Best Ceviche 2020 | La Mar at Mandarin Oriental | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo courtesy of La Mar at Mandarin Oriental

Though it's a common item on many a Miami menu, ceviche is a dish that's deceptively difficult to execute. At La Mar inside Brickell Key's Mandarin Oriental hotel, the classic Peruvian creation is the star of the show. La Mar was brought to Miami by chef Gastón Acurio, who's often referred to as the godfather of Peruvian cuisine. Here, Acurio's prodigy Diego Oka executes ceviches that are both delicious and a visual masterpiece on the plate. Options include ceviche carretillero with grouper, shrimp, octopus, crispy calamari, sweet potato, choclo, cancha, and spicy leche de tigre ($23); an Asian-inspired tiradito nikkei made with tuna tataki tiradito, green onion, tamarind leche de tigre, sesame butter, and pickled vegetables ($19); and the stunningly inventive tiradito bachiche, a dish inspired by Oka's travels that's made with fluke tiradito, 24-month Parmesan leche de tigre, colatura, garlic chips, and basil oil ($19). You won't find Parmesan cheese in any traditional ceviche, but here it brings together a symphony of flavors that play on your taste buds with orchestral precision.

Photo courtesy of Taquiza

What started as a takeaway taco stall on the ground floor of a South Beach hostel has morphed into a small empire that now spans the city. Despite it all, Taquiza still draws its strength from the blue-corn tortillas chef/owner Steve Santana began churning out years ago. Today, the standbys remain the standbys. The carnitas (three for $10.50) are delightfully juicy, the al pastor ($12) offer delicate sweetness and smoke, and the chapulines ($15) combine tart spice and crunch with a heap of rich guacamole. Of course, one must never forget the totopos ($7). These chips, best paired with guacamole, are the Mexican equivalent of a croissant — all flake and crunch outside, and pillowy, rich, and moist within. You'll never look at a chip the same way again.

Valerie Lopez

Purists say it's OK to put a fried egg atop your frita but a slice of American cheese is a sin. One wonders, then, what purists might say about the frita at Matt Kuscher's Wynwood craft-beer-and-burger joint adorned with a graffiti mural of Kaptain Kush, Miami's one and only weed-powered superhero. Here the frita ($15) holds on to its chorizo-beef patty but is slicked with guava jelly and melted Gruyère cheese and stuffed with potato sticks and crisp bacon. The fluffy Cuban roll is swapped out for pressed sweet bread that arrives with a buttery crunch. Blasphemy, you say? Nonsense. We call it progress, we call it delicious. And then we call a cardiologist.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®