Rice pudding is rightly loved and cherished by a multitude of cultures. Here in Miami it's a rare Jewish or Cuban restaurant that does not offer this tasty and easily prepared treat. In fact its very ubiquitousness makes it no easy task to find a rice pudding that truly stands out from its peers. The pudding at Latin Cafeteria and Bakery is among the creamiest you will find anywhere. The secret? In addition to traditional milk, they add condensed milk in equal measure. The result is a gluttonous and guilty pleasure that you will enjoy right down to the bottom of the soda fountain glass dish in which it is served.
Here they come on the run, with a burger on a bun.... Actually it's more like they come on a walk, or even a slow crawl; some of these burgers are so hefty you can build your biceps with them. The "Delirious" burger, for instance, is a hearty fourteen ounces. And the "Famous Pounder" is twenty ounces. Okay, so math was never a strong suit. What these people are good at is grilling burgers to order, which means you not only choose the size of your patty, you select the type of "chee:" American, Swiss, cheddar, jalapeño, provolone, or blue. Sautéed mushrooms, onions, or grilled bacon cost just three bits extra. And the hand-cut French fries and colossal onion rings, cooked in peanut oil, come for as little as $1.50 and $1.75, respectively. And what's a burger without a beer, or a chocolate malt, for that matter? This place offers both options. But most of all we admire the gauntlet thrown down at the outset. Order the "Pounder" and fail to eat it? The staff, not to mention your dining companions, feel free to jeer. But if you consume the entire twenty ounces, you get your picture on the wall. Fifteen minutes of fame never tasted so good.

Best Restaurant For Intimate Conversation

Pan Coast

When you think of the best restaurants for an intimate conversation, you usually think small. Which isn't always the best when the couple next to you can hear your every word. Pan Coast certainly has an intimate quality, but its ten tables are nicely spaced on a patio that surrounds a quaint, fish-filled fountain and a tropically landscaped pool. At this Mediterranean eatery, the only ones hearing your sweet whispers are your partner and maybe the stars.
The Original Daily Bread Marketplace
Courtesy of Daily Bread Marketplace
What compliment do you give a Christian Arab family who emigrated from Israel in 1969 and turned a dumpy little Lebanese market on Seventeeth Street off South Dixie Highway into something akin to a Persian empire, a market-bakery-restaurant where the fare was in as much demand as the hard-to-find Middle-Eastern spices? Easy: You've got balls. Falafel balls, to be exact, in addition to kibbeh (ground meat and cracked wheat) and kafta kebab (ground lamb). Granted the Mazzawi family does extremely well with its baking operation, fully automated factories that supply restaurants, cruise ship lines, and national bakery labels with pita bread. But it's the falafel -- ground, spiced chick peas hand-molded and deep-fried, stuffed into the signature pocket bread, and garnished with red onions and shredded cabbage salad -- that made the Daily Bread's reputation, enabling the market to move this past year into its current expansive digs. Fortunately, while the improved store has been drawing novice falafel-eaters, the new packaging (and newfound popularity) hasn't changed that old great taste.

Smith & Wollensky
Courtesy of Smith & Wollensky
Bad news for wine-loving vegetarians. Most of Miami's best wine lists are in restaurants that cater to carnivores. This year's best is no exception. It's the popular and pricey New York import Smith & Wollensky. They've got some 350 very drinkable choices, and a mind-blowing inventory of more than 14,000 bottles. Out of necessity the neatly stacked bottles make up the primary décor of the restaurant. They are everywhere: in a second-floor cellar, in bins behind the bar, lined up on tables in the dining room, even mounted on the walls. Most important, the stuff that pours forth makes for a superb glass of wine. "We don't even consider a Bordeaux or cabernet unless they have at least four years in the bottle," says wine director Danny Thames, whose careful selections also go well with the exceptional aged beef, the restaurant's claim to fame. Be sure that you'll pay for it. Only about two dozen fall below $40.
Benihana Japanese Steakhouse
In Japanese yasumoto means "surrender." But perhaps owner Bok H. An should have given his eatery, located on the second floor of the Bal Harbour Shops, a name that means "conquer." 'Cause that's what this place does to its competition. At what other local Japanese spot can you get soft-shell crab encrusted with cornmeal, served over arugula, and dressed with a sweet corn vinaigrette? Or boneless quail partnered with jicama, watercress, and red onion slaw? Okay so these items aren't particularly Japanese. But most of the menu, such as the Szechuan pepper-crusted tuna over black Thai rice, has a welcome pan-Asian flair, which complements the sincere efforts of sushi chef Soo Won, who presents thick slices of sashimi as well as more interesting fare such as yellowtail jaw and marinated raw beef. The name Yasumoto may have some relevance; they've courageously surrendered the teriyaki, the stir-fry, the typical tempura. It's about time someone turned a Japanese restaurant into a destination for the culinary thrill-seeker rather than a bland fish joint with a Japanese moniker.
Peppy's in the Gables
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.

Best Restaurant In Coconut Grove

Bice

Bice Restaurant
The second time's the charm. This high-end restaurant chain failed in its first Miami location in South Beach in the mid-Nineties, but succeeds wildly this time around in its new setting in the Grand Bay Hotel. Gilded mirrors, brightly hued murals, plush banquettes, and striped wood floors create an elegant atmosphere, complemented by the luxurious menu items: baby artichoke salad with shaved pecorino, ricotta and arugula canneloni, sautéed calf liver with onions, and two kinds of polenta. Bice's flagship restaurant opened in Milan in 1926, and in the late Seventies began opening new restaurants in what the proprietors considered to be the most internationally acclaimed cities around the world. Now that Miami's made that A-list again, we can honestly say that this time, we want Bice as much as Bice wants us.
People's Bar-B-Que
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®