Best Of :: Food & Drink
At La Esquina del Lechón, piping-hot rolls come served in baskets strewn with butter packets and fried pork chunks just to get things going. A life-size, wood-carved pig greets diners, who can opt to sit at the bar or in the main dining area, filled with millennials, abuelitos, and construction workers eating shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the week. The menu is huge, but go for the classic "el famoso lechón en nuestra caja china" ($24): a pile of pork that's slowly roasted for seven hours. Come with extra mouths or extreme hunger, because this dish can easily serve two. A hearty portion of moist meat peeks out from beneath a crunchy layer of pork skin, and the sautéed onions are buttery and sweet. The restaurant bottles and sells its own barbecue sauce in two flavors —Smoky & Sweet and Guava — but the tender meat does just fine on its own. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Eternity Coffee Roasters has caffeinated the masses in downtown Miami since 2011. Its carefully sourced, seed-to-cup beans come from countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Colombia and are brewed to perfection via a V-60 brewer right before your eyes (starting at $3.25). The popular brew El Boton (made with a sun-dried natural bean from Antioquia, Colombia, $5.50) will leave you questioning the corporate sludge you're used to drinking. And Eternity isn't afraid to experiment. A recent concoction mixed espresso, orange bitters, and tonic water to create a spritzer-like experience ($5). The coffeehouse can also add CBD oil to your favorite beverages ($3 for a 25mg shot). At Eternity, coffee options are as high-quality as they are surprising. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Deciding what to eat at the Design District's St. Roch Market — with options ranging from Peruvian Nikkei to handmade pasta — can be overwhelming. But you'll fare better if you step over to the market's quiet coffee counter situated below a chromatic collection of books and let Sabal Coffee's owner Chase Rodriguez guide your way. Whether he's pulling a perfect double shot ($3.50) or whipping up a new creation, such as the espresso egg cream ($6), the results should be enough to get those decision-making brain juices flowing before your lunch break ends. Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Readers' choice: Panther Coffee
Vegan croissants are a rare bird. Thanks to the heavy butter content, some believed that replicating the flaky texture of this beloved pastry without using animal-derived ingredients was simply impossible. But Carolina Quijada, a classically trained, European-inspired chef (who just happens to be vegan) dedicated herself to recreating cruelty-free versions of all the buttery French pastries she once adored. She spent years experimenting with different ingredients, only to perfect a recipe for the flakiest, most buttery, most mouthwatering croissant ($3.75), adored by omnivores and vegans alike across South Florida. Quijada's croissants can be found in restaurants from Midtown's Glam Vegan to Green Bar & Kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, to Planta South Beach — as well as L'Artisane Creative Bakery, her intimate breakfast-and-lunch eatery in North Miami Beach. And while the classic tends to get top billing, she also bakes croissants in special flavors including cinnamon, cookies and cream, and apple pie. Bon appétit. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Pastelitos are as common as traffic jams in Miami. Classic variations made with guava, cheese, or meat can be found everywhere, from your favorite Cuban bakery to the corner gas station, but the quality can vary. Thankfully, Giovanni Fesser, a veteran cook who until recently has toiled in near-anonymity, has given Miami the gift of something better. Instead of making his pastelitos with bricks of sweetened guava, Fesser uses the real deal from PG Tropicals in the Redland. He also crafts Buffalo chicken, peanut butter and jelly, cheesesteak, and baklava variations. Expect the lineup to expand even more now that Fesser, a cook at Ariete, has moved his pastelito production to his boss Michael Beltran's recently opened Cuban diner, Chug's.
Eileen Andrade is carrying on a storied legacy. Her family founded the landmark restaurant Islas Canarias, which is legendary in Miami for its warm service and pristine croquetas. Andrade's restaurant, named for her grandmother who was a fixture at Islas, serves ham and chicken croquetas in orders of three ($4 for lunch, $6 for dinner). It's common for them to disappear in the blink of an eye, but guests should savor them with ceremony. Inspect the croquetas when they arrive and take note of the golden-brown, perfectly crisp crust. Apply a squeeze of lime and dive in, savoring the rich béchamel sauce. Once the trio disappears, don't be shy and ask your server for another round. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
It's not uncommon to catch a group of college kids crowded around Bagel Cove's take-out window at 3 a.m. on any given weekend. Behind the clear glass are metal baskets stocked with hand-rolled bagels and buckets of cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, capers, lox, and lettuce. When hunger strikes in the middle of the night, this New York-style delicatessen on Biscayne Boulevard in Aventura slings hot bagels smeared with house-made cream cheese and runny eggs. As the only deli open 24 hours a day in Miami-Dade County, Bagel Cove, which opened in the early '90s, fills orders for bagel sandwiches while baking dough for the next day. There are nearly two dozen bagel flavors ($2.75 and up), including everything, pumpernickel, onion, and salt, and even more sandwich combinations, including nova cream cheese spread, Nutella and bananas, and egg and cheese. The shop's dining room is open from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; the take-out window opens at 4 p.m. and closes the following morning when the full-service restaurant reopens at 6:30.
Readers' choice: El Bagel
It's been almost four years since the Salty Donut debuted in Wynwood as Miami's first craft doughnut maker, slinging maple bacon, tres leches, and guava and cheese flavors ($2.65 and up). It's been about three years since the business moved into its flagship at the Wynwood Arcade. Cofounders Andy Rodriguez and Amanda Pizarro-Rodriguez spent about a year operating as a pop-up while they waited for construction and permit approvals. Since then, the Salty Donut has captured the hearts and stomachs of thousands in Miami through its unique flavors, often resulting in hourlong lines that wrap around the storefront on weekends. Before year's end, the couple will open a second location, in South Miami, adjacent to the former Fox's Sherron Inn, a local icon that closed in 2015 after operating for nearly 70 years. The shop will occupy about 1,300 square feet and offer a spacious outdoor courtyard and an open kitchen so guests can watch the baking process. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Readers' choice: The Salty Donut
Pastry wizard Antonio Bachour is back in a big way. After stepping away from his partnership with Brickell's B Bistro + Bakery, the Puerto Rican-born chef has opened two solo bakery and café spots: a flagship in Coral Gables and a grab-and-go spot at the Citadel in Little Haiti. In Coral Gables, Bachour and his team offer a medley of brightly colored desserts, from croissants and tarts to mousses and bonbons ($3 and up). Besides serving sweets, the café also offers breakfast, brunch, and lunch, featuring Bachour's popular tartines ($15 and up) and guava pastelito pancakes ($14). In the 5,000-square-foot space, Bachour can bake around the clock, ensuring there is always a healthy supply of red velvet croissants and mango lime tarts. Pastries are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and the kitchen is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Readers' choice: Taiyaki at 1-800-Lucky
Dallas Wynne did not learn how to cook the same way most chefs learn. In fact, as she told New Times last year, her grandmother was "the worst cook in the world." In Palm City, a sleepy town three hours southeast of Tampa, Wynne's parents worked long days. She cooked for herself, and then, in high school, she got a job in the kitchen at a local country club. Nearly a decade later, Wynne is executive pastry chef at Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford's highly acclaimed restaurant, Stubborn Seed. She's as versatile as they come, creating everything from artfully plated corn pavlova that looks more like a work of art than an edible treat, to toothsome snickerdoodle cookies that ooze with a warm hazelnut spread. In the coming months, Wynne will lead the pastry department at Ford's forthcoming Coconut Grove restaurant, Afishonado.
True Loaf is the bakery that almost wasn't. Owner Tomas Strulovic was in his 30s and working on a lucrative career in finance when he decided to drop the comfort of the high life for overnight baking shifts. Though things were shaky at first, Strulovic quickly hit his stride and today remains the city's leading purveyor of everything from sourdough loaves ($9.60) to croissants ($4.28 to $5.35) to cookies ($3.21 to $4.28) to ciabatta loaves ($3.21). His loaves of challah ($9) sell out in a snap Fridays, so be sure to show up early. Hours are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Readers' choice: Zak the Baker
In 2017, Night Owl churned out more than 750,000 cookies, averaging about 2,000 per day and ringing up more than $1.5 million in sales. Then, in June 2018, owner Andrew Gonzalez expanded into a larger, 2,000-square-foot space on SW Eighth Street, potentially breaking the record for the largest cookie shop in the nation. (Guinness World Records will send Gonzalez a certificate in the next few months, he says.) In Night Owl, Gonzalez has built a multimillion-dollar business by selling doughnut-size cookies in dozens of flavors starting at $2.50 each. Most nights, lines of eager customers hungry for Ave Marias — made with guava dough, white chocolate chips, and cream cheese frosting — swirl around his Calle Ocho storefront. Other popular cookie orders include s'mores, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the Dirty Diana, in which chocolate dough is stuffed with Nutella. In 2019, denizens of central Miami-Dade should be able to skip the drive out west: Gonzalez plans to open a Night Owl location in Wynwood soon. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.