Miami's Ten Best Diners: Where Grease Is King

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Photo by Ruhrfisch via Wikimedia Commons
Miami diners are few and far between, though there are some standouts.
Despite the number of Northeastern transplants in Miami, the choice in Miami diners is slim. They are places to get a pizza burger, super crispy French fries hidden under a mound of greasy industrial cheese, or a solid plate of hash browns and over-easy eggs. A few are sprinkled across town, though in many ways they play second fiddle to the cafeterias, fritangas, and endless ventanitas that are nestled into nearly every strip mall.

In some cases, ethnic places are Miami's version of the greasy spoon with similarly comforting, cheap, and hearty food based on a slightly different basket of ingredients. Nevertheless, it is those places where waitresses with wide smiles slam plates of glistening patty melts onto the table. Here are the best.

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Miami's Best Mofongo Hides Near Hialeah

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Photo by Zachary Fagenson
Churrasco and mofongo ($15.50) at El Rinconcito de Santa Bárbara in Hialeah Gardens.
If it weren''t for the blinding sun outside, it would be difficult to tell whether it's lunch on Tuesday or dinner on Friday night inside El Rinconcito de Santa Bárbara.

Nevertheless, people are lined up for a table outside the darkened windows of this Hialeah Gardens Puerto Rican spot. Inside, the staff belts out "Happy Birthday" in Spanish as someone rakes a spoon across a washboard and rainbow-colored club lights splash against the ceiling and walls.

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David's Cafe to Reopen on Alton Road

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Photo by Zachary Fagenson
It's cafecito time again.
Rejoice, South Beach. David's Café is coming back.

In April, the decades-old Cuban institution on Collins Avenue was shuttered because the surrounding construction hurt business, owners said. The closing followed the 2012 darkening of the Lincoln Road location (due to exorbitant rent), a caffeine-and-grease-laced hideaway for locals and tourists alike.

See also: David's Café Closing Sunday After Nearly Four Decades

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Jean Paul Desmaison Opens Harbour Bites in Coconut Grove

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Zachary Fagenson
Butifarra sandwich at Jean Paul Desmaison's Harbour Bites.
Jean Paul Desmaison is back, for the moment, inside a stationary trailer in a Coconut Grove parking lot serving his beloved Manchego chorizo empanadas, slicked inside with a sticky layer of fig jam.

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Honduran Pollo Ceibeño Redefines the Hearty Plate of Chicken

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Zachary Fagenson
Ceibeño de Pollo at Orgullo Catracho.
Forget amber-colored quarters propped alongside mashed potatoes and watery, over-mayonnaised coleslaw. Honduran restaurants offer their own, far superior version called pollo ceibeño, or ceibeño de pollo depending upon where you order it. Named for and popularized in La Ceiba, a port town on Honduras' north coast, it's a foundation of fried plantains topped with roasted or fried chicken thighs and a heap of cabbage dressed with an array of toppings.

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Seven Seas Restaurant & Fish Market: Little Haiti's Hidden Gem

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Photo by Valeria Nekhim
Pan roasted tilapia at Seven Seas Restaurant
Don't let its proximity to the Design District fool you -- Seven Seas Restaurant & Fish Market is all about the food. More specific, this blink-and-you'll-miss-it gem in Little Haiti features inexpensive and expertly prepared Dominican and American dishes.

Owner Nicholas Paulino and his wife, Ana, are originally from San Francisco de Macorís in the Dominican Republic but moved to New York more than 25 years ago to be near family. With no formal training (unless you count a culinary video course and his mother's teachings), Paulino landed a chef's job at Joe Allen on West 46th Street. He then transferred to its Miami Beach location, where he worked for 16 years until it shuttered in 2011.

See also: Doral Japanese-Peruvian Gem Tira.D.Toss. Hides in Plain Sight

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Miami's Best Pan con Lechon: It's All About the Skin

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Photo by Zachary Fagenson
The pan con lechón from La Esquina del Lechón in Doral.
Pan con lechón has a natural progression. What else is one to do with heaps of juicy, fatty pork leftover from a Sunday roast other than tuck it between two pieces of bread with shards of sticky skin and sweet onions?

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Milly's Restaurant Serves a Creamsicle in a Glass

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Photo by Zachary Fagenson
Morir Sonañdo at Milly's.
Milly Mercedes sells orange Creamsicles in a glass. For as long as she can remember, people in her native Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic have woken up to morir sonañdo, a blend of milk, orange juice, and sugar that instead of curdling into a sour mess transforms into an addictive tart, sweet mixture.

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Proof Pizza & Pasta Brings Neapolitan Style to Midtown

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All photos by Carla Torres
Proof Pizza & Pasta, now open in Midtown.
If you happen to drive by the former Copperbox space, you'll notice it has windows. And it's no longer copper, but rather white. That's because Proof Pizza & Pasta opened quietly last Friday.

The Neapolitan-style pizza joint comes to Midtown from Justin Flit, whose prior experience includes Daniel Boulud's DBGB in New York City and, most recently, Bourbon Steak, where he was executive sous chef.

See also: Panther's Joel and Leticia Pollock on Changing Local Coffee Culture: "There Aren't Baristas Falling Off Trees in Miami"

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Honduran Baleadas: Three Great Places to Get Them

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Photo by Carina Ost
Behold the baleada from Jennifer's Cafeteria.
Just how significant has Miami's Central American population become? In the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, there is a small chain of cafeteria-style restaurants called Coco Baleadas. The first U.S. location opened quietly on Coral Way last month, and it's the busiest the small space (which once held a Peruvian and pan-Asian restaurant) has been in years.

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