Isadora Gaviria Photography

A good Venezuelan-style arepa should offer an unleavened maize crunch and be neatly packed with fillings. But once you pick it up, it should also be something that you just can't put down, for two reasons: 1) because it's actually bursting at the seams, and 2) because that stuffing is just so tasty, it's practically addictive. La Latina's arepas fit those prerequisites, no matter what you choose: black beans and plantains, shredded beef and cheese, or chicken salad and avocado. In pre-COVID times, the modest shop offered these oh-so-satisfying sandwiches, a great post-club/pre-hangover remedy, practically 24/7 on the weekends. Now, like so many other things, we have them only until curfew. We soak up the booze with them — er, celebrate their quality — regardless.

We've all been there. You spot it sometime around 11 a.m. in the lunchroom. It's that three-hour-old, lukewarm tray of limp croquetas. You circle a couple of times. No one's watching, right? Once sure of some degree of privacy, you continue your loop, slowly munching on mediocre croquetas until an almost embarrassing number of them vanish. Well, this ain't that. The croquetas de bacalao ($2.50) from this longstanding cafeteria that now finds its surrounded by a growing number of apartment towers are things to be enjoyed hot, fresh, and with pride. You know it's true because they're not always available. But when they are, each hefty cylinder is packed with rich, salty cod and bound up with potato and spices. They're best when freshly fried with a squirt of lime juice. They demand a certain amount of respect. These are not side-piece croquetas. These are not something to grab at the last minute and leave somewhere like discarded fast-food wrappers. These are fritters of the gods, and they will indeed lead to someplace those cold ones consumed in hiding could never show you.

In 2002, Maria and Gerardo Peraza, along with their children Heidy and Joel, bought this venerable Hialeah bakery, rumored to have been the first to open in La Ciudad que Progresa way back in 1975. Everyone has different standards when it comes to Cuban pastelitos. For some, it's all about the crunch of the puff pastry. For others, it's the filling and how much, or how little, that pastelería around the corner uses. Here, it's the aroma of sugar, not yet caramelized and certainly never burnt, that draws you in and keeps you locked in place. Soon come hints of salty ham, likely from the mountain of croquetas, followed by coconut, and, depending on the day, a combination of savory aromas that flow out of a compact kitchen that turns out $5 platters of ropa vieja on Tuesday and arroz con pollo on Sundays.

Happy Place Donuts

Happy Place Donuts is one of the sweetest spots in Miami, devoted to specialty craft doughnuts that bring a unique flair to the classic doughy dessert. Along with a variety of specialty items, they offer other doughnut-inspired treats, such as the Hot & Happy Dough Balls ($3.25), inspired by the Italian street food, as well as handcrafted mojitos designed to pair with each doughnut. The brand's prime Española Way location is a fun spot to enjoy a treat while sitting on the outdoor patio and courtyard. It also has a viewing window where customers can watch the doughnut-making process, allowing you to witness the magic firsthand. Happy Place is offering takeout and delivery, so you can bring all the joy of their doughnuts right into your home.

Platonic Studios / Courtesy of Zak the Baker

The question hung for years like a dense fog. "Do you serve bagels?" they would ask while standing in a line that sometimes stretched out of the bakery's door and wrapped around its graffiti-splashed façade. For years, Zak Stern's answer was no. Then one day in late 2019, Stern was there in a sunny corner of the bakery flipping circles of dough into hulking pots of boiling water spiked with honey. He spent months figuring out how to get onion flakes to stick and how to ensure each bagel had the burnished red-brown hue indicating a perfect bake. Eventually he got it, and despite the pandemic you can still cop a half dozen for nine bucks, or one split and slicked with cream cheese and a few slices of smoked salmon for $12.50. It was a long time coming, but baby, it was worth the wait.

Courtesy of El Bagel

El Bagel began as a labor of love and, despite its wild success, it remains so today. In the early days, founder Matteson Koche was determined to create the perfect bagel that was affordable, free of preservatives, and suitable for Miami's humid climate, which isn't always ideal for baking bagels. The result was a doughy treat that quickly gained a cult-like following. Koche focuses on quality, giving his food the attention and care it needs so he can serve up the best breakfast sandwiches at a reasonable price ($7.50 to $12.50). Everything is made fresh, so it's not rare for the shop to close early after it's sold out its inventory for the day. In addition to classic items, like the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich ($10) or a BLT ($9), El Bagel offers the kind of breakfast bagels you never knew you needed, like the King Guava ($10), which comes covered in guava marmalade. The shop is limited to takeout for now, but you can order online and pick up your breakfast before taking a nice walk along Biscayne Bay.

Adam Larkey
Social Club's bar

Located in the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel, The Social Club is an ideal spot to indulge in brunch. With an incredible view, versatile menu, handcrafted cocktails, and bottomless specials, it's no wonder The Social Club is a beloved spot. The restaurant takes a creative spin on American classics, serving up dishes like cinnamon waffles ($14) and dry-aged burgers topped with truffle Thousand Island dressing ($19). The Social Club adds a personal, inventive touch to brunch dishes you already love, which makes its menu suitable for either sharing or individual courses. Beyond the food and cocktails, the atmosphere creates a backdrop of excitement and brightness. With a terrace view of Collins Avenue, it's the perfect spot to sip a mimosa and relax. As it navigates the pandemic, the restaurant is taking extra cleaning and sanitizing precautions and offering socially distanced seating. The Social Club is also available for delivery or pick up, so you can recreate your own boozy brunch in your living room or on your patio.

Whether you sit down or take your dumplings to-go, this pint-size spot has you covered with two varieties of xiao long bao (AKA Shanghai soup dumplings) sure to please and burn the palate of any one of your friends or family. Stay classic with pork or step things up with an octet of steamy little purses filled with the sweet perfume of crab meat ($10). The aim, if you take them to go, is to get them home once they've cooled a bit — but not too much. Safely away from judging eyes, you can pierce the little pouches, releasing their glossy broth for your sipping enjoyment. You're at home, so feel free to slurp as loud as you like. Nor must you contain the pain of an inevitable burn. Then move on to little fried purses filled with pork and pak choi or a bowl of blistering hot mapo tofu ($7). Be sure to bring home a sweet taro bubble tea ($4) to cool things down.

Photo by Tessa Levy

It's been a long morning. First there was the guy who brought back his Rolex Presidential complaining about a scratch. You saw his pictures on Instagram. What did he think was going to happen wakeboarding? Then there was the couple who wanted Cartier love bracelets, the ones with diamond, but didn't want to pay for them. Some days it'd be easier to hawk lychees on the side of a road. Thankfully, beloved Israeli chef Einat Admony's Motek Café sits on the ground floor of the Seybold Building and in this bright (but not jewelry-case-bright) space, you can relax with the flaky Yemeni flatbread called malawach ($9.95), a simple plate of hummus with pita ($8.95), or the heftier Arayes burger ($16.95) in which juicy Lebanese spiced beef is given a hard char on the grill, then packed into a pita. Eat slow, because afterward it's back to the diamond mines.

Photo courtesy of J. Wakefield Brewing

When Johnathan Wakefield opened his Wynwood brewery, there was already a buzz. The young brewer mounted a crowdfunding campaign to raise $55,000 and surpassed that goal within a day. The brewery is known for its sours, Berliner Weisse-style beers brewed with local fruits. Wakefield is fiercely proud of the fact that his 15-barrel brew house is completely independently owned and operated in a city that is rapidly filling with taprooms owned by the corporate players. Despite its small size, J. Wakefield is renowned among beer aficionados the world over, who flock to the Star Wars-themed taproom for its core brews and special releases. Wakefield is truly Miami in a glass.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®