China Gourmet
Taylor Estape

Think about Chinese food and you'll probably picture mounds of breaded, fried meats covered in thick, brightly colored sauces that taste like someone dumped a pound of sugar into a vat of chicken Jell-O. And maybe that's fine, because you're not thinking about your arteries or cankles when you pick up food in your pajamas. But it's nice to have options — and that's what China Gourmet provides. Yes, this Palmetto Bay eatery serves sesame chicken ($9.99) in an orange glaze and jumbo portions of fried rice that far exceed a quart, and hands out fried egg rolls as if they were fortune cookies, but that's not the point. The salt-and-pepper chicken ($10.99) is surprisingly light while maintaining a peppery bite, and the dumplings ($6.35) put soggy, paper-thin, and tasteless ones to shame. So by all means, leave the six-pack on the coffee table and the pile of blankets on the couch, and avoid eye contact for the duration of your carry-out transaction — you can have your deep-fried cream cheese krab Rangoon ($4.50) and authentic egg foo yung ($8.55). China Gourmet is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 10:30 p.m.

When it comes to serving fast Chinese food, House of Chang doesn't hold back. Not even hurricane warnings stop this joint from cranking out take-out orders. Try the moo shi: shredded cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, golden needles, bamboo shoots, scallions, and eggs with your choice of meat wrapped in thin pancakes. For large orders, you can't go wrong with the boneless spare ribs, the house special fried rice, and the house special soup. The soft and lean rib meat is cooked in a succulent, sweet sauce. The house rice is loaded with fresh, tender cuts of beef. The special soup comes loaded with shrimp, white-meat chicken, roast pork, broccoli, snow peas, baby corn, leafy greens, and mushrooms. Stop by between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to take advantage of the 25 lunch specials for $6 or less. Combo plates with fried rice and an egg roll run about $8. House of Chang is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. It's closed Monday.

Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis
Courtesy of Estiatorio Milos

Greek cuisine is rooted in simplicity and quality ingredients. At Estiatorio Milos in South Beach, there's something new to discover on every visit: The fish selection changes daily depending upon what fishermen haul in. The day's catch is prepared to your liking and priced according to weight. There's nothing newfangled here, but when it comes to topnotch seafood, Milos is in a league of its own. One of the restaurant's specialties is melt-in-your-mouth charcoal-broiled octopus, seasoned with white balsamic vinegar and olive oil produced by the owner's sister in Greece ($29). Another signature dish is the tomato salad, with cucumbers, green peppers, onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese ($29). Prices are justifiably high, but Milos offers a daily twilight menu between 5:30 and 7 p.m. (and all evening Sunday), when diners can enjoy a three-course meal for $39. The homemade Greek yogurt dessert is so thick and creamy you'll never believe you're eating something that's good for you. Open Sunday through Thursday from noon to 3:30 and from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from noon to 3:30 and from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Kebo Restaurant
Courtesy of Kebo

Nestled in the back of a Key Biscayne strip mall somewhere behind an anonymous Starbucks sits a spot for fine Iberian dining. For the past few years, Kebo Restaurant has offered a varied and delicious selection of Spanish cuisine. It serves nearly everything you would want to eat after flying into Madrid, including tapas, paellas, fish, and meats, as well as a diverse vegetarian menu. Though the entrées are pricey, the weekday $24.99 executive lunch special from noon to 4 p.m. gives you a chance to affordably sample the menu. The special includes appetizer choices of gazpacho, eggplant cake, or black ink squid rice; pork loin, veal, or tuna as a main dish; and a dessert of almond cake to sip over with a glass of wine, beer, or sangria. They are open Sunday to Thursday noon to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon till 11 p.m.

Seafood, like in the chaufa pictured here, anchors the vast majority of Pisco y Nazca's menu.
billwisserphoto.com
Seafood, like in the chaufa pictured here, anchors the vast majority of Pisco y Nazca's menu.

Pisco is a city in the Ica region of Peru that's famous for its grape brandy of the same name. Nazca is a desert town on the southern coast of Peru, which is also known for its production of pisco. Put them together and you get the Spanish saying "entre Pisco y Nazca," which in slang means "drunk." Indeed, whether you eat at the Doral or Kendall location of Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar, a good time is practically guaranteed. Return time and time again to revel in the lively atmosphere and assertive flavors of chef Miguel Gómez. The toque worked at venerable Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio's San Francisco outpost, La Mar Cebichería Peruana, before a colleague coaxed him into moving to Miami. The leche de tigre of his traditional ceviche ($9 to $16) achieves the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and the flounder isn't overly firm. There is much to like here, including the empanadas filled with a spicy chicken stew ($8), as well as a trifecta of beef heart skewers called anticuchos de corazón ($11). They're laced with a bold ají panca sauce, but they're flavorful enough without it. Pisco y Nazca isn't reinventing the wheel with its cuisine. Rather, the eatery is doing something more enticing: offering bold-tasting Peruvian fare at affordable prices.

Oh, Wynwood, with your deconstructed, gluten-free, four-course, impossible-to-pronounce menu items. Your ambition might have earned a few James Beard Awards, but the truly hungry should venture beyond the murals and cross NW 29th Street, where the venerable Nadine Patrice will place a menu in front of you and help you select from an array of the top Jamaican and Caribbean dishes in town. Start with some fresh juice before moving on to the main event. Pro tip: If it starts with the word "jerk" or "curry," it's worth ordering. The jerk chicken meal costs only $10.50 and comes with two sides. If you have a few extra singles in your pocket, splurge on the $15 oxtail meal. Just be sure to wipe that delicious sauce off your face when you're done, because Miss Nadine often stops by to snap photos of her patrons. If you're lucky, you'll end up on her Instagram page (@palatinojamaicanrestaurant), an adorable catalog of bloated yet insanely satisfied customers.

Atlas Meat-Free Delicatessen
Courtesy of Atlas Meat-Free Delicatessen

What exactly do vegans eat? Roots and tree bark? Sprouts and celery? Water and air? Hardly. If they're eating at Atlas Meat Free Deli, they're chowing down on an impossibly meaty menu. This Little River food truck and soon-to-be brick-and-mortar deli is "vegan food for carnivores," in the words of owner Ryan Bauhaus. The menu is stacked with towering sandwiches and sizable specials. There's smoked "pastrami" topped with barbecue sauce, crisp onions, and slaw piled onto a pretzel bun ($11); hearty deep-fried chik'n topped with cheddar "cheese," slaw, pickles, and creamy garlic aioli ($11); and chik'n wings ($6 for three), double-fried and tossed in the customer's choice of sauce. Plus there are burgers, loaded fries, mac 'n' cheese, and more. This is too-big-to-fit-in-your-mouth, sauce-dripping-on-your-clothes, food-coma chow. It's stereotype-busting, protein-packed, and the furthest thing from rabbit food. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Readers' choice: Plant Food + Wine

Best Vegetarian Burger
Diego Tosoni

The term "veggie burger" might have once conjured an image of a dry, tasteless hockey puck, but that was then. This is now. At Wynwood's Love Life Wellness Center Cafe, the staff boasts the "best veggie burger in America" thanks to an epic victory at last year's Seed Food & Wine Festival's burger battle. Love Life's creative concoction beat out plant-based burgers from across the nation. Imagine sinking your teeth into this: a magical superfood-infused patty topped with homemade guacamole and pickles, marinated kale (an easy way to eat your greens), cilantro aioli, and plant-based cheddar on a pretzel bun topped with Hawaiian lava salt. At $14, it's not cheap, but it's colorful, satisfying, and oozing with complementary flavors. Consider it the veggie burger reborn. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Jucy Lu
courtesy of Jucy Lu

Picture yourself in Wynwood, strolling the streets in apropos hipster gear, perusing the newest murals, and sharing supercute snaps of yourself with your fave artwork. As usual, the humidity is killer, so you're dying of thirst and need some nourishment. Enter Jucy Lu, a charming spot in the back of Wynwood Block whose colorful edibles are ideal subjects for your carefully curated social media feed. Sip a rosy passion punch ($9.50) made with orange, strawberry, mango, pineapple, lime, passionfruit, cucumber, and apple. Color-coordinate it with the fresh and green forbidden rice salad ($11), complete with cucumber, click peas, cilantro, mini radishes, kale, coconut, pistachio, cashews, and vinaigrette. Or try the "2not" sandwich, with chickpeas, carrots, capers, and tahini paste ($10.50). Don't forget dessert: How about the mango passion coconut pudding with hibiscus and chia seeds ($5)? Choose your fave and indulge accordingly. This is vibrant, aesthetically appealing food that'll maintain your killer bod — and your IG image. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Best Burger
courtesy of K Ramen. Burger. Beer.

Order the burger ($17) at this Japanese-anime-themed noodle spot hidden away in the basement of the Townhouse Hotel, and the only thing to decide is whether you want French fries or tater tots. Just let the kitchen do the rest. This beast of a burger is bookended by slices of sturdy yet tender brioche bun that's as soft as a Martin's potato roll but won't mush up or let you down. It's a double-patty affair, and each one of the pair is round, has a slightly pink center, and boasts a woody char. There's also some sweetness courtesy of caramelized onions and a hit of acidity from a thick slice of tomato. A blend of American cheese mingles sensually with a house spicy sauce that cascades over each bite. If some is left on your chin, so be it. Such is the price of entry to burger heaven.

Readers' choice: Kush

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