Best of Miami®

Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

BEST VALUE ON OCEAN DRIVE

Despite the hordes of tourists clogging Ocean Drive -- and the tourists traps that have sprung up to serve them -- a few pockets of sanity still exist on that once fabled street. None is more treasured by brunch-seeking locals than the Front Porch Café. While your out-of-town visitors trudge off to the heart of the strip for their obligatory snapshots of the Versace mansion, grab a seat on the outdoor patio here. It's the perfect spot to tuck into a huge stack of pancakes while watching the parade of South Beach humanity traipse by. At $7.65 this meal may be a tad pricier than the fare at IHOP, but these pancakes are twice as big, twice as fluffy, and with bananas, sugar, and maple syrup on top, the ultimate in morning comfort food. If a similarly humongous plate of cinnamon-spiked challah French toast (also $7.65) still seems too self-indulgent, try the egg-white omelets ($6.55), a favorite among the buffed gay crowd that flocks here, many of whom spend more time ogling their own waistlines than those of any passersby. But whatever your tastes, in diet or dates, be sure to reward yourself with a smoothie ($3.95), or as they fashion them here, a "Front Porch Flip." It's a blend of freshly squeezed orange juice, nonfat yogurt, heaps of strawberries and bananas, and a shot of honey. Yes, dealing with Ocean Drive can be a headache-inducing trial, but with Front Porch's menu in sight, you won't mind quite as much.

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 VALUE ON OCEAN DRIVE: Front Porch Café

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