Miami Squeeze
Courtesy of Miami Squeeze

Fried food that's healthy for you? Yep, that's falafel! OK, it may not be the healthiest (because fried), but considering a scale that includes deep-fried Oreos, you have hit gold. At Miami Squeeze, an open-air eatery right off the railroad tracks on West Dixie Highway, Leron Shaaltiel and his crew have mastered the recipe to get crisp shells and soft, grainy interiors. What's inside? A mix of chickpeas, cilantro, garlic, parsley, and spices. Slather on some homemade sauce — oh, and there are many, from tahini and garlic dill mayo to curry and tzatziki — and they're ready to go! Eat these Middle Eastern treats in a salad ($8.95), pita sandwich ($7.95), or wrap ($8.95) or by themselves ($5.95); then wash them down with juice. After all, this place is called Miami Squeeze. So pair healthy eats with healthy drinks and choose from an array of wheatgrass concoctions and fresh-squeezed juices that go for $5.95 for a 16-ounce cup and $24.95 for a half-gallon. Here's to eating and squeezing your way to health! Miami Squeeze is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Cardon y El Tirano
billwisserphoto.com

Francisco Anton's arepas are hidden treasures scattered throughout the menu inside Calle Ocho's Cardón y El Tirano. A troupe of them lines up in his arepitas ($11), waiting to be topped with the supple, salty white cheese called queso guayanes, followed by clams, mussels, tiger shrimp, and a dollop of avocado cream. They were also the foundation of his mariscada ($45); though no longer on the menu, the standout featured nearly a half-dozen of the neat yellow corn rounds sitting under succulent langoustines, heads-on shrimp, and fried squid — along with sofrito and guasacaca for dipping. There's no secret here. Like all others arepas, they're made of cornmeal, salt, and warm water. But unlike so many that are heated and scored on a griddle, these are plunked into Anton's vat of hot oil. Like magic, the insides fluff up like cumulonimbus clouds as their shell hardens to a crisp yellow crust. The only trick is making them stay out of your mouth.

Coyo Taco
aolivaphotography.com

This neighborhood taqueria has quickly become a Wynwood staple since its December 2014 opening, attracting hoards of hungry, Mexican-craving eaters to its quaint, artistically driven spot. Coyo Taco prides itself on being the freshest Mexican street food around, making it affordable, fast, hearty, and, most important, delicious. Guacamole is smashed to order, ingredients are locally sourced, and tortillas are made from scratch. Though the menu is taco-driven, the eatery lets diners convert taco orders into burritos, salad bowls, and burrito bowls. Menu items range from $3 to $12 and include unique ingredient pairings such as chicken and roasted pineapple, crispy duck and serrano salsa, and quinoa, queso falafel, and cucumber pico. Make your Coyo experience boozy by visiting the backroom; it hides a small bar that offers more than 50 tequila varieties.

Beefy Korean burrito
Dylan Rives
Beefy Korean burrito

When you imagine a burrito, don't limit yourself to a traditional tortilla-beans-meat-cheese concoction. At downtown's Burrito San, the classic Mexican dish is fused with a sushi concept to create the burrito-roll, a fist-size bite that you never knew you needed until now. Ten rolls, priced between $9 and $12, blend grilled meats, fresh vegetables, and a bevy of spices and sauces to create the ultimate burrito mashup. Guest favorites include the Buddha's Belly ($9.50), which combines roasted portobello mushrooms, crunchy eggplant, avocado, shredded carrots, organic greens, and garlic miso sauce. There's also the Mt. Fuji ($12), which uses raw tuna, avocado, crunchy wontons, masago caviar, and mango sauce. Or try the Filipino Breakfast ($10.50), which mixes braised pork, scrambled eggs, roasted garlic cloves, pickled onion, organic greens, and banana ketchup.

Readers' choice: Coyo Taco

Neme Gastro Bar
billwisserphoto.com

"Hey, Ketchup, it's me, French Fries. Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. It's been a crazy week of cutting, blanching, soaking, and frying. Yeah, I'm crisp, but is it worth all that effort? The guys at Neme Gastro Bar seem to think so, but I don't know. Anyway, I miss you. I miss us. I hope I see you soon."

"French Fries, French Fries? FRENCH FRIES? Oh, man, you need to hear what happened. There I was, chilling in the refrigerator, just being tangy, kind of sweet, mostly red. It was just another day. Then I smelled it — the unforgettable aroma of beef fat. And you know what happened? The bastards whipped it right into me. At first I was like, 'Whoa, this can't be kosher,' but then something changed. I was smoky. I was meaty. I was salty. I became the kind of ketchup I always wanted to be. I know things have been rough lately, but give Burger a call and let's all get together ($18). They're not going to believe what they taste."

Blue Collar
Photo courtesy of Blue Collar

Not to be dogmatic, but there are only a few ways to make a cheeseburger. The bun must be soft. The meat must be fatty and freshly ground; that way, the patty can be grilled medium-rare, giving it the color and juiciness of a peak-season strawberry. American cheese is the preferred choice. Cheddar doesn't melt right. For you aristocrats, blue cheese or pepper jack will do, but seriously? Danny Serfer's dry-aged cheeseburger at Blue Collar ($17) is his homage to the comforting excess of Americana, and it blows the roof off every category. The Portuguese muffin, sort of like an English muffin for the uninitiated, is bulky and tender enough to sop up the juices that pour out of a patty fashioned from prime New York strip. The kitchen is even magnanimous enough to let you have cheddar if you like. But don't, please. Get your burger with American so you can sink your teeth into perfection.

Readers' choice: LoKal Burgers & Beer

Arbetter's Hot Dogs
Photo courtesy of Arbetter's Hot Dog

Nothing makes the steamed buns and skinless dogs at this Westchester institution sing like Arbetter's special chili. It's a bean-free creation, in true Texas form, with just the right amount of smoke and spice and a tinge of the tomato tang. Get a cup of it ($2.52) to take home. Here's a list of potential creations: scrambled eggs and chili, chili mac 'n' cheese, chili-smothered corn on the cob, chili cheeseburger, chili chicken hero sandwich, spaghetti and chili, chili tacos, chili nachos, chili enchiladas, chili-filled tamales, shrimp stewed in chili, chili sloppy Joes, and chili-topped meatloaf. Good luck getting the recipe. It's been a closely held secret since Arbetter's opened in 1959. (The eatery moved to the its Bird Road location in the early '70s). Make sure you stock up each time you visit, because anything is possible with a cup of Arbetter's chili in hand.

Mr. Boneless
Zachary Fagenson

They come from Pembroke Pines, Miramar, and Boynton Beach — all for Terry Watts' cooking. When he first lit a grill more than two decades ago, he never thought he'd be "world-famous" as so many of his regulars now proclaim. He did, however, know he'd be called Mr. Boneless. As a lifelong Liberty City resident, Watts was no stranger to barbecue. It was a weekend staple. He eventually became one of the countless vendors plying grilled fatty meat on neighborhood street corners. But his was different. Watts had the good sense to liberate racks of ribs ($12) and chicken ($10) from their bones, making it easier to wolf down the succulent meat painted with his sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. It soon became a hot commodity, and legions tracked him down each weekend, hungry for a taste of Mr. Boneless. His phone was inundated with text messages. "Where you at?" was their battle cry. He silenced them all nearly a decade ago, when he opened an eatery inside a burnt-orange building guarded by a charcoal grill where all the meat is cooked. The hours vary, but the surest way to know Mr. Boneless is open is the smoking grill and the line stretching out the door.

Readers' choice: Shorty's Bar-B-Q

Uncle Tom's Barbecue
Courtesy of Uncle Tom's Barbecue

You'd expect to find genuine barbecue-pit baby-back ribs and juicy, tender brisket at Uncle Tom's BBQ, but there's one item on the menu that tends to get overlooked, and it's what you need to be eating right now: Uncle Tom's stuffed mac 'n' cheese. Not really stuffed per se, this plate of gooey goodness is served as a casserole-like platter, drizzled in a sweet-and-tangy barbecue sauce with your choice of meat (pulled pork, pulled chicken, or bacon for $10.95 or rib meat or brisket for $12.95) and just the right amount of cheese. If you prefer your mac 'n' cheese plain and on the side ($4.95), though, Uncle Tom's offers that too. But no matter which plate you choose, your taste buds will bask in the pure cheesy glory.

Esther's Restaurant
Zachary Fagenson

Esther and Clemente Palmarola opened a restaurant on NW Seventh Avenue in 1961 as a catering kitchen turning out boxed lunches for newly arrived Cuban immigrants. A decade later, they sold it to Pablo Suarez Sr., who kept the place mostly the same until the 1980 riots. Then more African-Americans began moving into the working-class neighborhood, which was previously dominated by Cubans. Many wandered into Esther's each day, wondering what smelled so good. Hence, the take-away business was born. Soon it became Miami's go-to spot for heaping, hearty portions of soul food. These days, Suarez's sons, Tony and Pablo Jr., oversee two restaurants — another was added in 2001 a couple of miles from Dolphin Stadium — where you can get fried fish and congri ($5.99) or the Cuban oxtail stew called rabo encendido ($14.97) with a heap of macaroni 'n' cheese. In the morning, there are scrambled eggs, buttery grits, a biscuit, and a choice of bacon, sausage links or patties, or ham ($4.29). For lunch, the sprawling steam tables are cleaned and reloaded with juicy palomilla steaks ($7.50) and meatloaf ($6.20) that can be accompanied by everything from black beans to stewed okra and tomatoes. What's not to love?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®