Best Pastelito 2019 | Pastelito Papi | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Burger Beast

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.

Bagel Cove

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

Photo courtesy of the Salty

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

Bachour photo

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

Alex Markow
Dallas Wynne (right)

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.

Zachary Fagenson

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

Night Owl Cookies

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.

Cao Chocolates
Ricardo Trillos

Chocolate sales, which account for $20 billion a year nationwide, have hit a sweet spot in the past few years, according to the National Confectioners Association. In 2017, sales of premium and dark chocolate grew 6 percent and are expected to continue to rise. It's no wonder that bean-to-bar chocolate shops have sprouted in Miami, including Cao Chocolates, a spot near Pinecrest owned by self-taught chocolatier Ricardo Trillos. His small charming store is stocked with dozens of brightly wrapped cacao products. Everything is crafted onsite, from chocolate bars made with cacao from different countries to dark-chocolate-covered almonds, truffles, and bonbons filled with toasted coconut or almond chocolate cream. His chocolate is used at restaurants such as Edge Steak & Bar and at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. It's also sold at Books & Books and Miami International Airport. In addition, Trillos and his wife host chocolate-and-wine-tastings as well as monthly chocolate-inspired dinners. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Courtesy of Garcia Nevett

In 2012, sisters Susana and Isabel Garcia Nevett, who worked as chocolatiers in Venezuela, launched Garcia Nevett (formerly Cacao Art) inside their home shortly after immigrating to Miami. Unlike other chocolate shops, which brand themselves as bean-to-bar, the sisters use chocolate made from Venezuelan cacao as a base for dozens of treats, such as cookies, cakes, bonbons, and fudge jars ($3 and up). They also serve coffee and hot chocolate, and they make marshmallows and homemade caramel using honey from Key West. The Nevetts have won three silver medals in the Americas competition at the International Chocolate Awards, which recognize excellence in fine chocolate products around the world. The winning items, which can be found in their store, include a Florida Keys sea salt ganache, an orange honey caramel bonbon, and the Patanemo ganache — a bonbon made with single-origin cacao from a small town in Venezuela ($6 and up). Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®