Miami is a place where you can find expensive gourmet dinners by world-class chefs that will set you back a few hundred dollars. But it's also a place where you can find a thriving food truck scene, dirt-cheap holes in the wall, and neighborhood eateries that will make sure you get the best bang for your buck.
When we talk about restaurants that are a good value here, we're talking about cash-only cafeterias as well as popular business lunch spots that provide hefty portions for your dollar.
We're talking about places like the ever-popular El Palacio De Los Jugos, which began as a Cuban juice joint where expats and others could enjoy some guarapo (straight-up sugarcane juice) or a batido de trigo (puffed wheat milkshake). Here you'll be able to stuff a box full of ready-prepared foods like tamales, congri (Cuban-style rice and beans), yucca, and pan con bistec.
We're also talking about foodie hot spots like Blue Collar, the Upper East Side, homestyle restaurant that's exactly as it sonds. On the menu? Think pulled pork benedict, dry ages burgers, and cheese grits.
Roasters 'N' Toasters
Founded over thirty years ago as a modest coffee shop, serving their own brews alongside scrumptious, high-end pastries, Roasters and Toasters has evolved into a high-quality deli straight out of the streets of Manhattan. Roasters' n Toasters is everything a New York style deli should be. From their generous portions and fresh deli platters, to their specialty sandwiches and desserts, Roasters are without question, among the top delis in town. Stop by one of their locations in Miami Beach, Ventura, or Kendall, or order online and see for yourself why Roasters' n Toasters was voted "Best New York Style Deli" in Miami. ((305) 531-7691)
Daily Bread Marketplace
Middle Eastern restaurants are few and far between in Miami, but Daily Bread offers a delectable array of tabouli, baba ghanoush, falafel, hummus, and lamb or beef kebabs, all served with generous portions of fresh pita bread. Daily Bread is a marketplace first and foremost but that doesn't take away from the quality of their prepared meals, which you're sure to love. Daily specials may include lamb and cauliflower with preserved lemon, and gourmet sandwiches and salads satisfy on-the-go patrons. Quick service and wallet-friendly prices also please, and the baklava is widely regarded as some of the best in town. (305-856-5893)
Accomplished Thai cookery and authentic decor reel in diners at this neighborhood favorite, located in the Snapper Creek area of east Kendall. Winner of multiple Zagat awards and 2013's best Thai Restaurant in the Miami New Times, Siam Palace's reputation precedes itself. But due to its location and modest exterior, it isn't the type of place with a huge line out the door--and that's a good thing. Many dishes, particularly curries, pack a potent kick, but less adventurous diners are pleased to find more subtle flavors as well. Popular choices include seafood, vegetable spring rolls, basil chicken and a classic pad Thai. Coconut ice cream caps it all on a delicately sweet note, and prices are decidedly un-Miami. (305-279-6906)
After a hard night of clubbing or bar-hopping, nothing's better than a hefty sandwich from this walk-up counter right off Collins Avenue. Crusty French bread is piled high with your choice of meats (from turkey and prosciutto to pate and smoked salmon), cheeses (fresh mozzarella, swiss, brie) and condiments (never skip the cornichons). If you need a veggie fix, opt for a salad, like the French Riviera (lettuce, tomatos, green and hot peppers, black olives, onions, cucumbers, cornichons, carrots, and egg); all are generous, fresh and tasty. Smoothies and frozen yogurt satisfy sweet-tooth urgings, and prices are more than affordable. Expect a line, though, because the place attracts a crowd all day long. (305-532-8934)
Hiro's Yakko San
Hiro's is a bit off the beaten path (North Miami Beach--which, by the way, is not ON the beach), making it the perfect place for delicious food at great prices without the hassle of long waits. Standout Japanese cuisine makes this kitchen a favorite with folks who appreciate some of Japan's lesser-known delicacies, from panko-crusted oysters to kim chee hot pots to chrysanthemum tempura. Order several of their small plates (with sake, of course) and ask local diners to recommend their favorites. The late (3 a.m.) closing time makes this Dixie Highway dive a favorite of night owls on the quest for inventive eats. ((305) 947-0064)
This cash-only fish joint has been a staple in the Little Havana neighborhood for almost 50 years. Originally known as the Garcia Brothers Seafood Market, the venture was a labor of love, created by the exiled Garcia family, who left their native Cuba shortly after Castro took power. The family had already been in the fishing business back home so it was a logical move for them to open the market.
By 1976, the Garcias decided to begin serving fresh-cause-and-cooked seafood at their market, and it quickly became known as "Los Paraditos", a place where locals could enjoy fish-fry while standing at the market's window.
These days, La Camaronera has expanded and become a full-fledged, sit-down restaurant where patrons can enjoy specialties like camarones fritos (fried shrimp), filete de pescado (fish filet), shrimp tacos, conch fritters, and a tres leches for dessert. ((305) 642-3322)
This style-conscious American diner offers upscale interpretations of classic comfort foods, and breakfast is served all day long for those with less than traditional working hours. The dining room is all imagination and whimsy, with colorful diner decor, an open kitchen and communal tables. Try the hot malted waffles or the filling and tasty Big Pink breakfast burrito – both are as popular in the evening as they are in the morning, or enjoy the Sweet Corn Tortilla Omelette for an extra special treat. Sit at a nostalgic booth in the industrial-style dining room or enjoy an outside table facing busy Collins Avenue. (305-532-4700, 305-531-0888)
Sakaya, an innovative Asian fusion restaurant, has taken the city by storm with its creative interpretations of traditional Asian dishes. The moment they walk through the door, guests are greeted by the expansive menu, an entire chalkboard wall dedicated to sporting daily specials and menu items. Don't be afraid to ask the staff for help navigating the boundless choices. They're happy to suggest local favorites like Dai-Ji spicy tenderloin or Korean chicken and waffles.
For other options, check out the "Dim Ssam a gogo," Sakaya's food truck, during a rally at Johnson & Wales or at a spot around town. There's also another location in downtown. (305-576-8096)
As the name suggests, Blue Collar doles out good, hearty food for the working class. But don't get confused. This isn't your average greasy spoon. Nothing of the sort. Instead, chef and owner Daniel Serfer aims to serve his patrons home-style cooking that will have them talking for days. We're not just talking macaroni and cheese. We're talking a Mac dish made with Cavatappi pasta and trugole, cheddar, and Parmesan cheese to which you can add bacon or rock shrimp. Serfer isn't just serving you a brisket sandwich. He's introducing you to the "Corben," an experience of braised brisket and Dijon on Portuguese muffin dipped into a an aus jus, accompanied by latkes and apple sauce. With influences from the Caribbean, New Orleans, and your Bubbe's kitchen, Serfer creates dishes like Cuban Sandwich Spring Rolls, year-round Chanukah Latkes, and a Shrimp Po' Boy that somehow tie in perfectly together. ((305) 756-0366)
El Palacio De Los Jugos
Since opening in 1977, El Palacio De Los Jugos has embodied Latin American Miami in its most authentic form. It's not fancy, doesn't have a dress code, and everyone is welcome--so long as they enjoy delicious food and won't ask for a copy of their "nutrition facts".
The name of this popular eatery translates to "the juice palace" as it serves freshly made, exotic juices in mass volumes. El Palacio also cooks home-style Latin fare; generous, juicy pork sandwiches and classic Cuban rice and bean variations fill the outdoor air with enticing aromas. After ordering, purchase tropical produce or sip cooling coconut water, chopped on-site by a man with his machete. (305-636-0832)
About Priscilla Blossom
Pris Blossom is a freelance writer and feminist mama with a love for travel, writing, music, film, craft beer, yoga, museums, cultural anthropology, and her awesome kid.
She spent the bulk of the past decade taking trips on a whim, falling in love with and in such places as New York City, New Orleans, and a large portion of Nicaragua.
In 2011, she took off on her own and traveled around the U.S. via bus, bunking with strangers thanks to the power of CouchSurfing. She is currently writing a novel about this.
Read her words at PrisBlossom.com.
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