UPDATE: Day 3 voting is done. Voting is open for Round 1 of the Local Faves and Chains Region.
We're all mad for college basketball this month, but we have a more delicious bracket in mind.
The Miami Herald’s Munch Madness pits some of Miami-Dade’s best and most popular restaurants against each other — and you vote on the winners.
Our selection committee included a wide range of eaters, from three Miami Herald dining critics to staff food nerds who just love to dine out. We narrowed the field to 64 restaurants, like the college basketball tournament’s 64 teams, that we felt represented some of the most loved Miami-Dade County spots.
Come back to MiamiHerald.com/restaurants each day, vote for your favorite, and help them move through the bracket over the next three weeks until you crown the Munch Madness champion on April 4.
We’ve tackled the first round of our Casual Dining and our Chef-Driven regions. Let’s move onto Round 1 of the World Cuisine Region. (That’s the top right quadrant if you downloaded the bracket.) Voting closes at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 18.
(1) KYU vs. (16) Tap Tap
Chef Michael Lewis made this a James Beard Best New Restaurant nominee with the help of a fall-apart smoked brisket that might be the best in Miami, though other wood-fired dishes such as cauliflower and mushroom are worth an altar all their own. Tap Tap has been bringing classic Haitian dishes to Miami Beach with a twist and style, from the kabrit goat stew to the griyo marinated pork chunks with a side of banann peze fried plantains.
(8) Cardon y el Tirano vs. (9) Bombay Darbar
Cardon y el Tirano takes inspiration from classic Latin American dishes and presents them with a modern flare that made it one of the Herald’s best-reviewed (3 1/2 stars, Excellent) last year. Bombay Darbar has been serving some of South Florida’s most spot-on Indian cuisine, and doing so in a upscale, lovely Coconut Grove setting with excellent service.
(5) Due Baci vs. (12) 33 Kitchen
The founders of Rosinella branched out for this more upscale Roman cuisine at Due Baci, where family is still in the kitchen churning out marvelous dishes such as cacio e pepe. 33 Kitchen puts its own spin on classic Peruvian cuisine like causas and lomo saltado, which got them an invite to South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Best of the Best last month.
(4) Sugarcane vs. (13) Perricone’s
Chef Timon Balloo melds his Trinidadian and Chinese background with the flavors of Miami and Latin America at this restaurant that has bloomed into a favorite in Midtown. Perricone’s was way ahead of the curve when it opened 20 years ago in Brickell, and it remains packed every day despite a host of other dining options for the simple reason that it still nails good food in a lush indoor-outdoor setting that transports you.
(6) Macchialina vs. (11) Coya Miami
Macchialina unleashes creativity in every Italian-inspired small plate, from meatballs to write home to Mama about to a tiramisu topped with coffee granita that is as unique and delicious as any you will have in Miami. The dark and moody Coya boasts a menu with a South American version of the informal Japanese izakaya, where dishes come out fast and are all the better for sharing.
(3) NaiYaRa vs. (14) Strada in the Grove
Every dish that comes out of NaiYaRa’s kitchen is a bright, flavorful and loving ode to Thai street food, turned up with Chef Bee’s skill with ingredients, in a lively South Beach setting. At Strada, the cuisine is exquisite, the setting elegant, and dishes such as spaghetti with garlic and anchovies or zuppa di pesce loaded with mussels, clams and tender white fish are the reason it has become a favorite of Groveites and cross-county destination diners.
(7) 1111 Peruvian Bistro vs. (10) Lucali
You’ll be hard pressed to find better pizza in Miami than Lucali’s, tucked inside Sunset Harbour, making pies that are doughy inside, perfectly charred outside and with such fresh, simple toppings (just basil and fresh mozz is fine by me) you might call it farm-to-table pizza that’s absolutely worth an expensive-for-pizza price. 1111 Peruvian is proof you don’t have to go to a neighboring, expensive Brickell competitor to get elevated Peruvian cusine that adds complex flavors to dishes like lomo saltado, arroz chaufa or a duck confit from Peru’s northern coast.
(2) MC Kitchen vs. (15) Proof Pizza & Pasta
At MC Kitchen, Chef Dena Marino goes beyond classic Italian, turning seasonal ingredients, fresh pastas and modern cooking techniques into elegant, thoughtful cuisine that is as comforting as it is clearly skilled (thinking of the pear, four-cheese and truffle fiocchi), not to mention boasting the largest collection of Dogfish Head craft beer in South Florida. Sourdough pizzas, fermented and using European flour, are baked to bubbling and charred perfection in a 900-degree oven, topped with the likes of fennel, sausage, broccoli rabe and homemade mozzarella to make Proof a positive showstopper.