We all know the appeal of your designated stool at a bar where everybody knows your name, but the enjoyment of the perfect counter is often overlooked. When you get spectacular food coupled with a peek into the kitchen, a chat with the chef, and so much more beyond a typical dining experience, it is truly magical.
When you don't want to be isolated at a table or are dining solo, counters and bars are a saving grace. Some counters are just for standing, others offer free bites, and some come with sage chefs.
Here we count down the ten best counters in Miami to get your food on.
If you were ever told that you don't want to see the kitchen of your favorite Chinese restaurant, at Blackbrick you most certainly do. Richard Hales and his 63-year-old chef from Hong Kong, Ivan, work their magic with farm-fresh produce hitting the sizzling wok. If you sit at the counter in the back, you can watch them dazzle while they watch you enjoying their creations. It is a healthy give-and-take relationship with the blurred lines of the counter.
Leave it to the River to carry the ocean's treasures. Take a seat at the oyster bar and expect to be wowed. If you want to get into a better mood, head there for happy hour, grab a dozen, and slide those babies down your gullet. A seat at this special counter reminds you that when life hands you oysters, shuck it! (That pearl of wisdom is a freebie.)
When you need a quick pick-me-up, few things are as wondrous as a Cuban coffee and a croqueta. And when it comes to croquetas, no place in Miami serves plump fried croquetas de jamón better than Islas Canarias. Grab a seat at the counter to the right, and you can be extra-close to the coffee and those golden pillars of goodness.
7. Athen's Juice
In North Beach and South Beach, Athen's cuts fruits and veggies and then squeezes and blends them for ultimate tastiness. The company has been delivering the freshest juice since 1942. In fact, its seven decades of doing business in the area means it gets first pick of the freshest fruits and vegetables. So grab a stool at this old-school juice bar, sip from your straw, and slurp up the taste of sunshine in fun fruit flavors.
6. S&S Diner
A great greasy spoon is where counter dreams are made a reality. You get a throwback every day of the week, not just Thursdays on Instagram. S&S brings the vintage with its horseshoe-shaped counter and low prices for eggs over-easy, potatoes, toast, and coffee, falling way below the $5 mark.
There are simply too many genuine seats at Michael's: You can dine outside, near the kitchen, or near that red spiral staircase, but the bar is where it's at. An average bar may have peanut shells on a beer-stained counter, but Michael's, one of Miami's food meccas, offers bowls of fresh radishes. Watch the bartender make the expensive and complicated cocktails and take a bite of this crisp, slightly spicy root while you peruse the menu. It truly is the best seat in the house, especially when you're dining solo.
4. Sushi Deli
Once you find Sushi Deli inside the Japanese Market, you might think your hard work is over. Think again. Now you need to score a seat in the deli, and if you want a premium spot, you take one of the handful of seats at the sushi bar. However, with such a great seat comes responsibility. Hint: Order your meal omakase-style -- chef's choice. Why? First, so you can see up close all of the care and attention that goes into creating this masterpiece. Second, if you don't and you see someone else order it, you will be wasabi-green with envy.
Two years ago for its expansion, La Cameronera may have done the unthinkable -- added tables and chairs. But don't let that stop you from eating your fried fish OG-style. The once-standing-only place that serves beloved fried pan con minutas, sopa de chierna, and fried oysters still has the same Formica-topped charm. If your legs are strong enough, enjoy the same blue-and-orange counter in all of its old-time glory.
2. Josh's Deli
Josh's Deli may not be kosher, but sitting at the bar here is almost a religious experience. Yes, the bagels have come to easily rival New York's. The meats are carefully cured and smoked, but you also get to interact with the man behind the counter and the deli: Josh Marcus. Perhaps because he was once a bartender, you feel compelled to linger and kvetch about your love life or kvell over the tender pastrami with this modern-day sage while he reimagines and reinvents the deli experience.
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There's something to be said for a place that puts in long hours. La Sandwicherie does that and so much more with its lenghthy counter. The SoBe location, which is open until 5 a.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. weekends lends French elegance and sensibility to the drunk and hungover and everyone in between. The baguettes or buttery croissants filled with pâté, French salami, and imported cheeses take your trashy self to classy with each bite of a cornichon- or black-olive-topped sandwich. A seat at the counter also means you are within arm's reach of the most delicious French vinaigrette to drench your sandwich. If you get it to go, it's just not the same.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst