar

Danny Serfer is the slick of mayo inside a Taleggio-and-Gouda-stuffed grilled cheese. He's the dollop of caviar atop scrambled eggs and white bread. Junk food and highbrow ingredients don't exist for this South Florida-born-and-raised chef. Everything is delicious. First came the Allen Susser protégé's diner-style Blue Collar, with gut-busting sandwiches and parm portions large enough to strike fear in the heart of the sturdiest Italian-American grandmother. Next came Mignonette, a seafood bar that shamelessly offers caviar alongside fried shrimp. Serfer's greatest success is his ability to vacillate between borderline-stoner grub and pinkie-out cuisine while consistently delighting diners. Only with Serfer can you relish crawfish gumbo and foie gras in the same meal.

Readers' choice: Michael Schwartz

Makoto

In Miami, it seems everyone is from somewhere else. But not everyone embraces this wacky, sun-and-drama-soaked city like Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr. He has opened restaurant after restaurant that has added whole new dimensions to the subtropical diet. First came Makoto, his pristine Bal Harbour Japanese spot where Morimoto protégé Makoto Okuwa plies some of the city's freshest fish. Next came Verde and Ted's at YoungArts, two eateries that are helping to fuel and spread downtown Miami's cultural renaissance. Soon to arrive will be the Continental, a midcentury-Philly import that will give Miami Beach some Mad Men flair. So go ahead, have a three-martini-and-club-sandwich lunch. Tell your boss that Starr said so.

The Restaurant at the Setai

The Restaurant at the Setai is where you go when you want to impress a date. Start at the hotel's bar for the signature chili passion martini, made with passionfruit purée and topped with chili flakes ($18). Then sit down to dinner in the exquisite dining room, where servers will dote on you. A stool for the lady's purse? Of course. A suggestion about wine from the sommelier? Easy. An anniversary celebration that needs some champagne or a special confection at the end of the meal? They will take care of it. The service at the Setai is spot-on but subtle. Your needs are anticipated without fanfare. Water glasses are filled, and dietary restrictions (gluten-free, ovo-lacto vegetarians, we're talking to you) are handled with grace. After you're finished with your meal, don't be surprised if your server offers a tour of the courtyard and grounds. That's just how it's done in this ultra-sophisticated paradise.

Readers' choice: The Forge

Miami is seriously lacking fresh, delicious doughnuts, but that wasn't always the case. In 1947, a man named Jim Hadler had a vision that the world (the Magic City, specifically) could use a good doughnut and set about making one. Almost immediately, people were smitten with the warm glazed pastries. For about 50 years, multiple generations of Miamians heartily ate Velvet Crème doughnuts. Then, in 2000, an illness in the family led to the closing of the neat retro red-and-white-striped shops, and the city fell into what is known as "the end of doughnut times." But you can't keep a good pastry down. Velvet Crème has been revived by Krista Rios and her family. While Rios works on opening a brick-and-mortar shop, possibly in Coral Gables, the Velvet Crème food truck circles town, selling powdered, cream-filled, cake, and glazed doughnuts, as well as the signature round John, a cream-filled, chocolate-frosted number. Each doughnut costs about a dollar, which itself is something of a miracle (when was the last time a buck bought you anything)? To find out where the truck will be next, follow it on Instagram (@VelvetCremeDoughnuts) or Facebook (facebook.com/VelvetCremeDoughnuts).

Various locations; 954-609-0576; velvetcremedoughnuts.com

Readers' choice: Ms. Cheezious

Jefe's Soul Shack

The movie Chef, starring and directed by Jon Favreau, was inspired by the real-life Miami food truck Jefe's Original Fish Taco & Burgers. For years, this truck served the best fish tacos ($2.35) in Miami. They were Ensenada-style, meaning the fish was fried with crisp beer batter and topped with pico de gallo, crema, and cabbage on soft flour tortillas with a squeeze of lime. Now, at the Soul Shack in North Miami, you can get these tacos whenever the craving hits — no need to chase the truck or stalk its Twitter feed. What's better? You get an expanded menu with sandwiches, salads, beers, and wines. You also can dine in or take out. It's a restaurant you want to root for — for real!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®