Marky's Gourmet
Carina Ost

Do yourself a favor and invest in a good mother-of-pearl spoon. Why? The pricey little utensils are a must-have if you plan to savor even the least costly caviar. See, when a place serves you an ounce of the finest beluga or osetra roe with a dainty silver spoon, the easy-to-tarnish metal may impart a tinny flavor to your fancy eggs. But not mother-of-pearl. Now, with the proper tool in hand, you're ready to decide whether you want to drop $63.83 for a half-ounce of olive-black Kaluga Fusion Gold or an eye-popping $140 for the same amount of Russian Reserve osetra. If caviar isn't your guilty pleasure, Marky's Gourmet has every other stripe of sinful indulgence. Want a whole duck foie gras from Hudson Valley Farms? Yours for $148.78. A pound of dried French morel mushrooms? That'll be $266.50. Perhaps you're less flashy and like to cloak your refinement. For that, just go for one of Marky's fine cultured French butters. They're only about $20 a pound.

Dolphin Mall
Courtesy of Taubman Centers, Inc.

Mall food courts get a bad rap. At their worst, they bring us back to the dreaded days of mysterious cafeteria food served on plastic trays from questionable kitchens. But at their best, they provide convenient, flavorful cuisine that fuels shoppers without interrupting precious browsing and buying time. The ideal mall food court should have a pleasant dining atmosphere, a convenient location, and a diverse selection of price ranges and cuisines. Dolphin Mall's food court hits all the marks, offering everything from a full-service Italian kitchen and hibachi eatery to fast-food classics such as Burger King and Starbucks. Head to Texas de Brazil for a full steakhouse experience, and finish off the meal the traditional food-court way with self-served frozen yogurt from Yogurberry. Even the sit-down options have quick service and an affordable price range, leaving maximum time and money for your true mall motives.

The Middle East Best Food
Photos by Jacob Katel

Homemade hummus. Freshly baked pita bread. Straight-out-of-the-oven baklava. Ali Aziz has been hooking up Miami with fresh Middle Eastern goods for almost 40 years. And from the second you open the door to this Coral Way hole-in-the-wall, you'll be enthralled by the smell of exotic spices and Aziz's famed pita bread, which he claims to be the best in the nation. But you'll find more than yogurt drinks, sesame seeds, olive oil, and even hookahs at the Middle East Best Food. If you stick around long enough to spark conversation with Aziz, he'll likely tell you the story of how he got his start in the 1950s working as a baker at the Hotel InterContinental in Jerusalem. Though his Miami place is not a restaurant per se, you'll find a table at the entrance where you can enjoy a small plate of tabbouleh salad ($3.50), a shawarma sandwich ($10.95), or kibbeh ($1 each), all made by Aziz. So if you're looking for ingredients to make your own falafel or craving Middle Eastern sweets, the Middle East Best Food market has your back.

Alter
Photo courtesy of Alter

Bradley Kilgore has been searching for a unique cuisine his entire life. It began when he tried to make brownies out of a Betty Crocker cookbook and accidentally replaced salt with sugar. It continues today at Alter, his casual yet ambitious Wynwood restaurant. It's upending the Miami dining scene partly because of Kilgore's relentless dedication to well-sourced, humble ingredients such as chicken, leeks, and mushrooms. They're spiced, smoked, blanched, vacuum-packed, emulsified, cooked sous vide, and then whimsically arranged into delicate, edible artworks. You don't want to demolish them, but you can't help it. So how much should all of this cost? According to Kilgore, it's $30 or less. That may be steep, but not as astronomical as some of the Michelin-starred shops where he trained. Instead, Kilgore looks to bring Miami's most exciting food to the people. There's no need to wait for a special occasion.

Readers' choice: Adrianne Calvo of Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar

The Dutch
billwisserphoto.com

Fluid gels and foams are nice. But sometimes you want a good old-fashioned sugar bomb, no frills or xanthan gum included. So you turn to Joshua Gripper, Miami's sheikh of sweets, who has the ability to transform even the coolest diners at the Dutch into sugar-buzzed toddlers. He does it with slices of pie ($12) filled with salted lime custard, warm figs and apples, and banana cream. Sometimes Gripper unpacks a Boston cream doughnut and encases the buttery cake in vanilla custard ringed by macerated blueberries. Other nights, he may send you home with coconut-cream dreams. If there's no pie in your eye, don't worry. Gripper's extensive resumé includes work at two-Michelin-star restaurant Oustau de Baumanière, DB Bistro Moderne, Butter, and Café Boulud. He can turn out the elegant, buttery French cookies called palmiers with ease and then pair them with the best churros and funnel cakes the city has ever seen.

The Sarsaparilla Club
billwisserphoto.com

When Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth left for the bright lights of New York City, Miami culinary fans let out a collective sob. After all, we lost two wonderful young chefs in a single flight north. As expected, the partners (in business and in life) opened Root & Bone in Manhattan's Alphabet City neighborhood and were swiftly the talk of the town for both their sweet tea brined fried chicken and their megawatt personalities. The only drawback to the couple's success was the fact that Miamians had to take a flight for a meal. Fortunately, McInnis and Booth have returned to Miami with not one but two restaurants. Their Sarsaparilla Club at the Shelborne serves American dim sum and a tangy, Asian-inspired fried chicken, and the pair plans to open a seafood restaurant — complete with a sunset deck — in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood. Talk about a homecoming!

It's been a big year for foodstagramming, which made the competition in this category fierce. Yet when it comes to photos worth ogling, @fatgirlhedonist is queen. This mouthwatering feed shows off the city's scene in true Miami style: lighthearted and unapologetic, with a touch of Latin spice. The Hialeah-born woman behind the account isn't a local chef or big-name restaurateur; her posts are motivated purely by a passion for all things culinary. Yes, there are some shameless promotions from time to time, but the page features a wide variety of eateries and maintains just enough down-to-earth feel. Because the Fatgirl Hedonist Instagram and blog are operated by an average foodie, they feature uniquely honest commentary, including an "I Wouldn't Go There if Were You" list. Feast your eyes, but be warned: This Instagram is guaranteed to induce some serious cravings.

Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita

Rather than wasting time saying this restaurant's quirky mouthful of a name, let's get straight to the point: It's an internationally inspired joint open daily at 11:30 a.m. (Sunday at 11 a.m.) that offers an elevated, open-air experience in Mary Brickell Village. Yes, it is located in the old Firehouse Four building. Yes, it's only two stories. Yes, you still get stunning views despite its stature. No, it's not expensive. Long story short, Miami needs more places like Dolores, but You Can Call Me Lolita. Stylish, chic, and affordable is a triple threat. Choose the prix-fixe menu, priced from $19.99 to $32.99, which gives you an entrée and an appetizer of your choice. Start with the serrano ham croquettes or the vegetable spring rolls; then go for the applewood-grilled boneless short rib ($26.99) or pan-seared Chilean sea bass ($32.99). Inhaling all of this fresh air during lunch and dinner will make you thirsty, so Dolores has wines and specialty cocktails lined up and ready. Sigh. If only Dolores were a real person.

The Continental
billwisserphoto.com

The second outpost of Stephen Starr's beloved Continental is straight out of AMC's hit show Mad Men. Sure, Starr's first great success was born in Philadelphia, but at the one in Miami, you'll feel like you're walking onto the set of that episode where protagonist Don Draper decamps to California. This acid trip back in time comes complete with a dining room crowned with fake plants, filled with brightly colored Formica tables, and servers donning chic poolside attire. And, ah, the menu. It's a throwback to an era when world cuisine was just beginning to blossom. The Hong Kong Fooey ($20) is a play on Chinese kung pao that offers enough sweet to balance out the spice. The same goes for the lettuce wraps ($30), which let you roll up funky Korean spicy chili paste and pickles with some sweet juicy skirt steak. There are plays on every stripe of cuisine, with nods to Jamaica, Mexico, and, of course, Cuba. Though most places in Miami Beach make eyes roll with exorbitant pricing and faux ambition, there's only one type of roll here: It's an homage to the Continental's birthplace, and it's a deliciously greasy cheesesteak wrapped in an egg roll ($17).

Izzy's Fish & Oyster
Courtesy of Izzy's

The problem with seafood is that it's usually not decadent enough. Sure, a piece of broiled grouper is good for you, but it's got no "it" factor. Enter Izzy's Fish & Oyster, the South Beach restaurant that takes its cues from New England clam shacks, where all manner of residents of the sea are either fried or cooked with heavy cream and butter. Take, for example, Izzy's warm lobster roll ($28): The meat of an entire lobster is drenched in lobster butter and placed on a pillowy toasted white-bread roll. Not enough sin for you? Go for the lobster poutine ($18) — a bright-yellow skillet filled with waffle fries, lobster, cheddar sauce, and bacon. For a taste of the sea, order a dozen fresh oysters ($38) or fried clam bellies (MP), boasting a juicy brine that pops in your mouth. Now that's a meal fit for King Neptune.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®