Best Gourmet Market 2015 | Made in Italy Gourmet | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Holly Wachowicz

With more than a dozen cured meats and nearly two dozen cheese varieties, Made in Italy Gourmet is antipasti nirvana. It's easy to get distracted by it all, and no one would blame you for falling face-first into your glass of white wine. Yet try to remain on task. You're here for the good stuff, for the supplies that will power you through the rest of the week. After you've had your fill of salumi, ask for the crate of items that represent different regions of Italy. The $99 box of goodies might be from Abruzzo, Apulia, or Emilia-Romagna. Whichever you choose, it's sure to improve your home-cooking game.

Once you enter Japanese Market, you'll understand why this family-run bazaar has been in business for three decades (despite its lack of a website and advertising). Sure, you might not be able to read any of the Asian labels, but that's part of the fun. Simply ask the Broken Shaker's Gui Jaroschy and local cocktail muse Cricket Nelson, who frequent this hidden gem for exotic ingredients to mix up libations. For you, there are oodles of noodles, dried shiitake mushrooms, fermented soybeans, and freezers stocked with fresh catch flown in from Japan's fish markets. Want uni? You got it. Eel? Done. Hamachi kama? Yep. Kurobuta sausage? It's here. Prices fluctuate, but you'll find things as cheap as two bucks to upward of about 20 and 30 for the delicacies and bottles of sake. You didn't think you were going to get out of this without sake, did you? Arrive early enough (before 5:45 p.m.) and you can score the highest-grade sushi in town at the counter. The market is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6.

You're late to a dinner party and don't want to show up empty-handed. Or maybe you'd like to pack a romantic picnic. Perhaps you want to wow your co-workers with the pasta salad you "made" for the potluck. For all of these food situations, there's a one-stop solution: Flavorish Market. It puts the "super" in "supermarket." This foodie mecca has a gourmet to-go section (empanadas for $3.25 and sandwiches for $8), a collection of cookbooks, wine and cheese with a designated expert, and specially curated groceries from local and international purveyors. You can pick up Zak the Baker sandwiches and loaves, homemade ravioli from Mimi's in Hollywood, and locally made ice pops alongside imported cheeses, wines, and other gourmet items. Want to get social? There's a series of events like winetastings and cookbook signings. If you want to enjoy Flavorish between visits, join its wine and organic produce clubs.

Mall food courts generally have nothing in common with fine dining. They are there to feed shoppers quickly so the masses can return to their favorite store's sale racks. You can find the usual flavorless options like sodium-laden lo mein, dried-out burgers, and that unidentifiable brown stuff called "bourbon chicken." That is unless you find yourself at Aventura Mall. This commercial juggernaut is quickly becoming a high-end mecca. Stores such as Fendi and Louis Vuitton share real estate with Lululemon and the Apple Store. Now the mall has upped the ante at its food court with the addition of GastroPod. Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog's commercial version of his Airstream food truck serves comfort food for locavores at fair prices. Arepas topped with goat cheese are $6, pulled pork tacos run two for $7, and a bowl of freshly made noodles costs $9. This is delicious, real food made right there — not at some chain restaurant commissary a thousand miles away. Before you head to the Apple Store to blow a few hundred bucks on that new watch, stop at GastroPod for a Mo' Betta burger. Having a full belly might make the fact that the item you want is on backorder a little easier to swallow.

Drive-thru windows are great. There's only one problem: These stay-in-your-car-while-you-purchase-something services are generally found only at fast-food chains or pharmacies. And while picking up a prescription in your jammies when you're sick is nice, it's even nicer to pick up a scorching bowl of sopa de pollo. That's where Sergio's comes in. Unless you've been living under a rock since 1975 when Sergio's was established, you know the family-owned Cuban joint and its ham croquetas. Fast-forward 30 years, and they're making dreams of pan con bistec and fritas on the fly come true with the first-ever Sergio's drive-thru. Etiquette here is the same as anywhere else — pull up, place your order, pull up some more, pick up food, and then fight the urge to eat said food till you get home. If you want to make things even speedier, you can call ahead to place your order as long as you know what your stomach desires (the whole menu is up for grabs). So next time you're craving vaca frita ($12.45), masas de puerco ($11.95), lechón asado ($10.50), or any other Cuban classics and don't feel like going out for a sit-down meal, drive up to Sergio's ventanita.

On its own, tequila might be a liquor feared by college students and those with weak stomachs. After a night of imbibing it, people often find themselves swearing off alcohol with the phrase "I'm never drinking again." That's utter nonsense. Be smart about your drink of choice and take your tequila like a man's man: in a fruity margarita. There's no denying the tastiness of a classic margarita — especially the elevated deliciousness of a frozen one — but R House in Wynwood takes the recipe a step further by adding an extra kick. The R House margarita ($12) uses jalapeño-infused Espolón tequila mixed with Cointreau, pineapple purée, and lime juice. At first, you won't feel the spicy ting of the pepper, but give it a few seconds and — boom — your mouth will be on fire, the good kind of fire.

Photo courtesy of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

It must be said: Hypochondriacs shouldn't be allowed to consume beets. Eating a beet salad or having a beet in your morning juice can color your bathroom activities in such a way that you believe you have internal bleeding. Your worry subsides only when you're driving yourself to the ER and recall your diet over the past 24 hours. Beets, you realize, are the culprit. The same edible root that turns borscht red can paint your insides. But when that stain touches Miami's favorite cocktail — the mojito — magic happens in the Magic City. The beet mojito ($13) at Sugarcane is the drink of dreams. Though the bar specializes in rum, it is the beet juice mixed with Bacardi Superior that enhances and elevates this beverage. The muddled mint is, so to speak, the cherry on top. This cocktail is herbaceous, rich, and flavorful, just like Miami. So go ahead and drink too many. Beets are good for you.

Readers' choice: Havana 1957

The Raleigh Hotel is a time machine. While other art-deco-era hotels have been glitzed up and glamorized by chains, the Raleigh looks as though Clark Gable or Katharine Hepburn would stroll in for a smart cocktail at any moment. An air of old-world glamor wafts throughout the resort. And the Raleigh's slightly secret Martini Bar is the epitome of Hollywood elegance. Cocktails are classic — you won't find dry ice or neon ice cubes — but you will have the perfect Vesper ($14), a cocktail invented by Ian Fleming for his 007 agent James Bond. There's also the Martinez ($13), thought to be the father of the classic martini. And, of course, there's the martini itself, dressed up with a blue-cheese-stuffed olive. Cocktails cost around $14, which is pricier than they were back in the 1940s, but consider this: They are much cheaper (and more obtainable) than a time machine.

Readers' choice: Prohibition Restaurant & Speakeasy

Photo courtesy of Genuine Hospitality Group

Sunday morning comes too quickly after a long Saturday night, and you remember you made plans to meet friends for brunch. The only thing that's saving your head from exploding is the thought of the kimchee bloody mary ($13) at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. The cocktail is made with Absolut Elyx, the brand's premium single-batch vodka that contains floral and peppery notes. Then the restaurant's house-made kimchee is added, along with a piquant bloody mary mix. Finally, the drink is garnished with a perfectly pink rock shrimp. This bloody mary is not in-your-face fiery, nor is it too salty. Instead, it's well balanced and beautifully layered. Each sip brings a discovery as your brain cells fire up and your senses return. It's much more than a brunch cocktail. It's revival in a glass.

Tea is often the underdog, its many fine qualities drowned out by the addictive lure of java from Starbucks and Keurig. However, tea is an art all its own — a peerless tradition with more complexity than most Lipton drinkers realize. And at the chic, softly lit Small Tea in Coral Gables, Miami's tea culture is coming into its own. Here, tea is serious business. A whopping 84 varieties are categorized by letters and numbers, and samples of each blend fill glass canisters that you can open and sniff. From ayurvedic to herbal, from Black Rose to Lavender Dream, there's a tea for every mood, taste, and ailment. Made using a steampunk machine — a cutting-edge device that allows baristas to control temperature, time, and agitation — each cup is a work of art. The cost is $3.21 for a small and $4.21 for a large — not too much to pay for the title of Serious Tea Drinker.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®