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.
People's Bar-B-Que
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.

Oggi Ristorante
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.
Oggi Ristorante
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.

Mary and Mac Klein own one of the best-known and most-loved bars on Miami Beach, Mac's Club Deuce, but it is their other, more obscure, establishment in Miami's Design District for which they deserve accolades. Piccadilly has been in place since 1965, but the Kleins have only been in control for six years. While keeping some of the restaurant's original favorites (they still dish up a "hot brown," smoked turkey served open-faced on sourdough bread and covered with cheese sauce), they have added much to the menu. Mary, in particular, pays close attention to details. "I try to make sure everything is fresh, nothing out of a can," she says, noting that she still mashes the potatoes herself. Other popular items on her menu include the teriyaki steak, with a recipe Mary brought back from Japan; and scallops with shiitake mushrooms over pasta. Indeed all of her pastas are special. So why isn't Piccadilly more popular? Location, location, location. People are reluctant to wander into the Design District after dark, Mary admits, though she's never had a customer mugged or robbed the entire time she's been there. But things are looking up for Piccadilly. With more and more businesses entering the area, and word of her food spreading, Mary says she may actually turn a profit this year. Better head down there tonight, while you can still get a table.
For the price of a designer sandwich on South Beach you can get an entire meal (dessert included) at Here Comes the Sun, one of South Florida's original health food stores. Between the hours of 4:00 and 6:30 p.m., hundreds of bargain-conscious diners come for the $7.95 special, which buys a choice of about a dozen entrées, soup or salad, coffee or tea, and a small frozen yogurt (three flavors are offered daily so that regulars don't get bored). We especially like the blackened grouper, the vegetarian lasagna and the eggplant casserole, or, for a dollar more, a meaty and moist salmon fillet. Don't be turned off by the health food designation; it's real food cooked to order with plenty of cheesy, starchy extras on the side if you want.
"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.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines gestalt as "a structure, configuration, or pattern ... so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable from its parts in summation." Whew, what a mouthful! Here's a simpler definition: the Mozart Stube experience. Everything gels here, from the quaint setting, the Viennese waltzes playing over the sound system and the good-humored service to the sumptuous Austro-German cuisine. Emphasis on that last factor: The salmon fillet in a Riesling cream sauce is superb, the schweinebraten (roast pork) succulent, the bratwurst as mild as a cocktail frank. Proprietor Harald Neuweg also uses his eatery to host events and festivals, including Blues at the Stube, Venison Week, and Schnitzel Month. Neuweg's newest restaurant, a jazz club called Satchmo, opened recently. If it's anything like his stube, it'll be good gestalt.
Forget grouper sandwiches. In the Keys they're as common as drunken fishermen and usually as boring. Offering a break in the culinary monotony along the southern stretch of U.S 1 is Steve Ehler's Time Out Barbecue, a roadside attraction that serves up some of the smokiest and most tender barbecue in South Florida. The secret, Steve explains, is in the slow-cooking: more than ten hours. Our favorite, the melt-in-your-mouth shredded pork sandwich, is served on a hamburger bun and is topped off with delicious, not too-creamy coleslaw and sweet baked beans for about four dollars. Chicken and rib platters big enough for two go for about $11. Time Out Barbecue has moved from the white lunch wagon with a pig on the side to an indoor structure, and Steve is smoking seven days per week from 11:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., rain or shine.
Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House
Their Reuben is to die for! The smoked whitefish platter, geshmak! Tongue, brisket, liverwurst, chicken salad, gefilte fish, and stuffed cabbage taste as though they came straight from Second Avenue. And if you haven't tried the borscht, what are you waiting for? You want it to get up and walk over to your house? It's not like there's no room for you. Rascal House can seat 450 people in big cushy booths or at the counters. On busy nights (okay, almost every night), there's a line. But what's the rush? The line moves fast enough. It's cheap -- sandwiches big enough for two go for anywhere from $6.25 for chopped liver to $9.95 for one of the fancy combos. Full dinners start at $6 and can go as high as $19, for hotshots who want a New York strip steak. Plus it's open around the clock. And if a deli doesn't have bobka, Jell-O, and Dr. Brown's soda, it ain't a deli in our book. Don't worry. They got it. They got it.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®