The economy is improving, but let's face it -- the recovery has yet to hit the young, urban demographic. It's a constant struggle out there, made no easier by the desire to treat your date to the standard weekend dinner out on the town. Between valet, drinks, appetizers, mains, dessert, and tip, the whole affair can work quite a number on your already-tight wallet. Never fear, for Short Order is here to give you the rundown of the best places to dine out on a budget without sacrificing ambiance.
Wood-oven pizzas, affordable drinks, and large plasma TV sets make Piola a go-to for Miami couples. Apart from happy hour, most of the pizzas (not just the Margherita) are priced around $10 to $13. The beef carpaccio runs a meager $12.
This Buena Vista Mediterranean restaurant is one of the best places to dine alfresco in Miami. Though most of the main dishes are in the $15 to $20 range, starters, salads, and sandwiches are well priced. The sirloin and lamb cheeseburger, as well as the barley, Greek, and arugula salads, are just $14. You might not want to chow down on a sandwich for dinner, but there's no beating the seen-and-be-seen atmosphere Mandolin provides.
OK, not everything on this menu is under $15, but if you're savvy, you can eat here and not break the bank. Michael's makes eating on a budget pretty easy. Plates are divided into small, medium, and large, with most small and medium plates well within your budget. Add a couple of sides to some medium plates and you'll have a decent smorgasbord. The pork belly, panzanella, and buttered lettuce ring up right at the top of your budget at $15. All sides and add-ons cost less than $8, while small plates like the lamb sausage and country pâté are $13 and $14, respectively.
Located out in the western boondocks, Finka is the lone outpost of high-quality food in a landscape dominated by Chili's and Applebee's. The menu is a gastropub take on Korean and Cuban fusion cuisine. It's a lot to handle, but cheaper-than-expected prices make Finka a winner. The vaca frita and Korean short-rib tostones are a steal at $8 per order.
6. Buns & Buns
Take one part fast food and one part gastropub, and you get Buns & Buns. This South Miami concept allows you to pair a protein (lamb, fish, chicken, or beef) with a bread of your choice for a meal that is both hearty and reasonably priced. The pulled pork, lamb ribs, and pork belly come in at a wallet-saving $10.89, $13.49, and $14.99, respectively.
5. Sabor a Peru
Ceviche has taken over the Miami culinary scene as one of the most affordable ways to savor local fish without paying the high prices of most fine-dining seafood eateries. Sabor a Peru prices most entrées conveniently under $15. It's located in the heart of Edgewater, just steps from midtown, Wynwood, and the Design District. The fish ceviche costs $12.99; the octopus and shrimp versions clock in at a slightly higher price point, $13.99.
This self-proclaimed gastrocounter is the gastronomic equivalent of a second-, third-, and fourth-generation Cuban-American. He hasn't quite forgotten his Spanish roots but is well underway to cultural assimilation. Bread + Butter features small, affordably priced plates with the authentic Cuban flavors for which Miami is known. The pan con lechón is $7; the tuetano -- or bone marrow -- and frita are $14.
This Brickell hotspot is known for its craft beer and cheap eats. On a nightly basis, OTC is packed with the neighborhood's yuppies eagerly chowing down on the tasty grub. Sample small plates, appetizers, and burgers, all at an attractive price point. The fish 'n' chips is an affordable $8, the grilled octopus is a steal for $12, the Philly beef sliders are just $12, and tuna poke comes in at $14.
Midtown has a smattering of overpriced joints, but Gigi is not among them. This Asian-fusion restaurant offers noodles, steamed buns, and most appetizers well within your budget. Plus it's in a convenient location, right across the street from the Shops at Midtown Miami. The beef Stroganoff and duck confit buns are each $9. The hamachi and tuna poke are $14 and $15, while the cold soba noodles are just $14.
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Pizza in Miami is always a dilemma, but all roads inevitably lead to Harry's. With these moderately priced pies, you'll have enough room in your budget to sample the amazing meatballs and house-made sodas. If you want to eat light, the caponata and daily soup are just $8. Braised fennel and oyster mushroom pizzas go for $14, while the meatball and slow-roasted pork pies are $15 each.