Ofa Restaurant
Courtesy of Ofa Restaurant

You should definitely start your meal at Ofa Restaurant with the pão de queijo ($7). A handful of these hot, doughy cheese balls arrives on a wooden board in a small brown bag beside a jar of requeijão, a creamy dairy spread that's sweet like cream cheese yet far more spreadable. It's a satisfyingly simple start to any traditional Brazilian meal, but even if tradition isn't your thing, you'll be happy here. The best part about Ofa is the ambiance. This isn't the been-there-done-that Brazilian steakhouse touting massive skewers of meat that bop from table to table. And it's not a nostalgic mom-and-pop that focuses on hearty, homestyle dishes served family-style. Instead, Ofa specializes in contemporary takes on South American dishes via progressive menu items, many of which are gluten-free and vegan. Try the farofa, a nutty-flavored, toasted, buttered cassava-flour dish. It's often served with meats, beans, and stews, but here it's a shareable bowl in a rainbow of flavors, from garlic to bacon to lemon-ginger to banana ($5). Or try bobo de vegetais, a dish that often contains shrimp in a purée of cassava meal with coconut milk but here is made vegetarian with peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and plantains ($22). Brazilian sweets include brigadeiros — traditional chocolate truffles made with dark or milk chocolate and condensed milk. The drink menu, created by Brazilian bartender Jean Ponce, lists the usual caipirinhas, but try his riffs on South American classics such as the Abacaxi, a tropical libation that fuses fresh pineapple purée with artisanal white cachaça ($12).

Fiorito
BillWisserPhoto.com

More than 30 years have passed since Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" goal, which gave Argentina a 2-1 lead over the English in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals. To this day, soccer fans remain incensed by the fact that the brash Argentine used his hand to drive a ball into the back of the net. And while the five-foot, five-inch footballer's mug graces the walls of this Little Haiti hideaway, the dishes brothers Maximiliano and Cristian Alvarez put out could make you forgive even the greatest sins. For their choripán, creamy roasted sweetbreads are veneered with a gorgeous smoky crust highlighted by a fragrant leek chimichurri ($9). The way they make a steak Milanesa ($11) so tender and juicy inside with such a shatteringly crisp crust defies all logic. It's akin to the referee's refusal to blow a whistle when Maradona hand-balled that goal home. Amazing.

Yambo Restaurant
Photo by billwisserphoto.com

If you have a hankering for gallo pinto or carne asada, there's no better spot than Yambo. It's open round-the-clock every day. Since 1983, late-night partiers, lunch-time munchers, and families out for a casual dinner have been lining up at this restaurant with an outdoor patio and indoor space to get their fill of Central American delicacies. Noted favorites are the savory gallo pinto, the sweet maduros, and the rich queso frito (fried cheese). Though prices are sometimes a little murky at this cash-only spot (but credit cards are OK for large orders), for less than $10 you will be blown away by the quality and quantity of food scooped into your Styrofoam container or onto your plate. Take the time to absorb the only-in-Managua decor, the coin-operated pony ride, and the impressive monument to Rubén Darío, the great Nicaraguan poet. Be sure to ask for the complementary homemade salsa and ensalada de repollo (shredded cabbage salad) to accompany your meal.

Sabor a Perú
Natalia Molina

Many critics say one of the Miami culinary ecosystem's shortfalls is its lack of diners. Objection! What is a diner? It's a neighborhood place with humble decor, friendly service, and food to fit any appetite or taste — all at reasonable prices. The Cuban cafeterias sprawled across Miami-Dade fit the bill well. Even better is the long-standing Peruvian seafood joint Sabor a Perú. It regularly draws such large crowds that hungry hopefuls happily wait outside and choke on traffic fumes. They do it for the jalea ($15.99), a neck-high mound of seafood that includes shrimp, squid, and whatever fresh fish is on hand. Speaking of fish, the mountainous ceviches are enough to feed a family of four, and whether it's the mixed seafood ($15.99) or the shrimp ($14.99), it's punchy and tangy enough to cool you on even the hottest August day.

Best Cuban Restaurant
Leah Gabriel

It's hard for a Cuban restaurant to stand out in a town with more Cuban restaurants than any city off the island. This cuisine should be simple, unpretentious, and delicious. You should be able to taste the garlic before your meal even hits the table, and nothing should be served without a slice of lime on the plate. Puerto Sagua checks those boxes, but that's not what makes it stand out. It's the kind of place you'd expect to find in Little Havana or Hialeah, but this no-frills joint is on the corner of Seventh Street and Collins Avenue in South Beach, where glitz and glamour reign supreme — and most of the old school has been bought up and buried under the new. From 7 a.m. till 2 p.m. seven days a week, Puerto Sagua serves Cuban standards such as masitas de puerco con arroz moros y yuca ($15.25) and ropa vieja con maduros ($11.95) that are as good as you'll find anywhere — including your abuela's dinner table.

Las Orquideas
Photo by Jesse Scott

Do you really want your next Colombian meal to come from a fake-arepa cart at a gringo-filled festival? There's a much better choice. Make the drive to Las Orquideas in Fort Lauderdale for a truly authentic experience. This South Florida mainstay has everything you need at virtually any time (hours are 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday). Not starving? Grab a perfectly fried empanada ($1 for small, $1.60 for large) and drown it in some ridiculously spicy homemade ají sauce. Need to detox? Go for the natural juices — lulo, mora, maracuya, and others — blended with milk ($4) or water ($3.50). Ready for an amazingly delicious dish? Try the bandeja montañera ($13) — with red beans, rice, grilled steak, pork skin, egg, sweet plantains, and an arepa — or the sweet and succulent pollo en salsa de Maracuya ($13). Las Orquideas also hosts live music Fridays and Saturdays and shows an amazing number of Colombian soccer games. ¡Vamos!

Kiki on the River
Photo by Chat Chow

A former fish market, the glamorous Greek restaurant Kiki on the River transports diners to the Mediterranean. The food, executed by veteran chef Steve Rhee, includes tender seasoned octopus ($18), lightly fried saganaki cheese ($16), grilled then baked sea bass (MP), and fried potatoes with lemon and oregano ($9). Find a table around sunset on the restaurant's charming patio overlooking the Miami River. The view, along with the rustic furnishings, whitewashed walls, and lush greenery, is enchanting. You might even forget you're in Miami. Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, noon to 11 p.m. Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday.

Xixón Spanish Restaurant
Photo by Michael McElroy

Xixón Spanish Restaurant opened in 2001 as a market and today has grown to include a fine-dining restaurant. Consider the Asturian fabada, a rich bean stew that's the signature dish of Spain's Asturian region. The traditional version served here is so labor-intensive it's offered only Saturday ($16). It's rife with white fava beans, blood sausage, chorizo, and a salty Jabugo ham, all simmered for four hours in a hearty saffron-flavored broth. The steak tartare ($18) uses ingredients so fresh the dish is available only Wednesday. Of course, you might want to visit just for the rice dishes. The menu touts four kinds of paella, such as con bogavante, which includes shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, and Maine lobster. If you still have room for postre, a serious dessert menu lists more than a dozen delectables you won't find anywhere else, including a carpaccio de piña, which includes a house-made mint ice cream ($7).

Otentic Fresh Food Restaurant
Photo by John Zur

Escargots can go two ways. When dining out, you'll either get pitifully small mollusks smothered in so much butter it just might instantly clog your arteries. Or, if you're lucky, you'll get the real thing: giant burgundy snails sautéed with a hint of butter, minced shallots, and garlic. That's exactly how you'll find this dish at Otentic Fresh Food Restaurant in South Beach. A dozen escargots are seasoned to taste, finished with fresh-chopped parsley, and arrive plump and tender for $13. It's just one of the well-executed French specialities you'll find at this 40-seat bistro offering an intimate, unpretentious setting for traditional French fare. That includes the country's quintessential dishes, served from 11 a.m. to late into the night. Try it all, from those colossal escargots to custardy quiche Lorraine to Nutella-stuffed crêpes. Prices encourage sampling too: Appetizers start at $7, crêpes run $12 to $14, and entrées cost $15 to $31.

Fratelli La Bufala
Courtesy of Fratelli La Bufala

When it comes to Neapolitan pizzerias in Miami, there is only one that can claim to be the first and best: Fratelli La Bufala. But this hidden gem isn't just known for phenomenal pizzas; it's the pastas, salads, and fresh bufala mozzarella that's made this Italian restaurant a staple in South Beach for more than ten years. Buffalo mozzarella is much sweeter than the cow's-milk version; it's also juicier and creamier. If you haven't tried fresh bufala mozzarella, do it ASAP. Fratelli La Bufala (FLB) is one of the few establishments in Miami to have fresh bufala mozzarella delivered almost daily. Whether placed on the restaurant's wood-oven pizzas or the fresh house-made pastas, this rare and exotic cheese is a game changer. FLB's signature appetizer, La Bufalata ($23), is a beautiful platter of bufala mozzarella served with cured Italian meats and fresh vegetables. The way the fresh mozzarella oozes over the meats and vegetables is out of this world. Another highlight is the cost. This underrated spot is not only extremely authentic but also reasonably priced, making it a favorite for Italians visiting Miami. If you're looking for some of the most delicious pizza and pasta in Miami, run, don't walk, to Fratelli La Bufala. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®