Ghee Indian Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Ghee

Ghee is what Indians call clarified butter, and across the subcontinent, it is far more than an ingredient. Candles are fueled by it, and when the dead are taken to the banks of the Ganges River in the ancient, holy city of Varanasi, relatives coat the shrouds with ghee before setting the corpses ablaze. At this Western Indian spot in Dadeland, chef Niven Patel and his crew have opened Miami's eyes to a cuisine that consists of so much more than tandoori chicken and lamb rogan josh. Here you'll find the simple street snack of puffed rice called bhel ($12), juiced up with sweet Florida avocado and meaty hunks of raw tuna. And though the restaurant offers chicken tikka masala ($14) for patrons who insist on the classic, be sure not to miss the sizable vegetable section, much of which is culled from Patel's own backyard garden.

'O Munaciello
Photo by Laine Doss

'O Munaciello isn't your regular pizza shop. The Neapolitan-style restaurant on Miami's Upper Eastside makes a slate of unique pies. Some are infused with activated charcoal, creating a black-hued dough. Most are topped with traditional fixings such as mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The eatery offers other fare from Italy's Campania region as well, including homemade tagliatelle pomodorini, made with tomatoes, fried eggplant, and buffalo cheese ($20), and a seafood scialatiello, a pasta platter for two prepared with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, and Piennolo cherry tomatoes ($20). But the star of this Biscayne Boulevard spot is the pizza ($12 to $25), made by chef Carmine Candito, who grew up working at his family's pizza shop in Naples, Italy. Hours are noon to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 6 to 11:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Miss Saigon Bistro
Courtesy of Miss Saigon Bistro

When Miss Saigon opened in Coral Gables in 1997, most South Floridians were more familiar with the Broadway musical of the same name than Southeast Asian cuisine. In the past two decades, though, Miss Saigon has helped familiarize Coral Gables. Pho might not yet be as ubiquitous as foreign foods such as hummus or sushi, but Miss Saigon's six varieties of the northern Vietnamese beef soup have helped right that wrong one order at a time. The dinner menu lists a wide range of dishes, including an inspired vegetarian section with a $21.95 seitan watercress that's worth a drive. The weekday lunch special from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. is more economical, offering 23 items — from bun (rice noodle bowls) to pad thai — for $9.95 to $12.95.

Taquerias El Mexicano
Courtesy of Taquerias El Mexicano

Although Little Havana is named for the capital of Cuba, the beauty of the neighborhood is its vast array of cultures and nationalities. For example, Miami boasts a large Mexican community, and Taquerias El Mexicano is easily one of the best culinary contributions to the area. The menu is vast, and the question "Do you have...?" will inevitably be answered with a resounding, "." For the most part, the dishes are old-school, but Taquerias El Mexicano is under new ownership that is modernizing the restaurant. The colorful decorations inside and out are still traditional and proudly celebrate all things Mexican. The service is friendly and the food deliciosa. And the prices are relatively low. For the best value, try a combo platter, such as the one that brings a flauta, an enchilada suiza, and a picadillo taco for a mere $11.50. If that trio isn't appetizing enough, go for the bistec ranchero ($17) or carne asada ($16). Taquerias El Mexicano is open from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, to midnight Thursday, and to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The ventanita opens at 8 a.m. daily.

Alloy Bistro Gourmet
Photo by Natalia Pascual / Prism Creative Group

In 2016, Federico Genovese, his brother Claudio, and partner Luna Bertolotti opened this charming Mediterranean-style spot tucked into one of the narrow courtyards hidden between downtown buildings. At Alloy Bistro Gourmet, you can find a survey of cuisine that always includes a house-smoked fish and tender octopus ($20), as well as simple salads such as one composed of whipped goat cheese and watercress with a watercress dressing. The best part is that the short menu changes almost monthly, and the owners are often the ones to guide you through a meal. Most recently, they served a duck prosciutto ($17) and black pasta infused with coconut charcoal tossed with soy and portobello mushrooms ($22). If any of that sounds enticing, don't delay.

Chayhana Oasis
Photo by billwisserphoto.com

If you decide to pay this Uzbek hideaway a visit, be sure to go on a Friday or Saturday, when a resident belly dancer does her thing across the room all night long while music blares and an oversize flat-screen TV loops video of a fireplace. Secure a bottle of vodka — this could be a long night. Luckily, Chayhana Oasis serves plenty of deeply satisfying food representative of not only Uzbekistan but also the entire central Eurasian region where the former Soviet republic today traces its borders. Hence, a meal might begin with the tender stuffed Turkish-style grape leaves called doma ($12) and proceed to kovurma lagman ($15) — fried, house-made egg noodles flecked with chewy bits of beef and bell peppers topped with an impossibly thin shredded egg crepe. Later comes another western-Chinese-style salad: chopped cucumbers and minced meat tossed with soy and garlic, then sprinkled with a flurry of sesame seeds. Of course, there's no shortage of lamb and tender, chewy fresh-baked bread to soak up that waterfall of vodka. It's going to be a good night.

No Name Chinese
Photo by Ginger Monteleone

Do you want a wine that goes best with roast duck and pickled vegetables? Or maybe you would like to know which varietals pair well with dumplings and steamed buns. Fret not. No Name Chinese has the perfect bottle to go with thoughtfully sourced and executed Chinese cuisine that turns what was once familiar into something that honors Chinese traditions with a South Florida twist. The turnip cake ($12) is a dim sum classic with sweet soy, Japanese mayo, katsuobushi flakes, lap cheong sausage, and shiitake mushrooms. Many of the dumplings here were picked up from Asian masters when the kitchen crew traveled around looking to fill out the menu and the classic take-out dishes. Among them are beef and broccoli ($20), which deploys grass-fed tenderloin and gai lan to create something that's guilt-free even if you devour the entire plate.

Stubborn Seed
Photo by CandaceWest.com

Miami Beach's South of Fifth neighborhood is known for many things: multimillion-dollar condos, celebrities, Lamborghinis, and boob jobs. Though the neighborhood is replete with solid and beloved restaurants, it wasn't considered a hub of culinary innovation. That changed when Jeremy Ford — the Florida-born, smooth-scalped winner of the 13th season of Bravo's reality cooking show, Top Chef — set up shop. At Stubborn Seed, Ford is building on his widely publicized win and pumping out dishes the likes of which Miami has rarely seen. There is nai ragi on homemade buttermilk dressing. A puck of warm celery root ($17), braised with lemon juice and olive oil, is treated like meat and paired with slivers of maitake mushrooms — crisped in tempura batter and served with a frothy mustard sauce. Multiple carrot preparations, including foamed, puréed, powdered, pickled, or roasted, accompany a succulent hunk of umami short rib and show off the kitchen's deep skills and dedication. If he keeps this up, Ford is destined to become an icon like some of his long-standing neighbors.

Sage Bagel & Deli
Photo by Nicole Danna

Since opening in Hallandale Beach in 1973, Sage Bagel & Deli has expanded the menu to include dozens of items. But first, order a bagel. Any list of best bagels in South Florida includes Sage. Most meals come with them. Breakfast highlights include the $8.49 challah French toast and the $9.89 matzo brie (matzo fried with eggs). For lunch, sandwiches range in price from $6.49 for a grilled cheese to $16.50 for a massive Reuben. Though Sage is open only till 5 p.m., the generous portions will sate you until bedtime. Just be sure you have a sandwich on a bagel. It's guaranteed to make you a repeat customer.

Sara's Kosher Restaurant
Courtesy of Sara's Kosher Restaurant

Tired of boring takes on traditional Jewish food? Ditch those spots and try a place so amazing it would make your bubbe's head spin. Nestled in an anonymous strip mall, Sara's Kosher Restaurant adds a vegetarian twist to many of your favorite Jewish delicacies. The 17-page menu can be intimidating to newcomers. There are even vegetarian takes on Italian, Cuban, and Mexican food. One highlight is the $14.95 stuffed cabbage — a Hungarian dish of cabbage filled with rice and a vegan faux-beef simmered in a sweet-and-sour sauce — served with a freshly baked challah roll or pita bread for vegans. Also not to be missed is the $11.95 falafel platter served with Israeli salad and French fries, and two pitas.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®