I noticed that some posters on this board were saying that more visitors should report back on the places they went while in town. I took almost all my restaurant recommendations from this site during my trip to Miami December 17-22.
Gilbert's Food Bar
Miami Airport, terminal H-J connector
I was pleasantly surprised by this place in the food court at the airport. They serve a lot of inexpensive Cuban pastries--sweet and savory. I had a ham and cheese bun and pastelitos with chorizo and guava (two separate pastelitos!). Each item was around $2.50. The ham and cheese bun (don't remember the Spanish name) was like a flat challah roll with a small amount of filling--much smaller than a sandwich. More of a snack. The chorizo pastelito had a thin layer of dry chorizo, crumbled really small, in a puff pastry--it wasn't too much bread or too much meat; a good balance. The guava pastelito was really sugary, with probably not the most homemade of fillings, but it tasted great with the saltier items. Considering it's in an airport, I give the service, price, food, and menu selection an A!
La Esquina del Lechon
I actually came here twice for dinner, because it was close to my hotel. We had a Lechon Asado for only around $11, and a mixed grill plate for around $19. Everything was very solid. And I liked it much better than La Carreta. It's not a fancy place at all, but the food was totally fresh. Also, instead of bread, they brought chicharrones (crispy fried pork belly) which was highly exciting.
Really small portions for the price!
BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel
We had desserts here at 2 p.m. because we were still hungry after My Ceviche. It's quite expensive, but you definitely DO get what you pay for. The crepe souffle with passionfruit sauce was a surprisingly big portion, and a crowd pleaser with my vacationmates. I'd been to the NYC location of BLT Steak a couple of times, so I was prepared for something very high quality, and they delivered.
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
This place seems like the Chez Panisse of Miami. For three people we had two salads, a spaghetti, a chicken entree, and two desserts. I think my favorite thing was the butter lettuce salad with hazelnuts (around $11). The dressing had a complex flavor and all the elements were of the highest quality it seemed. The chicken unfortunately was a bit bland, even though the waiter pitched it to us as one of their most special entrees.
Bella Luna at the Aventura Mall
I came here to meet up for lunch with a friend who lives near here. Needless to say this was not a Chowhound recommendation. The portions were ridiculously huge and the prices were very high ($16 for a pasta, ~$25 for a meat entree. remember we're in a mall). The atmosphere was quite fancy which seems out of place in a mall. Plus, as a vacationer, traditional Italian food is not what I'm interested in when I could have Cuban/Latin food or seafood specific to the region.
See above. We had a rather unexciting Tres Leches cake dessert and a beef roast "stuffed with chorizo" (only a couple bites)--seemed sort of cafeteria-esque.
We had a latke appetizer, a vegetarian plate, and "the big ragout sandwich" which was a beef brisket and italian sausage sandwich with cheese. I loved it--I'm not a fan of sandwiches generally but this was more like a huge pile of barbecue with bread around it. The vegetables and latkes also were all really well-considered--not too plain, but not overly flavored or fussed-with. If I lived in Miami, I'd take people here all the time, because it's cool and hip but also appropriate for square old people as well. (Though it's pretty loud in the dining room.)
For dinner at 8 p.m. on a Friday night, it was pretty deserted! The food was great though. We came here because the waiter at Michael's told us that Michael owns this pizzeria. This was another place with cool decor and tattooed waiters, but not too alternative of a place for your parents. We had a fish of the day for $21 that came with roasted squash, tomatoes, and eggplant and salmoriglio (a citrus/herb paste or sauce). It was excellent, and better I thought than the chicken for $23 we had at Michael's Genuine.
Buena Vista Deli
I came by here in the afternoon for some pastries, because I'd read so much on Chowhound. Not sure what the hype is all about.
I was in the mood for some Mexican food, as there is NONE of it in Pittsburgh where I live now, and even though I'd seen written on this board that Miami doesn't have any good Mexican food, I took this recommendation off Yelp. Though the portions were kind of small for the price (probably because of location in Miami Beach?) everything was quite good. I had a beef enchilada with a lemon cream sauce on top and it was very fresh tasting, not your average unremarkable tex-mex stuff. It took forever to come out of the kitchen, though. For dessert I had a strawberries and cream paleta which was great, but sort of expensive at $3.
As an out of towner, I noticed that all the restaurants were serving cheesecake, from $3 cheesecake at La Carreta to $12 goat cheese cheesecake with poached pears and pistachios at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink.