At most places we eat, we are merely customers. But there are some restaurants where we strive to become more than that - spots where we desperately want to have conversations with our servers about their nine cats or earn nicknames like “Medium Rare Marvin” and “Two Straw Sally.” These are the restaurants where we want to become regulars. Maybe it’s because the food is so freaking good or maybe it’s because there’s just something familial about the atmosphere. Either way, we plan on coming back to these 12 spots until they know our first name.
We’re not sure how many sandwiches it would take to become a regular here, but we’re happy to keep eating them until our name gets engraved on one of the stools at the counter. This Calle Ocho shop is home to the best Cuban sandwich in the whole city - but the other four sandwiches (which include a killer pan con bistec and a turkey sandwich/BLT mash-up) are also worth your time. A quick cafecito on the way out is only 80 cents, but hopefully - after somewhere north of 1,000 sandwiches - it’ll be on the house.
Coming to the Upper East Side’s Pinch over and over again is easy because there isn’t a bad dish on the menu. You can order something different every time and whether it’s the whole calamar, the gambas al ajillo, or the perfectly cooked wagyu vacio, you’re going to leave very happy and eager to come back and eat more of the menu. This place kind of feels like the house of a quirky relative, but the staff is much more welcoming than your aunt who makes you put little surgical booties on over your feet before you can come inside.
The menu at Shore to Door isn’t written down. Instead the owner of this Coconut Grove seafood market - who might be in the middle of cleaning a fish - will tell you what came in off the boat that morning. It could be fried corvina bites, whole yellowtail snapper, wahoo fish dip, or a dozen other sea creatures. But it will be delicious, and you can eat it in their fantastic backyard, with mismatched furniture and an atmosphere that feels very Bimini. If you want a beer, just pop open the cooler and help yourself.
Ordering at the original Sandwicherie location in South Beach would be so much easier if we were a regular. Rather than shouting over a dozen other people, who also possibly just had some beers at Mac’s Club Deuce, we could just give a quick wave and a very large sandwich would appear in our hands within five minutes. Maybe they’d even throw in a free bottle of the house vinaigrette.
Royal Castle used to be a really popular chain, but now there’s only one left. Luckily, it’s right here in west Little River and it’s open 24/7. Despite the fact that it used to be part of a corporate behemoth, this place still feels like a neighborhood diner. And they still serve the delicious slider six-packs that made them famous. Even though the menu is pretty big - with all-day breakfast and a T-bone steak - we always go for those soft little mini-burgers.
Enriqueta’s is a classic Cuban spot that has stayed refreshingly the same while high rise apartments sprout up around it like weeds. It’s got one of the best ventanitas in Miami, but it’s also a great place to sit for a breakfast of scrambled eggs and croquetas - or a very good Cubano for lunch. It’s a solid restaurant to plant roots at, because while Edgewater is changing like crazy, Enriqueta’s doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.
Imagine a world where you don’t have to wait for 45-minutes or more for a table on a Friday night at Lung Yai. When the owner spots you standing outside, he just waves you in. That’s probably not going to happen - even if you’ve been coming to this Little Havana spot for years - but it’s a fun goal to work towards since Lung Yai serves some of the best Thai food in Miami. And while we wish we didn’t have to, the khao soi is absolutely worth waiting the length of an Oscar-winning documentary for.
If the sort of deli where people wave little pieces of paper in the air and elbow each other in the spleen for the last danish is your own personal nightmare, then go to Josh’s Deli in Surfside instead. They do all the things that might make you love a deli - excellent pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox - while still being the kind of relaxing, quiet restaurant where you actually want to spend your time. They have cocktails too, and their rotating specials, which include things like smoked hamachi on an everything bagel, are always worth investigating.
Whether you’re brutally hungover or just ready to demolish a plate full of eggs, sausage, and hash browns on a Sunday morning - Jimmy’s is the neighborhood diner that everyone needs in their life. It’s the restaurant equivalent of a womb for people who truly love breakfast and unlimited coffee. It’s safe and warm and there’s enough room under the booths for a quick nap if you drank half a bottle of tequila last night.
We imagine the perks of having an in at Blue Collar might be receiving advanced intel on the day’s rotating options of braised meats and various parms - although you could also just check their website for that info. Still, it’s worth putting in some face time here on the chance they’ll bring you out a free side of latkes and applesauce or shrimp and grits, which you didn’t ask for but so desperately wanted.
It’s not going to take you very long to develop a regular order at El Rey de las Fritas. The only potentially tough decision is deciding which of the eight frita variations you want to eat at this Little Havana diner. For us, it’s the Cuban milkshake known as a batido and a simple frita original, a handheld little Cuban hamburger topped with enough potato sticks to build a campfire.
If Martin Scorsese movies have taught us anything, it’s that it looks very fun to be a regular at Italian restaurants. Maybe Soya E Pomodoro won’t carry a special table through the dining room and plop it down right in front of the jazz quartet for you, but this strange yet endearing little Downtown spot does serve some very good pasta and other Italian dishes. They also have live jazz Thursday-Saturday, but even if you come on a Tuesday, the restaurant’s overwhelming interior is entertaining enough.