Executive chef Frank Randazzo doesn't want you to call this place, located in the St. Moritz building of the Loews Hotel, a steak house. And we can see why. His starters, like the delectable seared foie gras with chili syrup and blue-corn arepas, and his entrées, like the seared turbot with brown-butter escabeche and quinoa, have a seductive South American accent that's hard to resist. But he doth protest a little too much. The Argentine meat here is simply a cut above the rest. The churrasco, a whole skirt steak, shimmers from its meeting with the parrilla (grill); the ojo di bife, or rib eye, arrives sizzling like Chinese food. The waiters then slice the steaks for you tableside and serve them on carving boards, a delicate bit of theatrical service so rare on South Beach we go back again and again to see the show. Randazzo dazzles; he won't steer you wrong with his grilled rack of lamb with a three-chili demi-glace. No matter how you slice it, you get the real meat of the matter.
Round about midday at this venerable institution off the 79th Street Causeway, a member of the kitchen staff walks out to the dock that flanks the back of the restaurant. You can watch him through the tall windows that give off a stunning view of the water and passing boats. The man carries a bucket or two. Below the dock enormous tarpon, some five feet long, circle, and wait for dinner. They churn the water as the man dumps the buckets of leftovers into their realm. Inside, surrounded by dark wood and the memorabilia of more than 50 years of existence, patrons feast on fresh seafood. Awed spectators dig into everything from clam chowder to grouper with equal relish. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Let's face it, a bowl of black bean soup can be a bounty of blasé. But the chefs at these little Mexican diners add a magical elixir to their pot: a splash of beer, Dos Equis Special Lager, to be precise. That's why they call it drunken bean soup. You won't get a beer buzz, but the effect is definitely euphoric. A dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheese (which you can ask them to hold) round out the unexpectedly flavorful recipe. Please, señor, some more. ¡Ándale!
Contrary to popular belief, the Italians didn't invent pizza. The Greeks did, who in turn got the idea from the enterprising Etruscans, who used focaccia as plates. But the Italians certainly improved the dish. In Naples they added tomato sauce, and in the late Nineteenth Century the classic Margherita (four-cheese pizza) was invented and named for the then-queen of Italy. Elsewhere in the country, pizzaiolos, or pizza makers, vied with each other to create the most original toppings, using whatever local ingredients they could lay their flour-covered hands on, including cured meats like prosciutto and soppressata and homegrown vegetables such as olives and eggplant. You can see the fruits of this ancient labor at Spris, which offers delicate, thin-crust pizzas, similar to the ones found in Naples, for contemporary consumption. Owned by the folks who run Tiramesu, only a few doors away, Spris satisfies the pizzaiolo in all of us by offering more than 30 choices, including the tonnata (with tuna, onion, and basil), the gamberetti (with shrimp and arugula), and of course, the Margherita.
"Wait, let me get you a warm one," the counter clerk says as he hovers a hand above the trays of doughy bagels. In no time his heat-seeking fingers land on a poppy-seed bagel that's as piping hot as it is flush with flavor. At Bagels & Co. freshness is never in question. Beyond fresh, the bagels are unusually dense and chewy, with a nice flavor. There are more than a dozen varieties available, all of which, we've found after extensive research, are extremely satisfying. The bialys (a kind of puffy, holeless bagel with onions on top) are the best we've ever seen. And did we mention how fresh everything is? And warm? And chewy?
Think French fries and plump white potatoes cooking in a deep pool of sputtering oil comes to mind. Certainly not health food. The menu at healthy Oasis Café features staples such as tofu, brown rice, and garden burgers, but they're not your ordinary bland concoctions. Oasis gives their food a decidedly Mediterranean twist. And they give their menu a twist as well. The restaurant offers a hearty batch of fries ($2.95) as one of their appetizer-size mezze or "little plates." Not just potato sticks oozing grease. These are thin but substantial fries with skin on one side, coated in a spicy cumin-coriander mixture. They're the perfect accompaniment to an Angus New York steak or a grilled vegetable sandwich. Or they're a fine main course, if you're into throwing all dietary vigilance to the wind. To raise the fat content a wee bit, they throw in a few marinated green olives with your order. No ketchup needed.
The Spaniards may not have invented the appetizer, but they are conquistadors when it comes to premain-course specialties. They have even captured a foothold in the English language with the word tapas (means appetizers, yanqui). Back in the land of Sancho Panza, tapas are free at many an inn, as long as you and your compadres order beer or wine. Here in the New World you'd be tilting at windmills for that arrangement, but you'll want to pay for any number of this Calle Ocho establishment's 35 tapas. They cost from $3 to $6.50 and come in two categories, hot and cold. Among the hot: garlic shrimp, fried squid, and mussels in broth. Among the cold: real Spanish olives, a garlicky potato salad like only the Iberians can do, and the Spanish tortilla (a thick, but mysteriously delicious, potato omelet). Chomp tapas, slurp wine, flirt with the sexy long-haired flamenco dancers (male and female) who are been wrist-flicking and heel-stomping on this little restaurant's tiny corner stage. Get to the inn early or make a reservation if you want a table.

Siberian nachos. What a concept. Better yet, what an execution. Caviar, tuna tartare, crème fraîche, a nacho. The combination is sublime. (The tuna tartare appetizer on its own is pretty glorious.) Of course, the restaurant's name and welcoming statue of Vladimir Ilich Lenin are supposed to make you think kitschy communist, but no comrades of the average sort were eating like this when Russia was red. In fact not too many comrades in America can afford to eat here too often, either. But it's worth a splurge just once, for the appetizers alone. There's not much under $13, but the portions are large. And with only a couple of shots of vodka (ranging from about $7 to $12), you could get out of there for under ... well, never mind. Capitalism won. Enjoy the spoils.

When the La Casita team took over this Calle Ocho location eight years ago, they showed their acumen by holding on to the best part of the previous restaurant: Amparo Jidy, concocter of the creamiest, sweetest, foamiest café con leche in town. Amparo has ruled the coffee bar ever since, serving up plenty of smiles, along with coladas and cortaditos. Some years back, a young lady discovered, too late, that she didn't have enough change to pay for the steaming cup of liquid gold she needed to get through her morning. "No te preocupes," Amparo said, waving her hand magnanimously. "Esta es tu casita." No wonder lawyers, laborers, and locals keep beating a path to her door.

From their pita bread to their desserts, the Oriental Bakery and Grocery store is one of those rare finds that make living in South Florida a truly diverse experience. All the baking and cooking is done on the premises and they sell more than 400 loaves of pita bread per day. It's been a family- run business for nearly 30 years, and Okashah Monem and his sons provide not only an impeccable array of baked goods, but also some of the tastiest Arabic food in Miami. They serve traditional meat, spinach, and cheese pies, as well as kibbeh, safiha, and a host of other Middle-Eastern delicacies. And don't get us started on their hummus and baba ghannouj, which are simply fabulous.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®