Best Pizza 2017 | Paulie Gee's Miami | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Paulie Gee's signature pie, the Hellboy

Hellboy ($18) is your friend. The kitchen crew at this Brooklyn pizza transplant has figured out how to get a crisp, oven-charred crust on this foot-wide pie despite Miami's unrelenting humidity. The crust is delicate and tender at the center, and a pockmarked ring surrounds grated tomatoes and milky, fresh mozzarella. But the real lure is the salty, hot soppressata made with Berkshire pig meat, the holy of holies when it comes to swine. Then a drizzle of spicy honey is liberally applied, giving each bite an alluring flavor contrast that makes it disappear from your table faster than the pizzaiolo can pull another one from the 900-degree oven. Of course, don't get too distracted, because you won't want to miss this former Chinese restaurant's other prized possession: the pie called Cherry Jones ($20). Here, it's Gorgonzola, prosciutto, sour cherries, and honey that are more overpowering than a blotter sheet of acid. You might just want to lock yourself in the bathroom and never come out.

Readers' choice: Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Photo by Juan Fernando Ayora

You might know Miami Smokers for the bacon, but it's the Floridian ($9) that will lure you back to this Little Havana smoke spot. It begins with a baguette and continues with a wild boar sausage culled from Okeechobee pigs. It's a smoky, rich affair that's like a Middle Eastern merguez, a British banger, and a piece of juicy lamb leg all rolled into one. Then come spicy mayo and orange segments, which cut the richness. Avocado purée brings some of it back. Pickled peppers temper it all just right, while a flutter of cilantro provides a final tropical accent. It's more Miami than driving home a Noche Buena pig from an illegal Hialeah slaughterhouse in a rented Ferrari with the top down.

This shrine to Argentine eating has long been lauded for its panoply of empanadas with paper-thin crusts wrapped and baked in-house daily. But you only need to examine a carne cortada ($3) to understand the kind of excellence you're dealing with. Go ahead — split it open. Notice something? There's no ground beef here. No picadillo-like filling flecked with vegetables and filled out with who knows what bits of beef. Nope. At La Estancia Argentina, splitting open an empanada is like digging into a prime steak. The filling is little more than cubes of meat that maintain a magical medium-rare, while the crust warms and crisps to a golden brown. Be careful, though: Once you try one of these, you'll never look at another empanada the same way.

Your first choice for a seat at any respectable sukibiyashi should be at the sushi bar. Mind your manners. Offer your itamae a slight bow. At Stephen Starr's Makoto, nestled into the pricier-than-you-can-afford Bal Harbour Shops, you'll find yourself seated before a glacial-looking block of Himalayan pink sea salt. A verdant leaf is laid on top, and soon a chef presents your wasabi and pickled ginger. Request omakase and hope he obliges. If so, you'll be inundated with wave after wave of ultrafresh fish, much of it sourced directly from Japan and doled out according to whatever is best. Perhaps it'll be a piece of silky, sweet hotate ($18), better known as scallop. Then comes the golden eye snapper called kinme dai ($14), followed in rapid succession by medium fatty tuna, or chu-toro ($16), and the lean tuna known as akami ($12). How many pieces is up to you, but whatever you do, don't miss a bite of meaty orange clam ($12).

Readers' choice: Pubbelly Sushi

courtesy of Old Lisbon

Behold the five stages of croquetas. Stage 1: croqueta de queso. Filled perhaps with goat cheese, it is otherwise a glorified mozzarella stick. Stage 2: croqueta de pollo. Now we're talking! Meat, baby! Stage 3: croqueta de jamón. This is where most of us live day-to-day. Good, but it could be better. Stage 4: croqueta de chorizo. All the delights of ham, with an additional hit of smoke that is the signature of this Spanish sausage. Stage 5: croqueta de bacalao. This is it. You have arrived, especially with one of Old Lisbon's bolinhos de bacalhau ($10.99). These empowering little fritters forgo the breading of their Cuban counterparts and include meaty bits of Portugal's beloved salt cod in a slightly sweet batter. With one in hand, there's nothing you can't do.

Photo by Zachary Fagenson

With so many Italian places strewn across town, it's amazing it took so long for a proper one like Antonio Vecchio's to pop up. Now going strong for more than a decade, Gusto Fino Italian Café is a regular haunt for cops, Gables office types, and everyone in between who's in need of some on-the-go nourishment. Vegetarians can rely on the eggplant fresh ($8.95), made with grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, provolone cheese, greens, and pesto. Vinny Boombatz types can't resist the Italian job ($9.95) and its pile of Genoa salami, Parma prosciutto, and provolone. Vecchio is also on hand taking phone orders and encouraging you to come up with your own creation. It's still a free country, isn't it?

Courtesy of Daily Bread Marketplace

Some people spend years driving down South Dixie Highway before realizing this Middle Eastern bakery and café is there. It hides in plain sight. And like the more-than-four-decade-old place, Daily Bread's falafel ($5.95 sandwich, $7.95 platter) are magic. Some falafel boast emerald-green interiors fragrant with parsley and sumac. Others perfectly balance a crisp shell with a fluffy interior. Still others include both velvety puréed chickpeas and toothsome bits of the whole legume, creating a delightful textural contrast. Daily Bread hits the sweet spot on all three targets via golden-brown, slightly oblong fritters that are so good you won't even notice when you burn your mouth because they've just been pulled from the fryer. The platter is the way to go if you're looking for the most varied falafel experience. Take some bites with the lemony tabbouleh overflowing with grassy parsley. Or just add a touch of vinegary onion. Whichever way you go, the result is always the same: pure, meat-free delight.

Vanessa Valdes

This Coral Gables restaurant has long been the spot to watch belly dancing while chowing down on delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. But Maroosh's hummus is excellent enough that it's worth taking it to go even if there won't be any hips shaking nearby. The $5.95 hummus appetizer plate is a sublimely blended mix of chickpeas, tahini, and lemon juice garnished with olive oil and paprika. For $8.95, the menu offers meat with your hummus, and for $7.95, you can have the hummus with foul (which is basically hummus with the chickpeas substituted for fava beans). The hummus goes well with the warm pita bread Maroosh serves, but if you're going light on carbs, try it with falafel or tabbouleh — with or without belly dancers. The place is open Tuesday through Saturday and is closed Monday.

Courtesy of La Gringa Taco Shop

A proper burrito is excessive in all the right places. A soft tortilla is stuffed with all the delicious opulence of Mexican-American fare. It's a marriage of meat, carbs, and vegetables that makes for one hefty food bomb. No wonder the name means "little donkey" in Spanish; the burritos at La Gringa Taco Shop perfectly describe the appearance of the bedrolls that donkeys carry. Flagler Street might not be the first spot on your list to find a well-crafted burrito, but you'd be remiss to overlook these. For $7.50 apiece, burritos come with the same meats used to stuff tacos: braised carnitas, marinated pollo, smoky barbacoa, tender carne asada, al pastor, and spicy chorizo. From there, it's pretty straightforward. The meats are mixed with melty cheese, a spice-infused rice, and your choice of salsa and/or guacamole. No crazy add-ons. No overbearing sauces. Just a straightforward, simple preparation, and that's probably what makes them so good.

Courtesy of Lolo's Surf Cantina

There are many places to get a great taco in Miami, but Lolo's Surf Cantina has an especially satisfying and interactive experience. The restaurant, owned by Richard Ampudia (hailed as the godfather of Mexican street food), offers straightforward Baja fish tacos, but you must order the whole fish for the most viscerally authentic experience. A whole snapper is lightly fried and presented intact. Once you've taken your Instagram photos of the creature, it's filleted upon request and served with fresh, warm tortillas and a host of accoutrements: fresh salsas and sauces made in-house, avocado, and an herb salad. Dig in and make your own creations. Priced at $29, it's more than enough for two — and so much more fun than a trip to the Taco Bell drive-thru. Lolo's opens daily at 8 a.m. for coffee and offers tacos from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Readers' choice: Coyo Taco

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®