Wynwood Diner

A blend of old-fashioned, trendy, and nostalgic vibes, along with comfort food, makes for the perfect diner. Wynwood Diner is a little different but somehow is still a classic. The eatery adds an artistic and swank feel. Picture it as a trendier version of your great-grandmother's living room — clean, not overly contemporary, and weirdly chic. The space is expansive, offering indoor, outdoor, and bar seating. The menu is traditional with a few twists. Dishes include brisket sliders ($11), a bacon wedge salad ($9), chicken and waffles ($14), and a bevy of sandwiches and burgers combining ingredients such as Gruyère cheese, Fresno chilies, and grilled zucchini. Be sure to pair your order with the Brussels sprouts dish ($8), one of the restaurant's bestsellers. It combines apricot, hazelnut, ginger, and orange soy into a bowl of crunchy, half-burnt sprouts. There's often a wait, so plan accordingly.

Readers' choice: Big Pink

Few places in Miami have been around as long as Kosher Kingdom. And there's no place like it. Try the buttery, chocolate-laced rugelach or slices of smoked, delicious salty sable. Fred Einhorn opened the first Kosher Kingdom in 1952 on Washington Avenue in Miami Beach. It was a time when you could barely take a step without finding a kosher household. Then, as much of South Beach's Jewish community moved north, Fred's son Mike headed for Aventura. No matter where the deli is located, it's the place to be for hard-to-find classics such as mushroom barley soup ($6.99) and a half-dozen casseroles called kugel, made with noodles ($7.99), zucchini ($7.99), or potato ($6.99). Refuse to try the stuff? You might find yourself being force-fed house-made gefilte fish ($12.99) by a fawning waitress.

Ginza Japanese Buffet
Perfecto Mariano

The whole point of dining at a buffet is to eat until they kick you out. So whether you need to refuel after kayaking at Oleta River State Park or desire a new celebratory spot, there's no better place than Ginza Japanese Buffet. This all-you-can-eat experience has a modern-day-cafeteria feel: pleasant and easy to navigate. Red lanterns hanging over each station guide guests to a smorgasbord of surf-and-turf delicacies. Start at the neatly arranged sushi bar manned by sushi chefs ready to restock colorful rows. Then let your nose guide you through myriad pan-Asian delights, from deep-fried sesame balls and tempura shrimp to miso-glazed salmon and lo mein. Or maybe you'll try the made-to-order hibachi station. Don't mind getting your hands dirty? Get to crackin', peelin', and slurpin' fresh crab legs, shrimp, and oysters. And if you don't have any room left for dessert, make some. Expect to pay $11.95 for lunch Monday through Friday and $12.95 Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dinner costs $18.95 Monday through Thursday and $20.95 Friday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Readers' choice: Rusty Pelican

Noodles with spicy peppers and sliced pork
billwisserphoto.com
Noodles with spicy peppers and sliced pork

You want chilies? Alan Zhang's got chilies. The soft-spoken owner of this West Dade Chinese spot has emblazoned his walls with the fiery peppers. In the kitchen, there's a gurgling pot bearing his signature chili oil. It's filled with an unholy mountain of the firecrackers, a handful of numbing Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, and star anise pods. The rest is a secret. Find it throughout his menu, adding fragrant spice to almost every dish. He spoons it over thick, jiggly noodles ($7.95) made of soybean and tapioca starch. He uses it to braise shards of fatty beef that join boiled cabbage in a ripping-hot stew ($13.95). In Zhang's crowning dish, the oil is spiked with more dried chilies and then used to stir-fry pickled string beans with garlic slivers and minced beef intestine ($12.98). Sure, there's sweat cascading down your brow, your face is on fire, and your eyes are bloodshot and beginning to tear. Most normal people would ask for a glass of water, maybe even milk, to quash the heat. But not now. Now you want more chili oil.

Readers' choice: Tropical Chinese Restaurant

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

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®