Best Of :: Food & Drink
Too often in Miami, Jamaica's fragrant and perfect-for-hot-weather cuisine finds itself relegated to hole-in-the-wall status. Perhaps it's just the Miami developers who overcharge overhyped chefs who cook overhyped cuisine. Everyone makes a buck and the diners suffer. Luckily, the owners of Dukunoo, a West African word for "sweet thing," bucked the trend and put pristine island fare smack in the heart of Wynwood. Under the watchful eye of owners Shrusan Gray, Leonie McKoy, and Rodrick Leighton, the kitchen turns out assertive version of classics like oxtails with broad beans and crispy onions ($36), as well as fun spins on them like ackee rolls with crispy snapper and escovitch vegetables ($16) alongside a jerk stand with chicken ($23), pork shoulder ($26) — or a bit of everything with fried plantains and slaw for $68.
When Hurricane Dorian crushed the Bahamian islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, Karla Hoyos, the executive chef of the Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS South Beach, swapped her pristine, beachside kitchen for a cavernous, neon-lit cookspace inside Atlantis Paradise Island and with a team of chef-volunteers began cooking millions of meals for Bahamians whose lives were shattered. When the novel coronavirus tore through Spain, she shipped off to Madrid, cooking for tens of thousands of first responders and people who couldn't leave their homes. While Hoyos has long been responsible for the picture-perfect dishes that emerge from the Bazaar's kitchen and much of the food served at the hotel, she's also one of the top lieutenants for Nobel Peace Prize nominee Andrés' World Central Kitchen, which pops up almost in the wake of crises worldwide to ensure hungry people are fed. Many Miami chefs claim to represent the city with their food or narrative. Hoyos doesn't trumpet her work; she simply does it.
Back another lifetime ago when 2020 was just another, only slightly off-kilter year, Michael Beltran and Justin Flit opened Navé as an elegant space for seafood and pasta where diners could be whisked away by a bottle of white wine and a glass-encased pasta production room where bucatini and oxtail-filled ravioli (among other delicacies) were rolled out daily. The universe had plans, and Donald Trump didn't. Thus, when the pandemic hit, such whims became an ethereal, almost forgotten thing of the Before Times. Only Beltran and Flit did not forget. They rallied. They shortened the menu, focusing on pizza and pasta for takeout. They reanimated the "Proof Burger," named for Flit's former midtown-Miami restaurant where everything except the cheese was produced in-house. Toward the end of the year, the sophisticated space has been doing double duty as a seafood shack, plying lobster rolls ($20), fish and crab dip with salsa roja and cilantro ($10) and beer-battered fish ($16). Though nothing this year has gone as planned, Beltran and Flit, like the rest of their ilk around town, have been forced to tap deeper into wells of creativity and grit just to survive. It's unfair. It's wrong. In the case of the leaders "handling" everything, it's borderline criminal. That being said, perhaps the experience will give our culinary community an arsenal of new concepts and recipes that will burst forth with greatness whenever this nightmare finally comes to an end.
Situated on the rooftop of Fort Lauderdale's dazzling Dalmar hotel, Sparrow's panoramic views of the city's skyline, beach, and everything in between are only the beginning. Its menu — spanning tropically inspired cocktails ($13 and up), handcrafted sushi rolls ($14 and up), and large mains like lobster mac 'n' cheese ($24) and a five-spice lamb chop ($37) — is just as tantalizing, equating to a memorable happy hour, totally lit brunch, or elegant dinner. There's plenty of space to work with at Sparrow, which has a main bar, lounge, and expansive patio clad with greenery, retro furniture, and natural wood elements. In a crowded restaurant space, it can be hard to find a restaurant that checks off all the boxes — ambiance, quality, a view, and more. Sparrow delivers on all fronts.
There are some in Miami who recall a time when Coconut Grove was a tropical oasis of Bohemian abandon. They speak of lazy days on the water and hiding from the sun under a banyan tree. There were artists, late nights, and life lived seemingly without a care. Sometime later, the neighborhood became best known for being slicked with vomit of drunken University of Miami students. Most recently, the place has taken on a bourgeois vibe, with million-dollar townhouses and rising glass towers. Peacock is a step back, a step aside, a step away from time's relentless march. Here, enveloped by the rustle of tropical greenery shifting in the wind, cool orange lighting and comforting vintage furniture, is the perfect place to let time and all of its concerns slip away and focus on the person in front of you and this single moment in time.
Yes, the cubano is a delicious sandwich. There's something about the combination of meat, cheese, and pickles pressed together between two slices of Cuban bread. But, contrary to your abuela's belief, not everyone enjoys pork products. Whether for health, ethical, or other reasons, more and more people are eating plant-based foods. If Burger King can make a meatless Whopper, why can't Miamians enjoy meat-free croquetas and medianoches? Vegan Cuban Cuisine answers that question and more with delicious plant-based versions of cubanos made with marinated jackfruit, plant-based ham, and creamy nut cheese ($12); croquetas made with cashew cream ($2.50); even a meatless frita ($12). If you think all this lack of pork isn't kosher (so to speak), the restaurant is run by Steven Rodriguez and Lismeilyn "Liz" Machado, who came to Miami from Cuba as preteens and met in middle school. If their abuelas approve, so will yours. Open Tuesday to Sunday noon to 6 p.m.
You'll know Clive's Cafe by the murals of a little girl and Bob Marley on the side of the building. This Jamaican joint isn't fancy, but if you're looking for soulful meal at a great price, you've come to the perfect place. For nearly half a century, Clive's has been serving classic Jamaican dishes. The Little Haiti location is comparatively new (the restaurant relocated from Wynwood in 2013), but the menu — and the prices — haven't changed much. For $7 you can get a jerk chicken platter with two sides. Go for the rice and peas and mac and cheese so rich and dense it's cut into pieces rather than spooned onto your plate. Other favorites include fried conch ($12 with sides) and hot wings ($9). Clive's serves breakfast, also at unbelievable prices. The "Glorious Morning" platter, which includes two eggs, bacon, ham or sausage, grits or potatoes, and toast, for example, is priced at $4. Even if you're operating with the change from your car and couch cushions, you'll eat well here. An egg sandwich is just $2.25, a small soup is $2.50, and Jamaican patties are $2 apiece. Open Monday through Saturday.
If you feel takeout doesn't fully capture a fine-dining meal, LPM will you change your mind. This French Mediterranean restaurant's curated menu selections are delivered to you in sustainable canvas totes, hand-painted by the staff and packing the LPM's trademark table setting: a bottle of olive oil, a tomato, a lemon, and freshly baked baguette. We recommend adding signature dishes such as burrata with tomatoes and basil ($16), grilled lamb cutlets with smoked aubergine ($39), slow-cooked duck legs with orange glaze ($37), and vanilla cheesecake ($10) — all packed in biodegradable takeout containers, along with a variety of make-at-home mocktails ($6). Make your meal more memorable with the "LPM - La Vie en Rosé" Spotify playlist, available via linktr.ee/lpmmiami.
It may look and sound more like a self-deprecating sports bar than a raw bar. But go to the half-price oyster happy hour — actually, more like three hours, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. — every Tuesday through Friday, when a dozen on the half shell are only $18. Varieties range from Little Skookum to Cranberry Creek to Pink Moon, or you can try them chargrilled, roasted with Andouille sausage or chili butter, or turned into ceviche. Don't worry. From shrimp to conch to lobster, Gringo's offers plenty of freshly chilled (or grilled) seafood. And thanks to its new patio misters, you won't feel like you're dining in a sidewalk sauna.
For decades, Sonia's has been a tropical oasis right where the world needs it most: on a canal in suburban West Miami-Dade where the traffic is gridlocked and the Everglades loom a few miles away. See, when you're on the beach, you're already in paradise. It's easy. Not so when you're way out on SW Eighth Street. But when you step past the signs offering Presidente beer, hear the salsa music blaring, and see your plastic throne nestled under a palm tree offering just the right amount of shade, all the concerns of the world fall away. Start with hot, crisp cod fritters ($8.99) before moving on to a whole fried fish with congri and tostones. Order another beer. On your way out, you might be tempted to pause at the fish market to pick up some Gulf shrimp, mullet roe (when it's in season), or hog snapper to take a little of this paradise home with you.
More than 30 years have passed since Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" ignited Argentina's 2-1 victory over England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup. To this day, soccer, er futból fans remain incensed at how the brash Argentinean cheated to secure the wine. The five-foot, five-inch footballer's mug graces the walls of this Little Haiti hideaway that celebrates meat like no other place in town. The dishes brothers Maximiliano and Cristian Alvarez are putting out could make you forgive even Maradona's sins. Creamy, roasted sweetbreads are veneered with a gorgeous, smoky crust highlighted by a fragrant leek chimichurri ($9). A trio of house-made sausages ($12) become the new standard by which you will judge all sausages. The way they keep a steak Milanese ($15) so tender and juicy inside with such a shatteringly crisp crust defies all logic. Of course the churrasco ($25) and bife de chorizo ($25) are perfectly seasoned and seared, and large enough to satiate even the most aggressive carnivore. Wash it all down with a bottle (or two) of malbec.
This category has taken on a more urgent meaning in 2020, and our pick is one of its newest exemplars. Wave is less of a restaurant and more of a staycation. Swaying palms and the soft kiss of sea air greet you as you work your way to your spot. Choose a table or lounge on a comfortable sofa — let your mood be your guide. The menu, self-described as sea-to-table, features a raw bar — and much more. The mezze platter is great for sharing, a generous display of labneh, white-bean hummus, roasted pepper muhammara, vegetables, and lavash, served on a board ($35). Order a frosé ($16) and thank your lucky stars that you're in Miami Beach. Open Friday through Sunday.