Canton Palace
Maureen Aimee Mariano

A pint of egg drop soup ($2.59) can warm the soul. An order of beef with black pepper ($14.99) opens the sinuses. A half-dozen barbecued spare ribs ($9.29) fills your belly. The fare at Canton Palace works wonders on the body, and you can even take it to go. If you're a regular, experienced waiters have your favorite orders memorized. If you're a newcomer, they're happy to recommend dishes ranging from dim sum platters to Szechuan delights and authentic Cantonese dishes to best suit your palate. Exploring on your own may lead to unexpected territory, but what the hell! It's worth a try. In any case, this stuff is best appreciated in the confines of your own home. Call for take-out Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. or Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.

Empire Szechuan Gourmet of New York

When it comes to great Chinese takeout, there aren't many places in Miami that rival the eateries in the Big Apple. But North Miami's Empire Szechuan Gourmet of New York is as close as the 305 can get. It's cheap, it's fast, and it's delicious, which are three aspects of every great carry-out Chinese restaurant. The menu is the size of a small novel and lists every Asian-inspired dish your stomach might crave. There are dumplings, rolls, noodles, salads, soups, and rice, along with meats such as sweet-and-sour chicken ($10.95), moo shu pork ($11.95), pepper steak ($12.95), and Mongolian beef ($13.95). Portions are large enough to last four to five sittings, and if you're sharing, simply order one of each because it's bound to be enough. The restaurant offers weekly lunch platters too, where $6.45 to $9.45 gets you meat, rice, vegetables, and an egg or spring roll.

Little Saigon
Carina Ost

Vietnamese restaurants make up a very small part of Miami's culinary scene, so you have to know where to look for authentic cuisine. Enter Little Saigon. Although the exterior may be a bit deceiving, this North Miami Beach eatery has been serving no-frills Vietnamese at bargain prices since 1996. The menu offers a huge assortment of specialties, including phenomenal bowls of pho that range from $6.50 to $8.95. The goi cuon spring rolls ($3.95) are as fresh as they come, with see-through wrappers packing in delightful tastes of shrimp, pork, vermicelli, mint, and lettuce. From a hot serving of chao thit bo (beef congee soup) for $6.50 to dui ga nuong (a quarter leg of tender fried chicken) for $6.95, guests are guaranteed to leave with their stomachs and wallets full. Little Saigon is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 11:30 p.m.

Moshi Moshi

This South Beach staple is a consistent and excellent stop for lunch, dinner, or a crazy late night. It serves until 5 every morning. The menu includes more than 60 appetizers ranging from tempuras to seaweed salads to a variety of miso soups. The entrées range in price from $8 for a bowl of udon noodles in clear broth to $32 for grilled lobster. The standout at Moshi Moshi is the selection of sushi, which is always imaginatively served, with prices varying from $6 for tuna or yellowtail rolls to $24 for a lobster roll consisting of lobster tail tempura, cream cheese tempura, cucumber, mango, and asparagus. The sake menu is extensive, and be sure to save room for dessert: green tea tiramisu and cheese cake tempura.

Cantina la Veinte
billwisserphoto.com

Brickell's Cantina La Veinte crafts Mexican favorites like tortillas, tostadas, and rice and beans in a gourmet and glamorous way. The large menu lacks staples such as burritos and enchiladas, but executive chef Santiago Gomez offers inventive twists. Dishes including tostadas de stone crab ($27), made with habanero mayo, green apple, and cilantro; tostadas de atun ($24), which uses fresh tuna marinated in a yellow-pepper-lime-soy sauce; and dobladitas de jaiba suave ($24), a deep-fried soft-shell crab taco served in a flour tortilla pooled in a green jalapeño sauce, blend Mexican flavors with an epicurean approach.

La Palma Calle Ocho
Maureen Aimee Mariano

As you drive on SW Eighth Street toward the hub of Calle Ocho, there's one building in particular that lets you know you're almost at the epicenter of Miami's Cuban culture. On your left-hand side near Sixth Avenue stands a structure with a white roof and orange walls. Its towering sign featuring a prominent palm tree attracts the eye. La Palma Restaurant (not to be confused with one by the same name in Coral Gables) is a 37-year-old establishment that serves your abuela's homestyle Cuban cooking. Try the lechón asado. It comes with rice and beans as well as yuca for $8.50. Every day features three specials. Favorites are Monday's carne con papas ($8.95), Wednesday's tamal en cazuela con maduro ($5.99), and Sunday's chicken and rice ($8.50). For the most popular dessert, check out the churro y chocolate ($2). While other restaurants remodel their menus or interior designs, La Palma keeps things classic and homey. It even serves food in red plastic baskets. The coffees and hot chocolates come in thick white ceramic mugs that are just warm enough to the touch. Hipster cutting boards and Mason jars, get outta here.

Readers' choice: Versailles Restaurant

33 Kitchen
Courtesy of 33 Kitchen

33 Kitchen in Coconut Grove is an Asian-leaning Peruvian restaurant helmed by chef-owner Sebastian Fernandez and his wife, Leslie Ames. The genesis of the casual 45-seat eatery's name has something to with its zip code, the boiling point of water, and the number of vertebrae in the human spine. But more important than the name is the food, and Chilean-born Fernandez is no stranger to the kitchen. In the "cold" tapas section, a highlight is the seared tuna with soba noodles, avocado, scallions, and miso ($16). Silky noodles wrap around fresh pieces of tuna, while a rich peanut and ají amarillo sauce tie it all together. The chef's chaufa, Peruvian-style fried rice, bursts with flavor and a pleasant hint of smokiness ($13). It tastes very much like Chinese fried rice and can be ordered with chicken, shrimp, or beef. Another winner is the grilled octopus, proffered with a creamy olive sauce and boniato chips ($14). There's only one ceviche on the menu, but what's most refreshing about this place is its focus on being different — 33 concentrates on being great.

Pueblito Viejo
Photo by Ricardo Rubio/Imagen Beyond

Life in Miami can be pretty surreal. But a trip to this Bird Road eatery takes it to a whole new level. The tame-looking wooden exterior belies a colorful and dreamlike interior that transports visitors to the Andean countryside. Flowers, stuffed dolls, instruments, flags, and traditional Colombian clothing hang from the ceilings, while paintings, photographs, and a seemingly endless array of knickknacks line the walls. And the food on your plate is as delicious as the ambiance is enchanting. Start with an arepa or gordito, followed by a churrasco or bandeja pueblito — the latter being the restaurant's version of the famed bandeja paisa, a generous plate of beans, rice, fried pork rinds, beef, sweet plantains, avocado, and a fried egg. Finish it off with a sweet Colombian-style milk pudding called postre de natas. Not enough? A musical act or comedy show will most likely entertain you during your meal.

An old Argentine saying goes that when you're giving it all you've got, you've thrown all your meat on the grill. But at Kendall's La Nueva Argentina, you can have any cut of meat you want — straight from the parrilla and without having to sacrifice every dollar in your wallet. A favorite among office types and asado-loving Argentines alike, La Nueva Argentina's astounding daily lunch special offers diners 12 exceptionally grilled cuts of meat, ranging in price from $8.99 to $17 per plate. A juicy, eight-ounce bife de chorizo, identifiable among gringos as NY strip steak, is offered for just $13 and comes with French fries, a simple salad, and rice. Other favorites are milanesa a la napolitana ($23.99 at dinner), a thinly sliced cut of chicken or veal that's breaded, lightly fried, and then layered with ham, gobs of tomato sauce, and mozzarella. And La Nueva Argentina isn't just for eating in: Die-hard asadores know that the adjacent butcher shop is among the best in Miami, offering prime cuts of meat at this spot's signature affordable prices. It's open daily from 11:30 a.m to 10 p.m.

Barbe-Cuban
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
Barbe-Cuban

If you want a bite of Denise Paredes' baho ($10), you'd better ask in advance. Weeks in advance. In fact, there's a waiting list for it pinned to the icemaker at Las Mercedes Restaurant. The hopeful line up, desperate for this taste of home. This stomach-distending casserole is Central America's analog to Italy's timpano. A verdant banana leaf replaces the massive round of pasta dough. Indeed, there's no pasta, meatballs, or sausage here. Instead, spears of yuca are boiled into submission with heaps of garlic. Then come mounds of sliced beef brisket, ripe and unripe plantains, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and orange and lime juices. The whole thing is sealed up and boiled for hours. When it emerges, top it with the fermented cabbage slaw called encurtido, and dig in. But wait, before you do, secure yourself a good spot for the post-baho nap. Paredes says she makes it only once a month because it's so time-consuming. But the truth is, the stern master of this cafeteria knows sending her regulars back to their jobs in a food coma would be bad for business.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®