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PERSONAL BEST Miami 2005 - Puerto Sagua

Bill Nunn -- the grizzly bear of an actor who played Radio Raheem in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (and has barreled through supporting parts in scores of other movies) -- takes a seat at the counter, simultaneously inhaling a croqueta and remarking about the lack of guava pastries which, because of the late hour, have run out for the day. Three seats are occupied by tipsy Brazilian beauties grooving to a tune audible only on their internal frequency. A garrulous air conditioner repairman talks about coming to Miami from Havana in 1994, his ex-wife, and his escape-prone albino ferret. The most handsome man on the planet sits quietly reading, oblivious to distractions. Two gentlemen on their way to Key West study the paper placemats at Puerto Sagua and ask, "Where's Cuba?"

Those guys must be from someplace really landlocked and far away, because Cuba is everywhere at Puerto Sagua -- in the grouper soup, in the flan, in the butter-soaked bread served with limes, and especially in the café con leche. Here the steamed milk is served without sugar and with the espresso in a tiny stainless steel urn on the side. Regular -- and fortunate -- patrons come under the care of Leticia, who reads the urgent need for caffeine on their faces and occasionally rewards her customers with an extra dollop of froth and mouthful of sweet, strong coffee. She and longtime nightshift co-workers Javier and Maria prefer to work quietly, eschewing idle chatter in Spanish and English, but they did have a little to say from their posts at one of Miami Beach's most unchanging landmarks.

Best seasonal or special event in Miami Beach: The South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Even after a day of eating and drinking, people still come over for dinner. It's strange, but maybe people want something simple after all the gourmet dishes.

Best reason to live in Miami: The weather. And the people, even though times have changed.

What do you see in the future for Miami Beach? More building, more traffic, but good things too. Places grow and change. We will still be here!

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