Alright, okay, so it's not entirely a Greek restaurant. Purists might even argue that Pasta Fiore is Italian. And we'll concede that two-thirds of the menu offer edible baubles from the boot. But we're always enticed back here by the smattering of Greek specialties offered by owners Luccia and George Stilianudakis and chef Walter Rivas's delicate way with flaming saganaki, spanakopita, moussaka, and braised lamb shank. Our only regret is the limited menu. Sappho might have gone into raptures here, but in the end she would only have been able to compose a poem or two about the fare before running out of things to say.
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.
Carry-out is generally the order of the day at many of Miami-Dade's Jamaican restaurants. So smile at the folks tending to the long take-out line and let them know you'll be in the no-frills dining room. Stick to the tried and true basics of authentic Jamaican cuisine: jerk chicken, curried chicken, curried goat, oxtail, and cow foot. Have it with rice and peas (which are beans in the Queen's English) and a bottle of beer, and you'll be out of there for less than six bucks. Come morning, if you're in the mood for an island breakfast, wander back in and have your coffee with a dish of mackerel and bananas, seasoned callaloo, or ackee and saltfish.

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.

Best Natural Food/Vegetarian Restaurant

Lexie's

The x in Lexie's is a carrot crossed with a celery stick. The i is dotted with a strawberry. The possessive s is attached by a mushroom. Any fool can see that this is not the place to order a burger; any gourmet diner with an appetite bigger than a rabbit's knows to steer clear. Or do they? So Lexie's doesn't use dairy in the cooking, and all vegetables and meats are organic, all-natural, or free-range. Otherwise Lexie's offers delicious, full-bodied, fusion appetizers and entrées, including black-bean cakes with mango-miso-wasabi sauce, chargrilled spicy beef salad over watercress and shredded basil, and organic artichoke penne pasta with a roasted garlic sauce. The fast-food junkie can even make do with an all-natural beef burger (for those of us educated at McDonald's, that means no filler is used in the patty) on a whole-wheat kaiser with homemade ketchup. Looks good, tastes good, feels good.
Tuscan Steak
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.
Here's one of the longest oxymorons we've come across lately: "Florida's largest Chinese gourmet buffet." Could this possibly be true? Well maybe not the gourmet part. But Emerald Coast arguably fronts the most items, hot and cold, we've ever seen: more than 100 spread over seven stations. And for one low price ($16.95 for a weekend dinner is the highest; $7.50 for a weekday lunch is the lowest), the buffet, natch, is all-you-can-eat. Visit the steam table for a choice of six soups, including miso, hot-and-sour, and egg drop. Check out the appetizer table for egg rolls, spring rolls, dumplings, and barbecued ribs, to mention a few. Move on to the neighboring entrées, including kung pao chicken and black pepper steak, or opt for the sushi counter and some California rolls. And those are just the Asian dishes. Emerald Coast also presents a tremendous salad bar with a centerpiece of peel-'n'-eat shrimp, snow crab legs, and green-lipped mussels. The carving station slices a juicy prime rib. International desserts, if you can manage them, range from Black Forest cake to miniature coconut tarts. All in all it's quite a display: not just the fare, but the spectacle you make of yourself as you fill your plate for the umpteenth time.

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.
Morton's The Steakhouse
Will Smith's Miami is filled with supermodels in thong bikinis holding fruity drinks with umbrellas in them, dancing salsa. But if you head downtown for lunch at Morton's of Chicago, you find a very different kind of Magic City: corporate executives in tailored Armani sipping martinis, cutting deals to canned, easy-listening jazz. The twenty years this steak house chain has been serving USDA prime porterhouse steaks to movers, shakers and other future heart patients is really something to rap about. Smith might not know to git jiggy with it, but the power suits who make the city run over filet mignon are the ones you want to hear say, "Welcome to Miami."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®