Upland
CandaceWest.com

The fact that it takes two weeks to get a reservation at South of Fifth's Upland should come as no surprise. The man running the menu is Justin Smillie, a Jonathan Waxman acolyte who made his bones cooking ultraclassic Italian fare. With Upland, Smillie has broken away from all of that. Restaurateur Stephen Starr helped him develop an eclectic, meat-and-veg-heavy menu that pulls inspiration and ingredients from all corners of the globe. The roast duck ($38) takes tropical flight thanks to mango and pomegranate that are an order of magnitude better than the orange or apple compote that often flies with the bird. So pick up the phone or check OpenTable now, because waiting is the hardest part.

Point Royal
Photo by CandaceWest.com

Point Royal represents a seafood-centric return to South Florida for Chopped judge and Iron Chef winner Geoffrey Zakarian, who's chef/partner at the Lambs Club and the National in New York City, as well as at the Water Club at Borgata in Atlantic City. The celebrity chef might be best known in these parts for his famous lobster roll, also the item worthiest of a trip to his new restaurant, Point Royal, which opened in February 2017 at the Diplomat Beach Resort on A1A where Hollywood meets Hallandale Beach. A whole Maine lobster is steamed, sectioned, and reassembled neatly to look like a lobster out of its shell and set into a massive potato bun soaked in so much butter it tastes almost like a croissant. From there it's dipped in Zakarian's signature Coleman's mustard-spiked butter sauce, kicked up a notch with a hint of lemon juice and sriracha. Like most dishes on the menu, it's a perfect reflection of a restaurant that bills itself as coastal American, the type of place where you can stop by for a burger and beer or for some oysters and a glass of wine. The decor evokes Old Florida, Cuba, and the galley of a yacht. Tables are etched with compass designs, and a tropical vibe comes courtesy of massive potted trees and plants that arch over tables and doorways. Point Royal really hits its stride in the more entrée-like dishes, from a stellar shrimp-and-grits main course to ricotta agnolotti with a Florida blue crab fondue. For dessert, try a piña colada. Whole pineapples are cored, pressed, and paired with a house coconut cream and potent dark rum for what is arguably the world's best take on this classic frozen drink.

DB Bistro Moderne
billwisserphoto.com

Would you expect anything less than excellence from French culinary titan Daniel Boulud? Since opening this sleek downtown eatery in 2010 inside the JW Marriott Marquis, Boulud has set a new standard for big-name chefs with forward bases in Miami. He changes the menu with a devout, almost obsessive regularity tied to the seasons. Here's the proof: In fall and winter of 2016, the menu listed diver scallops with a squash-and-root-vegetable succotash, alongside pumpkin agnolotti with chestnuts, sage, and Brussels sprouts. In spring 2016, executive chef Clark Bowen rolled over the menu to house-made spaghetti with sweet spanner crab perfumed with fennel and saffron. There was a Swank Farm bean salad with peas, guanciale, and pecorino, as well as roast pork with fried green tomatoes, spicy cabbage, and mustard jus. Just a few months ago, the menu was again reinvented, this time with addictive fried rice balls called arancini plumped with sweet corn and mozzarella ($8). Cauliflower with coconut, cashews, and carrots ($14) came to light along with lamb dressed with spring onions and fava beans ($36). Clearly, every season provides a new reason to return to DB Bistro Moderne.

Camila’s Restaurant
Zachary Fagenson

The clock strikes noon, and the downtown lunch options are endless. Or so it seems. Those in the know make a beeline for Camila's. Step into the stark white dining room, and immediately your ears are flooded with the silky patois of Brazilian Portuguese. Famished tourists come here to dish themselves juicy pork chuletas doused in garlic oil and the pipino salad littered with crisp cucumber curve, red onion, and punchy vinaigrette. Meanwhile, the business crowd shoves its way in to dine, devour, and dash. The sound of cell phones filling with emails and buzzing against white metal tables hums in the background, but take your time. Camila's all-you-can-eat buffet ($14.95 per person) offers no fewer than 20 dishes that are continually replenished throughout the bustling lunch service. Be sure to fill one plate with carne moída: a picadillo-like stew studded with olives and sweet green peas permeated by the fragrance of smoky paprika. The place's black beans are a master class in legumes; each bite comes with meaty bits of pork knuckle and thin ovals of sliced sausage. Yes, the urge to rush back to the office or beach grows more powerful by the moment. But resist! Grab a cup of rice pudding dusted with cinnamon and dotted with coconut strands. Now you've enjoyed lunch like a proper Paulista.

Best Chef
courtesy of Four Seasons

With Miami's favorite Aussie, the lunch bell could bring a satanically rich blood cake (Brits call it black pudding) fried in a fist-size knob of good butter. Perhaps your plate will boast Wagyu bacon, cured in-house at Edge Steak & Bar. Or maybe it'll be a plate of freshly made corzetti pasta, imprinted with the fleur de lis pattern that chef Aaron Brooks picked up during a recent jaunt through Chicago. And that's just lunch. At dinner, he and his crew will serve you the expertly browned and basted beef they always have, but only after you dig into kangaroo empanadas ($6), chorizo and cheddar croquetas ($9), and a Sicilian pork and pistachio terrine ($13) that will likely soon be swapped out for some other mind-boggling charcuterie. And while all of this is good and well, Brooks' main mission is to delight. This consummate chef is just as happy to let his pâté poach while whipping up pancakes at 8 p.m. on a Saturday or eggs Benedict at noon on a Tuesday.

Readers' choice: José Andrés (the Bazaar and Bazaar Mar)

The Alibi
Natalia Molina

The clatter of colliding pool balls rings out. You don't know how many games of nine ball you've lost, but your friends haven't forgotten your tab. You're down. Way, way down. "How's about you start working it off with a pizza?" your pal suggests. The vote is for the veggie ($13): a crisp-crusted pie scattered with woody artichoke hearts, mushrooms, peppers, black olives, and goat cheese. But when you reach for a slice, your hand is promptly slapped away. "This ain't yours, man," your foe interjects. "This is your payment." And so it goes. You don't see one shred of rib eye off the South Philly cheesesteak ($10) nestled in a puffy Amoroso bun flown in from the city that birthed the Republic. You can't even have one crunch of the spicy pickle ($2), brined in-house and the perfect chaser for whatever shot fits your fancy at 4 a.m. Maybe next time, you'll actually be able to sink a shot and get something to quiet that gurgling gut.

Readers' choice: Bodega Taqueria y Tequila

River Yacht Club
Paul Stoppi

No place is more Miami than the Miami River. Its mouth, which empties into Biscayne Bay, was the cradle of the indigenous Tequestas and birthplace of the modern city. Today a combination of creaky, rusty cargo haulers and luxury megayachts gurgles up the waterway. River Yacht Club's manicured lawn filled with crisp white tables and chairs is the perfect place to see it all happen as the Brickell skyline rises before you. In the meantime, you never know what you'll find upon opening the menu, which seems to drastically change every three months. At one point, it was Philippe Ruiz, formerly of the Biltmore's Palme d'Or, running things. Shortly after that, it was the now-rebranded Vagabond's Alex Chang. Most recently, it's a refined Japanese concept called Dashi overseen by Shuji Hiyakawa, former executive sushi chef of Kuro at the Seminole Hard Rock. This is one club worth squeezing inside.

Best Farmer
Photo by Tiffany Noe

Swiss chard was this sandy-blond 35-year-old's gateway vegetable, leading from the world of hobby gardening into something more serious. Two years ago, Chris French leased a one-acre tract of land in Homestead and began sprouting everything from tomatoes to greens. Almost instantly, Miami's sophisticated chefs began buying up everything he could grow. His field was at one time almost completely dedicated to Alex Chang's Vagabond. Today French's gorgeous handiwork can be found at Pinch Kitchen, Mandolin Aegean Bistro, Matthew Kenney's Plant Food + Wine, and Matthew Sherman of Jugofresh's Paradigm Kitchen. French's work has also inspired some chefs to push their own boundaries. When his tomato crop contracted a disease earlier this year, Melissa Sosa from Zak the Baker Deli took hundreds of pounds of green tomatoes that would've otherwise been ground into the dirt. The result was some of the city's best pickles. French is just what Miami needs: a young farmer eager to do the back-breaking work to make the city a better place to eat.

Proper Sausages
Photo by Sergio Del Giudice

Freddy and Danielle Kaufman began their meat careers selling single-pound packs of their custom sausages at South Florida farmers' markets. In early 2013, they had gained enough momentum to open their own cozy butcher shop in Miami Shores. Four years later, anyone with a passing familiarity of tubed meats knows there is simply no better sausage (about $12 for four links) in town than the ones you'll find at Proper Sausages. The beloved butchers have also branched out to ribs, bacon, and other delightfully marbled slabs of meat, as well as fresh to-go sandwiches that make for the perfect lunch break. Butcher shops are experiencing a resurgence in America but still need a lot of help. Luckily, it's not difficult to support Proper Sausages. Any carnivore with at least one working sense owes this place a visit. The Kaufmans have a pretty liberal policy on staring and drooling.

Concrete Beach Brewery
courtesy of Concrete Beach Brewery

It's true that Miami's beer scene is exploding. But what makes Concrete Beach tap into the city's community is its taproom, called the Social Hall — and rightly so. The brewery is a spot to not only refresh with a pint or two but also meet people. A robust calendar of events includes art shows, live music, contests, and beer-release parties. The brewery even hosts a monthly run where joggers loop around Wynwood for three miles and are rewarded for their efforts with discounted pints. It's this interaction with the people of Miami that makes Concrete Beach more than a place to drink beer. It's also a place to make new friends. Call it Wynwood's version of Cheers.

Readers' choice: Funky Buddha Brewery

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®