No sweet maduros dripping with grease, no deep-fried croquetas or rich, fatty chunks of lechon asado. No, this is Fat Busters, home of Cuban Lite, where the mantra is: "No added fat or sugar." And before you dismiss this small strip-center cafeteria/cantina as an insult to real Cuban cooking, at least sample the wares. Turkey meatballs, turkey picadillo, grilled chicken breast, tuna-stuffed sweet pepper, meatless congri. Steamed plantains, steamed pumpkin with mojo, and no-fat black beans with rice are surprisingly savory. Many other less-traditional fish and pasta dishes grace the extensive menu, which changes weekly. It's all the brainchild of Thais Carreño, a Cuban who learned to cook light for her health and then started her own business three years ago. You're welcome to eat on the premises, but Fat Busters (open weekdays 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) is more of a take-out deli. Carreno and company will also prepare (and deliver, if requested) an entrée and three sides every day, cooked to your individual diet requirements (about $35 per person for five days; $1 per day delivery charge).
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.

The Sweet Tooth is ready for any holiday. Make that every holiday. The North Miami Beach institution prepares foil-wrapped hearts for Valentine's Day, of course, and chocolate clovers for St. Patrick's Day. But even lesser festivals are covered. How about a Mardi Gras mask on a stick? Or an edible football-playing figurine for a Heisman Trophy party? Hand-dipped chocolate matzo for Passover are available, as are symbolic Seder plates featuring solid-chocolate shankbones. Gift baskets are a specialty, with prices varying from more than $100 to only $5 for a Big Bird coffee mug overflowing with creamy nougats. All the chocolates are made on the premises, and in accordance with kosher law. (There's even an ultrakosher parve division.) They deliver anywhere in Miami-Dade and Broward, and ship nationwide. The Sweet Tooth thrives in a humble stripmall, next to a shuttered weight-loss clinic. The "FOR RENT" sign in the clinic window says everything: With chocolate so good and so close, even dieting takes a holiday.
Nemo Restaurant
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.
The chili at Firehouse Four is a very traditional blend of meat and spices, simply stewed to perfection. The secret is its stick-to-the-basics formula and a reliance on quality ingredients, especially ground sirloin. The recipe is the same one used by the original Firehouse Four when it was first opened more than a decade ago. After a troubled hiatus, when the restaurant was closed for far too long, the establishment reopened, and rather than trying to reinvent its kitchen, it brought back its fabled chili. A hearty bowl at lunch sells for $4.95.

Café Demetrio
George Martinez
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.
The tacos in this barrio-style taquería are truly Mexicano, as are the prices. For a buck and half you can erase all traces of Taco Bell from your taste buds. You'll become a born-again taco eater once you indulge in the light, crispy corn tortilla or the soft flour wrap with your choice of chicken chunks, carnitas, picadillo, barbacoa (steamed beef), and seasoned pork. Also on the menu: brain, intestine, and gut tacos. The contents may be as gory as the Mexican Revolution, but the items are popular among the more radical eaters. Fresh lettuce and tomatoes are the final touches to what is ultimately an authentic Mexican experience. ¡Viva Taquería!.
In My Year of Meats, a novel by Ruth L. Ozeki, an Asian character says, "Name is very first thing. Name is face to all the world." No doubt she'd appreciate Sam Woo's moniker, which in English means to seduce. And that's precisely what he does with his "snowballs," chopped shrimp molded into balls and dressed with a sweet mayonnaise, and the artfully prepared double-cooked pork, rife with peppery cabbage and water chestnuts. But if Woo's appellation makes a great first impression, and his wokking a terrific second one, his décor certainly leaves something to be desired. The few rickety tables and chairs in this twenty-seat dive look as though they've been gleaned from a garage sale. Take-out's definitely the way to go here. Just ask the steady stream of neighbors and MDCC college students who perch temporarily while their orders are prepared from scratch, to go.

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 Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®