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.
Chuck Wagon Restaurant
Courtesy of Chuck Wagon
The original owners have moved on, but the menu remains the same delicious oddity as ever, and still shakes up the neighborhood. Items like "A Glorious Fungus Among Us" (fried mushrooms topped with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese) and the "Reuben & Rachel -- Still Not Married" (one of the best corned-beef sandwiches around) are hardly subtle, but delicious. Political incorrectness in the straightest of Miami suburbs? You betcha. And while you're being crass and crude, forget the diet as well. This is the ideal restaurant to meet friends for coffee and rum cake, take in-laws for breakfast "omelets with attitudes," and treat the neighbor whose lawn mower you broke to dinner: Order him the "steak on the grass" (Rumanian skirt steak on a bed of spinach).
Christy's Restaurant
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.
Marquee chef Robbin Haas may have moved on to newer pastures (Baleen at Grove Isle), but he left behind a well-rehearsed kitchen and his decidedly distinctive menu. Which means it's still possible to feast on filet stroganoff, luxurious blinis with crème fraîche and caviar, and spicy Georgian fried chicken with mashed spuds and red beans. But the fare accounts for only part of Red Square's success. The 80-seat dining room adds a little perestroika panache to South Beach with those domed lighting fixtures, the distressed walls hung with Russian art, and the frozen sheet of ice that's the concept bar. The service is exemplary: Polite, professional servers polish wineglasses; busboys replace not just bread and water but cocktails as well. And oh, those cocktails. They're shaken not stirred with one or more of the 100 frozen vodkas that Red Square imports from around the world. Check out the Metropolitan Kosmopolitan, the Blue Russian, or the Glasnost for a night on the town that you will quickly forget.
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.
We've got your budget Cuban, reasonable Nicaraguan, moderately priced Peruvian, homey Mexican. We've even got easy-to-afford Dominican and Panamanian places. But when it comes to Spanish fare, the cuisine that sparked all these derivations, most of the good stuff is pretty pricey. Enter El Bodegon Gallego, and don't go anywhere. Not only is this narrow, storefront Spanish eatery the best in the city (no holds barred, unless you count the iron shielding the windows), it's ridiculously cheap. Like the sopa de mariscos, a huge bowl of tomato-based seafood broth stocked with fresh mussels, jumbo shrimp, and tender squid, for $3.95. Tapas-size portions of potato tortilla run you a whopping $1.50. Main courses, including a healthy portion of arroz con pollo con chorizo or a skirt steak with rice and plantains, top out at $6.95. In fact fresh-made sangría is just about the most expensive item on the menu, which is, we should add, so authentic there isn't even Casa Juancho
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.

House of India
"The best beef I ever tasted was, perhaps needless to say, in Bombay, at a restaurant gleaming with chrome, chandeliers, and mirrored walls, not far from the central market where cows, in their capacity as manifestations of the divine, were permitted to roam freely and graze at the produce stalls," Francine Prose writes in an essay included in a book called Not for Bread Alone. Cows are sacrosanct in India, though eating them is not expressly illegal. We haven't seen any cows strolling around North Miami Beach lately, but the only beef dish at Kebab is the keema matar, minced beef spiced with onion, garlic, and ginger. The lack of beef dishes likely is deliberate, an exclusion made out of respect to cows everywhere. Still it's impossible to miss the bovine, free-range or otherwise, at this superb Indian restaurant. Since 1981 Kebab has been serving up the spiciest curries, the most fragrant nan, and the coolest kulfi (ice cream made with pistachios, almonds, and rose water) around. A kebab may conjure an image of many animal products on skewers, but you'll have to settle for some very tasty chicken tikka or seikh kebab (minced lamb) instead. What a sacrifice.
Most of Miami's Oriental markets shouldn't really carry that pan-Asian moniker. Sure there's an occasional aisle with an Indian curry, dehydrated miso, or Thai peanut glaze. But for the most part, Asian in these joints really means Chinese -- rows and rows of Cantonese condiments and Mandarin teas. Nothing wrong with that, but what about all those spices, sauces, and ingredients that make dishes from Jakarta to Hanoi so delectable? Vinh An is a wonderful exception to the Chinese rule. They have lemon grass, chilies, Thai tea, and a wide assortment of strangely savory Vietnamese fish sauces. Want to try cooking a pot of your own pho (Vietnamese noodle soup)? You can buy all the ingredients to make it from scratch or purchase prepackaged seasoning here. How about a prawn, sugar-cane wrap, or a Penang curry? Vinh An carries a nice range of Asian vegetables and herbs, including mint, lime leaves, and fresh cilantro. The market also has live fish in a huge tank and blue crabs crawling around in crates. But if Chinese is your thing, don't worry; the bok choy is on the shelf and there are those rows of Cantonese condiments.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®