As out of the way as it might seem to the downtown lunch crowd, this all-substance/no-style Cuban eatery is a big hit with our men and women in uniform. On any given day, Laguna's crack squad of blue-aproned waitresses can be seen pressing prodigious platters of moros, yuca, maduros, and succulent meats of all descriptions on National Guardsmen, police officers, FBI agents, parks and recreation employees, and code enforcement inspectors. The high quantity, high quality, and low prices of the fare keep the heavily armed clientele coming back. If you're on a real tight budget, a big bowl of the heavenly sopa de pescado and a side of tostones (perhaps the best in town) will run you a total of $3.50. Want to drop in early for a hearty breakfast of two eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee? That'll be a buck fifty. The daily specials are uniformly excellent (especially Monday's bistec en cazuela and Thursday's rabo encendido), none costs more than $4.75, and you'll probably need both hands to carry the leftovers out to the car.

Best Fine-Dining Restaurant To Have A Highchair

Caffe Sambuca

Locals love this elegant Italian eatery for several reasons, including the succulent homemade pastas, the high-quality grilled veal chops, the genteel atmosphere, the sincere service. But there's a bonus factor here that makes the Caffe even more inviting: highchairs. Now new parents can enjoy the tastiest tortellini in the business while reveling in the knowledge that their bambinos are snug in their seats as ricotta is in ravioli. And that the kitchen will turn out a smaller portion of pasta for its tiny, discerning guests. No doubt, for all concerned, Caffe Sambuca is a welcome alternative to the likes of Chuck E. Cheese.
The key here is "dine." You can grab a fast-food burger by yourself just about anywhere, but the only thing you'll be treating yourself to is a Pepcid AC. Replace Mickey D's with Johnny V's, and instead you'll munch on corn-crusted snapper stuffed into a soft taco with avocado tartar sauce, a basil-roasted turkey with plantain stuffing, or grilled rare tuna over baby greens with sprouts and wasabi-soy vinaigrette. What makes these gourmet items ideal for the single diner is the setting: Chrome stools line a counter in this narrow, SoBe dining room, and people-watching is at a premium. If you tire of staring at hung-over entertainers or at the jars of homemade pickles lining the shelves behind the counter, you can always pick up a Magic Marker and write on the walls; many of the tiles bear messages from grateful, solitary customers.
A walk through Little Haiti delights the olfactory senses. Exotic aromas from the islands waft by like enticing invitations. But there are few restaurants where one wants to sit. Why? Because take-out is the rule. And Fidele is the best. Be clear, this is no yuppie joint. It's located on a seedy stretch of Biscayne and a smudged Plexiglas window separates customers from cashier. Smells from a vacant field next door are sometimes unpleasant and neither clients nor proprietors speak much English. But for five to eight dollars, you can get perfect plantains, delicately flavored rice and beans, and unforgettable main dishes. Portions are huge, enough for two modest eaters. And you get a free soda to boot. Try the fried chicken, which is our favorite dish. The fried fish is another winner. Goat and conch are also surprisingly tasty. Don't forget the Haitian hot sauce; one container could rocket you to Port-au-Prince.

This past year Nemo owners Myles Chefetz and Michael Schwartz made a wise decision; they hired executive chef Frank Jeanetti to take the reins of the open kitchen. Jeanetti not only has a fine touch with Pacific Rim flavors (honed under Jonathan Eismann at Pacific Time and Pacific Heights), he's a great garde-manger, and he proves it every Sunday while presiding over brunch. Items are lined up on the counter that rims the kitchen (where patrons can sit and watch the action while they eat), and range from items such as mushroom-barley salad and smoked salmon wrapped around alfalfa sprouts to traditional egg dishes. An assortment of home-baked breads and pastries sandwich either end of the buffet. Best of all the $22 price tag includes as many return trips as your stomach can handle. Designer oysters and early-morning cocktails aren't included in the fee, but that might be asking too much.
With its light-wood interior, Italian coffee drinks, and Austrian desserts, Café Demetrio looks as if it's been imported from the Alps. All that's missing is some snow and a Saint Bernard or two. But the coziness of this coffee shop doesn't mean we should only enjoy it during the cooler weather. The gourmet frozen cappuccino, the coffee mousse, and the Kahlúa ice cream make the transition from mild winter to hot summer easy as pie or, in Alpine land, easy as tarts.
Where else but at the Brickell Emporium can you get a tongue omelet at 7:00 a.m.? Okay, maybe that idea, especially early in the morning, is horrifying. Fortunately this restaurant has 22 other types of omelets from which to choose. The selection ranges from the traditional Western to a lox spread. Rumored to be the first deli in Miami, the Brickell Emporium also serves freshly baked breads, rolls, and bagels, along with traditional luncheon and diner food. If you are hungering for that New York experience, for a hot Reuben sandwich or a blintz with applesauce, this is your point south.
If you're Puerto Rican you know better than to venture out to a restaurant to eat comida criolla. Nobody makes better arroz con gandules than your abuela, nobody's alcapurrias are quite as tasty as mami's, and mofongo -- well forget it -- you just can't get good mofongo off the island. Until now. This past December Puerto Rican singing-sensation-superstar Ricky Martin joined the owners of Ajili Mójili, one of San Juan's most noted restaurants, and opened Casa Salsa here in South Beach. Everything at Casa Salsa, from the interior design (corrugated metal, cane, wood, and straw with a SoBe twist) to the live plena music, the art work, and, of course, the food, will take you back to the sweet, lulling rhythms of la isla del encanto. Although everything we sampled was delicious, including the items that seemed to be more SoBe Rican than anything, for a true gustatory excursion through Puerto Rico we recommend sticking with the traditional dishes: surullos, alcapurrias, asopao, arañitas, and arroz con gandules. The dish Casa Salsa does best is mofongo: plantains mashed with oil and garlic and filled with your choice of chicken, lobster, or beef, and topped with a delicious tomato-based salsa, all served in a typical wooden pilón. ¡Ay que rico! Lunch daily from noon until 4:00 p.m. Dinner Monday through Thursday from 6:00 p.m. until midnight, Friday through Sunday until 2:00 a.m. Reservations are strongly recommended for Friday and Saturday nights: You probably won't get a table without one.

Best Place To Park Your Yacht And Order Paella

Big Fish Mayaimi

We just want to dine overlooking the water. Is that so wrong? Apparently. Miami may be practically surrounded by H2O, but very few restaurants boast waterfront dining. Enter the Fish, positioned on the south bank of the Miami River. Originally a fruit-packing plant, then a gas station, next a fish-sandwich joint started by local personality T.O. Sykes, Big Fish Mayaimi now offers top-line, Barcelona-style seafood dishes (including rosemary-fragrant mushroom paella) at decent prices. The décor, fashioned by eclectic artist Antoni Miralda, has ranged from a huge stiletto with a detachable heel (it doubled as a gondola) to a sculpture of livestock perched atop one another. But if the view of the corrugated metal restaurant ever bores (highly doubtful, given Miralda's imagination), there's always the barge-stuffed river to entertain you. Nature buffs love the place for its glimpse of preurban Miami. Boaters like it because the dockage space is ample enough for yachts and rowboats alike. And locals like it because the spot is so tucked away, tourists can't find it -- unless they take the water taxi from Bayside.

Being surrounded by water in South Florida, we'd expect a plethora of excellent seafood restaurants. There are a number of places that call themselves fish houses, but far too many are overpriced, greasy, or just plain boring. Fishbone Grille is none of the above. Both the original downtown location, which recently underwent a long-needed facelift, and the newer Coral Gables eatery, offer nearly identical menus created by talented chef David Bracha. He is clearly inspired by the cuisines of the Caribbean and Asia, but ventures into French, Italian, and South American pantries to pull out an eclectic array of dishes. Standouts include a lively rendition of cioppino loaded with clams, mussels, scallops, squid, shrimp and tender chunks of whitefish roasted in a tomato broth; Thai steamed mussels; wild mushroom-crusted sea bass over garlic and chive mashed potatoes; delicately pan-roasted crabcakes with a smoky almond tartar sauce; teriyaki salmon with Asian vegetables and lobster; and crabmeat ravioli with a creamy pink tomato sauce. Chalkboard specials are always recommendable as are a selection of raw oysters. In addition to reasonably priced superior seafood (dinner entrées hover between $8 and $18) both locations offer nonfishy pizzas, sandwiches, and pastas, plus a varied and inexpensive choice of wines by the bottle or the glass.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®