BEST-KEPT SECRET Miami 2004 - 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.