Don't have the cash flow right now to try any of the cool new restaurants you read about? Or simply can't get into any of them on a busy night? Here are a few recommendations for inexpensive, accessible alternatives to five of the hottest places in town.
1) NAOE/Sushi Deli: Chef Kevin Cory's world-renowned sushi bar has racked up an impressive list of accolades over the years; Forbes named it one of the top three Japanese restaurants in North America, while Zagat deemed it one of the top thirty restaurants in the country. Those unwilling to spend at least $85 a person on the omakase menu or wrangle a spot in the tiny 8-person dining room, however, can turn to Sushi Deli. With a deceptively unglamorous location inside a North Bay Village Japanese market, Sushi Deli turns out both traditional and more unorthodox nigiri, rolls, and hot dishes from chef Michio Kushi, including the Marie roll with shiso leaves and roasted garlic as well as curried beef stew. Best of all, nothing on the menu costs more than $10.
2) Yardbird/Whisk: Top Chef alum Jeff McInnis opened up South Beach comfort food spot Yardbird Southern Table & Bar last October. Since then, Yardbird's down-home decor, extensive sampling of bourbons, and dishes like Llewelyn's fried chicken ($21) and sweet-tea brined ribs ($27) have built up a cult following. With entrees topping $20 apiece, however, Whisk Gourmet Food and Catering--lauded by critics such as the Miami New Times' Lee Klein--provides an affordable and delicious alternative. Chef Brendan Connor, an alumnus of Charleston's well-regarded Hominy Grill and a Miami native, turns out gut-busting specials like the pimento cheese and fried green tomato sandwich ($9) and Low Country shrimp and grits ($17).
3) The Dutch/Blue Collar: The Miami outpost of Andrew Carmellini's American restaurant, located in Miami Beach's W Hotel, has quickly become a staple of the Miami food scene. Featuring standbys like the "little oyster sandwiches" with pickled okra dressing ($5 apiece) and entrees such as the Jamaican jerk chicken with pineapple chutney ($27), The Dutch offers a top-notch dining experience at top-notch prices. More budget minded diners can look to Blue Collar Restaurant, the Upper East Side spot from fellow NYC transplant Daniel Serfer. Like The Dutch, Blue Collar offers a thoroughly American menu with a fine dining approach, but Serfer also incorporates elements of Jewish and Cuban cuisines. Menu highlights include the latkes and applesauce ($6) and and an extensive "veg chalkboard" with offerings like a sweet potato-plantain mash and currie cauliflower ($4 each).
4) Bazaar/Haven: Legendary Spanish chef Jose Andres debuted The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in South Beach just last month. The latest outpost in Andres' small plates empire, often credited with popularizing tapas-style dining in the U.S., sports a sleek interior from uber-famous designer Philippe Starck and a menu packed with modern techniques, from liquid nitrogen caipirinha to smoked oysters with "ice and smoke". Just as trendy but slightly more affordable is Haven, the sleek "food lounge" from Todd Erickson, also known as Miami's Hottest Chef. Diners can score innovative twists on small plates like graham cracker crusted "squid fries" and nitro ice cream. While drinks are close in prices, Haven's Isaac Grillo gets a bit more creative mixing up some imaginative combinations like the "shiver", bombay sapphire, coconut, and frozen lemongrass foam. [Photo by Rolando Diaz, Photo]
5) Scarpetta/Salumeria 104: Scott Conant's restaurant at the Fountainebleu in Miami Beach is known and adored for its phenomenal classic Italian fare. With sister locations in New York and Las Vegas, Scarpetta consistently wows diners with classic dishes like fresh burrata ($17) and branzino ($33). For a more casual dining experience, head to Midtown's six month old Salumeria 104, a collaboration between Italian chefs Angelo Masarin, Carlo Donadoni, and Graziano Sbroggio that, true to its name, focuses on cured meats. Along with the selection of salumi, Salumeria 104 makes home made pastas like a ricotta filed cavatelli ($14) and a tagliatelle bolognese ($14).