And as Miami rapidly becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, there's a particular joy when that satisfaction comes cheap. As we enter the season of Miami Spice, when everyone goes scrambling to sample all the $39, 3-course dinners, this year I decided to do something different.
So forgive me for the click-bait title, but here are thirty great things to eat in Miami all of them under $11. A few of these come from Miami's most celebrated chefs and restaurants. Others come from places with no websites or social media managers, made by cooks whose names I will never know. Many are not terribly Instagram-friendly. What they all have in common is that they make me very happy when I eat them.
Though it was not my original purpose, and though it's obviously skewed somewhat by my own personal predilections, I suspect this list might just give a more complete picture of our city than the latest restaurant "hot list" – not just the million dollar dining rooms in the South Beach and Brickell towers, but the many Latin American and Caribbean and other flavors that give Miami its – well, flavor. I'm always gratified to see exciting things happening in the Miami dining stratosphere; but there are good things closer to the ground too. Here are some of them.
1. Pan con Croqueta ($10)
I wrote recently about All Day, and won't repeat myself here. Instead, I'll mention something that only occurred to me in retrospect: how comfortably it traverses the territory between new school coffee house and old school Cuban cafecito shop. Sure, the coffee beans are a lot better than the regulation-issue Bustelo or Pilon, and they don't need to put an avalanche of sugar into an espresso to make it taste good, but there's not as much space as you might think between a fancy Gibraltar and a humble cortadito. All Day even has a ventanita where you can order from the sidewalk. And, they've got an excellent version of a pan con croqueta, with warm, creamy ham croquetas and a runny, herb-flecked egg spread, squeezed into classic crusty pan cubano.
(More pictures in this All Day - Miami flickr set).
1035 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida
2. Croqueta Sandwich ($5.90)
If All Day offers a new-school version of a pan con croqueta, the prototype can be found at Al's Coffee Shop, hidden away inside a Coral Gables office building. Despite the obscure location, it's usually full of police officers and municipal workers, who know where to find a good deal. The croqueta sandwich here starts at $4.65; you can add eggs for an extra $1.25. Bonus points: on Tuesdays, those excellent croquetas are only 25¢ apiece all day.
Al's Coffee Shop
2121 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, Florida
For as long as I've been in Miami – which is a long time – B&M Market has been open along a dodgy stretch of NE 79th Street. Run by a sweet, friendly Guyanese couple, this Caribbean market with a kitchen and small seating area in back turns out fresh rotis, staples like braised oxtails, jerk chicken, cow foot stew, and my favorite – the tender, deeply-flavored curry goat. A small portion, with rice and peas and a fresh salad, is plenty, and will set you back $10 – or go on Thursday when it's the daily lunch special, and it's only $7.
(More pictures in this B&M Market - Miami flickr set).
219 NE 79th Street, Miami, Florida
4. Brandon's Breakfast ($19)
Wait, I thought we said $11 and under? I know, but the thing is, the "Brandon's Breakfast" – named for a fellow chef who used to cook with Blue Collar chef/owner Daniel Serfer at a prior restaurant – can easily feed two people. It includes a massive slab of brioche french toast, a bubbly buttermilk pancake, fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, crisp hash browns flecked with red peppers, even some fresh fruit! This is like a Denny's Grand Slam (a Danny's Grand Slam!), but made by someone who really cares about serving good food.
(More pictures in this Blue Collar - Miami flickr set).
6730 Biscayne Boulevard
5. Spicy Crispy Rice and Homemade Fermented Pork Salami Salad ($10)
Cake Thai Kitchen is a regular rotation place for us – I'll stop in to pick up from there just about once a week. Several things from their menu of Bangkok style street foods could have wound up on this list: their properly funky and spicy papaya salad, the grilled pork shoulder and roasted rice salad, their simple but perfect garlic cabbage. I've chosen this salad of crispy rice and homemade fermented Thai "salami" because it embodies everything I love about Cake's food: the unabashed jolt of hot chiles, the tang of sour sausage, the cleansing crunch of fresh vegetables, the bright cheer of fresh herbs. I'm going to be sad when they move from their hole-in-a-wall on Biscayne Boulevard to new digs in Wynwood.
(More pictures in this Cake Thai Kitchen - Miami flickr set).
Cake Thai Kitchen
7919 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida
6. Ackee and Saltfish ($10)
You can get a traditional Jamaican breakfast of ackee and saltfish at Clife's Cafe, now located in Little Haiti after moving north from Wynwood. The combination of creamy, starchy ackee fruit and silky, salty, rehydrated dried cod somehow makes me think of a classic breakfast from another culture: lox, eggs and onions. Rounded out with dense, chewy dumplings, a slab of yam, and starchy bananas, this breakfast may fill you up until dinner.
5890 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami, Florida