Best Poke 2021 | Hapa Kitchen and Eatery | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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.

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).

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.

The Lincoln Eatery

The indulgent lobster-and-cheese grits from C Food Shack Miami give new meaning to the term "food coma." The dish arrives steaming: three-cheese grits topped with tender fried crawfish bits smothered in a homemade sofrito gravy and pico de gallo. The only place to get it? The Lincoln Eatery. Located just steps from Miami Beach's famed pedestrian shopping area, this 10,000-square-foot grab-and-go market concept offers a casual respite from the high-end, overpriced establishments nearby. But it's the selection of more than a dozen artisan vendors — like C Food Shack — that makes it truly special. Each place is unique to the market, offering an authentic homegrown taste of Miami. So whether you're craving a vegan burger from Plant Theory, sushi pizza from Tyo Sushi, a ceviche platter from Cilantro 27, or towering cake- and candy-topped milkshakes from the Market Milkshake Bar, this is the only place you'll find it. The cherry on top (pun intended) might be the eatery's rooftop terrace, Sky Yard, which is open Thursday through Sunday nights.

One of the most striking features of this chef's namesake restaurant isn't the view into the open kitchens or the oceanfront vista just outside, but the $6.5 million statue of a golden unicorn by Damien Hirst. It's mirrored by the extravagant $32 unicorn that you can actually eat — a spike-wielding sea urchin resting on a bed of tri-colored grilled sweet corn flavored with chile de árbol and a heady sake aioli. Pair it with the piña colada/Moscow mule mix that arrives in a solid copper unicorn-shaped goblet for a magical experience. Across Miami are dozens of fancy hotels anchored by fancy restaurants helmed by big-name chefs. But none are quite like Faena's Paul Qui, a Manila-born chef who quickly climbed the ranks to culinary stardom after a 2011 Top Chef win followed by a James Beard Best Chef: Southwest award. Since 2015, Qui has offered his unique modern Asian cuisine at Pao; playful takes on Filipino dishes nod to Japanese, Spanish and French fare, from the signature kinilaw (a Filipino-style hamachi ceviche in a Thai chile- and vinegar-spiked coconut-milk leche de tigre) to the fried chicken brined in fish sauce for an umami punch. But no matter how you slice the popular Wagyu tenderloin adobo — or any dish here, for that matter — one thing is certain: This is the work of a classically trained chef who can uplift even uni to unicorn status.

No matter if the good weather decides to stick around, there's one corner of Miami where it's perennially summer: Seaspice. The scene at the airy white boathouse rumored to have been owned by the billionaire founder of Trans World Airlines, Howard Hughes, is straight out of Saint-Tropez. Sure, it would be great to get away to the French Riviera, but Seaspice's outdoor patio along the Miami River is a wonderful place to nosh onMediterranean-inspired fare like octopus carpaccio, ceviche, and seafood risotto while sippingsignature cocktails like the "As Good As It Gets" and the "Beckham's Club." Sit back, relax, and dream as you watch 60-foot yachts drop off their owners for a decadent meal.

Start with the fact that this signature Spanish restaurant, run byexecutive chef Sergio Chamizo,is located in the iconic National Hotel Miami Beach. Add that this historic property has recently been reinvented as an adults-only resort. Then throw in the design, which offers a choice between art deco inside and tropical landscaping on the outdoor terrace. There's your recipe. Now, let's eat. Dine on charcuterie and tapasor share any of the four rice dishes for two. Or split a whole oven-baked dorado. Any way you look at it, with no minors on the scene and the Miami moon rising overthe infinity pool, all meals here lead to true romance.

Photo courtesy of Mike's at Venetia

In a city rife with upscale, overpriced, over-dressed rooftop options, Mike's at Venetia is the poor man's take on sky-high views, with a side of seriously laid-back. This longtime Irish dive bar on the roof of an apartment building near the Venetian Causeway offers an uber-casual vibe thanks to its ninth-floor perch overlooking Biscayne Bay and the downtown Miami skyline. It's the perfect spot to put away a few happy hour beers and some equally affordable fried pub fare, all while relishing the fact that you didn't spend half your paycheck just to be a few extra feet above sea level. If you're looking for more of a mood, Mike's has that, too. You can go fancy with a date and a meal of steamed mussels and rib-eye steak or watch your favorite local team on one of Mike's two dozen TVs. Keep this place in mind whenever you want all of the above minus the dress code, overpriced everything, and a parade of Insta model photo shoots.

Photo by Michael Kleinberg

Given our weather, raw bars and seafood joints are perfect for the Miami lifestyle. Add a Mexican coastal inflection, like chef Scott Linquist does at Como Como, and we just fall head over palate. Located at Moxy South Beach, Como Como, brought to us by the team behind Coyo Taco and 1-800-LUCKY, reinterprets the multifarious cuisine of Mexico's coastline with dishes like oysters dressed with a variety of special "aguas," house-smoked fish dip, and daily selections of fish and seafood charred over the restaurant's centerpiece fuego — a fire station forged out of copper and wrought iron — including a whole boneless branzino marinated with achiote, oranges, habaneros, and oregano wrapped in a banana leaf, or whole butterflied snapper served open-face with two marinades: jalapeño cilantro garlic butter and ancho chile garlic butter. You'll never want to go-go to anywhere but Como Como again.

Photo by Gary He

According to Cote owner Simon Kim, steakhouses should be more fun. So he created Cote, a concept that combines the fun and excitement of Korean barbecue with the upscale ambience of a traditional New York steakhouse. Here the focus is on prime meats, each grilled at the table Korean barbecue-style. The Miami menu mirrors the NYC flagship's selection of American and A5 Japanese Wagyu sourced from the Miyazaki prefecture; cuts are dry-aged for a minimum of 45 days in the restaurant's red-light dry-aging room and seasoned with a proprietary blend of British Maldon salt, Himalayan pink salt, and Korean thousand-day sea salt. If you like your steak rare, you'll get a chance to see it in all its marbled glory; each table is fitted with its own smokeless grill, and dry-aged cuts are presented raw before being cooked to order. In a change of pace from heavier steakhouse sides, meats are served alongside light pickled vegetables and a variety of Korean condiments, from the house kimchi to a ssamjang dipping sauce used in lettuce wraps. In true steakhouse form, the full menu includes shareable appetizers, including a wedge salad, steak tartare, shrimp cocktail and full caviar service. Feeling fancy? Try Kim's favorite, the "Butcher's Feast" — a selection of four different meats served with an assortment of the restaurant's savory sides, pickled vegetables, rice, and dessert.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®