Best Intimate Dining
CandaceWest.com

At Three, Mango Gang legend Norman Van Aken cooks his signature Florida fusion cuisine in a sleek and tropical space. The staff is disciplined, and the food is topnotch. But even more spectacular is the space. It's outfitted with midcentury modern furnishings such as royal-blue velvet chairs and gold-trimmed black tables. An impressive Frida Kahlo portrait hangs adjacent to a marble bar facing an open kitchen. Tables are streamlined and allow for diners to spread out while remaining close. Customers dining in pairs should opt for the three-course experience ($65 per person). Or leave it up to Van Aken and chef de cuisine Juan Garrido to choose the menu for a five-course tasting menu ($90 per person). Hours are 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, noon to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Thursday, noon to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Panorama

On the eighth floor of the Sonesta resort in Coconut Grove, gaze out at Biscayne Bay while snacking on upscale Peruvian food. Nestled on a quiet street, the restaurant is as a retreat for locals and tourists alike from morning till night. The expansive patio is filled with low-slung lounge chairs and tables. Food varies throughout the day, from continental breakfast offerings in the morning to more sophisticated Latin American-influenced items in the evening. Panorama's ceviches are a crowd favorite. Try the tuna Nikkei with garlic marinade or the traditional with corvina and lime juice ($15 and up). Then just enjoy the view. It is spectacular. Panorama is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

La Camaronera Seafood Joint and Fish Market
Courtesy of La Camaronera

If you like seafood, La Camaronera should be your new favorite fish spot. The entire menu is seafood, from the shrimp empanadas and grouper soup to breaded lobster and fried whole fresh fish of the day. It's all thanks to the Garcia brothers; 11 of them were born into a family of fishermen in the province of Las Villas, Cuba. As the story goes, they helped their father to learn the trade — everything from catching to cleaning — and support the family. Since 1966, that same tradition continues in Miami, when Garcia Brothers Seafood was established. Once operating a fish market and wholesaler, the Garcias grew their biz into a restaurant in 1976 with the addition of a few deep fryers and a U-shaped counter where customers would line up sans seats to enjoy Cuban fish fry at its best. Sure, there are plenty of places in the Magic City to get a fried-fish sandwich, but it probably won't taste as good as the original snapper pan con minuta (market price). Forty years later, come lunch time, the dining room is still standing room only, full of patrons hungry for the house specialty, camarones fritos, the restaurant's famous fried shrimp ($9.55).

Grumpy Greg's BBQ
Courtesy of Grumpy Greg's BBQ

Miami barbecue is an amorphous beast. While other cities and states are dedicated to one cut of meat, one sauce, or one style of smoking, the 305's fare is like the city's population, drawing influences from everywhere. Yet no one does barbecue like Greg La Rochelle. For years, he roamed the Florida Keys in a cop car running down bad guys. But back in 2015, he traded in his badge and uniform for piles of meat and a flame-belching smoker. Today he's one of South Florida's barbecue masters and spends weekends roving South Dade farmers markets, plying smoked ribs, salmon, and tender, hard-to-find smoked brisket that boasts a bright red smoke ring and unparalleled juiciness. It's long overdue that Texas-style slow smoke, which spends up to 14 hours in the smoker, has popped up in Miami. Now that it's here, you'll have a hard time ever looking back.

Flava's Miami
Photo by Travis Cohen

When it comes to soul food, Miami rarely gets as much attention as Southern cities such as Atlanta, Charleston, and Nashville, but that doesn't mean there aren't kitchens in the Magic City dishing out proper feel-good Southern fare. You just have to know where to find it. And if you're looking for serious soul food, you need to go to Flava's to get that good good. The shrimp and grits plate ($10.99) comes with a half-dozen tender crustaceans served on a bowl of grits that is neither too mealy nor too soupy and includes a bit of the oil and seasoning from cooking the shrimp. Make sure you also try the chicken and waffles ($9.99) — spicy poultry never tasted so good. Get there early, because Flava's is open only from 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and it's never empty.

Chuck Wagon Restaurant
Courtesy of Chuck Wagon

The chuck wagon might be the one good thing to emerge from Europeans' conquering of the land we now call home. Settlers traveled everywhere in these wooden wagons that acted as field kitchens to provide hearty meals to those crossing the treacherous plains and deserts. Miami-Dade's own Chuck Wagon doesn't move, unless you count its three locations in the western and southern reaches of the county. At each you'll find the hearty fare that could keep you going in the face of snakebites, measles, dysentery, and exhaustion. Start your day with fluffy homemade biscuits doused in a robust sausage gravy ($6.79), or if you're on the go, grab a fried egg sandwich ($5.89) crowned with every variety of sausage, from patties to smoked links. Lunchtime is hoagie heaven, or shove all care and concern aside and opt for the country fried steak ($11.99). No matter how many hundreds of miles may be left on your trail, this chuck wagon will get you there.

Red South Beach

In transient South Beach, Red the Steakhouse has endured for almost a decade. This hot spot's allure are its perfectly charred steaks, wonderfully fresh seafood, and well-executed small plates such as truffle whipped potatoes, four-cheese macaroni and cheese, and Parmesan tater tots. The menu, created by executive chef Peter Vauthy, transcends season and trend with items that will never go out of style. Try the toothsome 40-day dry-aged prime rib eye ($64). Or cut into the Miyazaki Japanese Kobe A5. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Sherwood's Bistro & Bar
Photo by FujifilmGirl

At this quaint spot in Miami's fast-growing Little River neighborhood, well-known restaurateur Barclay Graebner's crew treats you like family. It starts when you take a seat and a server presents you with a massive wheel of Grana Padano, then encourages you to take a hunk. A stack of oversize, house-baked cookies sits nearby. They're perfect for dessert, but before you try them, a regiment of servers in hipster attire will tend to your every need and skillfully guide you toward the menu's best offerings. Dedicated carnivore? Go for bone marrow ($14). Vegan? Try the chief's bowl ($18) with sweet potato, coconut curry, brown rice, and lentils. The big winner, however, is the rabbit potpie ($18), boasting a buttery, flaky, crisp pastry crown and a rich gravy that could instantly transport the most harried office worker to a place of pure delight.

Best Outdoor Dining
CandaceWest.com

Five-time James Beard Award-nominated chef Jose Mendin is responsible for Habitat, a Spanish-influenced restaurant in the former Beachcraft space at the 1 Hotel South Beach. The indoor/outdoor property is stunning, exuding a strikingly warm glow through rustic wooden decor and gold and copper accents. But the real treat is the patio, where you'll find a canopy of trees draped in dangling lights. Its centerpiece is a small vintage camper stocked with cafecitos and cocktails. Sip Habitat's popular tequila cocktail, the Fifth Element ($15), made with avocado, agave, and tropical fruit and rimmed with citrus sea salt. As night falls, enjoy an order of the Skuna Bay salmon coated in crunchy everything-bagel seasoning ($24), octopus a la planxa ($21), or patatas arrubravas drizzled in a light aioli ($13). Though the patio borders Collins Avenue, the mixture of fine food, tasty cocktails, and a beautiful setting wipes away the chaos of South Beach. Try Habitat from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Best Beer
Courtesy of Biscayne Bay Brewing

Sure, it's fun to experiment with beers that taste like candy bars and gummy bears. But when you want a no-frills, locally made beer that's just damn good, go to Biscayne Bay Brewing. The brewery opened about three years ago in Doral, so why the name Biscayne Bay? Well, the beers are made with water from the Biscayne Aquifer. That's Miami AF, dude. Brewmaster Chris Gil's approach to beer is classic. That means when you pour one of the brewery's core beers — whether it be a saison, a pale ale, an IPA, a kolsch, or a porter — you'll get a fresh beer that tastes like beer and not a glass of liquefied Lucky Charms. Even the limited-edition and experimental beers aren't gimmicky; think a good ale aged in a whiskey barrel. Hang out at the brewery, where a pint costs about five bucks (or $2.50 from 3 to 7 p.m. daily), but you don't even have to drive out to Doral. Biscayne Bay's beers are sold at most Whole Foods, Publix, and Total Wine locations. The brewery's hours are noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, 3 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and noon to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®