by Rick Munarriz - 406 Reviews - 155 List
If you want to feel the culinary pulse of Miami, leave your credit card at home and seek out the best bargain eats in town. From surprisingly cheap steak and lobster platters to filling Latin American pastries, head to these places when your pockets aren't overflowing with greenery.
Updated: April 30, 2010
There's nothing like an Indian reservation casino to help subsidize the appetites of its empty-pocketed gamblers. The elated and dejected alike make their way to Cafe Hammock for the $6.95 surf-and-turf special, featuring steak and a lobster tail.
The original barbecue joint has been saucing up fired-up meats since 1951. From the beef brisket platter to the half-chicken meal, all platters come with heaping servings of cole slaw, crinkle-cut fries and garlic bread. As long as you can resist the pricier rib entrees, everything else on the menu is priced in the single digits.
Open 24 hours a day--because thriftiness never sleeps--this throwback South Beach diner offers a wide menu of greasy spoon standards. Sidestep the $5 milkshakes and the $11 to $19 comfort food entrees and nearly everything else on the menu can be had for less than 10 bucks.
Between the University of Miami paraphernalia on the walls and the scent of fresh garlic rolls in the air, this restaurant oozes local flavor. Pizzas by the slice are just $2.25. Pastas can jack up tabs, but check out the $8.50 special that includes mushroom and chicken breast-topped spaghetti.
All of the baked pasta, spaghetti and ziti entrees can be had for less than a $10 bill. The dishes also include three of the signature garlic rolls, oozing with olive oil. The original North Miami location has been around since 1969, but a recent franchising push now finds a half-dozen locations around town.
Diners can see the glass-enclosed pasta-making equipment cranking out everything from vermicelli to lasagna layers, so they know the homemade eats will be fresh. Most of the pasta dishes, topped with one of seven sauces, are in the $6 to $8 range. As a bonus, eat-in diners can ask for seconds at no additional charge.
This South Beach pizzeria serves up gargantuan rectangular slices. It's also no shrinking violet when it comes to pie toppers. Roasted potatoes, barbecued shrimp, and even egg are available on the individual slices. Just because it's pizza doesn't mean it can't be gourmet.
Festive cantina can get pricey at dinnertime, but weekday lunch specials will awaken those watching their pesos from any siesta. $7.50 is the lunchtime price for platters anchored by tacos, flautas, burritos, tostadas, chimichangas or chicken chilaquiles.
Most of the burritos, tacos, quesadillas and nachos will set penny-pinching diners back less than $8 at this South Beach Tex-Mex specialist. Even the gargantuan sizzling fajita platter clocks in at a reasonable $9.99, and it can be reasonably split between a pair of hungry tortilla rollers.
Unlike modest Cuban pastries that can be found at most corner bakeries, this place specializes in Argentinean empanadas. Each pasty costs just a few bucks but is loaded with meaty toppings, often with layered textures of cheese and crumbled pieces of boiled egg.
This round-the-clock Cuban eatery specializes in value-priced yet bountiful sandwiches. From the namesake Cuban sandwich to the "media noche" ham and cheese staple pressed inside a signature sweet roll to the turkey, jelly and cream cheese Elena Ruth, this wee-hour hotspot would rather serve you bread than take it from you.
Its name may translate literally into Juice Palace, but this open-air Cuban fruit stand has evolved into offering $3 to $5 ethnic sandwiches and heartier entrees for just a couple of bucks more. Different counters have different specialties, so washing down a fried fish sandwich with a papaya shake is a two-stop process.
Colombian restaurant tweaks many American standards into tastebud-tricking creations. Instead of hot dogs and hamburgers served elsewhere, La Moon's burgers are served up in corn arepa buns and hot dogs are topped with pineapple and fried potato sticks or chopped up into salchipapas (sliced franks over a bed of fries).