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.

Best Place To Cheaply Summon The Spirit Of Paul Gauguin

Curry's Restaurant

Is it the large mural depicting tan smiling girls (and a few men) wearing leis and grass skirts, swaying seductively and gathering food? Maybe it's the dozen or so hanging fixtures resembling upside-down baskets lushly strewn with a variety of wax fruit that Carmen Miranda could have used for headgear? Perhaps it's the light-wrapped palm tree twinkling in the middle of the room, or the turquoise walls bearing huge paintings of a happy couple rowing an outrigger and frolicking in the surf? Most likely, though, it's the complete dinners that drive us to take refuge in the ersatz Polynesian atmosphere of Curry's Restaurant (established in 1937) the way Gauguin fled chaotic civilization to the serene island of Tahiti. The bowl of crisp salad brought to your table with a choice of four dressings; the warm round of bread served on a cutting board with butter; the baked potato, French fries, or vegetables presented in a stainless steel dish; the sizzling platters of steak, chicken, and liver; and the desserts (apple cobbler, strawberry shortcake, and chocolate pudding) -- a different one every day. It all starts at $8.95. Paradise indeed.
Restaurants are where strangers go to eat; diners are where friends and neighbors see each other over a cup of coffee and a turkey sandwich. In that way Larry's All American Restaurant is really misnamed. Larry's is a diner in the proudest tradition of the word. Good food with prices that are easy on the wallet. Run by Larry and Cindy Roth, the best part about this eatery is its sense of community. Last year during Hurricane Georges the diner stayed open all night so that emergency workers would have a place to eat. Eventually it turned into a makeshift shelter, as some residents, who were forced to evacuate from their homes, slept in booths. So the next time you're heading down to the Keys, stop into Larry's for a bite to eat and meet some of your neighbors from South Miami-Dade.

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.
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.

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.
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.

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."

After an exhausting day of trying on clothes and jewelry, what else could refortify a stalwart shopper but a plate of handmade pasta, a glass of wine, and a simple fish or chicken dish? Wearing Prada pumps and Gucci loafers, many such hungry shoppers wait in line for the superior northern Italian food served up by chef Manuel Poucar. The menu features elegant homemade pastas, pizzas, and, of course, carpaccio in a dozen variations. That delicious pasta may set you back as much as 25 bucks, but hey, other diners could have spent that much on shoestrings.
Owner Gerardo Cea has done his best to accommodate his demanding clientele: He's tripled the original size of his restaurant, breaking through interior walls of erstwhile neighboring businesses. He's added outdoor seating on both the porch and the sidewalk. He's expanded the menu, supplying extra meat, fish, and chicken choices along with dozens of homemade pastas and salads. All to no avail. Most times we still have to wait for a table. But this is one sidewalk on which we don't mind milling about, as fragrances from the angel hair with fresh tomato sauce or agnolotti in cream sauce waft toward our twitching noses, promising satiation. Blame the smell on the proprietor's dad, chef Arturo Cea, who serves antipasto so big and composes a lasagna so hearty diners can't move from their seats afterward. Until the espresso propels them.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®