(CNN) — I travel to Miami for many reasons: Typically it's for a DJ gig, a gig with The Roots or a mini-vacation. This time, I was there for the Miami Book Fair to chat with the legendary George Clinton -- and to get some ideas together for a food salon that I'd be hosting during Art Basel at the home of writer Tom Healy and his partner, Fred Hochberg.
As luck would have it, I also had a chance to catch up with my friend Anthony Bourdain and film an episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown."
The "parts unknown" were everything that I've come to expect from Miami: Fast-paced in some ways, leisurely in others; broadly international yet aggressively provincial; and hot to the point of haze, even in November.
Miami has a long tradition of nearly everything. It's where James Brown recorded "I Feel Good" at Criteria Studios, which also produced a billion other songs that you've all heard, from Derek and the Dominos' "Layla" to Aretha Franklin's "Young, Gifted and Black."
It's where the Bee Gees went all the time, to the point where the rhythm of "Jive Talkin' " came from the sound that Barry Gibb heard under his car as he drove over the causeway to Miami Beach.
It's where there was a hip-hop revolution in the '80s and the '90s, thanks to the Miami bass sound most famously (and most infamously) through Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew. And it's where there's currently a thriving EDM and dance-music scene, part of which I help to support by DJing whenever I'm in town.
As the haze of midday heat burns off, Miami at night is sharp and seductive. When dozens of cultures and subcultures (Latin, South American, European, African and more) are all doing their best to have a good time, the floor moves.
The same is true of the city's food scene. There are monuments to Miami's culture, like the Cuban restaurant Versailles on Calle Ocho or the seafood institution Joe's Stone Crab in South Beach, but there are also dozens of edgy new spots that are trying to harness the city's young energy.
When friends are in Miami, texting me and asking where to go, I send them to these spots. Here is my guide to eating in Miami:
This is my go-to spot every time I'm in Miami. Just like when I first went to Trois Mec in Los Angeles, Drunken Dragon threw me off guard. It may be in a strip mall next to a Nextel store on South Beach, but inside is pure deliciousness, a modern take on Korean food with Latin flavors. Make sure you keep an eye open for the "MARKET" sign.
The restaurant's full name is Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, which is a strong enough argument on its own. It's right there on 16th Street and Lenox Avenue near the beach, and it's Southern comfort food the way Southern comfort food gets prepared in my dreams. It hits the spot every time.
Like Drunken Dragon, Federal Food is in a strip mall, though it's up Biscayne Boulevard rather than on the beach. The space may be unassuming, but the food certainly isn't. The biscuits alone are a reason to travel here, and the brunch is unstoppable.
If you know me, you probably also know that I have a love affair with Italy and Italian food. That's partly because The Roots have been touring there for two decades, and partly because I'm a sucker for good pasta. The pasta at Via Emilia 9 is much, much better than good.
As I said, Versailles is the most famous and iconic Cuban spot in Miami, but there are always dozens of well-kept secrets for tostones, maduros, medianoches and more. This place is basically a market that serves food, but what food it is. Hands down, these are the best chicharones in Miami -- and possibly the world.