Best of Miami

Miami's Top Ten Inexpensive Restaurants

Miami is a city laden with restaurants of little value. There are stylish joints, the kind where mediocre $24 tuna tartares and $30 chicken breasts, filled with fontina and foie gras, are the norm. There are hackneyed Asian concepts, the type where $20 sushi rolls are packed with fried shrimp, doused in cloying soy syrup, and slathered with too much spicy mayo.

There is nothing wrong with an expensive restaurant -- as long as high prices are supported by delectable cuisine. In the Magic City, though, there is a lot of hype. At times, there is little gravitas.

But there are exceptions. At the following ten restaurants, quality surpasses pricing. Good food is offered at less than $20 per person. There is ceviche, fried fish, Cuban fritas, and salami sandwiches. Sure, cheaper joints abound. But these inexpensive spots proffer some of the best values in town.

10. El Mago de las Fritas

A Cuban frita sounds simple in theory. It is, after all, just a hamburger. But ask any Miamian which restaurant makes the best frita in town. Observe as a debate unfolds: Morro Castle? El Rey? El Mago! At El Mago de las Fritas, the polemic Cuban hamburger is made up of a patty mixed with fresh-ground spiced sausage, layered with thin fried potatoes, and all plunked between two slabs of soft white bread. At $3.50, the hamburger is remarkably affordable. It is also delicious. Make it a double for $5.50. Make it "al caballo" with a fried egg for an extra buck. Or double it up with a fried egg ($6.50). Take a bite outta that sandwich and consider whether El Mago makes a helluva frita. Yes, it does. It's also one of the most affordable bites around.

9. Maoz Vegetarian

Maoz Vegetarian is a chain restaurant with locations around the world. But its global identity does not lessen the quality of its falafel, which is offered either in sandwich ($5.95) or salad ($7.95) form. Prices include unlimited fresh toppings from a salad bar: red cabbage, tabouli, roasted cauliflower, and more. The fare is entirely vegetarian and Kosher. Much of it is also vegan and gluten-free. The falafel joint is located on Washington Avenue, just a few steps from Lincoln Road -- and a short walk from many overpriced spots. Maoz Vegetarian is healthful, good falafel. It's among the greatest deals on the Beach.

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8. Buena Vista Deli

If your ideal breakfast involves scrambled eggs, bacon, and Wonder Bread, perhaps it would be best if you did not venture into Buena Vista Deli. But if your perfect first meal of the day involves homemade jelly, fresh breads, madeleines (85 cents), chocolate croissants ($2.50), and chocolate eclairs ($3.95), this neighborhood spot delivers a remarkable French breakfast. In the later hours of the day, Buena Vista Deli also serves casual dinner and lunch -- all under $9. Buena Vista has great sandwiches, salads, and sweets. Flavors are fresh, pastries are flaky, and salads are complex. It's a favorite spot for a tasty lunch or an even better French-style breakfast.

7. Con Sabor a México Carnitas Estilo Michoacán

There are many taquerias across Miami, but few are as unique and authentic as Andres Tovar's Con Sabor a México Carnitas Estilo Michoacán. This cash-only teeny Little Havana shop offers $1.75 carnitas tacos and $2 beef tripe tacos. And if you think carnitas mean slow-cooked pork, you are wrong. At Con Sabor a México, Tovar layers a heavy pot with pork shoulder, tongue, stomach, ears, ribs, and rind. The parts are immersed in lard and cooked for two hours. This cooking process, known as carnitas, delivers a variety of swine parts that have been flavored with lard and time. Tovar's tacos campechanos are filled with luscious pork shoulder and sprinkled with crisp chicharrón ($1.75). His tacos surtidos combine all the pig offal on the menu. Toppings include chopped onion, cilantro, and housemade salsas. Just don't ask for guacamole. (True carnitas need only salsa.) Order a Sidral Mundet and arroz con leche instead.

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6. My Ceviche

The octopus burrito at My Ceviche is among the greatest burritos in town. A grilled flour tortilla is stuffed with tender braised octopus, coconut-jasmine rice, cilantro, pickled red onion, queso fresco, corn, and rich Mexican crema ($9.95). The restaurant's bill of fare includes also ceviches, stone crabs, tacos (one for $3.50), salads, and more. But what truly sets My Ceviche apart are its young owners: Sam Gorenstein and Roger Duarte. Gorenstein was once the executive chef of the Raleigh Hotel. Duarte owns George Stone Crab, a brand that ships South Florida's most prized sea creatures across the nation. The duo is energetic and enterprising. Consider this: My Ceviche began as a small seafood takeaway adjacent to a hostel in South Beach. It now has a second, fast-casual location in Brickell. And many more are sure to come.

5. Harry's Pizzeria

There are many things to love about Harry's Pizzeria, the Design District pie joint owned by Michael Schwartz. It is inexpensive. Pizzas are sharable and are all priced below $15. Pies are creative. There is rock shrimp pizza, topped with grilled lemon, manchego cheese, and scallions ($15). There are also craft beers, good wines, and Hedy Goldsmith's desserts. But you can get much more than just pizza at Harry's. Order the polenta fries with house-made spicy ketchup ($6). Try the meatballs -- three tender balls smothered in a rich tomato sauce and topped with cheese ($7). Order salad, soup, or perhaps homemade focaccia. Finish it all off with panna cotta ($6). Harry's might be known as a pizzeria, but when you're searching for an inexpensive bite, it can be so much more.

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4. La Sandwicherie

If you aren't from Miami but really want to act like you are, follow these instructions. Proceed to a local's bar in South Beach (say, the Room or the Abbey Brewing Company). Drink copious amounts of beer. Stumble over to Mac's Club Deuce. Drink some more. Once it is past 3 a.m. and you are hungry, cross the street to the alley to La Sandwicherie. There, you will find some of the best sandwiches around. There's saucisson sec (French salami, $7.50), prosciutto and fresh mozzarella ($9.05), or plain mozzarella and avocado ($7.40). There's a choice of bread: French, wheat, or croissant. But, as any Miamian knows, at La Sandwicherie, it's all about the house-made vinaigrette (French dressing) and the toppings -- lettuce, tomatoes, green and hot peppers, black onions, onions, cucumbers, and cornichons. So keep a bottle of dressing nearby. Each bite tastes better with an extra squirt.

3. Josh's Deli

Joshua Marcus does a lot from scratch at his Surfside restaurant, Josh's Deli. He cures salmon, smokes pastrami, bakes bagels, and makes amazing matzo ball soup. He's also the man behind the counter every single day. Marcus keeps prices low; sandwiches are all under $14, and breakfast items (including his white chocolate chip pancakes) are almost all below $10. But good cooking is not the only reason why he's on this list. Marcus mans the kitchen daily. So sit by his counter, order coffee, read the paper, and chat. Watch the stream of regulars greet the deli's owner with hugs and kisses. That's when you'll comprehend why Josh's is among the best inexpensive restaurants. It's because he has one of the most laid-back, familiar neighborhood spots in town.

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2. Yakko-San

Yakko-San started as an unassuming, late-night 65-seater on West Dixie Highway more than 11 years ago. Just two years ago, the izakaya (drinks and small bites) joint moved into its bigger space on 163rd Street. Despite the move, the restaurant continues to be open late, prices are still reasonable, and the food is absolutely delicious. At Yakko-San, the menu is extensive; it lists more than 100 items. There is crispy pork onion salad -- deep-fried pork chunks paired with sliced cherry tomatoes and radishes, all doused in a secret homemade soy-based sauce ($7.50). There is sashimi and nigiri. There is hamachi jalapeño with thinly sliced yellowtail, yuzu, ponzu, and flecks of cilantro ($11.50). There is also tempura, rice dishes, noodles, and more. (Check out the specials board.) Yakko-San is an unpretentious small-bites concepts with great grub. And it comes in below $20 per person.

1. La Camaronera

There's more than just fried fish at the cash-only West Flagler seafood shack called La Camaronera. Sure, you can order the family-owned restaurant's fabled pan con minuta -- a simple white bun split by a golden-fried fresh snapper fillet, layered with ketchup and chopped onions, for five bucks. Or you can order the fried oysters ($9), fried fish roe ($7), conch fritters ($9), and shrimp empanadas ($4). But at this 40-year-old fish-fry joint, you should also consider the ceviches, the fish fillet with yellow rice ($15), or perhaps even newer additions such as shrimp tacos ($9). Still, this bill of fare isn't what makes La Camaronera the best inexpensive restaurant in town. In a city where few restaurants come and stay, La Camaronera proffers more than delectable seafood. It's become a Miami classic for affordable, fresh cuisine from the sea.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Miami® online at

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Emily Codik