Doggi's Arepa Bar
Photo courtesy of Doggi's Arepa Bar

There's something magical about a little pocket of savory corn flour filled to the absolute brim with as much meat, cheese, avocado, or whatever the heck else you want — and Doggi's Arepa Bar provides just the right kind of alchemy. With a laundry-list menu of arepas ranging from the classic "Reina Pepiada" to the more adventurous "arepa de pulpo" (octopus), Doggi's offers a wide selection of scrumptious mouthfuls that will have you spilling some of their contents on your plate only to scoop them up when you're done for an after-meal treat. There's a vegan and vegetarian section of the menu, and plain cheese arepas for those of us who aren't lactose intolerant or who're willing to pay with few abdominal cramps. The crispy texture of the Doggi's arepas make every bite a pleasure to enjoy, and the flavors require no sauces or toppings — though you may as well sample the sauce spread Doggi's has available.

Babe's Meat & Counter
Photo courtesy of Babe's Meat & Counter

Melanie Schoendorfer — the self-proclaimed "sausage queen of Miami" — and her husband, Jason, know their meats. The couple first came on the South Florida food scene in 2013, offering house-made smoked sausages, specialty bacon, and handcrafted artisan sandwiches via pop-ups at the Pinecrest Farmers Market and local breweries. What began as a grassroots side hustle turned into a full-fledged business in 2018, when the duo opened the brick-and-mortar Babe's Meat & Counter in Palmetto Bay, expanding the menu with a curated selection of high-end specialty meats. Today, a butcher counter doubles as a breakfast and lunch spot, offering charcuterie, sausages, and sandwiches built around premium cuts. But the most popular menu item is the burger. Each week, the house meat blend changes slightly, explains Jason. While each five-ounce patty starts with prime chuck and brisket, an assortment of top-quality trimmings — a hint of prime Angus here, a bit of American Wagyu there — makes for a delicious final mixture. In another nod to zero waste, trimmed fat is set aside for frying oil, creating the ultimate beef-fat fries to go with the burgers. It all adds up to Miami's best, with each patty cooked to order on the grill, then topped with American cheese, house-made pickles, and sriracha mayo, and fitted into a fluffy Martin's potato roll.

Balloo Wallah
Photo courtesy of Balloo Wallah

There are so many places for chicken wings in Miami, but the absolute best are by chef Timon Balloo, who opened Balloo Wallah just a few months ago. This virtual restaurant offers Indian street food like chicken tikka masala and samosas, but the wings are a revelation. These oversized Mumbai-spiced gems are tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, and flavored with a slightly sweet, fragrant sauce that leaves the slightest tingle on your lips to keep things interesting. The taste is hauntingly familiar yet exotic — like a cross between Cantonese spareribs and rich spices from the Caribbean. Six wings cost $13.95, but get two orders, because you won't be able to stop eating them.

Dos Croquetas
Photo courtesy of Dos Croquetas

Miami has a love affair with croquetas, for good reason: The little fried cylinders are pure joy. Most croquetas are filled with ham, chicken, or cod, but if you want to up your game, Dos Croquetas Croqueta Bar will knock your socks off with its out-of-the-ordinary flavors. The small Westchester eatery offers croquetas filled with creamy bacon mac and cheese, bacon cheddar burger, buffalo chicken, and roasted chicken. For the ultimate experience, though, try the 305, filled with picadillo, sweet plantains, and queso. How do they pack all that flavor into a tiny two-bite morsel? Call it magic, or the work of the talented duo behind the place, Alec Fernandez and Vicky Carballo. There are croquetas here for vegetarians and vegans, as well. A flight of six croquetas runs $11.99, and individual ones are $1.99 each. Want to spread the love? Dos Croquetas sends precooked, frozen croquetas anywhere in the U.S.; the grateful recipient just needs to heat and eat.

Root & Bone
Photo courtesy of Root & Bone

If the requirements for a good piece of fried chicken is a golden crust, a satisfying crunch when you bite into it, and tender, juicy chicken inside, then Root & Bone is tops in its class. Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth first brine their chicken in the most Southern of all beverages: sweet tea. The tea imparts moistness and adds sweet and smoky notes to the bird, which is fried and then dusted with a hint of lemon. That tiny hit of acid makes the flavors pop; after all, what better foil for sweet tea than a hit of lemon? The chicken ($19 for a half, $36 for a whole) is offered for lunch, brunch, and dinner, and is served with Tabasco honey. Don't forget to order some biscuits and watermelon pickles for the ultimate Southern feast.

Located across the street from the iconic former Firestone property on Flagler Street, La Leonesa is a throwback to 1980s Miami when Central American immigrants and Cuban exiles came together under the common cause of anti-communism. It's not as well-known as other fritangas in Little Havana, but La Leonesa's food and service are utterly on point. The grilled meats are rich and juicy. The gallo pinto (sautéed Nicaraguan rice and beans) is the perfect combination of soft and crunchy. The plantains are caramelized and plump. The fried cheese is deliciously gooey. One container is plenty for a single sitting with plenty to spare for leftovers. The staff behind the counter is attentive and efficient at keeping the line moving. And they put in long hours to make sure el pueblo de Miami is well-fed. La Leonesa is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. till 10 p.m.

Hot dogs are widely considered all-American fare, but it wouldn't be Miami if you couldn't try one with a Latin twist. At Los Perros, you can scarf down a Colombian-style dog at almost any hour of the night. The Kendall location out past the turnpike is the OG, but there's now a Los Perros in Miami Gardens and another in Coral Point Plaza. That last hole in the wall serves sizzling hot dogs from noon until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from noon till 1 a.m. every other day of the week. And don't let the shop's looks deceive you: Los Perros may be no frills, but it's full of flavor. Try the "SuperPerro" ($6.57), a customer favorite that's a plain ol' grilled dog topped with crushed potato chips and a house-made pink sauce. And while we're not suggesting you go on a bender, be sure to see for yourself why Miamians hail Los Perros dogs as the ideal hangover food. Bonus: No matter what variation you opt for, Los Perros' artisanal rolls are thick and fluffy — the better to accommodate any quantity of toppings.

Hapa Kitchen and Eatery
Photo courtesy of Hapa Kitchen and Eatery

When your favorite meal is far from home, you take matters into your own hands and make it yourself. And if you're really ambitious, you share it with the masses. That's the route that homesick Neil Sullivan took when he decided to open Hapa Kitchen and Eatery inside Time Out Market. His focus: Hawaiian comfort food. Sullivan's island-inspired menu is an ode to everything he eats when in Oahu, crave-worthy dishes that combine Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Spanish, Portuguese, and American cuisine. That includes some of Hawaii's popular lunch eats and hangover-curing grub, from pineapple-mango gazpacho and kalua pork to garlic furikake fried chicken and Loco Moco — white rice smothered in mushroom gravy and topped with a hamburger and a fried egg. While Sullivan imbues each dish with a little island love, there's nothing more authentic than his signature poke. While the dish may be familiar to mainlanders as raw fish over rice with an endless array of toppings, in Hawaii it's far simpler. That's how you'll find it at Hapa, where you'll get uber-fresh ahi or octopus prepared in a simple shoyu-based marinade with a touch of sea salt and seaweed, available in quarter-, half-, or full-pound options.

The Taco Stand
Luis Meza Lifestyle Group

No one knew quite what to think when Taco Stand, a mini-chain based in San Diego, planted itself smack in the middle of Wynwood in late 2017 to join Miami's burgeoning taco culture. What began as a hole-in-the-wall interloper quickly grew into a go-to for in-the-know locals, who flock to the little eatery for its extensive menu of San Diego street-style tacos — from steak to pollo asado to carnitas to al pastor, shrimp, fish, nopal, even mushroom — all of them mouthwateringly seasoned and generously portioned into house-made corn tortillas. These days buyers must now beware of lines stretching out the door into the painted streets. The tacos are delicious and sold at a wallet-friendly price point (less than $4 a pop on average), the ambiance bright and welcoming. You can order in advance for takeout or delivery, but nothing quite compares to stepping up to the register and ordering amid the aromatic symphony of grilled meats and spices. Pair your meal with Mexican sodas, sangrias, or beers — those last available in import or local craft form. Open daily from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m. (midnight on Friday and Saturday).

La Traila Barbecue
Photo by Andrea Grieco

Miami barbecue hit a home run with La Traila, a former pop-up that transitioned to a brick-and-mortar location earlier this year. Founded by Austin native and pit master Mel Rodriguez and Miami native/Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, the Miami Lakes restaurant offers up 305-inspired craft barbecue at its finest. Meats are available by the pound, from smoked pulled pork and the house jalapeño cheddar sausage to "dino" beef ribs and Texas-style brisket. Latin twists come into focus in specialty items like the pork spare rib croquettes and dishes that nod to Rodriguez's Mexican heritage. In particular, the Tex-Mex-inspired Brisket y Queso empanadas and Texas Frito Pie are not to be missed. But the most alluring menu item might be the Brisket Sundae, a fair-food-and-taco-stand mashup presented as a cup layered with mac and cheese, baked beans, and creamed corn, then topped with smoked brisket, cotija cheese, crema, and house sauce. Vegans will enjoy the All Natural — smoked pulled jackfruit finished with pickles and onions and tossed in a house-made barbecue sauce. Up early? La Traila's breakfast tacos will start your day right.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®