Best Restaurant on the Upper Eastside

La Placita

La Placita
Photo by Natascha Otero Santiago

Jose Mendin has already made a name for himself through his work in beloved institutions such as Pubbelly Noodle Bar and Pubbelly Sushi. Now the Puerto Rican-born chef has created something more personal with La Placita. Along with his partners, Mendin has founded more than an eatery: It's a multisensory trip to Puerto Rico. Nothing about this place is subtle: You'll know you've arrived when you see the three-story Puerto Rican flag painted on the building by artist Hector Collazo Hernández. Inside, Goya bean cans serve as napkin holders, and a mural lists the restaurant's offerings. Everything is thoughtful, from the music to the soundtrack of coquís — Puerto Rico's famous singing frogs — chirping in the bathrooms. The menu reads like a trip to abuela's house: Plantain fritters known as alcapurrías ($12), the codfish pancake called bacalaito ($8), and a piquant escabeche de pulpo ($12) are all delicious, but the star of the show is the mofongo. Choose between classic plantain or trifongo (green plantain, yuca, and sweet plantain) for your base; then add shrimp, lobster, chicken, or ropa vieja as a protein (prices vary by base and topping). Any way you order it, it's Mendin's flavorful tribute to his homeland. Wash it all down with a cocktail menu created by Cocktail Cartel and you'll be swaying to the beat of the salsa streaming from the speakers — and from your heart. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Bon Gout BBQ's "zakos."
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
Bon Gout BBQ's "zakos."

The Bon Gout BBQ crew arrives shortly after the crack of dawn to begin preparing brisket, ribs, chicken, and a bounty of Caribbean and soul-food sides including rice and peas ($3) and mac and cheese ($3). But the ruler of them all is the griot ($10). Fat-rippled knobs of pork shoulder are plunged into a deep fryer and emerge with a burnished crust and a juicy interior. If you prefer, the meat can be lovingly tucked into a tortilla and crowned with the spicy fermented cabbage known as pikliz. The Haitian condiment has taken the world by storm, and for good reason: Its tart, spicy flavor provides the perfect complement to Bon Gout's unctuous pork bits. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Rakachaka Grill y Más
Zachary Fagenson

This bright, airy fritanga — tucked into the border where Little Havana meets downtown Miami — offers all of Nicaragua's classic fried favorites alongside more traditional dishes in a clean, serve-yourself format. Rakachaka does so in a more welcoming atmosphere than many of its nearby competitors, giving people unfamiliar with the glorious world of fritangas the comfort to try everything they offer. In the morning, grab a fresh juice and try to decide between scrambled eggs and chorizo or a swollen nacatamal bursting with pork, potato, peppers, onions, mint, and olives. Think you're done? No way! You'll be back in a few hours for a complete meal ($7.99) with a daily selection that might include pork ribs, beef soup, stewed beef tongue, or a grilled hunk of pork and beef. All good, no guilt. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Readers' choice: La Sandwicherie

Las Tapas de Rosa
Zachary Fagenson

Brickell is moving west, people! Renew your leases, sign a contract for a parking spot, and call your one lawyer friend in case your greedy landlord tries to push you out early. But when exactly will West Brickell crest I-95 and begin creeping into East Little Havana? That's anyone's guess. Whatever happens, Rosa Rodriguez and her daughters Sara and Gloria will be there to make it all OK with their heavy-handed pours of tempranillo in a comforting space on Calle Ocho. Once seated, you might be overwhelmed by the expansive menu. Don't fret: Rosa is there to help guide you in the right direction. Just be sure to ask for extra bocadillos. You can't go wrong with cured pork loin, Manchego cheese, and roasted pepper tucked into the sandwich they call Pijo ($9.95). Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Best Chef
Zachary Fagenson

Did Carlos García intend to become a standard-bearer for his native Venezuela's cuisine? Who knows. But the bespectacled chef's Brickell restaurant, Obra Kitchen Table, is a standout in a neighborhood where big money and trends often trump ingredients and good cooking. While he and his team are plating dishes such as classic Venezuelan chicken soup ($14) and a clam salpicón with smoked avocado in a crisp arepa ($19), García is also lending a hand in the kitchen at Camillus House through his nonprofit, Recipes for Change. His award-winning restaurant Alto still operates in the heart of Caracas amid political strife and social upheaval. He also works with other chefs to make a dent in the South American country's massive food shortages through the nonprofit Barriga Llena, Corazón Contento (Fully Belly, Happy Heart). Obra's hours are noon to 3 p.m. and 6 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 11:30 p.m. Friday, and 6 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Readers' choice: Geoff Lee (Byblos)

Sanpocho Restaurant
Zachary Fagenson

This eye-popping technicolor Colombian spot is the place to be when La Selección is on TV or when you need to fill your pantry with hard-to-find Colombian snacks and ingredients. Otherwise, pop in early in the morning for a sweet coffee and a puffy pandebono ($1.50), and return later in the day for a heaping bandeja paisa ($12.95) with the crispest pork skin this side of the equator. Make Sanpocho your final stop after a long night out, when you can find a griddle set up on the sidewalk and cooks frying sausages, burgers, and eggs to ensure you stave off that hangover. Hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday,

La Mar by Gastón Acurio
Photo by billwisserphoto.com

Housed inside the Mandarin Oriental, Brickell Key's La Mar boasts a patio offering one of Miami's loveliest skyline views. It's the Miami outpost of Peruvian celebrity chef Gastón Acurio, but you won't see him here often. Instead, his youthful, energetic protégé, Diego Oka, runs the show. Oka creates Peruvian specialties that are almost too pretty to eat, and as far as feasts for the eyes go, La Chalanita ($28) is a great place to start. The meal offers two Nikkei causas (a traditional potato-salad-like dish) that can be served with salmon tartare or vegetarian-style with beet pâté, sunchoke tartare, carrots, and tomatoes. New dishes worth exploring are torrejas de choclo — Peruvian corn fritters topped with seafood, confit vegetables, and leche de tigre ($22) — and conch with garlic leche de tigre, purple chips, chalaca, olive oil, jalapeño, and radish ($18). Hours are 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for breakfast, noon to 3:30 p.m. for lunch, and 6 to 11 p.m. for dinner daily.

Best Ceviche
Fujifilmgirl

Ceviche is often served as an appetizer throughout South Florida, but at Itamae inside St. Roch Market in the Design District, the lime-marinated seafood dish takes center stage. Named "Chiclayo ceviche" for the Peruvian hometown of chefs Fernando Chang and son and daughter Nando and Valerie, this dish features the catch of the day served in a bowl with base choices of sushi rice, brown rice, organic greens, or zucchini noodles. Guests can opt to add thinly sliced red onion, cilantro, Peruvian corn, diced sweet potato, and tangy leche de tigre served on the side. The dish goes for $17, but an extra $2 brings sliced avocado and capers. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Readers' choice: Cvi.che 105

Obra Kitchen Table
Photo by Miami Chef

Celebrated Venezuelan chef Carlos García made his Miami debut with the opening of his first U.S. restaurant, Obra Kitchen Table. From 2013 to 2016, García's Alto in Caracas held a spot on Latin America's "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list. Now in Miami, García offers upscale comfort food in Brickell's Jade building right off SW 14th Street near the waterfront. The 3,000-square-foot restaurant boasts an open kitchen with a wrap-around counter, allowing diners to watch chefs in action and discuss the food while they eat. The Venezuelan-influenced menu centers on dishes cooked on a Josper grill and includes rigatoni and clams ($29), fried snapper with tostones ($35), sea urchin fried egg French fries ($22), and Wagyu flank steak with brown buttered onions ($28). Top off the meal with desserts such as arroz con leche ($12) and citrus pie ($13). Hours are noon to 3 p.m. and 6 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 11:30 p.m. Friday, and 6 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Best Restaurant in South Miami-Dade

Barley

Barley
Barley

Ceviche nachos ($15) and croquetas with guava marmalade ($10) are just a couple of the dishes chef Jorgi Ramos serves at his rustic American bistro in South Miami. Located in Downtown Dadeland, the 2,300-square-foot spot is related to Ramos' second concept in the same complex, Abi Maria, an old-school-inspired Cuban cocktail bar with late-night programming. Make it an evening with dinner at Barley: Begin with a couple of orders of the daily mac and cheese, which ranges from carbonara to croqueta ($12 to $18), along with the charred broccolini ($12) and the double-patty cheddar burger ($18). Then make your way to Abi Maria for the Guantánamo ($10), a frozen cocktail made with bourbon, mango, agave, and mint. Hours are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Readers' choice: Ghee Indian Kitchen

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®