Thick, solid, gooey, is the typical Napoleon experience. At the hand of most bakers, the compact dense pastry is sugar shock on a lacy white doily. Oddly at Peppy's, a restaurant noted for its northern Italian cuisine, the chef offers a newfangled Napoleon. Thin layers of the airiest puff pastry are sandwiched together. Sweet creamy custard and heaps of succulent sliced strawberries fill the space in between. Powdered sugar is lightly dusted on top. Exceedingly rich, yet so light it leaves you feeling as if you could conquer the world.
The Garcia family has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, and has managed this particular eatery on the Miami River for the past six. Already it's an institution. Run by two brothers -- Esteban Jr., and Luis -- with help from their father, Esteban Sr., Garcia's Seafood & Grill is a much-needed retreat close to downtown Miami. The fish is always fresh and there are plenty of specials to choose from each day. But it is the simplest thing on the menu that is often the best: the grilled fish sandwich. Although the most popular sandwich features dolphin, you can opt for grouper. The price: $4.25. Add seasoned curly fries for $1.50 and it's a meal.

Millennium, schmillennium. You want something to celebrate in Y2K? Revel in People's Bar-B-Que, one of Miami's true culinary treasures. George Lewis, Jr.'s progeny have carried the torch (or, in this case, the oak-burning fire pit) from the original, ten-stool location in George Sr.'s drugstore, to a tidy, peach-hued restaurant right next to I-95. Yet in the shadow of the freeway that crippled Overtown, People's is thriving, serving up piles of pork, flocks of chicken, and rack upon rack of succulent ribs, all smothered in that distinctively tart sauce whose recipe remains a closely guarded family secret. The expanded menu also features winners like oxtail and turkey wings (Thursday or Friday), and 24 tremendous side dishes (though the candied yams should count as a dessert). Want barbecue that's all about the food, and not about ersatz cowboy décor? Pull up a chair at People's.
There once was a chef named NcNish/Who had a Panamanian way with raw fish/She squeezed on it some lime/Let it marinate for a time/And added shrimp and onions to the dish/Delish!

The true excellence of Laurenzo's is confirmed by the out-of-towner's test. A New Yorker, spoiled by that city's abundance, visits for the first time. His excitement begins at the door where he spies the extensive wine selection. Soon he is exclaiming at the low cost compared with pricey Gotham. He moves on to the sauces, a collection that embraces an array of ethnic flavors. Italian sausages inspire rhapsodies as do multitudinous cheeses and numerous olive oils. And then his attention is caught by the pastries and homemade pasta. Praise has turned to exaltation. At the door, the out-of-towner is mentally checking the space in his luggage: How many delicacies can he take, and how soon must he return?
If you took a poll across the nation, you'd find that Miamians rank among the most dehydrated citizens in the country, right behind Texans, New Mexicans, and Salt Lake City denizens (it's not the air there that's dry). That's because it's not just the heat, it's the heat and the humidity that drains our bodies of life-supporting nutrients. So it only stands to reason that we also have some of the best smoothie-producing spots in the country, as demonstrated by Sun Juice. Their freshly blended fruit smoothies, which are made with fresh fruit, nonfat yogurt or sherbet, and optional protein supplements, aren't too thick (so you don't waste more precious energy sucking fruitlessly -- pun intended -- on the straw) but hardly too thin (so you don't confuse these healthy milkshakes with juice). Just the right consistency to satisfy that powerful thirst. 'Cause what the sun takes away, the Sun makes sure to give back.
Biga's hearty loaves, irresistible to the eye as well as to the palate, have become quite popular in South Florida since the first store opened on Alton Road in Miami Beach in 1993. A year and a half ago, Biga was bought out by a giant Mexican bakery. But that didn't change Biga's name and it doesn't seem to have altered the quality or taste; in fact, under the direction of new owner Eduardo Laposse, Biga has expanded and Latinized its repertoire. The three La Biga Bakery & Café spots in Kendall, Key Biscayne, and Coral Gables, feature delights such as yuca bread (¡el maximo!), quesipan and pan de bono (different types of cheese breads), Cuban bread, and Colombian bread. Of course there is no way to live for long without the classic Biga creations: focaccia, rosemary reggiano, sourdough, muesli, olive walnut, sun-dried tomato and garlic, raisin nut -- too many to list here, but you probably already have your favorite.
Okay, so it's not quite traditional. But who can argue against the wealth of romaine, coated with a delicately balanced, Parmesan-rich caesar dressing, which hides nuggets of grilled chicken breast, plump and juicy? Or dismiss as worthless the emerald-cut pumpkin seeds peeking out here and there? Or devalue the ruby-hued roasted peppers accenting the greens? And just in case all these jewel tones weren't enough, executive chef/proprietor Pascal Oudin and company sprinkle shreds of colorful, flavored toasted tortillas on top for an extra bit of crunch. Caesar salad fans, there's prize-winning gold in them thar lettuce leaves.
Like the sea it comes from, a good chowder should also be something of a mystery. Bright yellow in color and stocked with tasty bits of grouper, this fish soup is stewed in its own juices, along with rice and a little seasoning. It seems so easy, yet tastes so good. Add a squeeze of lime, and life is wonderful. Bahama's is an institution. It started off as just a place to buy fresh seafood, but expanded in 1984 to include a restaurant. Whether dining alone at its trademark horseshoe counter or inside its bustling dining room, Bahama's fails to disappoint.
Man (and woman) cannot live by tofu alone, and this cheery good-for-you superstore on South Beach (the other one is in Pinecrest) offers proof that food does not have to taste like cardboard to be healthy. Wild Oats carries the usual granola-eaters' staples: nuts and grains, sold in bulk; dried fruit, juices, veggie burgers, and of course, lots of granola. But in addition to an entire aisle of soy milk, you'll find a large beer-and-wine section, meat and seafood counters, and even a bakery section where the luscious pastries and cakes bear no resemblance to the leaden zucchini bread usually associated with health food stores. Wild Oats's vast fresh fruit and vegetable section is a feast for vitamin A-deprived eyes in this produce-poor city. The tasty tomatoes and ripe melons alone justify a visit to Wild Oats. But the store has something for every taste -- you can check out the salads while your mate goes for the Häagen Dazs. Wild Oats is the one-stop supermarket for anyone who makes better eating at least a part-time way of life.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®