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."

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.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®