Thick, pillowy dough; oozing, melty cheese; earthy sautéed mushrooms and onions — this is the stuff of a mouthwatering Mellow Mushroom pizza. The one that's best, however, isn't your average pie; it's a veganized version of the spot's popular Holy Shiitake. Like many of the eatery's specialty pizzas, the HS can be altered for vegans. Skip the aioli, leave off the butter, and switch out the regular cheeses for Daiya and — voila! — you're in pizza heaven. Though not a vegan establishment, Mellow Mushroom goes out of its way for plant-based eaters. The kitchen staff stocks the nondairy Daiya, tempeh, tofu, and fruits and veggies in every color and flavor. Guests can even build their own creations. Beginning with the dough, the pizza masters slather each pie with Daiya ($1.50 extra on a small pie, $2.50 on a medium, and $3.50 on a large). Then they pair pineapple with jalapeños, artichoke hearts with sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli with tempeh — the sky's the limit. And it all tastes just as delicious as the meaty alternatives. Traditional pizzerias, eat your hearts out (but not really, because vegans believe in nonviolence).

Llewellyn's fried chicken with waffles and watermelon
Tracey-Ann Jarrett
Llewellyn's fried chicken with waffles and watermelon

Mac 'n' cheese might be universally loved, but not all is equal. By far, the most delicious variety is the traditional Southern kind. Rich in cheddar and baked piping-hot, this is a robust, casserole-like dish brimming with different textures. Open your individual crock at Yardbird and you'll find a multi-layered mac 'n' cheese. A semiburnt cheese crust is topped with cornbread crumbs for added texture. Poke it with a fork and you'll discover the creaminess within. You'll find no lobster bits or morel mushrooms. It is simply one of the most pleasurable experiences you'll ever consume. It will take you back to Sunday supper in the South — no matter where you're from.

Crumb on Parchment
Alexandra Rincon

Enter the atrium of the Melin Building in the Design District and you'll get a whiff of sweet, freshly baked pastries. Miami's culinary sweetheart, Michelle Bernstein, runs this cozy, shabby-chic café. Her mama is responsible for some of the baked goods. Because Bernstein is a longtime "friend in our head," we often imagine a life where we'd go to her house after school and her mom would make us grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and chocolate chip cookies. Crumb on Parchment brings this fantasy to life. The Gooey Grilled Cheese ($7.50), with melted fontina on buttered bread, melts our heart and takes us back to this childhood memory that we never quite had. If you don't feel like being kosher, add bacon for $2.25. If you wanna go crazy, add wild mushrooms for a dollar and think about that time you and Michy got busted with magic mushrooms in high school. We know, we are delusional, but it's a damn good sandwich.

If there were ever a sandwich in need of an ingredient-driven overhaul, it would be the Cuban. Alberto Cabrera was just the man to do it. He bakes the pan cubano daily at his Coral Gables spot Bread + Butter. He slow-roasts the pork for a dozen hours in a hulking red smoker. He makes the whole-grain mustard every day. Getting a Cuban ($12) here can take more than ten minutes, but it's worth it. His Elena Ruz ($8) includes slow-roasted turkey glazed until it develops a crisp, crackly exterior. The Reubencito ($10) pairs house-made pastrami with pork belly in a combination that will silence even the chattiest visitor. These sandwiches can stand toe-to-toe with those of Italy, Vietnam, and even Greece.

Nestled among the shops and restaurants along Biscayne Boulevard lies a tiny escape from the city that leads to a cozy green pasture called Lulu's Ice Cream. Wooden panels cover the walls, and picturesque wooden tables delicately accented with fresh flowers fill the room. There's only one thing that could make this atmosphere sweeter: ice cream. Using all-natural ingredients, Lulu's Ice Cream combines the scientifically awesome power of nitrogen with delicious options like Nutella and coffee to create concoctions so rich and creamy it's a sin to have only one scoop. Not only is the shop both adorable and enjoyable, but also the food is all about being natural. Chalked on the blackboard wall beneath the pale light of a red lantern is the story: "We work with local farmers to bring you the freshest ingredients... We use liquid nitrogen to freeze your ice cream on the spot." Cool down one summer afternoon at Lulu's with some heavenly Nutella ice cream in a freshly made waffle. Two scoops are $5, and a pint costs $11.

Even before it reached Miami Beach, Freddo was a big deal. Its helado had tempted taste buds in Argentina with its hand-crafted creaminess since 1969. When the company announced its foray into Miami, locals swooned at the mere thought of this frozen perfection. So what makes Freddo so outstanding? It could be that it's made from fresh, hormone-free milk, pure cane sugar, fruits, and other natural and raw ingredients. No artificial flavors, colorings, or preservatives here! But it's really all about the taste and texture. The helado is far creamier than others. The flavors are rich and tasty without being overly sweet. So when you dig into your dark-chocolate cone, you're getting the flavor of the chocolate, not a sugar-masked substitute. But what really sets Freddo apart is its panini — a scoop of chocolate helado heat-sealed inside a Hawaiian roll. It's way beyond an ice-cream sandwich. It's the most delectable food-engineering marvel in the world.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®