Bin No. 18
Courtesy of Bin No. 18

What makes a great wine bar? Is it the selection, the knowledgeable staff, or the prices? You can find all three in perfect unison at Bin 18, the chic urban bistro near the Adrienne Arsht Center that presents a classy selection of European food and drink items with a specialization in vino. The wine bar offers a dazzling array of affordable, quirky wines alongside a short (but ambitious) small-plates menu. These aren't typical wines, certainly not by the glass, but the selection is appropriate for wine nerds and casual drinkers alike. Sipping here is a pinch-yourself treat, with choices of stunning rarity and age, bottles you might count yourself lucky to stumble upon thanks to a restaurant that's been collecting for more than a decade. From a Scaia Rosso baby amarone to a La Liebre y Tortuga albarino, there's always something unique. With around 150 bottles to choose from and about 15 rotating varietals by the glass, it's best to try as many as possible during the weekday happy hour, where you can get half-priced glasses of wine and draft beer from 5 to 7 p.m. Or try the pre-theater menu: $39 for one glass of wine paired with a prix fixe of appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

The Biltmore Bar
Courtesy of the Biltmore

For a proper martini, you first must have the proper surroundings. There's no other place in Miami that exudes a more elegant, Old-World vibe than the classic Biltmore Hotel. A dark lounge decorated with pictures of actors on the red carpet in Cannes houses the room's focal point: a lushly carved wooden bar that looks like it belongs in a chic Parisian hotel. Your bartender hands you a leather-bound book of beverages, but you came here for the most regal of cocktails, so you don't even look. The classic martini (starting at $15) is the preferred libation of the likes of Winston Churchill, Dorothy Parker, and James Bond. Whether you choose vodka or gin is, of course, a matter of preference. If you take gin, you'll be rewarded with an ice-cold drink made with Martin Miller's London Dry gin (the house spirit) and topped with three olives. Forget the house-made bitters, bacon-infused bourbon, and cocktails in cans. There's a reason why the martini has stood the test of time, and this one is clear perfection in a glass. The Biltmore Bar is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 1:30 a.m. and is closed Sunday and Monday.

Readers' choice: Diplomat Prime

SoCal Cantina
Allen Levin

Barman Leo Holtzman put himself on the Miami map with the Cocktail Collection, a speakeasy above the sorely missed Tobacco Road. There, Holtzman entertained guests with sleight of hand and refreshed them with his drinks. Holtzman is now a partner at SoCal, where he mixes the Gardner's margarita ($11). Instead of having the usual light-green hue, this cocktail is a gorgeous shade of blush. The secret is the red bell peppers muddled into the drink. Holtzman then uses cucumbers for freshness and serrano peppers for a slight tingle. Containing a liberal amount of Herradura tequila and garnished with peppers and a spiced-salt rim, this margarita is a delightfully fresh iteration of the classic and a much more sophisticated version than the frozen kind poured from blenders. SoCal is open Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Thursday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Miami Mojito Company
Cesar Morales

A well-kept secret doesn't stay that way for long, which explains why so many people know how to find Wynwood's newest hidden tiki bar. The clandestine beach-themed place popped up in December 2016 for Art Basel, but creator Cesar Morales — owner of Wood Tavern and Bar Next Door — never closed the doors. Instead, his pop-up, dubbed Miami Mojito Company, has gained impressive popularity. Accessible only through the Plant the Future corridor on the side of Wood Tavern off NW Second Avenue in Wynwood, the back-alley bar fashioned into an island tiki hut was conceived after a trip Morales took to Brazil, where he saw carts and stands peddling fresh mojitos and caipirinhas on the beach. His idea: Bring a true taste of Brazil to Miami. Today Miami Mojito Company is open seven days a week from noon till midnight or 2 a.m. And the only menu item at this 20-seater is the mojito. It starts with fresh sugar-cane juice prepared barside using a large metal contraption that presses stalks of sugar cane into a waterfall of cloudy juice. From there, it's nothing but whole mint leaves muddled in fresh-squeezed lime juice and shaken over ice with a few shots of Don Q rum. The resulting drink is not syrupy-sweet like the ones at so many tourist traps on Ocean Drive. Instead, these are blissfully refreshing, accented with just the right touch of lime and a hint of sweetness from the raw sugar-cane juice. Order them in several flavors, including blackberry, tamarind, passionfruit, and raspberry ($10 to $12). Then sit back, relax, and let the sounds of samba transport you from the streets of Wynwood to the beaches of Brazil.

Readers' choice: Ball & Chain

Tuto's Place
Nicole Danna

Miami and flan go together like San Diego and fish tacos or New York City and hot dogs. It's just part of the culture. But deciding which flan is made just the right way can be a point of contention. And the version made at Tuto's Place is arguably the finest. First things first: Don't judge this place by its decor. Forget the Southern-pride signs and bumper stickers on the walls (and the Confederate flag) and the fact that it looks more like a greasy spoon than a Cuban restaurant. This cafeteria-style eatery serving mainly breakfast or lunch from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. gets it all right, from desayuno to postre. And though the Cuban sandwich and pan con bistec may be the two most Instagrammed dishes here, the real star is the flan ($2). Just like abuela used to make, the custard is tinged a golden brown on the top and bottom from caramelized sugar. When it's turned over to serve, the jiggly flan cracks at the edges, and an ooey-gooey deluge of that liquid sugar cascades over the sides and hardens into a crystalline candy shell at the edge of the plate. If you're lucky, Tuto himself will serve it to you. The convivial old Cuban guy is most often found behind the counter.

Laterria Italiana
Photo by Gustavo Tonelli

When word came out that the Persian sundae at Fooq's included rosewater and lavender gelato churned by Midtown's Latteria Italiana, it was obvious Miami had something special on its hands. Yes, indeed, the interior of this pocket-size spot is cute as a button, with oversize blue-and-white Cuban tiles and little faded black-and-white pictures of Italian street scenes. But it's the gelato that takes you away. At first, a whiff of the pale-green pistachio flavor fills your head with a nutty aroma. But a first bite reveals the concoction has been filled with salt and pepper, making each bite like a handful of the nuts themselves. There's been candied chestnut for the holidays, along with coconut and key lime because, well, it's Miami. Owner Antonio Carrozza ventures into uncharted waters with pear and ginger, and the nutty, earthy Japanese green tea called matcha. He's even been in talks with nearby gyms to churn out a high-protein, low-sugar treat. Just call Carrozza the gelato genius.

Cindy Lou's
Courtesy of Cindy Lou's Cookies

This artisanal cookie purveyor peddles 28 varieties, including cheesecake, lemon cloud, Oreo crunch, and salted double chocolate filled with Nutella. Owned by Cindy Kruse, a local baker with more than 25 years of pastry experience at restaurants such as Barton G. and Gigi, Cindy Lou's molds and decorates every cookie by hand. The treats, priced at $3.50 apiece, are baked around the clock, and toppings and fillings are made in-house too. Her Little River storefront is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Panther Coffee, Jimmy'z Kitchen, and Vice City Bean also carry her creations.

Ella Cafe
courtesy of Ella Cafe

Hidden inside the Design District's Palm Court is Ella, a collaboration between venerable Miami chef Michael Schwartz and his daughter Ella. This bright, industrial space offers a variety of café items, including avocado toast, Greek yogurt, salads, sandwiches, and juices. But at the bottom of the seasonal menu is something even sweeter: a rotating doughnut special. Expect flavors such as brown sugar, cinnamon, and white chocolate; brown butter and orange; and melted chocolate and toffee. Each treat costs $3 and comes crowned with a decorated doughnut hole. All doughnuts are unique and made individually by hand. Ella stays on trend with fashionable flavors too: She's created varieties topped with matcha green tea icing, caramel, or cocoa.

Readers' choice: The Salty Donut

Best Cupcakes

The belief that everything tastes better with a little booze inspired Lola Rivera to begin experimenting. As Miami's craft beer scene flourishes, she has created an assortment of alcohol-and-sweets pairings, including vanilla rum, chocolate stout, and Tortuga rum bite-size cupcakes. Most of them can be made gluten-free — and vegan too. Lola the Baker, which does not have a storefront, operates on a made-to-order basis. Nicknamed "Cupcakes on Tap," her business allows customers to order by the dozen ($10 to $20). To contact Lola the Baker, email info@lolathebaker.com.

Best Desserts

You might have seen a photo of a rainbow-sprinkled cookie-dough ball oozing creamy liquid chocolate on Margo Wolfe's MDoughW Instagram page. Wolfe, the creator of Miami's first cookie-dough dessert company, rose to social media fame through gluttonous postings of rich, cream-filled dessert mashups. Her fans are located around the world, but Miamians can enjoy MDoughW treats (around $25 to $30) on UberEats. That's right. Flavors such as Funfetti, cookies 'n' cream, rainbow cake, and chocolate-chunk dough stuffed with a brownie can be ordered and delivered across South Florida. That way, you avoid MDoughW's online shop and the need for shipping. The brand is also known for inventive collaborations, including cinnamon-sugar-infused cookie dough wrapped around a half-portion of a Knaus Berry Farm roll, and a guava pastelito from Versailles stuffed inside flavored dough. When limited-edition collaborations are available, they can also be ordered on UberEats. Each treat begins with a cookie-dough base and is then filled with another sweet. The blend allows Wolfe to dream up the craziest and tastiest confections Miami has ever savored.

Readers' choice: Fireman Derek's World-Famous Pies

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®