The Butcher Shop's pan con lechón uses house-made bread.
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
The Butcher Shop's pan con lechón uses house-made bread.

Angel Torres' customers devour about 200 pounds of juicy pork a day, most of it in the Butcher Shop's pan con lechón ($2.99/$5.99). But that's not what makes this dish so addictive. It's the loaves of bread he constantly proofs and bakes in a sweltering kitchen where huge vats of black beans and yuca bubble away. Here's what happens: You place your order, and a mountain of glistening pork is spooned on top of the bread. Next come a few shards of crackly pig skin. Then it's to the griddle. Here's where the magic happens. The crust of Torres' bread is crisped into an impossibly thin wafer that somehow supports all the porcine delights. Each loaf soaks up the sandwich's juice along with as much of the tangy "mojito" sauce as you can squeeze out of the bottle. The magic continues after you've finished, when you find yourself back at the counter, begging for a sandwich to-go.

Firmly pressed Cuban bread, crisp papitas, tender, thinly sliced beef, and a squirt of ketchup: These are the makings of Hialeah's National Supermarket #2's pan con bistec. Many cafeterias attempt this dish, but none crafts it as skillfully as this grocery store's corner café. The gargantuan sandwich overflows with papitas, an appetizer for the blessing soon to come. For most, it's a classic interpretation of the Cuban staple: tomatoes, papitas, and lettuce. But this market's touch of ketchup heightens an already juicy meal. It's like the icing on the cake, but really, it's the ketchup on the pan con bistec.

El Mago de las Fritas
Photo by billwisserphoto.com

There's a reason Chopped judge and celebrity chef Amanda Freitag told New Times this place is her first stop when she lands in Miami. El Mago de las Fritas is casual and family-owned, with more than three decades of legacy. This spot does classic dishes best, especially the beloved frita, which is how owner Ortelio Cárdenas earned his nickname of "El Mago," or "The Magician." Cárdenas is 77 years old and handcrafts the patties himself. His fritas are perfectly sized, impeccably juicy and flavorful, and lack the grease that taints some Cuban burgers. Though he keeps his seasoning and sauce recipes a secret, Cárdenas is eager to share the renowned finished product, which sells for only $3.50 each. Miami has lots of options when it comes to this local staple, but choose the spot with the magic touch. El Mago de las Fritas is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. till the last customer leaves.

Oasis Cafe
Nicola Haubold

Most early mornings, a line of bicyclists snakes out of Oasis Café, a hole-in-the-wall Cuban cafeteria in Key Biscayne. It's one of the first stops on the Key. But the place is not just named after its beachside luxury — it's a beacon of hope, serving affordable and quality Cuban food to Key Biscayne's affluent residents. The empanadas here are the best in their class. A crisp shell gives way to a doughy center, oozing traditional fillings: cheese and onion, spinach, chicken, or beef. For bicyclists and beachgoers alike, this empanada is the handiest option, packing home-cooked flavor into a compact half-moon.

Pack Supermarket and Cafeteria
Photo by Kristin Bjørnsen

At this Little Haiti commissary and walk-up window, three pieces of fried chicken with a little plastic ramekin of searing pikliz are yours for $2.25. How do they do it? By using drumsticks, the most cost-effective and flavorful morsel the bird offers. That's the way it's been for nearly two decades for Kernizan Philias, who opened the place in the late '90s with his family. The recipe is simple: skin-on bird and hot oil. But the combination is a kind of immaculate conception. The chicken's skin bubbles and crisps and tightens into a crunchy shatter that you swear is triple-breaded. But it's not. This is what happens when you apply the ingenious method of making griot — Haitian fried pork — to chicken. Call it voodoo. Call it simple genius. Whatever you call it, don't forget the $1 side of crisp plantains.

Readers' choice: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

41st Street Deli
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease

It used to be that hamburgers got to have all the fun while hot dogs watched from the sidelines. But that was then, and this is now, and ketchup, mustard, and relish are no longer the only ways to jazz up a frank. At 41st Street Deli, the King Dog ($12, not on the regular menu) features two all-beef hot dogs accessorized with fatty beef bacon and served on a warm and crispy French baguette with a side of sauerkraut. The baguette makes all the difference, and naturally, two juicy dogs are better than one. Despite its name, this miniature kosher deli is tucked away in an alley running parallel to the main thruway, behind Ocean Bank. Practically everything is made in-house, and the pulled brisket sandwich is the most popular item ($16). The well-seasoned meat is braised for 12 hours and comes packed onto a hot baguette. It doesn't need any accoutrements, but you won't regret adding guacamole, mustard, and sriracha. Your best plan of action is to bring a friend and share the King Dog and pulled brisket sandwich. It's a win-win. Seriously.

Mister O1
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

Visa-O1's owner and head pizzaiolo, Renato Viola, is proudest of the thin pie sprinkled with Gorgonzola, honey, coffee grounds, and spicy salami ($16.90). Yet the 34-year-old presides over a stable of stunning creations that put all of Miami Beach's gummy, industrial-tasting versions to shame. His masterworks are star pizzas that come flecked with spicy salami ($14.90) and a vegetarian iteration layered with paper-thin shreds of eggplant and zucchini. The crusts are folded back and filled with milky ricotta that leeches onto the pie as it crisps in an imported Cuppone oven. This pie's roots trace to an epic international pizza-making competition. It was 2008, and Viola scrawled the recipe on the back of a cocktail napkin: mozzarella di bufala, an ultra-dense dried salami, porcini mushrooms, and the smoked-and-dried mozzarella called scamorza. It bested 10,000 competitors to ultimately take home the prize at a bake-off in Monaco. But you don't need to be royalty to try Viola's master creation. You can even eat it leftover for breakfast.

Readers' choice: Steve's Pizza

La Taberna de Ignacio
Courtesy of La Taberna de Ignacio

You would never guess that Miami's best tapas restaurant is located in one of its most oft-forgotten culinary neighborhoods. But this nearly 20-year-old restaurant, sandwiched between Goodwill and Tony's Banquet Hall in a nondescript Hialeah shopping center, is Miami's Spanish crown jewel. At La Taberna de Ignacio, a no-frills, dimly lit, cavernous den frequented by old Cuban families, patrons like to start with aceitunas alineadas ($3.95), an unusually diverse medley of olives lightly dressed and sprinkled with chili flakes, before moving on to the pulpo a la gallega ($11.95), the ultimate test of a tried-and-true tapas bar. Ignacio's octopus is served piping-hot — perfectly tender, lightly boiled, and drenched in extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil smothered with paprika and coarse sea salt. If you're in the mood for something heartier, La Taberna de Ignacio offers an array of traditional Sevillian dishes, including a seafood paella for two ($18.95 per person). Wash it all down with a $25 bottle of house rioja. Hours aredaily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Basilic Vietnamese Grill
billwisserphoto.com

It's difficult to find a bad bowl of pho. Many restaurants make the steaming-hot soup well, but few take advantage of its full potential. Basilic Vietnamese Grill is definitely one of the select restaurants doing authentic pho in an authentic way. It begins with a complex and tasteful broth that sets the tone. Deep flavors circle your taste buds as your lips and teeth dive into perfectly cooked noodles and meats of your choice. You can get chicken, beef, seafood, oxtail, and duck. Thinly sliced onions, bean sprouts, and other vegetables are piled high in Basilic's oversize bowls. Each ingredient plays a role, and all complement one another. Together, they form the most satisfying bowl of pho in Miami-Dade. Prices range from $10.50 to $16.

Myumi
Courtesy of ChatChow TV

The words "sushi" and "food truck" don't seem to fit together well, but they sure do at Myumi. That's because sushi master Ryo Kato handpicks only the freshest fish daily, and serves it omakase-style, meaning chef's selection. Diners only get to choose their beverage and if they would like eight or 12 courses ($40 or $60). There are no faux-crab rolls here, simply pristine seafood on a bed of rice. And speaking of rice: Kato trained under Kazuo Yoshida from Brooklyn sushi spot 1 or 8, and it took the young toque a year to receive his master's approval of his rice. Dinner here lasts an hour, and there are only six barstools along the truck's counter, so prepare to get well acquainted with your seatmates. There's also a chance you may leave Myumi slightly hungry, but good news is the owners plan to open a brick-and-mortar location in the very near future and will offer a more extensive menu. It can't come soon enough.

Readers' choice: Pubbelly Sushi

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