Amid the electronic shops hawking VCRs and knockoff Rolexes, this tiny food court features more than a dozen ethnic kiosks where you can get Brazilian rodizio-style meats, Colombian empanadas; Chinese noodles; Middle-Eastern salads; Jewish bagels; and spicy Indian fare. The green- and yellow-clad shoppers from Brazil crowd grills serving spits of beef the size of soccer balls, plus chicken, liver, and pork, leaving vegetarians and lovers of mouth-burning food free to sample the rustic Indian fare at Raja's, where a daily choice of vegetable curries and sautéed cabbage are always available. An incendiary curry chicken tastes as though it's been marinated in spice and then smothered in a creamy sauce of curry and tomato. Platters cost about five dollars. Don't bother speaking English here; this is the real Miami.
The competition may be less than stiff, but Indian Grocery hasn't slacked off. For eighteen years this crowded yet tidy market has offered an array of spices, nuts, relishes, grains, and chutneys to curry mavens here and abroad. The shop is frequented by Indians transplanted via London (and some straight from the Asian country itself), but it's also become a must-stop for Cubans who want to send spicy care packages to their friends and families on the island. So what's on the shelves besides the five C's of Indian cooking (curry powder, cumin, coriander, chilies, and cardamom)? There's no shortage of basmati rice, lentils, and beans -- big bags of the stuff. Across the aisle you'll see jars of vindaloo pastes and tandoori seasonings, which you can use to re-create your favorite restaurant classics. No time to cook? There are rows of canned Indian delights (imported from Bombay) like curried chickpeas, daal, and saag paneer, all ready to heat and eat. The refrigerated case at the back of the place holds roti and nan (and sweets such as kulfi). Or pick up a pack of poppadums (crisp lentil wafers), which spring to life when you nuke 'em for just one minute.
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Okay, okay, there's a substantial kitsch factor here. The anchors, the lobster traps, the nets, the seashells strung all over everything. But come on, watching the sun set over the downtown skyline through those plate-glass windows is an all-time Miami moment, one that is best shared over a couple of Neptune platters and nice bottle of chilled white wine with that special someone. And once it gets dark, the cityscape looks even more magical. Alternate gazing at that stunning view and into each other's eyes, and pretty soon it'll be, "Damn the over-the-top-nautical theme décor. Full speed ahead for luuuuuv!"
I. Iced latte. II. Espresso, decaf or regular. Order a doppio (double) for a multiple charge. III. Hazelnut cappuccino. Nutty, creamy, smooth. IV. Power Arctic mocha, combined with so many proteins and carbs you're practically propelled to the gym. V. Vanilla tea. Or get chai. VI. Raspberry razzmatazz: brandy, black raspberry liqueur, and crème de cassis in a mocha with whipped cream. VII. Turkey-Brie panini with whole-grain mustard. VIII. Stew of the day. IX. S'mores, campfire ingredients complete with flame brought to the table. Yours for the melting! X. Xando, naturally.

Trouble performing between the sheets? Drink a blend of carrot, parsley, and cucumber juices. Trying to fend off an oncoming cold? Gulp some carrot, apple, and parsley before calling your doctor. Acne? Carrot and spinach should clear it up. If none of those combinations are appealing, create one and it could get posted to the vast menu. Besides the tasty natural remedies, this tiny bar perched on a side street off Ponce de Leon Boulevard offers a diverse breakfast and lunch menu. Hang in the intimate sitting area and listen to employees and patrons sing the health praises of ingesting fresh fruit and herbs. But come early and during the week. Closing time is 4:00 p.m. and weekends are for the beach.

Do a little dance, make a little art, get down with appetizers -- it works for Tu Tu Tango. The concept, with tapas from around the world served in a bohemian setting designed to reflect an artist's garret, proved so popular that chairman and founder Bradley Weiser went ahead with plans to expand nationally. Currently the café, launched in 1991, has five successful locations, with two in Miami-Dade, one in Atlanta, one in Orlando, and another in Anaheim, California. Several more are scheduled to open in 1999 in diverse areas like Kansas City, Missouri; and Columbus, Ohio. So far the fare round here has remained consistently good, and the theme, "food for the starving artist" (hence the small portions), is carried out in live entertainment: Local artists are employed to draw, paint, or sculpt on the premises in exchange for eats. The resulting art is displayed in the restaurant until some art-hungry diner purchases it along with some Cajun chicken egg rolls, Mediterranean spinach dip, and an order of hurricane shrimp.
Fabulously flaky, beautifully buttery, splendidly spicy. Ahhh! Jamaican Beef Patties from Hammond's. Forget manna from heaven. At one dollar each in hot or mild flavors, these tasty treats, which resemble empanadas on steroids, are nirvana from Jamaica.

If you've called, faxed, and written yourself silly and you still can't reach the Herald, try Mike's at lunchtime: You may find that writer who's been avoiding you. The café, located on the ninth floor of the Venetia condominium, serves tasty and affordable meals that are like catnip to the scribes and editors barricaded across the street in One Herald Plaza. It may only be an urban myth, but it is believed that at least two Herald employees are eating at Mike's at all times. Who can blame them? Hot roast beef-cheddar sandwiches, broiled grouper, shrimp scampi: The food is better than expected and priced to move. The waitresses are nice, too. True story: The editors of Tropic spent so many afternoons on the outdoor patio that their magazine folded from neglect.

You may think a health food market's prepared-foods counter would feature 25 different tofu casseroles and some sprouts-n-avocado sandwiches. Not here. Yes, you'll find vegetarian staples such as spinach sautéed with sesame seeds, beets simmered in orange and ginger, luscious tofu steaks marinated in a mustardy Thai sauce, several varieties of pasta salads. But if you're a carnivore you'll be happy, too. Pick from grilled chicken breasts, spicy Thai chicken curry, stuffed chicken breasts, turkey piccata. Seafoods abound as well: mussels scampi on special during a recent visit, grilled salmon steak, baked trout. There is usually a wide variety of sandwiches depending on how close to lunch you arrive. Back in the refrigerated section you can find some great soups and dips. And just down the counter a dessert awaits: a slice of cake or pie, perhaps, or cookies, tarts, muffins, rolls. If you can't wait to feast, stop outside at a sidewalk table.
Before Robert Is Here began peddling shakes from the roadside, the Pinecrest Wayside Market was there, since 1948, gaining fame as the "home of the famous strawberry milkshake." Down the street from Parrot Jungle and adjacent to Pinecrest Elementary School, the open-air Wayside is the place where many a kid has ridden his bike and gulped down frosty frappés. As young boys growing up in the neighborhood, Michael Costa and Jay Rodriguez were among the thirsty youngsters. This past year the thirtysomething friends bought the market; renovated it; upped the quality of the produce; added herbs, a line of jams, vinegars, and condiments, fresh bread from the Renaissance Bakery, and a myriad of goodies. Nevertheless the two knew that if you blend them right, they will come. Topnotch milkshakes were and continue to be their main draw. The divinely refreshing concoctions of creamy nonfat yogurt and puréed fresh fruit are still available in strawberry and a slew of other flavors: pineapple, banana, mango, orange, papaya, cantaloupe, pear, peach, raspberry. Chocolate is an option as well, as is mixing and matching. Because nothing this good should be contained in a small cup, the frothy drinks are offered in only two sizes: medium ($2.55) and large ($2.95). The market is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., so you can guzzle milkshakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®