Best Inexpensive Italian Restaurant

Pane e Vino

Spaghetti al pomodoro
CandaceWest.com
Spaghetti al pomodoro

Perhaps you're the fortuitous progeny of no-nonsense Italians who would rather be nailed to a cross than served dried pasta. If you're not that lucky, head to Española Way. Yes, Española Way. There, Sicilian-born chef GianPaolo Ferrera plies guests with more than a half-dozen handmade pastas that could entice anyone to re-embrace gluten and carbs like two long-lost cousins. There are also lovable red-sauce classics like chicken Parmigiana ($18), pounded thin and fried up crisp. The hefty lamb shank ($29), which takes a long, slow braise in red wine before it collapses into a delicious mess, is also a fine choice. Then there's the wine. A dozen options by the glass, all for $8 or less, have been culled from all over Italy's boot. Bottles of reds and whites from France and Italy are offered for under $30. Meanwhile, the only pasta that crests the $20 mark is the ravioli filled with ricotta and Parmesan and then sprinkled with a flurry of black truffle. Otherwise, it's a wonderland of tagliatelle, cavatelli, gnocchi, and fiocchetti. They pair best with stretchy pants.

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Steve++Satterwhite
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The Indian food most Americans know comes from that country's north, in a region today called the Punjab. It was the seat of British imperialism in India and thus its cuisine migrated back to the United Kingdom and eventually America. At Imlee, brothers Manoj and Paresh Bhatti offer pristine interpretations of many well-known and loved Punjabi classics. There are vegetarian favorites like dal makhani ($14.95), featuring a variety of lentils in a fragrant blend of spices and shocked with a pad of butter before being served. Paneer, a wildly popular homemade cheese, is slathered in a rich, creamy almond sauce ($15.95) or covered in a forest-green sauce made from spinach and hefty doses of garam masala, turmeric, and cumin. There are, of course, more exotic choices such as lamb do pyaza ($24.95). The thick, onion-tinged gravy offers sweet notes that pair perfectly with the meat's gaminess. There's also an escape to India's south with a Goan fish curry ($19.95) that douses firm-fleshed whitefish in a spicy, intoxicating coconut mixture.

Mykonos Greek Restaurant
Natalia Molina

Just because you can't go to Mykonos doesn't mean you can't go to Mykonos, in Miami that is. We're referring to the decades-old restaurant on Coral Way that serves authentic Greek fare at affordable prices. The gyros — available on a platter ($11.95) or individually ($7.95) — are the most popular items, and for good reason. Mykonos Greek Restaurant knows how to make the lamb perfectly tender and proffers some of the finest tzatziki in town. If you think tzatziki makes everything better, you're right. Other favorites include the aromatic chicken and lemon soup ($4.95) and the vegetarian moussaka ($9.95). Cap it all off with some Greek wine and baklava ($3.50). You'll forget you haven't actually left the 305.

N by Naoe
Zachary Fagenson

As soon as you eye your bento box, there's a problem. Where to start? This is the only option proffered by chef Kevin Cory, so you'd better be smart. A dozen little compartments carefully hold uni, tofu — is that battera? You're dizzy, right? Take a moment to breathe. Hold on, take it slow. Think while you savor lobster and avocado. Take a sip of corn miso, then seaweed with shiso. It's all followed up by nutty rice with bamboo. Next, move to kingfish, steamed and quite light. Follow with pork jowl, a meaty little bite. Now you think you're done, and you're sad. But then sweetened rice dumplings appear with whatever fruit happens to be in season. Douse them with matcha, an earthy green tea, then pause to realize you now know what lunch should be.

Cake Thai Kitchen
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

Try to sound it out slowly: Phuket Thongsodchaveondee ("poo-ket tong-so-cha-ven-dee"). Got it? Good. Now you know who's saving Miami from peanut-buttery pad thais and so-called curries containing little more than jarred paste and canned coconut milk. Thongsodchaveondee's tiny Biscayne Boulevard spot is covered with ads for superhero movies ripped out of Thai magazines. The offerings scribbled on a chalkboard menu demand a double take. There's branzino in orange curry ($25); fresh, flat noodles with grilled pork shoulder in a thick, savory miso broth ($10); and fried rice studded with chunks of fermented pork sausage ($9). The cook, who formerly worked at Bal Harbour's famed Makoto, learned much of his art from his father, who once owned a hotel in Phuket Province, known for its azure waters. Perhaps Miami's similarly stunning beaches are what drew Thongsodchaveondee to the Magic City. Whatever happened, we're glad he brought the flavors of home with him.

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Jonathan++Postal
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West Miami-Dade's Lung Gong Restaurant has long been adored for its blue menu, which proffers palate-searing Sichuan-style cuisine. While the squeamish can dine on all the General Tso's chicken they like, enthusiasts can select from plates of shredded pig ear in black bean sauce ($12.95) and claypot pork braised with chestnuts ($13.95). The place recently got a new owner, but don't fret. Manager Jim Liu, husband of owner Yingxi Wang, says longtime favorites such as whole snapper cooked in a numbing combination of dried peppers and Sichuan peppercorns ($16.98) will stick around.

Readers' choice: Tropical Chinese

Speedily spirit your Shanghai soup dumplings ($7.99) away from Dumpling King. The aim is to get them home once they've cooled just a bit. When you're safely away from judging eyes, you can pierce the little pouches, releasing their glossy broth for your sipping enjoyment. You're at home, so feel free to slurp as loudly as you like. Nor must you contain the pain of an inevitable burn. Then move on to little fried purses filled with pork and pak choi ($6.99) or a bowl of scalding-hot mapo tofu ($6.99). If you're smart, you remembered to bring home sweet taro bubble tea ($4) to cool things down.

South Garden Chinese

It seems Miami's Sinophiles forget about South Garden despite the fact it offers both Americanized Chinese and more traditional fare. So take something to go. Once you're home, no one can judge you for scarfing down ten sticky honey chicken wings ($6.95). No one will see when you follow that with salty sliced fish in rice porridge called congee ($5.75) or a spider-like Dungeness crab that's been wok-fried with ginger and scallions. You won't have to hide when you gobble up South Garden's black mushrooms and bok choy ($10.95). Heck, now that you think about it, be proud! You're eating some seriously awesome Chinese chow.

Our bodies are our temples. That fact is easy to forget while downing tequila shots and eating croquetas. But Temple Kitchen can offer your cuerpo some TLC to keep going. The food here tastes good and is good for you. Try the cozy Curry Favor hot pot ($11), brimming with red chilies, fresh mushrooms, eggplant, edamame, coconut milk, and green curry. Or sip the seriously strong Just Ginger Elemental Elixir ($3) — a fantastically spicy pure ginger shot. There are also smoothies, juices, infused waters, soups, and more. Creative types can make their own salads or bowls, so the blue sky is the limit as far as plant-strong sustenance. Temple Kitchen's motto is "Joy to the Food," so you know you're in good hands.

Best Middleterranean Restaurant

Cleo

In case you're unsure, "Middleterranean" is a relatively new term used to describe the dining trend of combining foods from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and North Africa. Think Mediterranean staples such as vegetables, olive oil, and fish but with the addition of exotic spices and flavors. In Miami, Danny Elmaleh's fun and affordable Cleo flawlessly executes this type of cuisine. The mezzes (small plates) are intended for sharing, but when the merguez ($7) comes out, you may want to steal the spicy beef and lamb sausage from your friends. His labneh ($8), a yogurt-based dip with feta, tastes like velvet. It's perfect with a warm piece of za'atar-seasoned laffa bread. Chef Elmaleh is half-Japanese and half-Moroccan, and the Israeli-born toque's enthusiasm for his heritage shows in his dishes. The Moroccan-inspired decor with touches of Hollywood glamor is the ideal backdrop for another crowd favorite: chicken cooked in a ceramic pot known as a tagine ($16). Kudos for taking a chance on Miami, Cleo.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®