Best Restaurant in the Design District/Midtown

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

The kitchen at Mandolin Aegean Bistro came under the leadership of chef Roel Alcudia — formerly of Michael Schwartz's Cypress Room and Jonathan Waxman's Barbuto — in 2015. Since then, things have been a little different. For starters, the kitchen is always stocked with ingredients from the likes of great South Florida farmers such as Chris French. And the menu offers a bounty of Alcudia's interpretations of Mediterranean and Greek classics that stand far and above those at most other similar restaurants. Still not sold? Along with preparing standard dishes such as fava-spinach-chickpea kofte ($24) and pillowy manti dumplings ($20) stuffed with minced beef and topped with a rich sauce of garlicky yogurt with burnt butter, the kitchen is constantly churning out specials such as cucumber salad with marinated mussels, leeks, bottarga, and herbs ($14); scallop crudo with English peas, pistachio, and chervil ($18); and dakos with baby heirloom tomatoes, feta, and oregano ($16). Hours are noon to 11 p.m. daily.

Readers' choice: Mandolin Aegean Bistro

Maria's Greek Restaurant

At this Coral Way institution, the avgolemono soup ($4.75) — made with chicken and orzo in a luscious broth of stock, egg, and lemon — is a rich and puckery affair. Maria's has been a family-run operation since 1982, passed down from its namesake matriarch to her daughter Angela to maintain the home-cooked feel. It's easy to imagine being served Maria's mousaka entrée ($16.95) at a family member's home. "Keep eating! You look hungry!" they'd say as they piled hunk after hunk of grilled pork and triangles of pita onto your plate. "Try the tzatziki!" Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Etzel Itzik Deli

Thousands of faded photographs of happy patrons double as wallpaper at this compact spot off West Dixie Highway, just steps from Aventura Mall. If you look under the glass of your table, you'll find them smiling up at you there too. It's best to get to Etzel Itzik Deli early, because the place fills up fast. Tables are close and space is tight, so there's a chance you'll make a friend with a chatty neighbor if you're dining solo. As you look through the menu (English on the left, Hebrew on the right), a friendly waitress will crowd your tiny table with a colorful arrangement of small bowls filled with Israeli salads — carrots, chickpeas, and beets, to name a few — served tapas-style. The appetizer is free and whets the palate for the menu of classic Israeli fare such as the falafel sandwich ($7.95), schnitzel ($16.95), and chicken liver with onions ($16.95). Breakfast is also available, including the green omelet ($9.95), made with scallions and parsley and served with Israeli salad and bread. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Chef/owner Stella Elishayev doesn't want you to tell your friends about her lunch spot tucked into one of Miami's mostly abandoned downtown arcade buildings. She just wants you to eat. So grab a seat at one of the shiny metal tables at Shirin Glatt Kosher and sit back while Elishayev unleashes an onslaught of kosher delights from across the Jewish diaspora. In the mood for some Israeli food? She's right there with the kitchen sink of chicken parts that is a Jerusalem mixed grill ($19.95). There's also hummus ($5.95) and Israeli salad ($7.95), of course. And for a full meal, go for plates such as plov ($19.95), a rice dish cooked with carrots and meat, or the manti ($17.95), dumplings packed with onions, beef, and lamb. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 3 p.m. Friday.

Readers' choice: Zuma Contemporary Japanese Cuisine

The Seven Dials
Photo by billwisserphoto.com

The hearty fare of Britain at first doesn't seem like it has a place in sweltering, body-conscious Miami. But in the hands of Seven Dials chef and owner Andrew Gilbert, plates such as bangers and mash ($18), oxtail soup ($12), and fish and chips ($16) meld with the tropical atmosphere. Just take a look at the last dish to find out how: Here, the mushy peas, a staple of fish and chips, would infuriate any bona fide British citizen (including Gilbert's mother) and aren't the kind you'd find at an English chip shop. Instead, a quenelle of the grassy-colored mixture with an occasional whole pea is served chilled and brightened by mint and a squirt of lemon. The beer-battered shell encasing a fat slab of corvina is crisp beyond belief. Sprinkle the whole plate — including those house-made French fries — with some malt vinegar to complete the experience. Hours are noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Readers' choice: Eating House

Finding a quality Chinese place in Miami is almost as hard as finding a worthy slice of pizza — it's difficult but not impossible. That's why the Magic City should be forever grateful to chef Richard Hales, the owner of a handful of local restaurants including Blackbrick Chinese in Midtown. For years, Hales has maintained the restaurant's goal of offering simple, delicious, and affordable food. Serving some of the city's best shrimp and scallop dumplings ($8), explosive chili chicken wings ($15), and General Tso's (made with Florida gator) doesn't hurt either ($27). Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Readers' choice: Tropical Chinese

Kon Chau
Maureen Aimee Mariano

Even when it's ripping hot in the middle of the summer, dim sum fiends seek out the soup dumplings ($4.25) at Kon Chau Chinese Restaurant. On busy Saturday mornings, packs of diners push aside the shiny chive shrimp dumplings ($4.25) and crispy taro cakes ($3.40) in favor of these favorites. They come four to an order, so you'll probably need two rounds. A quick word of advice: Punch a little hole into the dumplings and let some of the soup drain into the foil cup. Drink that, splash the whole thing with some of the vinegary dipping sauce, and go to town. Don't forget about the pork pies ($3.40) with savory little nuggets of char siu wrapped inside buttery puff pastry. After you try those, you'll know why crowds stand in line outside a rundown West Miami-Dade strip mall on weekend mornings. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Sushi by Bou
Photo courtesy of Sushi by Bou

This six-seat New York City omakase sushi import is a reason for locals to return — if only briefly — to Ocean Drive. It's situated on the top floor of the former Versace mansion in an intimate hideaway. Once seated in a soft leather seat, you'll get to knock down about a dozen pieces of nigiri, individually set before you on a gold-rimmed Versace logo plate. Enjoy tuna in all its iterations — akami, chu-toro, and the fatty o-toro — as well as striped jack, Hokkaido scallop, sea urchin, and marinated ikura, otherwise known as salmon roe. Make a reservation with friends for a special occasion: The luxe, 17-course omakase experience costs $125 per person. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday.

Readers' choice: Katsuya South Beach

Sushi Erika
Photo by FujifilmGirl

Erika, the daughter and right hand of beloved itamae Michio Kushi, opened her own sushi spot just down the road from her dad's old haunt, Sushi Deli, in North Bay Village in 2018, and she brought many of her father's classics with her. Included on the menu of topnotch rolls are specials such as squid leg karaage ($5.50) and the opportunity to sample a chef's choice sushi platter. Calm your California roll cravings for a moment and order the battera, a traditional pressed mackerel dish ($8.50), as well as a roll filled with the sweet gourd known as kampyo ($3.50). Bonafides secured, you're now ready to dive into the sweet shrimp served with its head, Japanese sea urchin, and needlefish when it's in season. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Best Secret Lounge
Juan Fernando Ayora

Brad Kilgore's Design District lounge, Kaido, has a secret. Behind a false wall lies Ama, a hidden gem accessible only with a guide who escorts guests into a small boxlike room where they're instructed to refrain from taking pictures. After they agree, guests are given access to this small bar named after female pearl divers in Japan. The bar specializes in Japanese whisky and sodas, presented in a tall glass with a precise cylinder of ice. The intimate, $120 "amakase" dinner that follows is by reservation only. It's chef Kilgore's own interpretation of omakase dining. The bar, which grants entry by a strict reservation-only policy, also offers bartender Nico DeSoto's upscale take on the humble pickleback: Japanese whisky followed by a glass of chilled shiitake broth. Hours are by reservation only beginning at 7 p.m.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®