Best of Miami®

Best Of 2000

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Restaurant To Reinvent Itself Again

This restaurant has had more lives than Shirley MacLaine. And part of the eatery's perseverance has to do with its location. As one of the only, and certainly just about the oldest, riverfront restaurants in Miami, we almost owe it our patronage. In fact we've seen this place through good times and bad, through Twenties' gas stations and fish sandwiches (courtesy of its first owner), through gondolas and gigantic sculptures of animals standing on each other's backs (courtesy of the previous owner). It's almost like a marriage that way -- love it or leave it. And we love it. We can't help ourselves. Some glitches will always affect this restaurant: It's hard to find; the neighborhood could be better; the river traffic could be less noisy. But as far as landmark bars built around banyan trees go, we'll take this one. And we'll drink martinis here and eat fish sandwiches (okay, maybe just one, since they're currently so big) no matter who owns it, or cleans it up, or installs weird artwork, or dirties it again. That's a promise.

Best Hamburger
Morton's of Chicago

Oh, we know the myth. The best hamburgers are made from ground chuck, because the meat has more fat in it. The fat then prevents the burger from shrinking into a McDonald's-esque disk while cooking. Well, baloney. At the downtown location of Morton's, the hamburger is a full eight ounces of lean ground sirloin. Hard to feel guilty eating that. And it's just about the juiciest thing we've encountered outside the Chris Paciello story. The single drawback? The burger is served only during the noontime meal. Still, order with a side of lyonnaise taters, and that's what we call a power lunch.

17399 Biscayne Blvd., Sunny Isles Beach, 33160
MAP
305-945-3131
Best Thai Restaurant
Siam Lotus Room

This converted no-tell motel on South Dixie is painted a really disgusting shade of green; a more reliable harbinger of the food within can be seen in the clusters of patrons on the benches outside the front door, eagerly awaiting their tables. Inside it's long and narrow, with a boxcarlike feel, but the friendly service and the pungent scent of Thai basil, fish sauce, and chili paste more than compensate for the cramped quarters. A Thai restaurant is only as good as its pad thai, and this one kills: a light hand with the ground pork, and it actually has plenty of shrimp! The rich curries are excellent, as are appetizers like tiger tear and nam sod. The chefs also show a deft touch with seafood; if you find a restaurant of any ethnic description that can cook up a tastier whole snapper, let us know. And if you like your Thai food with plenty of fire, you'll be pleased to know Siam Lotus Room actually takes you at your word when you ask for "four stars" of spiciness. Ouch! Hurts so good.

6388 S. Dixie Highway, South Miami, 33143
MAP
305-666-8134
Best Early Bird Special
Mama Jennie's
Aran S Graham

You just made it. Booth okay? Care for a beverage? Will that be the pasta fagioli or the garden salad? And your rolls: plain or dripping with garlic? For dinner there's lasagna, stuffed shells, eggplant rollatini, chicken parmigiana, veal cacciatore, linguine in clam sauce, ziti with sausage, or something else ... I forgot; I'll be right back. What do you mean you're full? No dessert? Either way it's $7.95. Come on, take the cannoli! (Oh well, just come back: The early bird special is offered seven days a week, 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.)

11720 NE Second Ave., North Miami, 33161
MAP
305-757-3627
Best Key Lime Pie
Epicure Market
Alejandra Cicilia

Tart enough. Sweet enough. Mellow yellow filling, almost ecru. Velvety texture. Moist, crumbly graham cracker crust. Outside edge daintily adorned with a ring of whipped cream. Center garnished with more cream and a twisted lime slice. Ideal to serve to your friends, but at close to ten bucks, certainly not meant to throw at your enemies.

1656 Alton Rd., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-672-1861
Best Caesar Salad
Cafe Ragazzi

Some folks visit this corner storefront eatery for its baked pastas. Other patrons go for its wonderfully prepared veal scaloppine dishes and fillets of fish sprinkled with capers. And most appreciate the lengths the staff goes to ensure that even those waiting for a table outside have a glass of refreshment. We, however, frequent the cafe for its absolutely fresh caesar salad, which is redolent with garlic, Parmesan, and the all-important anchovies. Oh, we know picky diners don't like to look an anchovy fillet in the eye, so to speak. But you don't have to. The dressing here incorporates chopped anchovies, not whole ones, so you get the proper flavor without being, well, grossed out. Best of all, the kitchen will split an order for you, and the results usually are two huge salads for the price of one.

9500 Harding Ave., Miami Beach, 33140
MAP
305-866-4495
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Best Restaurant To Reinvent Itself Again: Big Fish

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