Best Restaurant Fort Lauderdale 2020 | Rivertail | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Photo courtesy of Rockaway PR

Miamians know José Mendín as one of the founders of the Pubbelly family of restaurants. The chef has won numerous honors, including "Best Chef Southeast" semifinalist status in the James Beard Awards five times over. Mendín has opened restaurants in Paris, Puerto Rico, and now, with Rivertail, he tackles Fort Lauderdale. The seafood-centric restaurant adheres to a simple philosophy: Offer the freshest fish and seasonal produce in a convivial, waterfront setting. A hamachi crudo ($16) bursts with Florida grapefruit and yuzu, while a Maine lobster roll ($25) is lightened with a hint of lemon zest. Fresh yellowtail, snapper, and other denizens of the sea are offered simply grilled with your choice of sauce. And, as if he almost can't help himself, Mendín offers a pork belly Cuban sandwich ($18), an apparent nod to his start at Pubbelly. Open Tuesday through Sunday.

If you're craving the fiery spices of the West Indies, Balloo is your one-way ticket to the Caribbean — no passport needed. For over a decade, diners have devoured executive chef Timon Balloo's tapas at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Midtown. But the greatest expression of Chef Balloo's abilities is undoubtedly within his simple, unassuming jerk chicken and coconut and pigeon peas rice. A love letter to his West Indian and Chinese heritage, the eponymous concept opened in 2019 touting a unique menu of Caribbean and Asian comfort food. While the bite-sized dining room in downtown's Ingraham Building is closed for service during the pandemic, to-go items and meal kits are available for delivery. Meal kits include easily reheated creations, including roasted jerk chicken, Indian curry chickpea potato stew, and cabbage and pepper slaw with coconut lime dressing, plus seasonal puddings and panna cotta for dessert. Vegetarian options include Indian masala cauliflower, slow-cooked yellow split peas, coconut-creamed spinach, and steamed rice. Prices for the meal kits range from $44 to $88 and vary based on size. The restaurant also sells Caribbean staples like "Wing Wah" Trini pepper sauce and Caribbean sorrel (hibiscus) punch. Orders can be placed via Balloo's website.

Amid a Colombian restaurant landscape where so many local gems are tucked in suburban shopping centers and well off the beaten path, Bolivar remains a shining star. The Washington Avenue mainstay first opened its doors in 2007, boasting cuisine from the entire South American continent, curated by Cartagena-bred executive chef and partner Jairo Hurtado. Today, its menu remains equally as diverse, with its Colombian components being absolute must-haves. Among its savory high points are the Calentao Medellín breakfast ($13) with eggs, beans, rice, and a cheese-topped arepa; a massive bandeja paisa ($23) with steak, pork belly, and caramelized plantains; and a build-your-own picada menu ($16 to $52) with more than 22 appetizers to choose from. And, of course, no Colombian experience is complete without a cold Aguila cerveza ($8) or shot of aguardiente ($8). Bolivar's staff greets you with genuine warmth and, if you're looking for a fiesta, the place can get quite bumpin'. Thirteen years into its Miami journey, we're glad Bolivar is still here.

Photo courtesy of Havana Harry's

When it comes to Cuban cuisine, there's nothing like abuela's cooking, but Havana Harry's has figured out how to replicate the magic. Going strong for over 25 years, this humble restaurant is home to classic Cuban fare with a few dishes featuring a bit of a twist. The menu is more than a dozen pages long and features something for everyone, no matter how much of a Cuban food purist they may be. Those looking for something simple and dependable can always count on the garlicky shredded chicken breast known as vaca frita de pollo ($12.95); or masitas de puerco, chunks of pork that are slow-cooked for hours, then fried and covered in onions, garlic, and mojo ($14.95). Diners who prefer the wild side should check out the fufu-stuffed churrasco, a 16-ounce grilled churrasco steak stuffed with mashed plantain ($29.95); or thick and juicy barbecued pork chops rendered tender and tangy with a guava barbecue sauce ($15.95). Each entrée is served with two sides — and it's important to note that unlike many Cuban restaurants, white rice and black beans together counts as one side. (We suggest plantains or tostones.) The plates are hearty, but don't skip dessert; some of Miami's best flan can be found on Havana Harry's three-page dessert menu.

Courtesy of Barmeli69 Greek Bistro & Wine Bar

Cries of tragedy rang out across the Upper Eastside when this homey Mediterranean bistro's owner and namesake Liza Meli closed the original location on Northeast 79th Street. They were soon met with an equal measure of cheers when she moved into the space that used to house Michelle Bernstein's Michy's on Biscayne Boulevard. Here, the bright menu, which includes refreshing comestibles like boquerones ($6), baked halloumi cheese ($14), and grilled patties of ground lamb studded with pistachios ($14), is both eminently affordable and shareable. Yet it's Meli herself who makes the place so special. As the maestra of the space, she's there to welcome you with (currently socially distanced) open arms and guide you through a night with grace, smiles, and more than a shot of ouzo or sambuca.

Photo courtesy of Ghee

Named by Food & Wine as one of the country's best new chefs of 2020, Niven Patel and his Ghee Indian Kitchen take the pick for best Indian restaurant, a category that is a newcomer to the list this year. While his devout following has been lamenting the abrupt closure of the original Ghee in the Design District this summer, the second location in Downtown Dadeland remains open. Patel's fresh take on traditional Indian favorites has received praise locally and nationally. Fresh produce, herbs, and more from Patel's Homestead farm makes Ghee a literal farm-to-table concept, with noticeable Floridian flair in bright, citrus-forward dishes. You'll want to order one of everything, but some standouts include the Ghost Pepper Cheddar Naan ($8), Yellowfin Tuna Bhel ($16), and turmeric-marinated local fish ($26) in a vibrant coconut curry broth. It takes a certain level of confidence to offer only one dessert, and this is one you won't want to skip: the sticky date cake ($12) served with fresh ginger ice cream and jaggery toffee is the perfect sweet ending to any meal at Ghee.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Prima Pasta

Since 1993, Cafe Prima Pasta has been dishing up red-sauce classics in a setting that screams traditional Italian restaurant. From the wood floors that are polished yet creak slightly to the framed photos of local celebs who've dined here, the restaurant is welcoming and warm. Order a cocktail and peruse the menu of favorites — like a tender veal piccata or chicken parm that arrives, cheese a-bubbling, from the oven. The dishes may not be "modern" or "innovative," but they're the ones you crave. After all, when you've had a long day, and you're hangry, do you daydream about the quail egg with goat cheese foam or a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs? Thought so. Cafe Prima Pasta also offers family meal packages, so you can treat the clan to red sauce in the comfort of your own home.

Luis Meza Lifestyle Group

The ambiance is Mexican street food all the way, from the informal atmosphere to the ice-filled reach-in cooler stocked with cerevezas and refrescos. But it's the corn tortillas, each one hand-pressed and griddled to order, that will draw you back again and again to this pint-size spot on NW 25th Street just west of the Museum of Graffiti. Whether they're wrapped around salty-sweet pork al pastor with pineapple, grassy nopal, or battered fish with cabbage and chipotle (all $3 apiece) the nutty, slightly sweet flavor of warm corn always comes through and delights. The secret here, however, is breakfast. In particular it's the carne asada and egg burrito ($8) or the veg version filled with sauteed cactus, beans, and the creamy, slightly salty cheese called panela ($8). Hangover? Check. Long day ahead? Check. You just can't? Double check. And to think, so much joy for ten bucks! It seems unbelievable, but here it's the real deal.

Photo courtesy of Sushi by Bou

If you prefer your thrills prepared right in front of you, Sushi by Bou is where it's at. The thrills don't come cheap here, but don't let the hefty price tag deter you, as it comes with the promise of sensational sushi and an experience you won't soon forget. At Sushi by Bou, located in the former Versace mansion, you'll be treated to an intimate omakase dinner at a bar with seating for four or eight. "Omakase" means "I will leave it to you," which is where the thrill comes in: The head omakase chef stands in the center of the bar, whipping up 17 courses of handcrafted nigiri that are left completely up to his discretion. He will decide whether your taste buds get to savor hamachi, Japanese uni, hotate, unagi or a variety of other fresh fish. You get to decide which one you will obsess over most. There's a time limit to all this indulgence: Depending on which session you book, you will have either 30 or 60 minutes to eat all of the scrumptious sushi — and finish that bottle of sake while you're at it.

Listen, dear friends. Forget for a moment the hamachi with jalapeño and citrus, the cloying Brussels sprouts with bacon, and the pork belly with whatever. While the small-plates phenomenon has long been enjoyed and reviled by eaters of all stripes, it's worth returning again and again to this Sunset Harbour tapas spot for a reminder of where it comes from, and a temperature check on whether it's being done right. With skill and equal measures of restraint and creativity, the kitchen led by chef and co-founder Juliana Gonzalez re-creates the small dishes that are so essential to life in Spain. Hence, a plate of Cantabria's peerless white anchovies with garlic, tomato gelée, and a yuzu-truffle vinaigrette ($16) alongside a wahoo crudo with black olive dust, pearl onions, and lemon zest ($16). Of course, the whole purpose of tapas bar is to enjoy life, and so the best thing you can do is simply bring those you love, mix them with a few pitchers of sangria or bottles of albariño and trust the kitchen to do the rest.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®