Atlantic Pho
Courtesy of Atlantic Pho

It's easy to find a good bowl of pho, but to locate one that makes you feel as if you are sitting on a stool in Saigon is incredibly difficult. Atlantic Pho is one of the few places in South Florida that produces steaming bowls of Vietnamese excellence. Priced between $6.95 and $9.95, the stuff comes in standard varieties: chicken, beef, combination, seafood, veggie, or any mix of those. In each one, the family recipe, derived from Da Nang, Vietnam, and still in use there, separates the dish from the pack. The rice noodles are cooked just right, the bean sprouts and mint leaves are fresh, and the broth could be a standalone soup in most upscale restaurants. It's pho-tastic.

Best Sandwich Shop
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For decades, Miami has been a dominant force in the sandwich universe. Sure, New York and Chicago have claims, but the Magic City is one of few where the sandwich plays an integral part of life. Though Cuban sandwiches have long reigned supreme, a few years ago the intensely flavorful sandwiches of Peru appeared on the scene, and life has never been this same. The family-owned Mr. & Mrs. Bun in West Kendall specializes in what it calls panceta en caja china ($11.99). Pork belly is cooked in a special roasting box until the meat's absurdly tender fat and flesh are encased in a crisp crust. It's tucked inside a fluffy house-made bun with crisp sweet potato coins, crunchy lettuce, and a tangy mayonnaise. In Peru, these sandwiches are popular as drunk food, but there's no need for booze to make this version the best.

El Pimiento
Photo by Jacob Katel

Since 2006, the Miami Lakes restaurant El Pimiento has offered a sprawling menu of small plates — the kind you'd see served on the streets of Madrid — for a fraction of the price you'd pay at an American tapas bar. Prices range from $6 to $17 for most small plates. If you're the type to be overwhelmed by too many options — there are more than 40 tapas and 60 dishes in all — the small staff that runs the 12-table restaurant is happy to help you navigate chef/owner Juan Carlos de la Cruz's offerings, which range from hot and cold selections to vegetable, meat, and seafood plates. There are traditional picks such as the Spanish anchovies marinated in vinegar and olive oil known as boquerones ($11) as well as tortilla española, a Spanish-style potato and onion omelet ($7). For a truly indulgent evening, imbibe with a bottle of wine. The walls here are lined with rows of options sourced from Spain, Chile, and Argentina. Don't feel bashful about perusing them yourself, although the staff can recommend favorites.

Best French Fries
CandaceWest.com

At Pincho Factory, you have to order the epic tostón burger: a beef patty, jack cheese, and a dollop of cilantro sauce presented between two crisp fried plantains. But every burger needs a companion, and Pincho Factory offers several. Try a batch of fried plantains ($3.49), or go for an order of the classic French fries, cooked to a golden brown for a nice outer crunch. Or take it up a notch with bacon cheddar ranch fries served with ranch dressing. There are also the Cajun fries, topped with grilled onions, seasoning, and Pincho's top-secret pink sauce. Or check out the bite-size sweet potato tots. They're all under five bucks each.

222 Taco
Courtesy of 222 Taco

Taco and tequila veteran Anna Robbins' 222 Taco in North Bay Village is a Miami Vice-colored palace of tortillas and margaritas. It's also a comfortable place to partake of a well-priced meal. Tacos are categorized by land, sea, and jardin ($3 to $4 each). All — including traditional items such as carne asada and al pastor — are delicious, but it's the veggie tacos that will win you over. Cauliflower al pastor has the sweet and acidic flavor without the guilt, and hongo alambre has a lovely earthiness. The restaurant even offers vegan queso and crema so you won't miss a beat. Wash everything down with a 222 slushy margarita, a delightful frozen drink that's best described as a passionfruit piña colada with a liberal dose of tequila ($11).

Sunrise Pita & Grill
Photo by Alona Abbady Martinez

Celebrating 20 years in the same bustling location, Sunrise Pita & Grill was the go-to place for fans of the Israeli fried chickpea pita sandwich long before it became a South Florida trend. The vegan treat is made to order and then placed inside either fluffy pita bread ($6.75); an extra-large lafa, the Middle Eastern equivalent to a wrap ($8.99); or a baguette ($8.49). And this is just the first step. Select from a colorful array of fresh salads and sauces, and the jovial staff will add your choices. There's fried eggplant, sweet onion, pickled cabbage, garlic carrots, hummus, and tahini (sesame seed paste) prepared daily in-house. Those in the know will ask for a drizzle of amba, a tangy pickled mango sauce to pump up the party in your mouth. If you're not afraid of heat, ask for a bit of schug, the Moroccan herb-based condiment not to be taken lightly. A falafel platter is available ($10.49) for those who prefer to be more civil and use a plastic fork and knife. You can sit and enjoy Israeli news or take your order to go. A second location across from Nova University is expected to open soon. Another plus: Everything is glatt kosher, so God is on your side.

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
Photo courtesy of Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

Disney character Sebastian the Crab once said about the virtues of living under the sea (more or less): "Sure, it might be fun spending your life hiding in some coral rock, but you know what's more enjoyable? Devouring us." At Sugarcane, you can get the Little Mermaid's family together where they belong — on your plate. Sit at the lively bar and order a half-dozen oysters ($18, selection varies), a few shrimp, and a chilled lobster. Then go to town! Chef Timon Balloo serves meat from the robata grill, so you can happily sate any carnivorous desires.

Wabi Sabi Miami
Courtesy of Wabi Sabi by Shuji

Shuji Hiyakawa, former executive sushi chef of Kuro at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, brings Japan to Miami through his first solo venture, Wabi Sabi by Shuji. The Upper Eastside space serves basic, ingredient-based Japanese sushi bowls. The menu is small but packed with flavor. Four bowls ($11 to $18) are available, including the Wabi Sabi, filled with tuna, salmon, crab, tobiko, cucumber, avocado, seaweed, and shiitake mushrooms. There are three cold-pressed juices ($7), from the fruity blend Geisha to the strong and sharp mix Samurai. And there are daily specials, cooked fish, and six flavors of mochi ice cream, including matcha green tea and salted caramel. Hiyakawa offers high-end catering too. It's called shidashi, a Japanese word for "luxury sushi trunk," where he fills three-level boxes with an assortment of nigiri and rolls for $200. It feeds a few diners. Customers who bring their own bottle, bowl, or box receive $1 off their purchase. And those who bring back their shidashi box save $75 off their next order. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Sunny Poke
Courtesy of Sunny Poke

Created by Sunny Oh, chef and owner of popular spots such as Juvia and Sushi Garage, Sunny Poke churns out granola bowls in the morning and traditional poke mixed with vegetables, seasonings, and sauces in the afternoon. Located within Oh's Sushi Garage space in Sunset Harbour, the place operates during the main restaurant's off-hours. The concept allows Oh to keep busy before Sushi Garage opens for dinner. One of the most popular items is the spicy tuna bowl ($14), topped with tempura crumbs, avocado, and hiyashi wakame. Or swap rice for noodles in Oh's spicy noodle bowl, drizzled with a tangy chili sauce ($14). Or create your own option using various bases, fish, and more than 15 toppings and sauces ($13 and up). It's open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Dr. Limón chef/owner Carlos Brescia puts the final touches on one of his 20-plus ceviches.
Courtesy of Dr. Limón
Dr. Limón chef/owner Carlos Brescia puts the final touches on one of his 20-plus ceviches.

Chef/owner of Dr. Limón, Carlos Brescia, named his restaurant after the key ingredient in his quintessential dish: ceviche. Limón — "lime" in Spanish for you gringos — can be found in almost all of Brescia's dishes. The chef likes to say, "ceviche starts here," but what he should really be expressing is "your hangover ends here." Before moving to the States from Peru in the early 2000s, Brescia used to wake up early after long nights of partying to prepare hangover-curing meals for friends and family. Today his Miami-based Peruvian concept with four locations (and one on the way) offers one of South Florida's largest ceviche selections. Aside from its high vitamin C content and antioxidants, lime juice leaves everyone feeling better — precisely the same feeling everyone should have after visiting a doctor. With more than 20 variations of the raw-fish dish on the menu, this is one of the best places to go after a little too much liquor for some hangover-curing leche de tigre. The concoction is concentrated ceviche liquid that includes a combination of lime, fish stock, onions, garlic, ají limo, and cilantro. At Dr. Limón, try it as part of the Santo Remedio ($10), seven shot-size glasses of his most colorful leche de tigre offerings, each prepared using various peppers and ingredients. Halfway through, you'll be ready to party all over again.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®