Lucky China One
That bowl of curly fried noodles on the table at every conventional Chinese restaurant doesn't exist here. The soup at Macau is too good to desecrate. Not going to find duck sauce or that vile hot mustard, either. No, siree. Macau is not hoity-toity. Clean, nondescript, friendly, unpretentious. Granted lunch deals that consist of ordinary yet tasty items such as pork fried rice, egg rolls, and egg drop soup are available. But when owner/chef May Yuen gets cranking in the kitchen and begins whipping up specialties, this restaurant transcends far beyond the mediocre chow mein purveyors. Take the salty pepper scallops: Succulent mollusks are lightly breaded, fried, and served on a bed of crisp flash-fried seaweed and piquant green chilies. Delicately steamed sea bass with ginger and scallions dissolves in your mouth like a substantial, slightly spiced Communion wafer. Tender snow pea tips lightly sautéed with garlic make you forget that dark-green leafy vegetables are good for you. Steamed white rice is so tasty it could be eaten alone. Running through the dining room: that's May's little son, Mackenzie. Running back to this restaurant over and over again: that's you.
You can work up a desert of thirst out on the River of Grass, whether you're fishing, enjoying an airboat ride, or watching a man tangle with an alligator at the Miccosukee Cultural Center. A twenty-minute drive west of Krome Avenue, this tribe-owned establishment is the perfect spot in which to rehydrate. Here the iced brew is served the way it's supposed to be. The age-old formula: tall glass full of ice cubes (ice quantity is crucial); real tea, robust and unsweetened (you can take the country boy out of the country but you can't take the sugar out of the presweetened tea); a quarter of a lemon (not a dinky piece like some places); and finally, free refills.
Big Fish
This has always been the perfect riverfront location. The view, the feel, are so fine, so Miami: You're practically sitting in the Miami River, but as you lean back and sip your wine, your gaze drifts up to the drawbridges creaking apart to let pass all manner of funky cargo ships. Bright neon lights on the Metrorail tracks point the way through the downtown skyline. Somehow even in the dankest summer heat, Big Fish is just a little cooler and breezier. Or maybe it only seems that way, because you're focused on the pleasures of place and time. Big Fish recently changed hands and its new owners have made it more riverside-friendly, with new decks and roof, and a better view from the indoor dining room. The menu has become more Italian, and the house specialty, tagliatelle Big Fish, receives constant raves. The zuppa di pesce and generous fried calamari appetizer also are favorites.

Best Restaurant For A Romantic Dinner

The Strand

Table Ten 09
The lighting is dim. The doorways are hung with flowing white linen. The banquettes are squishy-cushy. And the tiger skin on the wall makes you long to take it down and lay it before a fireplace. What this adds up to is sex -- we mean, romance -- of the South Beach kind: decadent, seductive, and plentiful. Executive chef-proprietor Michelle Bernstein's classically innovative cuisine only enhances the mood provided by the décor. After all, it's pretty hard to engage in anything other than sex -- oops, did it again, romance -- when noshing on parfait of tuna tartare layered with caviar, or whole boneless squab stuffed with duck breast and duck pâté and sliced over figs. In other words the fare also is designed to stimulate your appetite for sex -- darn it, romance. Who wants to argue with that?
Don't be fooled by the menu, which reads "Autentica Comida China." At this Chino-Cubano joint, only the cook is 100 percent Chinese. Even the statuette of Buddha that sits on a counter is guarded by Our Lady of Charity on one side and San Lazaro on the other. Here the won ton soup is better known as sopa de mariposa, the fried rice is called arroz frito, and the beef with bok choy is really just carne de res con acelga china to most of the Cuban clientele. The house specialty isn't Peking duck but palomilla steak with a side of papitas fritas, and pork chops plus arroz and maduros. For the best of both worlds, try the char sue ding: steamed meat chunks with almonds and fresh vegetables.
Sadly the Little Haiti Chef Creole at 77th and NE Second Avenue is no more. New Times can still smell the cinders floating through the air the day after the explosion of a propane canister set off a chain reaction that burned out the insides of this beloved take-out storefront and sent one of the chefs to the hospital. Gone is the floor-to-ceiling mural of fishermen in a Haitian seascape on one wall. Gone, too, the gallery of visiting Haitian celebrities opposite. Although the ambiance is not the same, Chef Creole continues to serve the best fish fresh -- stewed, fried, or grilled -- from their bright and shiny location in North Miami. Here, as at the countless festivals where the Chef sets up his kiosk, you will find flaky, spicy conch fritters, three-alarm conch salad, and tart lemonade. Expect lines out the door at lunch and dinnertime, but your stomach will tell you: It's worth the wait.
Cuban sandwich and Versailles -- in Miami, they go together like, well, José Martí and poetry. Like most everything on Versailles' extensive menu, this Cuban sandwich is a credit to its cuisine. Lots of ham, generally more than in other versions, and melted Swiss cheese between not-overly-flattened slices of very fresh Cuban bread. No gratuitous grease. The only thing that could make it better: a little less stinginess with the pickles.
"What's new?" I asked the blonde at The Pit's service counter. "Nothing," she replied. "Tommy Little has owned this place for 35 years, and his whole idea is never to change anything." Thank the Lord for small things. The food here is as reliable as guessing that the counter lady's hair color began life in a peroxide bottle. Good meat, slowly smoked over blackjack oak logs. Key lime pies made from scratch. Fresh frogs' legs and onion rings. Plenty of good customers. Laurence Fishburne is crazy about the chicken. Dennis Rodman loves the ribs. Steven Tyler brought the Aerosmith crew to dine. Jim Carrey and Alex Penelas have been known to pile their plates high. Such stars could make you think you're on South Beach instead of in a tiki hut at the edge of the Everglades. But after being sated by the best barbecue, you'll be glad you're swamps away from that sandbar.
Proprietor Delius Shirley and chef-proprietor Cindy Hutson had the right idea when they closed Norma's on the Beach! and opened Ortanique. Their first Miami restaurant, named for gourmet Jamaican chef Norma Shirley (Delius's mom and Cindy's mentor) was a solid, impressive venture that we honored as Best Caribbean Restaurant year after year. But with Ortanique (and with apologies to Norma) the specter of a mother's influence has been removed, not just from the name but from the entire spirit of cookery that infuses the place. In short the coproprietors are working miracles of a pan-Caribbean nature on the Mile, and Hutson has expanded her skills mightily in her colorful new digs. A more extensive menu includes some old favorites such as pumpkin bisque and fried calamari salad, but also ranges from less obvious house specialties like button mushroom ceviche to ostrich burgers to curried rabbit. Followers of the old Norma's needn't fret, though: Ortanique still offers Blue Mountain coffee, which could make espresso look like a regular cuppa Joe, and golden cake soaked in rum. Order them both for two highs in one.
It's ground beef casserole made into a patty and stuffed in a roll. It's like a sloppy joe, only made a lo cubano, topped with melted cheddar cheese, toothpick-skinny French fries, and shaved onions. In Hialeah or Little Havana, if you can stomach all that, munch a frita fit for a king. At El Rey de las Fritas these Cuban hamburgers are the house specialty. For a measly two dollars, El Rey's fritas are packed to the punch. They definitely rule.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®