Best Chicken Wings
Photo courtesy of Cluckin' Right Chicken

Chicken wings have become such a staple of American snacking that it's practically a travesty to watch a game or drink a beer without them. Although you can find wings almost everywhere, they are not created equal. Cluckin' Right Chicken's Mathieu Saint-Louis brines his wings, then dredges them in flour and spices and fries them to order. The result is a juicy, meaty wing that requires no slathering or masking, to the point where Saint-Louis prefers them with no sauce — the better to show off their inherent flavors. That's not to say he doesn't offer sauces (on the side!), including buffalo, barbecue, honey mustard, and a sweet and spicy "Frankenstein" version. Taste them for yourself Thursday through Sunday at Wynwood Brewing Co. — where you can avail yourself of freshly brewed local beer to pair with them.

Chick'N Jones
Photo courtesy of the Oprah Winfrey Network

Want to eat like the Boss, Rick Ross? Eat at Chick'N Jones. Amaris Jones has served as personal chef for Ross and a host of other celebrities. Her fried chicken was a draw at her Motown-inspired restaurant South Street in the Design District. It closed in 2013, but Jones vowed to return. It took a while, but she made good on her promise in the summer of 2021 when she opened Chick'N Jones at Time Out Market in Miami Beach. Here, Jones brines her poultry for 24 hours with mustard and herbs, then fries it to a golden brown. Feeling spicy? Opt for the hot honey chicken, a Nashville-inspired classic that tingles the tongue. Pair your pick with a kale salad for a healthy balance or go all out by ordering a side of loaded fries. (Seriously, you're not here to count calories, are you?)

Best Mac 'N' Cheese
Photo by Laine Doss

Mac 'n' cheese may be the world's most perfect food: it's cheesy, full of carbs, and offers the kind of pleasure only your love partner can offer. Batch Gastropub's "Mac Attack" stands out like a perfect match on your Tinder app. "Gnocchi mac" is tossed with aged Gruyère, which coats the pasta like Spandex on a butt-lift recipient. For a final kick, the dish is sprinkled with Doritos dust. You can customize your Attack with any number of add-ons, including grilled chicken, pulled pork, steak, shrimp, herb fries, pecan-whiskey candied bacon, an egg, and/or truffle oil (the list of options is both exhaustingly long and exceedingly hedonistic). In fact, there are so many options, you'd wonder if Willy Wonka switched career paths. (In addition to the Miami restaurant, Batch wields its "Mac Attack" at its Delray Beach gastropub and at its two Batch Southern Kitchen & Tap locations, in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.)

Choices, choices. That's what we have at this poke restaurant tucked into the Citadel food hall in Little River, and it makes all the difference. Can't decide whether you want to start your bowl with rice or greens? They'll let you do both. Want to add salmon or tuna? They'll let you do both. Want to add all the veg or none? Sauces and/or seasonings? It's totally up to you. Everything is fresh and cool as air-conditioning in South Florida. (With the exception of that avocado half, which is always so perfectly ripe and soft you'll be tempted to rest your head on it instead of your chopsticks.)

Ceviches by Divino
Photo by Nicole Danna

Ceviche belongs in the same category as tacos and sushi: foods that our city excels at. But they're not all great. At Ceviches by Divino, brothers Christian and Frank Encalada create addictive variations that combine hot and cold with dazzlingly fresh flavors. A short menu offers several authentic renditions: fat cubes of corvina marinated in fresh-squeezed lime juice and seasoned with Peruvian limo chili, fresh cilantro, and onion and served with slabs of sweet potato and choclo (Peruvian giant corn). Try the trio de ceviches — smaller portions of the tracidional, an ají amarillo-spiked take, and the "Divino," with tips toward tropical with a mango-and-avocado-kissed leche de tigre.

Best Pop-Up
Photo courtesy of Apocalypse BBQ

When the pandemic hit, Miami native Jeffrey Budnechky's work as a freelance marketer came to a halt. A self-described backyard barbecue enthusiast, he took his ten years' worth of grilling experience and said, "F the apocalypse, let's just make barbecue." What began as a handful of orders and a 22-inch Weber Smokey Mountain has since turned into one of Miami's favorite pop-ups, serving a variety of meats that now emerge from the chef's professional smoker. Along the way — with a feature at the 2021 South Beach Wine and Food Festival under his belt — a promise was made to help define South Florida barbecue. To do so, Budnechky marries the flavors of his Brazilian-Argentinian roots with his wife Lara's Cuban heritage. That means pulled pork smothered in a colada-infused barbecue sauce dubbed "oro negro"; massive dino beef ribs dusted in a homemade coffee rub and finished with a lacquering of the chef's own Bustelo-infused cafecito sauce; and a four-hour, slow-smoked pork-belly burnt ends braised and glazed in his "Guava Lava." Sides are Lara's and her mother's specialty: a simple choice of homemade mac 'n' cheese or cornbread. Find them every Sunday from 2 p.m. till sold out at Unseen Creatures in Miami.

Best Itinerant Pop-Up
Photo by Nicole Danna

Eduardo Lara started the Wolf of Tacos much the same way kids sell lemonade: He set up a stand in front of his house. A couple of years later, his tacos are the toast of the town at pop-ups around Miami, including Tuesdays at J. Wakefield Brewing Co. and Fridays at Dante's HiFi (both in Wynwood). The key to Lara's success is that he lets his ingredients speak for themselves. And boy, do they sing. Beef, pork, chicken, and oyster mushrooms are grilled, placed on fresh tortillas, and finished with homemade salsas. The result is the most satisfying of meals, deceptively simple until you pause to savor how the smoky, rich meat, wrapped in the freshest of tortillas, is foiled by tangy salsa. A masterpiece that fits in your fist, priced well under ten bucks.

The Bazaar by José Andrés

Most hotels have a restaurant, but only the SLS South Beach has one by a world-class chef. José Andrés is one of the most well-respected names in the culinary world, and for good reason. His dishes are as precise as they are whimsical. At the Bazaar, he takes ordinary-sounding concepts like lox and bagels or conch fritters and artfully turns them on their heads. Meals here are thought-provoking and adventurous. The dining rooms, indoor and out-, manage to be simultaneously convivial and electric, as if a theater performance could break out at any moment. Just don't expect giant sparklers on your birthday.

Leku
Photo by Brigitte Schambon

Most museum restaurants are located within the actual confines of their walls. Not this one, which embraces the great outdoors where the Rubell Museum maintains a lush tropical garden, as well as a Josper grill where much of its stunning Basque cuisine is cooked. But regardless of where it's positioned, Leku draws inspiration from the museum. Quite directly, in fact, including a cocktail, the "Allison," named for Allison Zuckerman's painting Eternal Recurrence, which hangs over the bar. The drink, made with brandy, Asturian ice-cider, amontillado, uchuva (gooseberry), and demerara sugar and topped with a floating disk of edible rice paper imprinted with a section of the artwork, is representative of the way executive chef Mikel Goikolea and the team at Leku present all of their offerings: with creativity, skill, and no small amount of art. Order à la carte or choose the 11-course tasting menu, which can be accompanied by optional wine pairings.

Luca Osteria
Photo courtesy of Luca Osteria

A glass (or bottle) of wine with dinner is a surefire way to elevate your meal. At Luca Osteria, chef Giorgio Rapicavoli's Italian culinary paradise in the heart of Coral Gables, the wine list isn't a 20-pound doorstop, but it presents a fine selection of Italian wines. There are wines from other parts of the world, too — from California and Oregon, from France and Argentina, even one bottle from the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. As for us, we'll stick with the Italian offerings — say, a pet-nat from Emilia-Romagna with our patate fritte. We'll definitely pair the light and refreshing vermentino with our pasta al limone before treating our palate to a smooth, easy-drinking rosso di Montalcino as we slice into a plate of double lamb chops with their accompanying anchovy- and garlic-rich bagna càuda. But hey, you do you. And if you're on the fence or feel overmatched, don't hesitate to ask the staff for a recommendation (or request guidance from the chef himself). The restaurant's tagline is "Good Pasta, Good People," but they might consider completing the trifecta by adding "Good Wine."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®