BEST OF MIAMI® 2003

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After scanning our trenchant looks at politico Art Teele and developer Don Peebles, viewing Miami poverty from the ground up, and busting ex-police chief Raul Martinez, you might not think New Times was really as nuts about our town as we are. But it’s true: We’re nuts about Miami! Our annual tribute to the very best the area has to offer should be proof enough. This year we’re going to tell you where to find great buys on Brazilian bikinis, where you can jog without fighting traffic, where to get the best deals on bikes, hamburgers, beer, even the best shave in town. For example, this year’s best authentic prole food is at the Eleventh Street Diner in South Beach (Best Diner, natch). You can scarf down some homemade meat loaf, green peas, and mashed potatoes for more than reasonable prices, and talk to the cool waitstaff too. And read New Times, which they pile up at the Washington Avenue end of the counter every Wednesday afternoon starting around 3:00. Or you can take your ancient Voigtlander camera to Manfred Wenzel, owner of Dan’s Camera Shop on Biscayne Boulevard, and trust that he’ll give it the kind of predigital attention it deserves. Or check out the hot dog menu at Dogma, just north of Dan’s. You’ll start to believe us.

You should especially believe us in the arena of chefs, Miami cuisine, and culinary shooting stars, where we regularly field experts like writers Lee Klein, Jen Karetnick, and Pamela Robin Brandt. Klime Kovaceski, for example, who runs the Crystal Café on 41st Street in Miami Beach, prepares a wonderful menu of “new continental” cuisine — meaning the sauces are lighter and he transgresses borders to make new dishes — used to be a rock guitarist, and will jump out of his kitchen to greet customers. Another prominent chef is Carmen Gonzalez, owner of recently opened Carmen the Restaurant in Coral Gables. She does a cutting-edge version of Americanized Caribbean, and so is attracting droves of gourmands. Michelle Bernstein, that rarest of all South Floridians, a born Miamian, and honored last year as Best Local Girl Made Good, now runs Azul at the elite Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Brickell Key. She’s been drawing national attention in venues like Esquire and the Food TV network for her award-winning work in the kitchen. And that’s not to mention the likes of other highly creative chefs like Pascal Oudin, Andrea Curto and husband Frank Randazzo, Sergio Sigala, Rob Boone, and Cindy Hutson.

Some people believe us so thoroughly they risk misdemeanor or even felony fraud charges by stuffing ballots on Readers’ Poll votes in a desperate attempt to win various categories such as Best Paintball Center, Best Scooter Store, Best Tanning Salon, or Best Topless Bar. Their techniques are pathetically obvious: overweening praise in semiliterate language about, say, the profound wonder of spackling your neighbor or brother with pink-colored paintballs, or the repeated use of business stationery — a dead giveaway, especially when we receive 97 entries from the same business, as we did this year.

Why go to such extremes? Because Best of Miami winners get to advertise that honor for years to come. They greatly value the credibility of our (now) institutional New Times endorsement. That Best of certificate hangs in the window. Customers go in. Thus is belief measured.

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