Whole fish
Whole fish

Niu Kitchen's plate-glass door is a portal from downtown to a land of tempranillo and mustard ice cream. Sometimes, when the place is packed, you have to stand with a glass of wine and a grumbling hobo a few steps away. But that's OK. You can admire what's to come. Inside, Niu is unlike anything in the area. Chef-partner Deme Lomas hails from Barcelona and brings with him the creativity that makes that city a jewel of Europe. The pocket-size space has played host to wahoo tartare ($16), house-made botifarra with white bean purée, and a dish called "ous" ($14) — where a pair of poached eggs is hidden in a bowl of potato foam crowned with crisped jamón ibérico and black truffle. After trying it, you'll never want a stale sandwich from a downtown café again.

Readers' choice: Zuma Contemporary Japanese Cuisine

Best Restaurant in North Miami-Dade

Basil Park

Tim Andriola is proof that plant-based diets are marketed all wrong. At Basil Park, the healthful, long-awaited followup to his long-standing Timo, even the most grease-obsessed heathens can get their fill. There are fish tacos packed with mahi-mahi and sour cream. Just don't tell your junk-food-loving companion that the tortillas are made of brown rice and that the tangy cream was culled from cashews. More than a dozen Joyce Farms chickens ($17 half, $30 whole) can be found in a gleaming rotisserie. Whether you opt for your bird to be doused in ají amarillo or a Hawaiian-inspired blend of pineapple, garlic, ginger, and soy, the skin will be just as crisp and unctuous as your favorite fried bird. The only difference is that you won't need a nap after eating it.

Café Pastis

For nearly two decades, Philippe Jacquet's Café Pastis has been a benchmark for Miami's bistros and neighborhood restaurants. It seems simple, but it's not. And inside his tiny dining room, which sits next to an even smaller kitchen, Jacquet allows you to eat in your own style. A crisp baguette, for example, can come with a generous smear of duck pâté ($11.50) or decked out as a classic croque-monsieur ($8.50). There are also hints of France's African incursion, such as a link of spicy, fragrant merguez sausage ($23.50) atop a bed of couscous, or chicken tagine, spiced with cumin, plumped apricots, and salty olives ($21.50).

Best Restaurant in Little Havana

Hy Vong

Hy Vong

Hy Vong may not seem to fit into cortadito-and-croqueta-packed Calle Ocho, but history extends past the fryer. Like so many Cubans who made Miami their home, owner Tung Nguyen fled a country in turmoil but brought along much of her homeland's greatness. Take her spring rolls outside and wolf them down while sitting on neon plastic stools and it's as though you're sitting on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. The cha gio have crisp, brittle shells containing a blistering hot pork-and-mushroom filling. The bánh cuôn's rice rolls are made fresh to order, packed with pork and sprinkled with sweet fried onions. So take a seat, and trade that mojo marinade for a splash of funky fish sauce. You won't regret it.

Oolite Restaurant & Bar

Kris Wessel's beloved barbecued shrimp are back. Inspired by his daughter's gluten sensitivity, the James Beard-nominated chef set out to offer his Florida, Caribbean, and New Orleans flavors without the much-maligned protein. It wasn't easy. Even the Worcestershire in the barbecue sauce at his now-shuttered Red Light Little River contained the stuff. But he has done it at Oolite. There's a rich mac 'n' cheese ($7) with cornflour noodles alongside crisp arepas filled with fried green tomato ($9). His curried goat ($22) could be the pride of Haiti, and all the richness is cut thanks to an infusion of guava in the hearty gravy. So much for boring gluten-free food.

Readers' choice: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

Toscana Divino

This ode to Italian regional cuisine was years in the making, but after finally opening in the heart of Brickell during 2012, Toscana Divino quickly became a standout thanks to the deft hand of executive chef Julian Baker. Don't miss his hand-rolled pastas like pici ($22) — thick, chewy spears immersed in a rich duck ragu with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese. Even heartier is the $98 porterhouse lovingly referred to as "La Fiorentina." It's sliced tableside and served with a hearty mixture of kale, white beans, and an ethereal, gently smoked potato purée. If the decisions are overwhelming, simply sit back and let the chef take control with a tasting menu (starting at $110 for two). All you'll have to do is fall into bed after staggering home.

Redlander Restaurant

Your best friend from college is coming to Miami and knows only about the tourist traps. So why would you take her to Ocean Drive? Head to the Redland so she can really see what South Florida is all about. Schnebly Redland's Winery's new restaurant, the Redlander, is helmed by venerable chef Dewey LoSasso. Each week, he creates a new menu that brings the best of SoFla to the table: produce from local farms, fish straight off boats in the Keys, and tropical fruits freshly picked off the trees. A recent menu included a tabbouleh salad ($6) made with spent grains from Schnebly's on-premises Miami Brewing Company, spicy guava glazed chicken wings ($9), and a crisp whole Florida snapper made for sharing ($38). Pair your meal with a bottle of unique tropical fruit vino made at the winery (hint: the guava is marvelous) or a Big Rod coconut ale brewed onsite, and you've just given your friend the most memorable taste of Miami.

Finka Table & Tap
Photo courtesy of Finka Table & Tap

When this hip restaurant first opened its doors in the middle of a shopping center anchored by a Publix on Coral Way, the throngs of people waiting to get a table extended beyond the parking lot. Among the excited chatter from hopeful customers was the phrase, "This restaurant feels like it belongs in Wynwood." It's too cool to be hidden away in a strip mall. But alas, that is the beauty — and brains — behind Finka Table & Tap. Had this restaurant settled anywhere other than the outskirts of West Kendall, the patrons might not be so willing to wait nearly two hours for a table. Yes, you read that right: two hours. Though the wait has typically been anywhere from 45 minutes to upward of 90 minutes (even on weekdays), each and every time we've visited, the service and food quality have been well worth it. Finka is the brainchild of siblings Jon and Eileen Andrade, whose parents own and operate the Miami staple Islas Canarias. As locals know, Islas cooks up authentic and delicious Cuban and Spanish food. At Finka, Jon and Eileen have fused traditional Cuban and Peruvian plates with Korean cuisine, and the result is bombtastic — like a flavor bomb going off in your mouth. A bomb you must patiently wait for.

There are many reasons to anticipate chef Dale Talde's new restaurant, slated to open this summer at the Thompson Miami Beach Hotel. The Top Chef alum and Culinary Institute of America graduate has worked with some heavy hitters, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and restaurateur Stephen Starr. Then he opened Talde in Brooklyn. There, the chef melded his formal training with his Filipino roots to create a menu filled with modern interpretations of Asian-American cuisine. One example: kung pao chicken wings that were named some of the best chicken wings in America by Food & Wine; pretzel pork and chive dumplings; and crisp oyster bacon pad thai, all of which cost well under $20 each. Talde promises he'll keep the prices low and the beer cold at his Miami outpost to attract locals, making us salivate at the mere thought of chowing down on his chow fun.

Best Restaurant to Bite the Dust

Shikany

Shikany

About a year before his Wynwood restaurant, Shikany, opened, chef Michael Shikany was working on the menu. Once service began, the restaurant, housed in a former warehouse space, wowed guests with its gorgeous decor and global cuisine. For dinner, Shikany used molecular gastronomy to turn out dishes that showed up on many an Instagram feed. Though the flavors backed up the presentation, Miami might not have been ready for the chef's multicourse degustation menus that deployed bacon dust, lavender mousse, and pumpernickel soil. The restaurant made several attempts to attract crowds, announcing brunch and new menu items, but ultimately, it shuttered one evening, and the chef announced he was looking to move to the Midwest. Our loss.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®