Best Restaurateur 2017 | Javier Ramirez | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Courtesy of Javier Ramirez

Forty-three-year-old Javier Ramirez led a charmed childhood in Caracas. His parents were both physicians, and he earned an economics degree from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, then took a job in Venezuela's vast, insanely profitable oil industry. He would have stayed in the country if strongman Hugo Chávez hadn't swept into power in 1999. The move pushed Ramirez abroad, first to London and eventually to Miami, where a lifelong obsession with food became more serious. It was so serious, in fact, that he now has a hand in Wynwood's Alter and Cake Thai, as well as Brickell's Bachour Bakery + Bistro. There's little doubt the three restaurants are among the city's most exciting. Alter's Brad Kilgore has claimed armfuls of awards, including Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chef nod in 2016. Cake Thai serves the city's best traditional Thai fare, and Bachour sells a sugary feast for the senses. Ramirez has no plans to slow down.

Courtesy of Gourmandj
Grouper with a salad of honey crisp apple, butternut squash, Israeli couscous, and sour cherries.

Not long after opening Michael Schwartz's very first Harry's Pizzeria in 2011, Manny Sulbaran struck out on his own and headed for the glamorous thoroughfares and wide avenues of Doral. To this fair city, now inextricably linked to President Donald Trump thanks to his ownership of its famed golf course, Sulbaran brought a simple, flavorful sensibility founded upon the same ingredient-centric ethos that made Schwartz so successful. Hence, the place brings in whole yellowfin Atlantic grouper, mangrove snapper, yellow jack, or other fresh-caught fish before dishing out perfectly cooked fillets with everything from black bean fried rice ($5.49) to roasted cauliflower, zucchini, and squash doused in pungent salsa verde ($5.49). Those same fish also form the foundation of an ever-rotating list of ceviches ($6 small, $11 large) that you might find topped with watermelon radishes, basil, and ají amarillo. Of course, don't forget the bubble tea flavored with fruits, lychee jelly, and many other ingredients. And while you're deciding, try the tea made with the Asian tuber called taro. It's slightly nutty and sugary like a sweet potato and leaves the drink an alluring lavender.

Readers' choice: Pincho Factory

There are dozens of reasons to visit this cash-only Indonesian spot downtown. There's the barbecued eel dish called belut bumbu kecap ($10.50) that comes over a mound of sticky rice and is topped with a nest of pickled carrots and cucumbers. Had that too many days in a row? Opt for the soto betawi ($8.50), a creamy beef stew fortified with mounds of grated ginger, sweet soy, and a pop of lemon. But the crown jewel of Bali Café is the multicourse tasting menu called rijsttafel ($14.95). It starts with a miso soup and one of the thin fried rollups called lumpia that are ubiquitous in Southeast Asia. At Bali, yours could be filled with anything from beef and vegetables to a briny shrimp paste. Crackers called emping ride alongside supple chunks of fiery beef rendang and chicken legs slowly braised in rich coconut milk. The meal continues with stir-fried vegetables, fried fish, and a white rice side. When it's all over, just be happy you live in Miami, where a colada is never far out of reach. You'll need one to make it through the afternoon.

Zak Stern's deli is what might have happened had Eastern European Jews first arrived in South Florida rather than the concrete jungles of New York City. Chef Melissa Sosa, age 25, has a notebook full of recipes but an empty ingredient checklist. After all, there is no pike, cod, or similar white-fleshed fish that is required for so much of Jewish cuisine in the waters off Miami. But with a little digging, some glimmers of hope have appeared. Sosa uses the little-known species blue runner from purveyor Trigger Seafood to make a fish salad that is just as smoky and salty as anything one might pull from the North Atlantic. And the sandwich ($13) it yields is nothing short of miraculous. Dill fronds and flecks of celery help accentuate the fish and provide crunch alongside a verdant fan of butter lettuce. The kitchen is also toying with Florida grass carp, a native species found in the state's bountiful wetlands that might work to make gefilte fish. For the unadventuresome, the corned beef sandwich ($16), which brings thick slices of cured brisket piled onto slices of horseradish-mustard-slicked corn rye, will never be a bad choice.

You know the evils of red meat and the havoc that cows wreak on the environment, but tonight is a special occasion. It's worth it, because it's Wolfgang's. Here's how it goes down: Take a seat in a dining room with more mahogany than a Southeast Asian jungle. Demand a table by the window. This is Miami, after all, and dining within eyeshot of a few palm trees and the glittering bay is your birthright. Begin with the sizzling Canadian bacon ($4.95). A slab of the cured stuff is cut extrathick, so thick your cardiologist at her Pinecrest home miles away knocks over her Pellegrino because she senses it. If you must have a salad, make it the Wolfgang salad ($13.95). It's loaded with shrimp and bacon batons cooked until crisp. Then comes the main: a porterhouse for two, of course. Even if you're a party of one, you want the porterhouse for two. It's all about the sizzling plate popping and sputtering with melted beef fat. It's the ruby-red slabs of meat, each encased in a rectangular shell of char that can be achieved only with the kitchen's 1,600-degree oven. Creamed spinach is a good accompaniment. The German-style potato ($11.95), cooked with enough clarified butter to grease an airport runway, is better. Whatever dessert you choose, make sure it's topped with a tall mountain of rich whipped cream. That is how you steakhouse.

Readers' choice: Prime 112

Courtesy of Perros Express

What's better than fast food? Colombian fast food on wheels. Specifically, Colombian fast food prepared by Perros Express, the Miami-based food truck specializing in the South American country's colorful, street-food-style hot dogs, burgers, and late-night eats. The dogs and burgers served here are the real deal, genuine delicacies where more toppings equals more hype. It's the type of food you need to chow down when you're starving, stoned, drunk, or hung over. In other words: Colombian fast food at its finest (and most gaudily dressed). At first glance, the menu's biggest, baddest signature hot dog, the Super Paisa Perro, appears garishly overgarnished with an amalgam of ten colorful toppings. So just what is all that stuff? Basically, a steamed dog with melted mozzarella-like white queso and a smorgasbord of toppings. It begins with a heavy drizzling of garlic mayo, pink sauce, a secret "showy" sauce, mustard, and ketchup. All of that dream-cream is followed by a hearty helping of diced bacon and crushed potato chips, then capped off with a final swipe of golden pineapple purée. And watching it being made is almost as much fun as dismantling it.

Readers' choice: Ms. Cheezious

Photo by Stephan Goettlicher

Since 1990, Graziano's has been known as the top spot for Argentine fare in South Florida. Indeed, several other locations, including outposts in Hialeah, Doral, and Weston, have popped up since. They all began with Buenos Aires-born founder and longtime butcher Mario Graziano, who today is proud to have been among the first to bring the cuisine and culture to Miami. The family started off small at the first market off Coral Way and then expanded with a small menu of traditional Argentine grilled meats. Today the largest location, in Coral Gables, has also evolved into a casual eatery serving prepared foods and offering seated dining; it began as an informal parking-lot dining room where soda crates were used as chairs. Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends, the market has a dedicated meat counter that offers high-end cuts of Argentina's finest steaks, the aisles are stocked with Argentine-sourced items, and breads and pastries are handmade by bakers who learned the craft in Argentine towns. But the best might be the steaks, prepared in-house over the quebracho-fueled fire; this red wood grows mostly in Argentina and southern Brazil and lends an unmistakable flavor to the meats. There's also an extensive wine selection sourcing small, family-run vineyards. And for a corkage fee, any bottle can be popped and poured on premises to enjoy after shopping, during lunch, or for happy hour from 5 to 9 p.m.

Located in the SLS Brickell Hotel & Residences in downtown Miami, the 210-seat Bazaar Mar specializes in the bounty of the ocean, with a seasonal emphasis on items sourced from Miami and the Caribbean. As its name implies — mar is Spanish for "sea" — the restaurant offers everything from executive chef José Andrés' take on "sea snacks" like ceviche and tiradito to whole fish prepared almost any way you can imagine. But the real gem here is the raw bar, where guests can select from a number of sashimi and crudo selections that vary based on what's in season. It's not uncommon to find offerings such as greater amberjack from the Cantabrian Sea alongside local rainbow runner or yellow jack, and rare finds like ora king salmon belly, Japanese hamachi, and kampachi from Hawaii. A massive mollusk tank allows the chef to keep a variety of exotic live sea creatures, including geoduck (saltwater clams), abalone (large sea snails), and sea urchin (the ocean's hedgehog), sourced from all over the world and kept live only to be split open — the animal still wriggling — and cut sashimi-style just moments before serving. Ask for Andrés' favorite raw bar dish: geoduck served displaying the skirt and the siphon, braised with soy and aromatics to create a briny sauce.

courtesy of Artisan Beach House

When you want to dine on the water, you want something special. And what's better than breakfast, lunch, or dinner presented by former Hell's Kitchen contestant and one of the region's foremost culinary darlings, Paula DaSilva? In 2016, DaSilva announced she'd become executive chef of Artisan Beach House, the newest restaurant to launch at the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour. The eatery reunites DaSilva with nightlife concept creator and restaurateur Seth Greenberg, who first teamed up with the chef at the now-defunct 1500 Degrees at the Eden Roc. The place marks her return to the Miami culinary scene after taking a seven-month hiatus from the kitchen to travel and spend time with family. From the open-air patio or bright, beach-themed dining room, you can see boats passing through the inlet leading to the Atlantic Ocean. The view also comes with a choice of dishes inspired by DaSilva's travels and 20-plus years of culinary experience. That means you can find everything from her Italian riff on baked farm eggs ($12) — toast with salted, cured fish-roe-topped chicken eggs — to the very French country-style foie gras torchon ($14) she plates with bacon, grain mustard, and house-pickled vegetables.

Michael Stavaridis

While most of the country waits months to dine outdoors, Miamians are lucky to have the option year-round. And because a good cocktail and a fancy meal taste even better while gazing out across a majestic view, why not head for a rooftop where you can take in the sights of the Magic City's skyline by day and night? Juvia, perched atop the parking garage designed by Herzog & de Meuron since 2012, is just the spot for such an outing. The restaurant boasts 10,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor space, offering patrons magnificent panoramic views that stretch from Miami Beach to mainland Miami. Don't just go for the location, however; the food is topnotch too, thanks to a trio of chefs including Sunny Oh (formerly of Nobu South Beach), Daniel Boulud protégé Laurent Cantineaux, and pastry chef Gregory Gourreau, who spent time working alongside Alain Ducasse and François Payard. Together, they offer guests lunch and dinner menus that blend the cuisine of Asia and South America with classic French technique. That means you can order everything from Maine lobster ceviche ($25) and sea scallop a la plancha ($33) to duck foie gras terrine ($29) and a 32-ounce bone-in rib eye ($85). Juvia also serves one of Miami's best brunches, so come Saturday and Sunday, you can enjoy a prix fixe with bottomless mimosas, bellinis, or prosecco ($50) to end another sun-soaked week, all while taking in that breathtaking city skyline.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®