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.

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.

Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina
Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa

There are classic steak houses, there are modern steak houses, and then there's Bourbon Steak, which demands a category all its own. You know Michael Mina. He's the Michelin-starred toque who, besides running a restaurant empire, has uncovered the secret to the perfect steak: butter-poaching it and then slow-cooking it in a wood-fired grill to eliminate the bull's-eye effect. What does that mean? Every cut of beef is pristinely and evenly cooked from top to bottom but remains juicy. If you like fries with your steak (who doesn't?), you'll be pleased to know that suppertime begins with a well-seasoned trio (rosemary-herb, onion, and smoked paprika) of duck-fat potato slivers. It's on the house. Consider it Mina's way of welcoming you to his not-so-humble abode at Turnberry Isle Resort & Spa. Sure, the trek up to Aventura for a piece of meat might seem overly ambitious, but this is a meat lover's paradise. Even so, nonsteak offerings are copious. Check out the decadent Maine lobster potpie with brandied truffle or miso-glazed sea bass. It melts on the tongue. And even though you won't find the all-beef dry-aged burger doused with secret sauce on the dining room menu, order it anyway, along with the pillow-like beignets, which come with Macallan 18-year butterscotch dipping sauce. We told you this deserved a category all its own.

Readers' choice: Smith & Wollensky

Meat Market

Don't be deceived by the name — Meat Market isn't just a place for rare cuts of beef. The sexiest steak house in town also proffers the freshest local catch in all the land. Executive chef Sean Brasel prefers to eat and cook fish (although he might be reluctant to admit it). And it's the uncooked seafood that best evidences his prowess. Try the made-to-order daily ceviche, which tosses the morning's bait in a mélange of tropical and exotic ingredients ranging from ají amarillo to pineapple yuzu. Equally tantalizing is the tuna tartare with avocado smash and mango mole ($19) and the cedar-scented jalapeño hamachi drizzled with yuzu and white truffle ($19). If you happen to arrive on a good night (and during season), you might just score 17-ounce stone crabs. For a sure thing, a plethora of rotating East and West Coast oysters are shucked on the spot and served with Brasel's atomic horseradish. Slurp with caution. Still want red meat after all that? Opt for the Wagyu carpaccio or the Kobe tartare. Some like it hot. In Miami, we like it raw.

La Carreta

Buffets may be humankind's greatest culinary contribution. And nothing beats beginning your day with back-to-back servings of crisp bacon, scrambled eggs, buttery grits, and roasted potatoes. Oh, there's some Cuban food too. Though typical American breakfast items are certainly available at La Carreta's weekend breakfast buffet, the Hialeah outpost of Miami's largest chain of Cuban restaurants provides a Cuban spin on el desayuno, including croquetas, pastelitos, picadillo, and tostada con mantequilla. In addition to platos calientes, there are also fruits, cereals, and all sorts of baked goods. The buffet runs from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and includes café con leche. For only $9.45, you get a satisfying, banquete-style breakfast good enough for abuela.

Readers' choice: Toro Toro

Cold cuts are nice, but sausages are nicer. Since the early '70s, Cheryl Mainzer and her husband Ron have been tucking braunschweiger ($5.45) and bratwurst ($5.95) into steamed buns. If you happen to order one, trust us, the meat is in there; just look beneath the mound of warm sauerkraut. There's also a seemingly endless array of cured meats, salty smoked fish pastes, fresh-baked pretzels, and tangy liverwurst that you can get if you ask nicely. More important than all of that, however, is that Mainzer's is a home away from home for Miami's German community. Deutschlanders stroll in and out all day enthralled to find currywurst alongside those little chocolates they remember so well from childhood.

Jimmy's Eastside Diner
Photo by Aran S. Graham

The seedy Biscayne Boulevard of yore is a whole different place these days. There's the Vagabond, Starbucks, Michelle Bernstein's Cena, and too many new, cool stores to count. But there are some Miami favorites that were here a long time ago and will never go away. Jimmy's Eastside Diner, a boulevard tradition for decades, serves diner favorites like tuna melts, BLTs, and meatloaf at bygone prices. Clubgoers, strip club denizens, and Saturday breakfast club members alike will be happy to know Jimmy's opens at 6:30 a.m. and serves breakfast until closing at 4 p.m.

Readers' choice: Big Pink

The Café at Books & Books
Courtesy of the Café at Books & Books

Miami grows many other things besides skyscrapers. There's a whole world of fresh-farmed produce and meat out there, and plenty of skilled artisans are ready to put their inventive touch on every edible indulgence. Some of these fine folks have begun hanging out around the Arsht Center's beautiful steps every Monday afternoon. They offer their crops, wares, and finished dishes, but the real excitement is at the long table just behind the market, where adventuresome diners taste the best of Miami's homegrown fare for just $25 a head or $35 for unlimited wine with the meal. This isn't a bad deal at all. Each week, there's a different menu and selection, but everything is fresh and local. Let the good people at the Café at Books & Books know if you have special dietary restrictions, and they'll be happy to oblige. Even if you don't want to spend the extra money on wine, there's a complimentary cocktail pairing with at least one course. Get to know the farmers better when they come by to discuss their business. You'll be shocked to hear some of the stories and see what farmers are doing in our area. And you'll be stuffed with food so delicious you'll want to share this secret with all of your closest friends.

While many farmers' markets hibernate in the summer months, Pinecrest's weekly bazaar braves the brutal heat to keep Miamians stocked with locally sourced foodstuffs. Contrary to popular belief, plenty of South Florida produce hits its peak in the hottest months. It ranges from summer squash to mangoes to dragon fruit. Instead of spending Sunday in supermarket hell and overpaying for California-grown Monsanto stock, grab a reusable bag and unleash your inner locavore. Buy seasonal fruit and nutrient-rich leafy greens. Browse spiky bromeliads and pick up a jar of local honey to soothe those pesky allergies. Rip bite-size hunks from your freshly baked Zak the Baker sourdough, and thank the Miami gods you're not bumping carts with rude shoppers in an overly air-conditioned aisle. The affair runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday, year-round. But during the summer, arrive early to avoid heatstroke.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®