BEST WATERFRONT DINING Miami 2004 - Red Fish Grill
Though this indoor/outdoor restaurant has been open for a decade, it's still something of an insider's secret, likely owing to its hidden location deep inside Matheson Hammock Park. The first pleasant surprise comes at the front gate, when you tell the guard you're going to the Red Fish Grill and are waved through without forking over the four-dollar admission fee for the park and marina. At the end of the narrow winding road is a second pleasant surprise -- plenty of free parking. Yet another pleasant surprise is the historic coral-rock structure housing the restaurant. Inside, the dining room is attractive but not notable. Instead reserve a table on the lush and romantic waterfront patio, which abuts the park's saltwater swimming lagoon. (Changing rooms are located next door if you should feel like a dip before dining.) The restaurant's seafood-oriented menu frankly does not match the spectacular setting. But the simply cooked fish is fresh (request it slightly underdone), or as an alternative, there are enough tasty starters to cobble together a good grazing meal. Perfectly fried shrimp with lemon-garlic aioli; a very savory Mediterranean salad with goat cheese and cashews. Decent food, swaying tropical vegetation, Biscayne Bay spreading out before you, a long view back toward downtown Miami -- it's a combination that can't be topped.