Café cubano will wake your ass up from anything ... except from eating comida cubana.
Although it doesn't sport neon lights or a drive-through window, Amos's Juice Bar in North Miami Beach serves healthy and good food fast. You can sit in a booth surrounded by brightly painted palm trees and giant cartoon fruit. Or grab a seat at the counter next to the Birkenstock-clad regulars who don't flinch at the traffic whizzing by on busy Dixie Highway. The place is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Weekdays at lunch hour you may have to hustle for a seat or call in your order for take-away. Specialties include hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, tuna, blackened fish or chicken, plus many salads and fresh-made juices and smoothies. Sandwiches and salads range from four to seven dollars. Smoothies go for around $2.50. A favorite is José's Special, an ambrosial concoction of carrot juice, coconut milk, banana, pineapple, and honey. For hard-core partiers, the root tonic is the ticket. Says chef Craig Lewis: "It's a blood purifier and it's good for sinuses and hangovers. It'll give you a great sex life, too." The potent remedy, which sells for just one dollar per shot, is made from roots and barks of plants like sarsaparilla, mauby, eucalyptus, strong back, Irish moss, and ginger. It looks like a cloudy tea but tastes like Listerine mixed with mud. Amos swears by it. Hey, if it don't kill ya, it'll cure ya.
Contrary to popular belief, you can host a cocktail party without serving that platter of artfully arranged orange cheese cubes. It is possible to offer your guests fromage that hasn't been skewered with toothpicks. And, get this, it doesn't have to be baked Brie! At Scotty's Grocery you can choose from more than 80 specialty cheeses from around the globe, most with wine-pairing and serving suggestions. You don't have to worry what to serve with the Drunken Goat (veal saltimbocca would be divine with this semisoft goat cheese from Spain that's been immersed in red wine). There are cheeses from Switzerland (sweet, nutty Gruyère; chestnutlike Madrigal baby Swiss); Denmark (three kinds of mild yet tangy Havarti); and Germany (triple-cream Cambozola). Peek behind the four varieties of mozzarella (Italian) and you'll unearth a lovely, layered mascarpone torte with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. Like things a little closer to home? Real Wisconsin cheddar (note its delicate pumpkin-color hue) is unbelievably fresh. Aficionados of the foil-wrapped brick variety will marvel at the difference in taste. How to decide? Stop by the shop Friday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. for a complementary wine and cheese tasting.
From bok choy to wheat grass, this weekly market features hundreds of fresh organic fruits and vegetables and a large stash of homemade sauces and salads. The selection varies, of course, according to the season, but on a recent Saturday I found eight types of organic lettuce and as many squashes. The goods are brought in from around the world by Stan Glaser, who augments the produce with goods from his own organic Redlands farm and goodies prepared by his girlfriend Tracy Fleming. Among the most popular items are pestos, salad dressings, and fresh fruit pies with fillings of mango, strawberry, raspberry-apple, and apple-almond. It's open yearround every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
It's a golden rule of commonplace cuisine: Where there is meat, there should be potatoes. Steak and rice? No. Steak and pasta? Absolutely not. Steak and potatoes. Unquestionably. They just belong together. At Tuscan Steak, however, they are kept separate, dished out à la carte. A good thing perhaps. Although the restaurant offers enormous cuts of exceptional beef, they also serve the most spectacular mashed potatoes that have ever passed our lips. Thick buttery potatoes flecked with bits of smoked onion or sweet potatoes mashed and zinged up with a splash of Amaretto. Hold the sirloin, the T-bone, and the filet mignon, and bring on a bucket of these luscious spuds.
Long known for its bread, Renaissance has now added to its repertoire pastries, danishes, cakes, cookies, and pies. As part of the new look they moved from a hidden back corner of a North Miami stripmall to a Biscayne Boulevard frontage next to the Roadhouse Grill. The bread is still excellent. The baguettes in particular are chewy and flavorful. But for those who live for dessert, especially chocoholics, take note. Chocolate here comes in cakes, tortes, mousses, croissants, soufflés, and, of course, brownies. One could spend a heavenly day just nibbling the rich chocolate truffle torte accompanied by a steady stream of caffeine. Actually you can. Renaissance has a counter along the wall with seating. The pleasantly low-key staff offers cappuccino, espresso, or just a plain old cup of joe. They are open at 7:30 every morning of the week. For those who commute along Biscayne, what a bakery oasis.
Give us your guava, your yuca, your cabbage, your corn, your watermelons, your sweet potatoes, your tomatoes, and your avocados. Each morning before dawn, masses of produce vendors huddle with truckers, grocery store owners, and restaurant buyers at Allapattah's so-called terminal market, just north of Jackson Memorial Hospital. The market supplies ingredients for Miami's cornucopia of cultures. Snatches of Spanish, Creole, and island-accented English are heard as vendors proffer exotic fruits, Caribbean tubers, giant bags of Spanish rice, Florida oranges, and Idaho potatoes. Packaged products from around the subtropics can also be found here. So grab a thimbleful of Cuban coffee from the corner cafeteria and stroll these four blocks. Buy some fresh, cheap produce while journeying into the heart and stomach of the city.
Miami often feels more like a city in South America than the Southern United States, but a visit to People's Bar-B-Que will set your geography straight. Known for its succulent ribs and barbecued chicken, the 38-year-old Overtown restaurant is a haven for all manner of authentic soul food. Cooked while you wait, the unparalleled fried chicken is bubbling hot when it arrives on the table. The delicious coating is thick and crispy, the inside (white or dark meat) is tender and juicy. The chicken comes accompanied by cornbread and collard greens, pigeon peas, or other sides. Wash it all down with a big glass of sweet iced tea. People's is open for lunch and dinner, seven days per week. So go ahead, suck those chicken bones dry; heck, ya'll do live in the South.

More than eight years ago Oggi started off as a simple pasta factory. Within a year, however, a few modest tables were added to its cramped surroundings and one of the finest Italian restaurants in South Florida was born. Oggi has expanded, but it has never lost sight of its roots. It is the homemade pasta that makes Oggi special. Demand at their own restaurant has grown so much that Oggi's only provides its special pasta to five other restaurants. The hands-down favorite pasta Oggi produces is the ravioli stuffed with crabmeat. "We can never make too much ravioli," says Alex Portela, one of the owners of Oggi. "If we don't have that as one of the specials people get upset. It's a problem sometimes." But what a delicious problem it is.

"I make it just like my mom makes it," Alex Richter says. "In Germany we eat a lot of potatoes." They're boiled, strained, and then hand-mashed with a wooden mallet. Then the Munich native adds salt, pepper, butter, milk, and, the special ingredient, nutmeg. It's all topped off with fresh parsley and a little red pepper. "Sometimes when you eat them, they have lumps," Richter explains. "That's how you know they are handmade." What we know is they are delicious, enhanced by that slice of spice. Beer's good, too. Extra cheer comes from the perennial Christmas lights and schmaltzy German folk music -- kitsch is a German concept as well.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®