Best of Miami®

Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

BEST CUBAN RESTAURANT
Versailles

The best Cuban restaurant should feature the best Cuban food, right? But that's not so easy to determine in a town with as many Cuban eateries as Miami. A judge could spend a lifetime sampling a million dishes. Most would agree, though, that the fare at Versailles ranks near the top. Cuban specialties hit the spot every time, from the bocaditos to dishes with generous portions of arroz con frijoles negros accompanying any meat, fish, or poultry. They make all their own bread and desserts at the bakery next door. And the price is right. You can manage a full meal for about ten bucks. However, it's the cultural experience that draws so many locals and tourists to this icon of Little Havana. Example: One day last summer Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Cuban American National Foundation executive director Joe Garcia happened to be there for lunch. Not at the same table, of course. (To call them el exilio rivals would be an understatement.) Without warning or provocation, and in front of about 100 awed but not surprised diners, Diaz-Balart unleashed a very loud tirade from across the dining room. Garcia, he shouted, was a "traitor" to the exile cause. Witnesses say Garcia responded to Diaz-Balart's finger-pointing outburst by sharing a laugh with his tablemates and digging back into his plate. Diaz-Balart and his entourage then stormed out. Only in Miami? Sure. But at Versailles? Often.

3555 SW 8th St., Miami, 33135
MAP
305-444-0240
BEST HOT DOG OR HOT DOG STAND

Dogma, a chic little eatery on a rapidly developing stretch of Biscayne Boulevard, is anything but pedantic and boring. The hot dogs are served up in an array of fanciful arrangements, from the health-conscious Athens (which overflows with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and feta cheese) to the decadent Pomodoro (caked in bruschetta and feta cheese). The waitresses are friendly, the trance music piping out of the kitchen is tastefully low-key, and an array of small tables are located mere steps away from the counter. For frequent visitors, try the rest of the menu, which includes chicken and BLT sandwiches, chili, and a salad incarnation of the Athens.

BEST HOT DOG OR HOT DOG STAND
Dogma

Dogma, a chic little eatery on a rapidly developing stretch of Biscayne Boulevard, is anything but pedantic and boring. The hot dogs are served up in an array of fanciful arrangements, from the health-conscious Athens (which overflows with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and feta cheese) to the decadent Pomodoro (caked in bruschetta and feta cheese). The waitresses are friendly, the trance music piping out of the kitchen is tastefully low-key, and an array of small tables are located mere steps away from the counter. For frequent visitors, try the rest of the menu, which includes chicken and BLT sandwiches, chili, and a salad incarnation of the Athens.

7030 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 33138
MAP
305-759-3433
BEST-KEPT SECRET

With this, it's a secret no longer. But truth be told, Boaters' Grill has developed a devoted following over the past few years. It is one of two concessions inside Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, both operated by the David Gonzalez family. First was the casual, open-air, Lighthouse Café, so named for its proximity to that Key Biscayne landmark. The similarly designed Boaters' Grill followed, and drew a more select crowd, mainly because of its location across the island, far from the beach crowds. It overlooks the tranquil No Name Harbor and offers views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. But then tragedy struck: Lighthouse Café burned to the ground this past New Year's Eve. The Gonzalez family and state park officials responded by extending hours of operation for the surviving Grill. The restaurant also added tables, expanded its wine list (concentrating on Spanish, Italian, and Chilean labels), and created both a lunch and a dinner menu. Lunch or dinner, whether it's one of several paellas, lobster, ceviche, or whole fried fish, the preparation reflects the Latin flavor of the place -- and its kitchen, manned by chefs from Cuba, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Today the Grill opens every day at 9:00 a.m. Closing hour Sunday through Wednesday is 9:00 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it stays open till 10:00 p.m. During daylight hours, diners must pay the park entrance fee, but after sunset there is no charge. So what's the secret? A beautiful setting, a casual and friendly atmosphere, and excellent fresh seafood at very reasonable prices. In fact Boaters' Grill easily could have taken the honors as Best Waterfront Dining, Best Outdoor Dining, or Best Seafood Restaurant. Instead we gave it an award that will be obsolete soon after you've read this.

BEST-KEPT SECRET
Boaters' Grill

With this, it's a secret no longer. But truth be told, Boaters' Grill has developed a devoted following over the past few years. It is one of two concessions inside Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, both operated by the David Gonzalez family. First was the casual, open-air, Lighthouse Café, so named for its proximity to that Key Biscayne landmark. The similarly designed Boaters' Grill followed, and drew a more select crowd, mainly because of its location across the island, far from the beach crowds. It overlooks the tranquil No Name Harbor and offers views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. But then tragedy struck: Lighthouse Café burned to the ground this past New Year's Eve. The Gonzalez family and state park officials responded by extending hours of operation for the surviving Grill. The restaurant also added tables, expanded its wine list (concentrating on Spanish, Italian, and Chilean labels), and created both a lunch and a dinner menu. Lunch or dinner, whether it's one of several paellas, lobster, ceviche, or whole fried fish, the preparation reflects the Latin flavor of the place -- and its kitchen, manned by chefs from Cuba, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Today the Grill opens every day at 9:00 a.m. Closing hour Sunday through Wednesday is 9:00 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it stays open till 10:00 p.m. During daylight hours, diners must pay the park entrance fee, but after sunset there is no charge. So what's the secret? A beautiful setting, a casual and friendly atmosphere, and excellent fresh seafood at very reasonable prices. In fact Boaters' Grill easily could have taken the honors as Best Waterfront Dining, Best Outdoor Dining, or Best Seafood Restaurant. Instead we gave it an award that will be obsolete soon after you've read this.

1200 S. Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, 33149
MAP
305-361-0080
BEST CHICKEN WINGS

Chicken wings, before the Atkins diet revolution, were thought to be evil. Munch on them, it was believed, and as sure as the grease on your chinny chin-chin, you'd morph into fat tub. But all that has changed now. Fat ain't all that bad and Fu Manchu's version of chicken wings, fried in peanut oil, are made sans the bready, carb-loaded crust. So here's the skinny. Order the $6.85 appetizer portion of the wings. They are plentiful and served piping -- and we mean PIPING -- hot. Dip them in Fu's superspicy Chinese mustard and you're sure to clear your sinuses and probably burn off a few calories with the heat. You can enjoy your wings in this funky 1930s eatery decorated with cheesy-looking pagodas and murals of gongs and Buddhas.

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BEST CUBAN RESTAURANT: Versailles

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